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Tachys's avatar

Has an event made you conclude the U.S. is on the decline?

Asked by Tachys (1508 points ) February 4th, 2013

What event first made you stop and think: “Wow, the country is going down the tubes.”

You may not agree that the USA is in decline, and if so, what was the first event that made you think that?

For me it may have been the Ohio State shootings, for others it could be the lights going out at the Superbowl….

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26 Answers

chyna's avatar

Honey Boo Boo having her own show.

Tachys's avatar

That couldn’t have been your first…although disturbing nonetheless.

PhiNotPi's avatar

There really isn’t anything that makes me feel like the US is in decline. The more you know about history, the more you realize that no matter how much life sucks right now, it used to suck even more.

ETpro's avatar

When Tea Party Republicans in the house played chicken with the debt ceiling and got our Triple A credit rating lowered for the first time in history, I knew that the hyper-partisan atmosphere and the popularity of STUPID among voters has us in trouble.

Pachy's avatar

@ETpro, YES, you are absolutely right, and it seems we’re about to go through the same downward step again with sequestration and debt ceiling squabble 2.0.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

When I, a healthy and responsible person, got rejected for a Blue Cross Blue Shield policy because of my (not so advanced) age. I had to pay a small fortune for sub-par coverage. I realized that the U.S. health “system” is so broken, even someone with adequate financial means and a willingness to pay might not be able to access reasonable health care.

ETpro's avatar

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room I’m afraid you’re right. The people behind the STUPID movement have a natural aversion to ever learning anything. They will never learn from their mistakes. They will simply blame the mayhem they wreak on their political opposition.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@ETpro and @SadieMartinPaul @Pachyderm in the room I usually agree with you folks, I think you are all very clever.

I see no difference, however, in the politics of today than in our past politics. I look at people saying this, and I am burning to remind them that within living memory cops turned firehoses on black persons in the South. Is history so hard to hold onto? Isn’t it clear to all that this country is getting better?

blueiiznh's avatar

The Civil War did it for me.

Tachys's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought – it is not clear to me. Sandyhook is an example.

Pachy's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought, I do not disagree with you. Sequestration and the debt ceiling nonsense certainly aren’t the first nor only events that worry me about the future of the USA—just two the latest, and, sadly, not the last. Lots of other good examples on this thread.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@Tachys I think about how many died during slavery, and I look at Sandy Hook in that perspective. Both are tremendous balls of suck. But I do not walk away thinking we are getting worse. I actually walk away thinking we are slowly getting better.

Pachy's avatar

Want something new to worry about? Check this out.

ETpro's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought We had extreme partisanship in the days building up to the Civil War, and for a time thereafter. But I am not memory challenged, my young Padawan. I am a WWII baby. I remember the greatest generation. When America had a common enemy (first the Great Depression then the Axis) we all pulled together. We pulled America out of the Depression and despite Republican propaganda that only WWII did that, we did it before the attack on Pearl Harbor. When that attack did come, we truly went to work to help the free world defeat the festering evil of the Axis.

After we helped win WWII we instituted the Marshal Plan to rebuild former friend and foe. And in doing so, we built the world’s first great middle class.

We passed Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Welfare. We passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Jim Crow tried to stop us, but we were too many for him.

We’re still the richest nation on earth, but now we’re talking about not being able to afford to even repair our rusting infrastructure. We’re talking about teachers not being the solution but the problem.

wundayatta's avatar

The rise of the Tea Party and the prevalence of right wing nuts in the Republican party and on the news media. It’s sickening. This whole gun thing makes me despair. Why do so many people think guns will help them? It’s beyond understanding.

And Racism and sexism and stigma against the mentally ill and the failure to get single-payer health care reform. This country is in desperate straits.

And still, I have hope. Don’t know why, but I do.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@ETpro One day, I hope to be worthy to be your Padawan.

rojo's avatar

I don’t think it was any one thing. If I had to point to a defining moment I would say it was when we elected a second rate actor as president. That, and using his presidency as the base line for rating everything since.

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room the scariest thing about the article you referenced is the line about Brennan declaring that they are ‘consistent with the inherent right of self-defense’.” !! I find this terrifying because of a basic tenet of mine that, not only are corporations not people but neither are countries. While a people can have an inherent right to self defense, a country cannot!!
Scarier still is the fact that right now police departments here in Texas are aquiring drones ostensibly to patrol the borders and such!!??
The assure us that they will not be used inappropriately against the populace and I can tell you that, boy do I feel safer now that I have their word on that!

Kayak8's avatar

Um, what Ohio State shootings?

amujinx's avatar

@rojo I’m with you. There are a lot of little things that could be blamed for this country going downhill (if you believe it is), but it seems like it started at about the time that a certain Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected as the President of the United States.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@ETpro: Hello from Montserrat, my friend.

The beginning, for me, was the summer of ’67. I had grown up in what my father accurately described as a Kennedy Liberal environment, which at the time was considered just left of moderate, but in today’s political climate I’ve heard KLs referred to as Socialists and Communists. We were solidly middle class suburbanites. My father was a former Marine, decorated, working as an executive in the defense industry. Washington politics and its effect on the markets was my family’s after-dinner table talk. Politics and economics and a little sociology. Up until ’67, America for me was white, single family homes, big cars, and moms in A-line dresses who did their best to emulate Donna Reed and Doris Day. We were privileged to live in a country that was clean, safe, wealthy, and offered the succeeding generation a better life than the last. We had even rebuilt our former enemies, Germany and Japan, in our own image with our Marshall Plan dollars instead of subjugating them under an imperialistic jackboot like all the victors before us. At the very same time we were rebuilding everyone else’s country, we built an interstate highway system that we were told was the envy of the world. We helped fund and create a land in Palestine so the Jews could finally live in a place of their own with true self-determination, and they could defend themselves at their own borders. And we assisted them in their defense because they too had a right to exist and pursue happiness. We were good. We were above board. We didn’t kill people needlessly, Americans certainly didn’t torture people, we didn’t send our spies out to assassinate our enemies like the cowardly Nazis and now the Russians, and we most emphatically would never start a war. Americans didn’t do things like that. To put it simply, that would be un-American. We did, however, export democracy freely, and we pursued capitalism enthusiastically because it was the only system that really worked: enabling all men, who are created equal, to have a piece of the pie. But most of all, our government was for the people and by the people. There was never any doubt about that.

Up until ’67, I only knew life in the safe, quiet, all-white middle class suburbs of Sacramento. My biggest worries were how to talk to girls, baseball practice and my pitching arm, my grades, how to talk to girls, whether I would go out for football next year or follow my dad’s advice and wait another year, how many more eight o’clock Masses I would have to serve as altar boy before the Monsignor noticed I had done twice as many as the other guys, and how to talk to girls. I strongly related to TV shows like Donna Reed, Leave it to Beaver, Dr. Kildare (I was always meant to be the doctor in our family), Perry Mason (my big brother was chosen to be the lawyer in the family because he was so argumentative), but especially My Three Sons. The sons’ problems were just like mine, and my parent’s solutions were a lot like their father’s. That was the world I lived in, just like Chip on My Three Sons. And there were millions of kids living in that same world with me.

The only black people I’d ever seen were on TV. There was a show starring a light-skinned “Negro” woman who worked in a hospital as a nurse. I don’t remember any episodes that showed her family life at home, just her on the job surrounded by other nurses and doctors who were all white. I remember being disappointed at not getting a glimpse of Negro family life. Her name was Julia and she was very pretty. In 1967, suddenly, there were other black people on TV that I hadn’t noticed before because I didn’t watch the news much until then. The Jesuit priests at school strongly suggested that we start watching the news because in the near future there were decisions we were going to be forced to make, and it would go much better for us if we were informed when making those decisions.

These new black people were often very black, not like Julia at all, and they were being attacked by dogs purposely let off their leashes by white southern police officers and beaten by National Guardsmen for causing riots because their right to vote, to assemble, to eat at the Walgreens counter, to sit where wished on the bus, to go to school wherever they were qualified, to drink out of the nearest drinking fountain, to even go to the bathroom at just any public restroom was being hindered by law and custom and they weren’t going to take it anymore. It was becoming apparent to me that maybe there were other Americans that didn’t think that all men were created equal at all.

There was also the war. It was on TV, too. Every night all three networks would show us a few minutes of grainy black and white film depicting our boys being carried on stretchers by other GIs who were bending over while at a dead run to avoid the chopper blades and sniper fire because the “LZ was still hot,” according to the correspondent who was helmeted, wearing a flackjacket and crouching in the reeds near the chopper. Sometimes there were even the thud, thud, thuds of mortars going off nearby and the correspondent would hit the dirt while the GIs didn’t even flinch. Our GIs, our boys, our brave sonzabitches who were there to stop the Domino Effect. There to stop Communism from creeping out of China and Russia and into these small, insignificant places like Nam and Laos that nobody ever heard of, and eventually to our doorstep and into our homes. I wasn’t sure, but I figured that probably meant no more baseball or any other sport, a change of schools, maybe a change of neighborhood as well, probably no more Monsignor and altar boy practice, and the Communists would probably even find a way to totally fuck up all my efforts in the girl department. As the GI stretcher bearers neared the camera a bloodied, bandaged arm slipped out from under the tarp, just dangling there and the tarp was covering the kid’s face. They were carrying out the dead under fire. Americans don’t leave their men on the battlefield. No man left behind. Everybody makes it home. Because we are good people.

Then there were the campuses. There were sit-down strikes in protest of the war. There were demonstrations that often, after the cops showed up, became riots. There were draft card burnings. During the winter of ’66—’67, nearly every major US college campus had been shut down. There were Viet Nam war veterans, many still on active duty, speaking out against the war and for the college kids. As the war got bigger, the protests got bigger and more intense. 100,000 Mothers Against The War marched on Washington. Women carrying babies from the Washington Monument to the White House. I later read in a biography that that one really got to Johnson. Ruined his day.

Greif is a reaction to loss. America was entering the classic stages of grief as described by Kubler-Ross. The country was mourning a loss. By the summer of ’67, although America was schizophrenic in the process, the country was mourning the loss of innocence. Blacks and white youth were in the angry stage and white adults were in deep denial. There were not only racial and socio-economic divisions, there was a generation gap as well. The youth were questioning not just the war, but the type of society that got itself to such a state to prosecute such a war. By the summer of 1967 one hundred and thirty American cities were burning. It was becoming glaringly apparent the Jesuits were right. Within the next few years I would have to make some major decisions.

The after dinner talk began to change. My father had a different kind of Domino Theory. It started with truth. A democracy cannot survive without an open government. Open, like transparent, like truthful. Without truth, the information goes bad and if the information is bad, any conclusions made based on that information would necessarly be faulty conclusions. Decisions are based on conclusions. Bad information leads to faulty conclusions which in turn lead to bad decisions. Those are the dominos in my dad’s theory. Votes are decisions. If voting becomes a meaningless exercise, then there is no democracy – only the appearance of one.

But the balls of the whole thing, the meat and potatoes if you will, is that free markets cannot survive outside a democracy and the healthiest democracies have the healthiest free markets. And the fact is, all this stuff about democracy is really, in the end, about a free market because that’s what puts food in your kid’s mouth, allows he or she to dream of upward mobility, and even possibly be comfortable enough to reach the top of Maslov’s pyramid and actually engage in the pursuit of happiness instead of the pursuit of potable water.

A fixed market, an un-free market, is like the board game Monopoly. Inevitably, one guy controls everything and it’s no fun anymore. It’s still capitalism, but it’s more like a Mafia style capitalism. And fuck you and your vote, because everyone knows the man with the gold makes the rules. So, my father saw this symbiosis of democracy and free markets which I realized for the first time was in jeopardy in the summer of 1967. Because we were being lied to.

Then came Tet and we left marines behind at Khe Sahn because we had to. That’s war, and another reason not to enter it blithely. Then Martin Luther King was assassinated. Then Bobby. Then the 1968 Democratic Convention riots and resultant Chicago Seven Trials. More government cover-ups, this time it was about the carpet bombings in Laos and Cambodia to shut down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Watts. Detroit. Chicago. Oakland. My Lai and Kent State.

The Pentagon Papers released by Daniel Elsburg in 1971 confirmed our suspiscions that we were being lied to about the war from the very begining. Our representatives were told lies that led them to draw up the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which turned out to be a very bad decision. My dad’s domino theory again.

By the summer of ’69 I was pretty sure we were headed for the shitter if there weren’t some very fundamental changes in thinking among us all, not just in Washington. It wasn’t long after the Pentagon Papers that the markets began to dip and by the mid ‘70s people just lost faith in America. Not surprising. Depression is one of the stages of grief. Then the Church Committee Report revealed what dirty bastards we’d been all along, to the world in general and to our own citizens in particular. At least going back to Iran, 1953, and CIA man Kermit Roosevelt arranging a political assassination which enabled the Shah to be head of state. So we had been doing a lot of shit and being lied to about it for a long, long time.

For me, Reagan was the epitome of the denial stage. Kubler-Ross explains that a person can bounce back and forth from one stage to another until they finally get well, if ever. Reagan floated in on a cloud of positive thinking, as if we could solve all our problems by just saying everything was OK, then it would be OK. You can’t OK yourself out of a trainwreck. It takes actual work. The papers kept saying things were getting better, but homeless people started showing up in towns that had never seen them before, libraries were closing down, schoolbooks weren’t being replaced, crime was up. Certain people did well in the market, but most found it sluggish. Things weren’t OK because nothing had really changed. Reaganites thrived on nastalgia, they wanted Leave it to Beaver and Donna Reed back and were hell bent in denial to get them. But that time was all a Potemkin village, a chimera, a pack of fucking lies. You can’t get back a world that never really existed. What we got was more of the same, only different because this time we weren’t so innocent, we had changed, become more tolerant of certain things, we had become inured, cynical.

I finally left the country in 1982 and didn’t set foot in it again for a decade. I came back to a place that had deteriorated in many ways, especially intellectually. Eventually we had two expensive, pre-emptive wars we could hardly afford – one based on false premises—an out and out lie— and the other fruitless and suffering from terminal mission creep. We torture people and rendition them to places where we can get away with it. I used to be all pissed off about things like CIA agents surveilling college students and FBI infiltrators and riot provocateurs at demonstrations. Christ, now we have the most pervasive internal surveillance in history backed up by the Patriot Act and no reaction from the middle class. Rights have been removed, the treasury stolen, we have sluggish markets, and wealth is rapidly flowing into the top 5% of the population while the rest of America obsesses over the shit that’s on TV. No reaction. Nothing but crickets.

I bitch a lot, but maybe I’m just like everybody else at the end of the day. Maybe we’re quiet because, even if we knew how to get us back on track, what could we actually do about it? As quietly frustrated individuals, I mean. So, I guess there’s not much difference between me and the rest of America. We all non-confront in our own way. They watch TV and I sail.

And apparently rant. Sorry. Nothing else to do tonight but wait for the coffee to wear off and bore networld. GW, btw.

blueiiznh's avatar

^^ enjoyed reading this

ETpro's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I just love it when you have the time and get in the writing mood.

mattbrowne's avatar

When Sarah Palin was bashing fruit fly research with millions of Americans cheering. It made me wonder what happened to the great nation who sent people to the moon.

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