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The Road Back from the Brink

These are perilous times. But from peril can come promise.

"It will take work, it will take commitment, it will demand sacrifice," writes Atcheson. "But we can take our country back again." (Photo: Rodney Dunning/flickr/cc)

These are perilous times.

At a time when the window of opportunity to avoid the worst—and increasingly, the irrevocable—consequences of climate change is closing, we have an anti-science president and Congress that is already doing its best to usher us into the new Dark Ages.

At a time when the social fabric of our nation is in danger of being ripped to shreds, we’ve elected a leader who feeds hate and divisiveness.

"Perhaps we needed to hit bottom. If so, is this bottom enough?"

At a time when the world is in danger of slipping into fascism, we’ve elected a fascist.

At a time when the bases of our freedoms are threatened, we’ve elected a president and a majority in Congress who have contempt for democracy and the principles which sustain it.

At a time when bread and circuses, beads and baubles, and Kardashian nonsense threatens to rip values, morals, and the meaning they confer from our lives, we’ve elected a man devoid of values who encases himself in gold—a modern day Midas, who understands the price of everything and the value of nothing.

At a time when we need a government that is strong, capable, responsive, and responsible, we’ve turned it into a punch line.

At a time when the unconstrained power of the free market is consuming our souls even as it consumes our planet and funnels the wealth from the many to the few, we’ve elected a man and a Congress intent on serving the plutocrats, not the people.

At a time when we need a political system that represents the people and advocates for them, we have chosen Republicans who worship at the altar of wealth and represent the interests of the 1 percent and the neoliberal Democrats who have been reduced to pale doppelgängers of them.

Finally, when we need an aroused citizenry willing and able to mount a sustained revolution that will counter the Oligarch’s Coup, we have only the complacent, the fat, the spoiled, the entitled, the willfully ignorant, the overfed and distracted children of a lesser god…a god defined by the trappings and toys dangled before us…familiar with a Coke, but not a Koch; more intent on getting a Lincoln than we are on electing one; more interested in consuming than producing.

But wait. I see, everywhere, evidence that this last thing—this soporific excuse for a citizen—is waking up. I see it in the tens of millions who supported a rumple-suited Vermonter with wild hair and an unvarnished commitment to the truth. I see it in the nascent wisdom that, after lying dormant for decades—attenuated by Reagan’s false promise of morning in America if we would just get government out of the way—is even now sprouting. I see it in the growing awareness that government isn’t the enemy—that in fact, government is us, we the people. And if it is to be good, then so must we be good. If it is to work, then so must we work. If we are to be great, then it must be the vehicle we ride to greatness.

And I see it in the millions who marched together on January 21 and April 22, and in the protests and continued resistance being mounted by we the people since then.

The coming years will be critical. If we’ve hit bottom with Trump, then we must start our climb. And we must climb together. The middle-aged white man, huddling in his basement, facing diminished prospects, shooting heroin, and clutching his gun must be given hope and the opportunity that makes hope real.

The angry young black man who’s never had prospects, who’s been denied a shot at an education, at a job—who has been a victim of frightened or prejudiced police, who sees people cross the street to avoid him—needs to be welcomed.

The women who’ve been cheated out of wages, opportunities for advancement, and recognition—who’ve had to face misogyny, unwanted advances, and inflexible roles for their life choices need to be granted equality at last.

Immigrants, the LGBQT community, native Americans—each must be allowed to live in a land that values us for who we are and what we give, not for how we fit someone else’s template of what it means to be American.

And all of us—black and white, women and men, native born and immigrant, straight or other, young and old—must be willing to reach out a tentative hand each to the other because only by standing together can we win as individuals or as groups.

We must know that tyranny comes more often from within than without. Our freedoms and our opportunities have not been taken by foreigners, but by the rich and the powerful here at home.

Corporate tyranny is no less vile than any other. Living in a land that is fast becoming a company store will enslave us more quickly and more surely than terrorism or Russians or any of the bogeymen of the moment conjured up to keep us afraid and distracted.

We must know that the very people who have eroded our opportunities or prevented us from having any are posing as populists and champions of the people while they steal us blind, grab our pussies, and divide us one from another.

We must know that if our country is no longer the land where hard work and steadfast commitment turn dreams into reality, it can be again.

We must know that if we stand shoulder to shoulder the way we did by the millions on January 21, we are the most powerful force on Earth.

It will take work, it will take commitment, it will demand sacrifice. But we can take our country back again. We can end the four-decade-long con job that has robbed us of our freedoms, our wealth, and our honor.

Ironically, the Oligarchy has showed us how. We need only emulate what they did in the name of greed and power, to restore a measure of dignity, decency, morality and wealth to each of us.

Yes, these are perilous times. But from peril can come promise. The reality we find ourselves in now—the daily outrages, the gross incompetence, the shear folly that has taken over our politics—is the culmination of four decades of our own neglect.

Perhaps we needed to hit bottom. If so, is this bottom enough? We must start today to climb out of this dark cave and together start our march to the summit—united, as one.

An informed citizenry is a check on tyrants and tyranny, an aroused one is an antidote to them. Let us continue to move forward together with passion, purpose, and promise. Let the Revolution begin. It’s high time it did.


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Note: This article is an adapted excerpt from the author's latest book, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track.

John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track, both available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson

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