How did we fall so far so fast?

Trying to keep myself awake while doing some paperwork late last night at The Last Chance Democracy Café, I popped an oldie but goodie into the CD player — a recording of Billy Joel’s New Year’s Eve 2000 concert at Madison Square Garden.

Fairly early in the performance, Joel introduced the song I’ve Loved These Days, a number he said they hadn’t preformed publicly since 1976.  He thought it was an appropriate song for the occasion, he said, because things were going pretty well for us then — you know, he continued, there are good times, bad times — and these were pretty good times for America. 

The audience shouted out their agreement.

Man that seems like a million years ago — back when the World Trade Center was still standing, the United States retained the moral authority to criticize other nations for abusing civil liberties without looking like a country of complete hypocrites and the Supreme Court had never stolen a presidential election.

The economy was buzzing, jobs were plentiful, wages were on the rise after years of stagnation, America was more or less at peace, the federal budget was in surplus, New Orleans was still the original Big Easy, a city like no other and the United States was at least reasonably popular in most parts of the world.

And despite endless investigations, the only crime the President of the United States was seriously accused of committing involved a blow job.

Jesus, how did we fall so far so fast?

It’s actually a little humbling, when you reflect on it.  I don’t think even most liberals back in late 2000/early 2001 thought it could get this bad this fast: A totally unnecessary war, corruption running deep into the very soul of our government, the United States all but openly embracing torture, suspects seized and held in secret without due process, deep divisions within the nation being deliberately aggravated and exploited rather than healed, massive budget deficits, reckless tax cuts mostly benefiting the wealthy, efforts to protect the environment and preserve wilderness areas radically scaled back, the worst terrorist attack in American history used repeatedly for partisan political advantage.

And perhaps worst of all, the United States, the onetime beacon of liberty to the world, now by far the most hated nation on the face of the planet.

Looking back, it strikes me that many of us who thought we’d rejected the boastfulness of the more extreme proponents of American exceptionalism, had actually been taken in, after all, at least a little.  I know I was.  As pessimistic as I felt about Bush’s upcoming presidency, I never believed at the gut level that the United States, the most powerful nation the world had ever known, could be so grievously and irrevocably harmed by just one bad president (even with the help of a bad Congress).  Sure, I expected Bush to do harm, probably a lot of harm; but nothing like this.

It’s been a humbling experience at many levels, realizing just how vulnerable we are — how much our national destiny depends on the wisdom of the choices we make at the polls.  Elections, as they say, really do matter, and this is true regardless of whether they’re ultimately decided by the will of the voters, through successful vote suppression and fraud or by the power of five Supreme Court justices.

There has lately been a lot of talk in the major media, as a result of the Yearly Kos convention, about how desperate the Democratic netroots are to find a way to win.  No shit Sherlock. 

We’ve seen the alternative.

13 Responses to “How did we fall so far so fast?”

  1. lamzy Says:

    In my view the answer is quit simple. george w bush and the neo cons. and the people of this country (as a collective)that are willing to let this crap happen!!

  2. ElleninBigD Says:

    I knew in 2004 when people were talking about “politics as usual” that this wasn’t usual. Nothing that’s happened in the last six years has been “usual,” normal,” “American,” etc. Until this Bush started running for office, elections seemed to function pretty well. We knew there was corruption here and there. But to have the Constitution put on the back burner even before Bush was sworn in, should have alerted people to the fact of what we what we were getting. I don’t know if people don’t read the Constitution or just don’t care. But it’s very explicit on what to do when an election is in doubt — go to the House of Reps. NOWHERE does the Supreme Court even appear in election jargon. So the American people (count me out) got what they apparently wanted. A REAL adult to bring back “integrity and responsbility” to the White House. I’ve sat out the last six years in participating, paying for these crooks, etc. When I was a kid, I used to wake up in the morning (ususally in the summer), hear about something going on somewhere and just thank God I was born here. No more. I’ve got a 14 month old granddaughter and I’m scared to death for her.

    Hats off, Steve
    The website’s great!!

  3. dgvb55 Says:

    And the truly sad thing is is that the Dems aren’t even considered honest and strong enough to offer a viable alternative. It ain’t just the Repubs who look like a bunch of godless crooks. Somebody is gonna have to step out of nowhere into no man’s land. Definately sad days ahead.

  4. Weirdharold Says:

    No congressional oversight. It really would not matter who the crooks are if we could just get a little adult supervision.

  5. SWConnie Says:

    I agree with all of the above comments. Just have one of my own.
    Both Cheney and Bush worked and lived in Texas. We aren’t suppose to have a president and vice president from the same state. So when Cheney went to Wyoming to take out a drivers license and declared a resident of that state, that was my first clue that the American people were getting the finger from Bush and Cheney.
    Sorry. Second comment. Why aren’t we demanding paper ballots hand counted with oversight? Until that happens, I don’t expect the dems. to win many seats. Most will just be stolen yet again.

  6. Larkrise Says:

    I fear the next presidential election will be stolen like the last two. Any State that uses Diebold voting machines is asking for election fraud. Ohio and Florida arent going to be cleaned up soon. Campaign reform is just a dream. The Democrats are still flopping about like fish out of water, especially the elected ones in the Senate and House. Unfortunately, real change depends on the economy. As long as the average person can stay afloat, and the rich keep getting richer, the sheeple will vote Republican. They have to get sheared down to the skin before they figure out the truth. Look at California. THE idiots put another Repug in to replace Cunnignham. Didnt learn a thing. The party hacks and wannabees continue to rule the roost. Why dont the wealthy progressives put together a consortium and take over a major media outlet? A good dose of reality would help purge some of this apathy and denial.

  7. SpiderWoman Says:

    I just wish that I could agree with any of this. But the truth is that the US was not the country that most of us thought - it was never the wonderful hope shining at the top of the hill, the beacon of light to the rest of the world, or any sort of moral authority anywhere but its own eyes.

    The United States’ history is full of aggression against sovereign states for whatever wealth the US was after at that particular moment. The only change is that it’s so far out in the open now and that the average person is about to discover that he or she is on the verge of moving toward the same status that most people of the so-called third world enjoy: hunger, cold, constant fear, lack of hope. Where on earth does freedom come into any of this?

    The American people have been convinced for more than 50 years that they are somehow better. They have closed their eyes as their wealth has been gained at horrific cost to people elsewhere in the world. And their greed has grown so great that they now live in such an unreal world that they have elected the sort of leader whose primary trait of appeal is his apparent lack of intellect and curiosity, and whose entire life prior to the presidency demonstrated that he’d do precisely what has happened - further rape the rest of the world and blatantly start turning the process into a gang rape of the citizens of his own country.

    I fail to see where there’s any surprise in any of it.

  8. brucealmighty Says:

    “It ain’t just the Repubs who look like a bunch of godless crooks.”

    It really steams my clams whenever I hear someone say that. As if religious belief is in any way a deterent to criminal behavior. On the contrary, from the amount of bible thumping one hears from this administration, one might get the impression that the more “godly” people are, the more likely they are to commit heinous crimes.

  9. RightisWrong Says:

    I cannot agree more with what SpiderWoman has written. The reality of what America has meant to the world is quite different from the delusion we have of ourselves.

    Domestic & foreign policy has always been driven by greed, corporate and personal. Issues of fairness, decency, kindness, and humanity have always been secondary to corporate profits. People who actually believe that 9/11 occurred because “they envy us for our freedom” have clearly drunk the kool-aid and kept their heads safely in the sand. While the Soviet Union was around, we had a distraction, a boogey-man, to distract us from the real problem: the United States de-stabilizing democracies & overthrowing any government which has dared try to really improve the conditions of its people, if this meant any sacrifice of any American corporate profits and perqs.

    As Pogo once wrote ” We have met the enemy and he is us”. Maybe it is time for America to finally practice what it preaches.

  10. fourtytwo Says:

    Looking at SpiderWoman’s comment, I know she is right. It is even worse. The civil war is still with us and we still are slave holders deep in our mentality. But how old is that mentality, how can it even be? Could it be as old as Homo Sapiens? Then we shouldn’t be surprised about our country falling so deep so fast. If you are white you’re surprised, if you’re black, this is old, you know it. So now what? There is light in accepting who we are. There is beauty in accepting that life is hard, often unfair. There is only true relief after true suffering. We may have to suffer first.

  11. alwayshope Says:

    Maybe we do have a history of aggression and discrimination and violence, but I don’t. I, and most of us in this cafe, are tolerant, curious, hopeful and responsible. We also represent America and had it been our choice, war, deceit and corruption wouldn’t be “politics as usual”. Our country doesn’t seem to have a moral compass because our leaders don’t have one. I believe that we do. We need to follow each other, not these greedy, warmongering asses. When the people of America stand up, bush will stand down.

  12. SpiderWoman Says:

    alwayshope is right in one thing - Bush will stand down when the American people stand up. And that is the whole point.

    But it isn’t the fault of the leaders. It’s the fault of the people. The leaders reflect the people.

    The country’s lack of a moral compass isn’t because of its leaders’ lack. It’s because of the people who put them there and allowed them to be put there. If the people as a whole had a moral compass, then the leaders would, too - they’d have no choice.

    The people of the US cannot get off the hook on this. We didn’t allow the Germans to use the excuse that it wasn’t their fault, that they didn’t know. Blaming the leaders in the US instead of the people is no different than what the Germans did.

    Certainly, some of us saw what was coming. But how many chose NOT to vote, saying that voting was a waste of time, or simply abdicating their responsibility? How many voted for Bush and company because they chose to vote based on sound bites, rather than on facts? How many voted for Bush because they wanted everyone else to be forced to follow the same flavor of hateful religion that they practice? How many voted out of pure greed? How many voted out of pure habit, without any thought at all? How many voted because they listened to the lies? The simple fact is that the vast majority of Americans fit into these categories - and that makes the American people as a whole culpable.

  13. Again Says:


    Could it be as old as Homo Sapiens? Then we shouldn’t be surprised about our country falling so deep so fast.

    it’s older - therefore we fall so fast, because it’s programmed in our older (and often mightier) parts of our brain. Actually - and that is maybe the most important fact now, because it contradicts everything on which the power of our leaders depends - actually humankind overcame brute force and violence, the weapon of the stupid species, in favor of the smooth, controllable, but slowly working intelligence

    look at “instincts” only humans have - feeling for justice (by awards and by punishment), caring for others even when you yourself have to sacrifice something - that’s human, as current scientific studies seem to indicate, look at the ancient philosophies, based on the protection of the weak to make the community stronger (because each group is just as strong as its weakest link!)…

    people are so used to be slaves, to follow like sheep, they are trained to like Pavlov-dogs, since their first days “educated” with the “truth”, that they NEED leadership

    oh, we - through our work and consume - pay our leaders 500x our own salary to be fired and humiliated, because we “need” it, we are simply too stupid, too un-informed, too weak, too this and that - and exactly that is the plan, that’s why we hear it like a prayer mill: war is “typically human” and war has existed since the beginning of humankind and humans are violent and hateful…


    humans need moral leaders, need political leaders, need biz bosses - because humans are violent, stupid monsters…

    but never forget the basic law of information processing: No processing without goals and aims: Cui Bono

    the infinite war is just a lie, the uncontrollable monster in each human is just a fairy tale to convince people to let others control them. Sure, in any lie lies some truth - wars ARE ancient tools, but that ancestry had 4 feet or even flippers

    OUR ancestry condemned violence - the cave paintings prove that, the people at those times WERE able to control the inner violence, which is in our brains like the flippers of our embryos. Don’t follow the preachers of the monster humans, that those people weren’t “civilized enough for war”. There is proof of a culture of cities - the first California - created by people from outside, constructed of perfectly planned cities for thousands of people (bigger than the Sumerican and Egypt ones), caring for EVERYBODY (each and every house had access to water and sanitation, 2000 BC!) - and there were NO palaces and NO churches - a culture of wealthy engineers over nearly a million of square miles

    THIS is our problem - our philosophy, because a philosophy decides about every decision you do - and if you believe you need help, you are too weak or too stupid, you ARE weak and stupid and need help - if we believe to need an elite, we WILL need an elite - self fulfiling prophecy. That’s why we need to stop believing that “uncontrollable stupid monster human needing leadership”-fairy tale - simply to be able to DEVELOP a sense of responsibility for our own actions…


    We need to follow each other, not these greedy, warmongering asses.

    yes - exactly that

    do you know the methodology “Syntegration”? The best interaction of people - the most efficient and effective - is ordered democracy (even when they pretend to be just “hierarchy-free, but not democratic” - they should understand their own foundations - information, communication and ML-method - to see and grasp the difference between crowded and triangle structures, but i guess, to bosses “democracy” just doesn’t sell - and maybe it shows another really bad tendency - to confuse “democracy” with “dictatorship of the masses”, the same link they successfully installed between liberals and “evil ungodly communists”, btw )

    ask “your leadership” - paying for Stafford Beers “leadership” ;-)

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