Gore Vidal wrote of Ronald Reagan: “Proof of the failure of the American public education system is that Ronald Reagan was elected twice by landslides. “
Vidal was wrong on that, but not by much. It wasn’t the elementary teachers’ fault. All secondary’s. All their teaching was rote and a Pledge of Allegiance to our greatness and please regurgitate for the test. It was nothing less than teaching American history and government through textbooks and worksheets, on paper and online, to bolster the myths and frauds. Boring and useless and look where we are now.
If Gore Vidal were alive today he might write: “Proof of the failure of the American public secondary social studies teachers is that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by only 3,000,000 or 7,000,000” And: “Proof of the failure of America’s public secondary science and health teachers is that so many Americans refuse to wear a mask and get vaccinated and believe—just know—the virus is a hoax.” And: “Proof of the failure of America’s public secondary PE teachers is . . . well, just look at the average unhealthy American.” And: “Proof of the success of America’s greatest propaganda machine (ever) is that it dispensed its “news” through big tits of angry blonde women on television.” And: “Proof of the utter failure of the American public education system is that rendered its graduates and non-graduates so utterly bored by mostly rote instruction and regurgitation, that they easily fell into the honey trap of tech and gadgets and never questioned anything again except when is the next new hot toy coming? Of course, many people took to the streets to protest police brutality, but they sure had to showcase themselves doing it! Imagine John Lewis stopping during the March on Selma to Instagram it!
Vidal had his signature acidic style, but it begs the question: would it work today? No.
Sartre wrote: “New problems demand new writing styles.”
Here is a new style at a political essay.
WE the diseased body politic of America became sick (fatally?) after 40 years of policies and behaviors and non policies and non behaviors that brought us to our current reckoning, or most likely, non reckoning.
We ate poorly. We larded up. We stopped making sack lunches. We drank bottled water at meetings when a water faucet was right there.
We watched too much fantasy and spent too many hours on the internet. Adults began dressing up for Halloween and started calling for Halloween to be a national holiday.
We didn’t enact any substantial initiatives to combat climate change. It’s probably too late to start now.
We allowed higher education to become a lucrative racket. We allowed therapists to become the snake oil salesmen of our time.
We stood by and watched certain white politicians (including Clarence Thomas) suppress the vote.
We never held the police or prosecutors accountable.
We didn’t cut the defense budget by 80 percent after the Soviet Union collapsed.
We didn’t rewrite the Second Amendment, the most poorly worded paragraph in the history of the English language. We didn’t come up with a better trite phrase than “our thoughts and prayers are with you” after mass shootings.
We created a bankrupt culture that opened the door to an invasion of meth and opioids.
We pretended Southern Evangelicals actually believed in the teachings of Jesus.
We didn’t legalize cannabis a half century earlier.
We didn’t scoff at politicians or preachers who claimed America was exceptional.
We didn’t transform our public school system so it became something else that didn’t teach rote learning that produced mindless consumers ruining the planet by purchasing useless crap.
We didn’t call out the Masters of War, yet again.
We embraced conspiracy theories that grade school children would have rejected a generation ago.
We didn’t finish Reconstruction.
We let bridges rot and corrode.
We went without a national health care plan. We still do.
We worshiped mass prosecution, incarceration and probation. It enriched the soulless and made corporations rich. It made our nation more unsafe. It created a new debtor’s prison.
We’re still fighting undeclared wars (can you name them?).
We didn’t turn out to vote above 50 percent of the eligible voters during a presidential election.
We didn’t abolish the electoral college.
We didn’t create a viable path to citizenship for undocumented aliens and get them on the tax rolls.
We didn’t reject television shows that debased human beings and called it entertainment.
We ended common sense banking, investing and mortgage regulations that worked pretty well since they were established in the New Deal.
We disdained rational strategies to keep people dying from the corona virus and called it patriotism.
We continue to ravage the natural world and not understand basic lessons of ecology.
We thought (think) someone like Elon Musk is a visionary.
We paid attention to billionaires flying into space.
We went to church instead of the ocean or mountains or deserts.
We didn’t blow up Mt. Rushmore.
We kept guzzling gas when the sun was right there all the time.
We allowed major college football coaches the mistaken idea they were important and made men out of boys.
We became inured to the millions of homeless in our midst and hated them because they’d checked out on a system that wanted them to work minimum wage 40 hours a week with no benefits and enjoy living in their cars.
We decided the best way to advocate for social change was by having a hot celebrity (never an ugly one) tell us how to think and what to do.
We saw the nation’s wealth become more unevenly distributed than any other period in history and then virtually never talked about.
We thought attending a rock concert was an important cultural experience. (It once was but that died long ago.)
We played football while people died from a virus. We attended rodeos.
We sent unvaccinated Olympic athletes to a country with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world.
We named military bases after military losers and we erected statues to losers and slavers.
We bought into the lie that high tech would improve our lives because we could meet people (naked or wearing chain mail armor) online in Finland and play chess with them.
We show little promise as a nation at the moment.