Earth Doctor / Climate Troubadour

TROUBLE IN THE CAPITOL

Trouble in the Capitol, dangerous part of town.        C F G C–
Got a lot of bad losers, really want to tear it down.    C F G C–
And just when you need ’em, hardly any cops around. G Am F C
We the people voted loud and clear,                               F G C —
And you thought it couldn’t happen here,                      F G C —
But the mob in the mirror is nearer than they appear.  F G C – G
Trouble in the Capitol, dangerous part of town.           C F G C

Mountains of money and misinformation rise.
Conservative stations, empire built on lies.
Poison the nation, and act like you’re so surprised
That they’re coming any time you call,
Obediently scale the walls,
And they really believe they are patriots,
Breaking into hallowed halls.
Conservative stations, empire built on lies.

Woe to the scribes, woe to the Pharisees.
Peddling illusions, buy into the ones you please.
Every lie that you buy, gets you high on conspiracies.
Watch the railway to freedom sag,
While you listen to the proud ones brag,
Their guns and their crosses all wrapped up in the flag.
Woe to the scribes, woe to the Pharisees.

Now the Good Book’ll tell you, truth is  gonna set you free.
Well, you ain’t gonna find it on facebook or on TV.
You get  your billionaires and tax breaks, or democracy.
You can’t have ’em both, it’s true:
Get a nation that is ripped in two.
There are so many things you can do.
It’s up to you.

©Doug Hendren, 2021

What’s it about?  On January 6th, American democracy was attacked by domestic terrorists upon the instruction of Donald Trump. The violent right-wing extremism behind the attack, however, has been building up for a long time, diligently cultivated by so-called “conservative” media, talking heads and politicians since the late 1970s.

Such extremism has undermined basic American values, unwittingly aided and abetted by many ordinary Americans. Recently, many have been fooled into believing that trying to overturn our heavily scrutinized electoral process was a patriotic act. How is such a thing possible? Read on, and take a tip from Mark Twain: “It is easier to fool a man than to convince him he has been fooled.”

In How Democracies Die (2018), Harvard University political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have shown how elected leaders can methodically subvert democracies.  A good constitution, they show, is essential, but not by itself sufficient. Equally critical are standards of mutual toleration and respect for the political legitimacy of opposing political parties.

Newt Gingerich began dismantling our standards of toleration in the late 1970s. Gingerich brought incendiary language into our politics, diligently instructing Republican candidates to “use certain negative words to describe Democrats, including pathetic, sick, bizarre, betray, antiflag, antifamily, and traitor. It was the beginning of a seismic shift in American politics.”

A “conservative entertainment complex,” continued to weaponize American airwaves under Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Breitbart, Ann Coulter and others, characterizing their less extreme countrymen as “traitors, guilty, godless, and demonic.” More recently, profit-oriented internet search engine protocols have added fuel to the firs by constantly refining and amplifying the biases of everyone using them. Search engine protocols cater not to truth, but to profit. Amplifying conflict turns out to be profitable, generating more eyeball time and higher advertising revenues. Anger also turns out to be addictive, a kind of junk food for the mind. Like rats hooked on morphine, we just keep clicking. Worst of all, we are for the most part completely unaware of the process. For a glimpse behind the curtains, see the award-winning film “The Social Dilemma” (Netflix, 2020)

Americans have been unwittingly driven farther and farther apart. marinated in increasingly hostile and delusional bubbles of false information. I have no doubt the mob attacking the Capitol really believed the nonsense of a fraudulent election.

Ignorance harms us all. Our crisis of democracy is also a crisis of economic insecurity, harming our children’s education, and allowing our nation’s roads and bridges to crumble. It lays waste to our public health system, and COVID-19 in turn to lay waste to our people. Conspiracy theories make people suspicious of vaccination against a pathogen that will soon have killed more Americans in a single year than we lost in World War II. And in 2020 we have seen armed extremists obstructing rational public health policy in the name of freedom. Delusional extremism has also mightily obstructed our ability to deal with the climate crisis, treating climate science as “fake news.”  If we don’t look to climate change, everything else comes to nothing.

Real democracy means more than just the right to vote. It also means a reasonable measure of economic democracy – that the workers who build the world get to share in the value they have helped to create. Extreme economic inequality weakens a society. The United States is far more unequal than most Americans are aware, and such economic extremes are harmful for everyone, rich or poor. At a time when the majority of Americans have no financial buffer for emergencies, such basic things as universal health care, which other industrial nations take for granted, are especially critical.  The persistent, ruinous “conservative” strategy of eliminating taxation on the ultra-wealthy is profoundly anti-democratic. In the timeless words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis:

“We can have a democratic society or we can have the concentration of great wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.”

Americans are right to be outraged by recent events, and the ignorance behind them. But our complaint is not with our neighbors. It is with the machinery of illusion confusing Americans for profit, and turning us against one another. And with our elected representatives who cynically perpetuate lies to obtain and maintain power. Seeking truth together is the only real path to American greatness.

1 Comment

  1. Potent lyrics with calming music. Thanks.

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