I read Frank Rich's recent NY Times column in which he uses words like "sleazy," "vermin," and "toxic" to describe the cash-and-carry corruption prevalent now in Washington. One of Rich's summarizing sentences is hard to disagree with: "This is a crisis in the governing culture, not the tale of a few bad apples." Yet this assumes that government is separate from the American people, and since it isn't, one has to look at what is being mirrored back to us here.
The greedy looters and hypocritical ideologues who have caused this crisis see themselves as good people. As Rich points out, the conservative agenda outlined in the 1994 Contract With America was supposed to clean out fat, corrupt government; it was a righteous crusade, just as those who oppose abortion, gun regulation, and the separation of church and state see themselves as righteous crusaders. But outside those circles, it would appear that these good people are doing very bad things.
How does that reflect on you and me and every ordinary citizen whose hands are clean? Aren't we good people to whom these bad things are happening? Yes, on one level we are, but the larger crisis is our fault, too. We have allowed the following things to happen:
--Elected officials come from a rich elite of white males who more often than not are lawyers.
--Corporations are allowed to write their own regulatory laws or to wipe out regulation altogether.
--Influence is bought and sold al the way up to the White House.
--Public discourse has sunk to name-calling and vilification.
--So-called spin is a polite term for lying.
--The worst aspects of human nature, such as bigotry and intolerance, are being exploited for political gain.
--Social injustice is considered necessary in the name of security.
When a NY Times columnist feeds his selected audience with words like "vermin" and "toxic," he is adding to the level of intolerance and bigotry, not improving it. When the Senate contains 45 millionaires, the electorate isn't being served by a legislature of its peers. When the civil rights of American Muslims are being violated without protest from the majority of non-Muslim Americans, the Bill of Rights has been gravely violated.
I think it's vitally necessary to turn all these corruptions of justice around, but it won't happen until we begin to say "al of us" instead of "them." The vilification of the other side is a too-easy tactic for avoiding our own responsibility.