Thursday, April 26, 2007

American Cynics

The cynics will tell you that everybody has a price, that every politician is a crook and nothing matters anyway because the human race is doomed to destroy itself in some horrible cataclysmic explosion and its only a matter of time.

Looking around, it's hard to believe that at one time Americans were the most optimistic, forward-looking of people. These days we go down without a fight and no one believes tomorrow will be better than today.

The current administration deserves a lot of the blame for that.

They've given us the Iraq war, Abu Ghraib , the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and the Patriot Act. They've taught us the beauty of torture, the joy of privacy invasion and election stealing. They've committed a string of outrages, lied, straight-faced over and over again and made manipulation of public opinion into an art form and yet the American public barely has the energy to stir itself to murmur a protest. "What's the use?" we tell ourselves. "They're all the same."

I resent that with their callous, self-serving manipulation, they've taken away our ability to hope.

American cynics who buy into their me-first, take no prisoners and give no quarter view of the world think they're being smart and realistic. They deal with the cold hard facts in a cold hard world, replete with terrorism and globalization. If you're an idealist, the cynics say, you're nothing but a self-deluded dreamer, out of touch with reality.

But that's exactly what they want you to think.

If you think the world is a lost cause, you won't stand up against injustice or fight for impossible ideals like health care or quality public education for everyone. You'll turn a blind eye when they pass self-serving legislation or hand out government contracts to their cronies.
Cynics give lip service to lofty concepts like freedom and justice but they don't believe they actually exist. To a cynic, free speech or equal opportunity are just empty meaningless phrases.

It's easy to give up and give in to despair. It's much harder to look for good in people, to believe that difficult problems can be solved and to accept that, while there are lots of selfish, corrupt people in the world, there are far more who care about fairness and tolerance and lofty way-out-there ideas like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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