It seems an odd coincidence to be writing this article on the 4th of July when we in the United States celebrate the anniversary of our hard fought and dearly won independence from the greedy hands of a distant, lecherous, overreaching and overly intrusive government. It is odd because today, two-hundred and thirty some odd years after that final musket fired, I sit and watch the news and more and more I am beginning to feel a change in the air.
It began subtly enough in the form of a particularly heated Presidential election cycle, beginning early and with a wider selection of candidates on both sides than at any other time in recent memory and ending-- as expected-- in the issuance, by the populace, of a decisive cry for change. It seems now, though, that after nearly half a year "change" is an elusive mistress. She teases, but when you try to have her she is nowhere to be found. And, that causes the frustration that is so easy to feel these days. The atmosphere is changing, little by little. I imagine that is how it was for them as well, our forefathers those centuries ago. I imagine that, like people today, they were pushed little by little, day by day, getting steadily angrier and more disenfranchised, until finally one day the repeated injuries to their liberty grew to be too much to bear. And, that is the point I fear we are approaching in this country yet again. This time, however, we will not be fighting an insurrection against an oppressor half a world away, but instead, I fear, it will be a war fought amongst our own that could bring tragedy to our very doorsteps.
Feel the way the air is almost electric, like it is just before a storm...
It was announced recently that the unemployment rate here in the U.S. has risen to a back-breaking 9.5%, the worst it has been since 1983. And, what many people fail to realize is that the true number is actually much higher. The reason I say this is because many of the jobs lost over the past many months came with multi-month severance packages for the downsized worker, but the unemployment rate statistics don't reflect these people until that severance runs out and they show up seeking unemployment benefits. Look for these statistics to spike soon. These numbers also do not reflect the many workers who lost jobs, but have since found and accepted new ones at a much lower rate of pay, thereby generating much less fuel for the economy, much less tax revenue for the government, and severely affecting the quality of life for the worker and their family.
And yes, I understand that 1983 was bad also. The difference is that in 1983 the economy had virtually unlimited access to cheap, abundant fossil fuels (which are now beginning to run out and becoming more expensive as a result), a strong manufacturing base (almost all of which we have since shipped overseas), and in 1983 they didn't have to look forward to a continuing disaster in the housing market (many more ARM-resets are expected to hit later in 2009 and 2010 and the market isn't expected to hit the real bottom until sometime in 2011). Therefore, I refuse to recognize the argument that we shouldn't worry; we'll get by just like we did back then, because they didn't have some of the obstacles we are up against now. I would also wager that we are a weaker society, less accustomed to living with hardships than we were in 1983; certainly, there were more people alive then who could remember what it was like to live through the "Great Depression."
But, economics is the only area where we are experiencing hardships. Culturally, we are tearing each other apart as well. Having a black man elected President Of The United States has, as one could have expected, brought out the nutjobs in full-force. Government sources will confirm that hate speech is on the rise in America and we've already seen some of these despicable people take action, but they aren't the only ones to blame for the divisiveness in America.
When tons of citizens attended Tea Party rallies around the country around tax time to protest the irresponsible way their money was being spent to bail out big business and Wall Street, they were denounced as crazies by virtually the entire Left. Looking back, I don't know which instance made me more angry: when a CNN reporter instigated an argument with a protester, insinuating that he was a bad father for having his kids with him at what she obviously considered a place full of scary, questionable people, and actually interrupting him once to say something to the effect of "But, sir, don't you understand you could get some of this money!"; or, if it was when Janeane Garofalo said on MSNBC that the people who went to those rallies were only there because of their hatred that a black man was now their president.
And, it gets even worse. When a deranged old biggot shot up the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., there were articles in the New York Times blaming Fox News hosts Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, of all people, for drudging up all the hate and discontent with their stances against the policies and positions adopted by the current Presidential Administration. What really struck me, though, was the number of left-leaning people who expressed vindication with regard to the much-decried report published a few months back by Homeland Security that essentially identified every ex-military serviceman, libertarian or other third political party supporter, Ron Paul supporter and gun owner in the United States as a possible terrorist.
Because this old whackjob was an ex-military serviceman and a gun owner who had expressed displeasure with the government in the past and then he ended up doing this terrible thing at the Holocaust Museum, in their minds they were vindicated in their shameless "profiling." Nevermind that he was also an ex-con who had been caught carrying a deadly weapon in a government building years ago, a member of several white supremacist groups, and he had written extensively for many years about the myriad plots of the blacks and the Jews and whoever else he could vent his pathetic, hate-filled mind upon. None of that mattered. All that mattered to these people was that it gave them another opportunity to get the words right-wing and extremist in the same sentence. My answer to their charges has been simple (and I'm yet to have a single person even attempt a comeback). I simply ask: if profiling is okay now because right-wing extremist groups often recruit members from among ex-military servicemen, then why is it not okay for the police to pull-over every black person driving a nice car, considering that the Crips and the Bloods are known to recruit among the black community? Invariably, I am answered by angry silence.
And now this brings me to the outside influence that will soon be tearing at the American spirit. The title of this article "The Coming Insurrection" is likewise the title of a book that comes our way from France. It was written by an anonymous group calling themselves "The Invisible Committee" around the time of the 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris and calls for no less than the violent overthrow of government and the western way of life. And that was before the economies of the world really started getting bad. Since then, it has spread to and become popular in Greece and many other places where people are out of work and times are tough, and now it's here, folks.
My great fear is, essentially, that I'll be proven right. I have always believed that the "thin veneer of polite society" that we've all heard of would hold up only so long as the average citizen could get beer and chips from the local Wally World and find something mindless to fall asleep drooling in front of on the TV he/she purchased with their recently maxed-out credit card. Remove that easy access to the "stuff" they can get with very little effort and at a moments notice to satisfy their instant need for gratification, and see how "polite" they remain. One need look no further than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to see what happens when the Entitlement Society doesn't get what it believes it has coming to it.
What I see now when I look around is a world ripe for something to set it off. People have lost their jobs, their homes, their retirements and they are understandably disgruntled. What that gives us, however, is a powder keg awaiting a spark. What will that spark be? Your guess is as good as mine, but it's coming. Hopefully, when it gets here, we'll be able to extinguish it before it's too late.