posted Nov 15, 2000

The Invincible(?) United States
Personal Commentary
11/15/2000; 8:14:37 PM

Nothing much seems to be happening in this site's topic area today, but I wanted to make a comment about something I've found increasingly disturbing over the past few years, and this political fracas over who the next President is isn't making me any more comfortable about it. This Camille Paglia Salon article, Becoming president under a noxious cloud, got me thinking about this.

As a country, we've had about 50 years of sustained prosperity, ever since World War II where the United States became a world power. That's a little over an entire generation. Those who at least had parents in the Depression are leaving power in this country and being replaced by those who think that the 1970's was as bad as economic times get. (Oh, it was bad, but compared to what is possible, it wasn't really that bad.)

These people have a mental image of the United States, and it is this image I find scary. The United States is Strong, the United States is Powerful, the United States is essentially Invincible.  Consider the strength of a country as a bank account, upon which deposits and withdrawals can be made... these people think that this bank account is essentially infinitely full, that we can never withdraw so much that we will not have enough to cover the next need.

The problem is not so much that these people are wrong, it is that they act like they are right; this is a case where it's all about perception. Too often, we're drawing on this account for selfish, limited gain for a few people.  Our President trades his good name for a tawdry affair; he traded his good name for getting off the hook, too.  Our Presidential candidates bicker and bicker and erode trust and confidence hourly.  Our foriegn policy is erratic. So many withdrawals... so few deposits.

Our bank account is not infinitely large. We are indeed strong. But we're like nouveau riche, who do not have a deep understanding that there's a big difference between "a lot of money" and "infinite money". I'm afraid this country will end up like a lot of people who hit the lottery jackpot: Prosperity for a time, then debts far bigger then what they would have ever incurred if they had not had the courage that money grants.

This no-holds-barred battle between the candidates over who will be the President... can we afford it?   The Watergate scandel cost us dearly, far more then I expect people could have understood in the week after the event. Will this cost us as much?  Can we afford this loss of trust?  After Lewinsky and a whole series of other serious scandals?

I'm worried. Yes, I do think we'll survive this, but I personally can't see this pathological behavior continuing much longer without some serious consequences. If I tried to spell them out, I'd look like a fear-monger; that's part of the problem! Nobody believes that we can really be hurt or even destroyed.  Why not?  Do me a favor if you're an American, and ask yourself that.  Are we so strong that we can act like we're invicible?

(I wrote the bulk of this earlier today, before Gore's offer to stop suing and abide by the results (I don't yet know if it was accepted). Regardless of the motives, that's exactly what we need to do. If the candidates had agreed to this from the get-go, perhaps we could have emerged with a net profit; as it is, it's time to cut our losses.  We have bigger battles to face out in the real world, and they are not growing smaller while we bicker about who gets to be the head clown. You notice how everyone's talking about how weak the next President is going be? This is why; both candidates firmly stand for withdrawing and don't believe in depositing.  But they're going to need everything they can get...)


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