If there was anything good to come out of the tragedy of 9/11, it was the instantaneous connection that was born out of all us being victims, of all of us being targeted for our way of life, that seemed to bring each and every one of us together. Republicans. Democrats. Didn't matter. We were all the same. We were all Americans.
In the days, weeks, and even months following the attacks, there was a unity among us the likes of which -- unless you were alive at the end of the Second World War -- most of us had never experienced, and, sadly, given the path we're currently on, may never see again.
I can vividly remember, in late 2001, walking out my building on 110th Street and Broadway and feeling completely bewildered, as total strangers said, "Hi," to each other as they passed on the street like it was Mayberry. People who knew each other for all of five seconds held conversations in bars as if they'd been going there together for years. Here we all were -- so different and so far apart, yet, so close for such a brief moment in time -- it felt like we could've all burst out in spontaneous song.
So much for nostalgia. The Kool-Aid we apparently drank has long run dry and has been replaced by the considerably less-palatable, castor oil. These days, you can't make it home from the market without hearing at least one passing stranger yell, "Douchebag!"
I don't know about you, but, between the trash-talking reality shows, the trash-talking media, and the three-ring circus that has become our political system, it certainly feels like we're collectively ready to embrace our inevitable fate; that of complete, moral dissolution. We're the equivalent of several hundred million Slim Pickens'; all strapped to our A-bombs and giddily waving, as we helplessly watch what's left of our decency and respect for each other plunge toward earth, and their certain demise.
What happened to us? How did we fall so far so fast? Was it that we were always this way, and it took a tragedy like 9/11 to shock us into coming together for a few weeks? Or, is this simply the worst it's ever been?
Whatever the answer, all you need do is turn on the television or open a browser to witness the space between us growing wider each day. A space so wide, it makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack in the sidewalk.
Multiple wars on multiple fronts. The economy taking a swan dive. Unemployment hitting record highs. Wall Street executives getting away with billions unpunished. Gas prices skyrocketing, along with oil company profits. Leaders who can't be trusted. Unprecedented infighting amongst our politicians. The media, eager to let us know every time someone, somewhere f*cks up, yet, they still can barely keep up with the demand.
It's not hard to point to a million reasons why most of us feel this country's on the wrong track. We're practically human pinatas, Pavlovianly conditioned for the next "poke" coming from the next flailing stick, before it even comes. Thus, after seeing story after story of who's screwing you over today, it's only natural to react defensively and adopt an "every man for himself" attitude.
However, as any half-wit knows, no matter how isolated you choose to remain, you can only go so far on your own. It's only when everyone pulls together as a team that we really have a fighting chance to emerge out of a mess like this.
Unfortunately, that's where we run into the real problem. Because, even though it's common knowledge that, if the group is to succeed, its success must be born through the efforts of individuals, yet, no matter how much, I, personally, would like to be one of those individuals, I simply cannot bring myself to do it. I cannot reach across the aisle and offer a proverbial olive branch to the other side, even if it means if we don't we're doomed. Because, simply stated, the other side is bat-shit crazy. And, the sad part is, I'm probably not alone.
As much as most of us would love to see this country back on top and prospering again, and no matter how much we would like to play some small role in the revitalization of it, the majority of us simply cannot bring ourselves to make the effort. And, the reason for that is simple. Our Achilles heel is the modern-day Republican Party.
It's absolutely mind-boggling that, at a time when we need some seriously rational thinkers, on both sides, the Republicans have offered up exactly the opposite: Herman Cains, Sarah Palins, Michelle Bachmanns, Mitt Romneys, Paul Ryans, John Boehners, Todd Akins, Jan Brewers, Rick Scotts, Rick Perrys, Rick Santorums, etc., etc. It's like the credits at the end of some ridiculously bad B-movie; Attack of the Mindless Zealots From Planet Rick.
How can you have a meaningful discussion about anything when the main objective of your adversary is seeing you go down in flames -- no matter what the cost? No one wins with that kind of attitude, but, as has been demonstrated time and time again, the republicans just don't give a sh#t. They're even crazy enough to engage in Kamikaze politics on their own battleships. But, why?
Perhaps, it's because they're scared. In the past decade, we've managed to lose most of our status as being the "best" at this or that, in almost every area, and now they're as frightened and paranoid as the manager of a ball club who's gone from first to worst. Yet, like a veteran team who used to bring home the trophies and is now hampered by injuries, high salaries, and lack of production, even though everything around them screams, "A change is needed!" they refuse. Because change is scary, and it takes guts and faith. And, despite all their talking about it, these are the two main things they lack most.
Remember the scene in the movie Contact where the great minds at N.A.S.A. decided they know more about safety in space than the aliens, so they build Jodie Foster a metal seat -- complete with seatbelt -- in the pod? Within seconds of the launch, the seat shook so violently, had she not released herself, she would've been smashed to bits against the capsule wall. But, once she lets go and trusts the plan, and follows the logical course, she's exposed to wonders she'd never even dreamed of.
My point is, the scientists didn't trust what they didn't understand. Their fear of the unknown almost caused a catastrophe right out of the gate. The republicans are the same way. They don't trust concepts like alternative energy because they don't understand it, and they don't want to. They'd rather keep drilling for oil and gas until the entire planet resembles a practice target at a rifle range, because it's what they know. Forget about the fact that switching to hydro-electric, or solar, power would create more jobs and possibly even lead to unimaginable reserves of energy in the decades to come. They don't want to hear it.
Old school thinking won't bring our country back to where it was. Only forward thinking can accomplish that; Health care for everyone, natural resources for energy, the rich paying more taxes than the poor, cutting the defense budget and putting it toward education, labeling harmful foods -- especially for children, gun control, etc., etc. All these subjects are simple common sense. Yet, what are the republicans focused on? Defeating gay marriage, moving women's rights back to the dark ages, and making sure Mexicans go back to Mexico. Bravo, gang. You should be proud.
Until a messiah comes along strong enough to withstand the bullsh#t being hurled at light speed, the soundtrack to our generation won't be a rock band. It'll be the redundantly bitter, spiteful rhetoric, spewing forth, unchecked, from both sides of the aisle -- like a pundit version of the Deepwater Horizon. Hopefully, it won't take another disaster to cap it. 'Til then, all we can do is hold on tight and brace for impact.