The more lasting tragedy of 11/22/63 is that it began an era, an era that has no end in sight, of massive distrust of the government. Before Dallas, America trusted its leaders. That quaint notion now seems as silly and obsolete as hula hoops. We now expect the worst. We think of our legislative bodies as bombastic bordellos, full of corrupt hacks willing to sell their souls to the highest bidders. “The good of the people” is way down the list of priorities when laws are written and policy enacted. Everywhere one looks, there is corruption and perfidy. Those who have money and power—corporations, special interests and the super-wealthy—control the ministers of government and make the lives of the masses more dangerous, difficult, unhealthy and poverty-stricken. We have become inured to bloody wars for profit. We have accepted the fact that liberty and justice for all are empty words. “Ask what you can do for your country” has been replaced by “greed is good.” The home of the brave is now the land of cynical self-interest.
Admittedly, there is nothing really new about this. There has always been a strain of craven opportunism in America. Hucksters, scam artists, for-profit schemers and crooked politicians have always been with us. It’s just that today they have prevailed over our better angels. The rise of right-wing radio (Rush Limbaugh and his ilk) and TV (FOX News) has brainwashed those who lack the education and intellect to resist. Progressivism has been demonized. Media, once the only thing that stood between us and fascism, has been neutered by corporate takeover. Trump and other tyrants urge us now to turn our backs on the truth. Lies are given equal time and presented as legitimate counterbalances under the guise of fairness. While the planet slowly burns and oceans rise, climate change deniers, funded by fossil-fuel polluters, are actually granted air time as if they have a legitimate argument to make. Fact and fiction get blurred; truth becomes a subjective guess until there is no truth left. In this environment, all manner of distortion and deception is possible; it was inevitable that a narcissistic con artist and pathological liar, like Trump, would eventually make it to the White House. An unbalanced egomaniac, elevated in the age of lies, now has his finger on the button. One shudders to think what would have happened if Trump had been in charge during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
If we look closely at the history of America, its one lasting and irrevocable legacy is mendacity. The country was even founded on a lie. Columbus did not discover what we now know as the United States. Our leaders lied to the natives who originally dwelled here, stealing their land and slaughtering their people. Industrial barons and corporate giants, and the government they bought and paid for, have owned the country ever since. Their lies help them maintain their power. We are told that we live in a land of equal opportunity, but we know it is a rigged system in favor of the wealthy, and becoming more so every day. Our leaders claim they are doing our bidding when, in truth, they are nothing more than paid agents of the most powerful interests in the country. Government of the people has been replaced by government of the one percent. This dreary reality was facilitated by historical lies. Lies that overwhelm us and, in the end, turn us into helpless children in a land of tyrannical powerbrokers. When did we lose sight of the promise of America as a land where righteousness and justice were at the heart of the great experiment called democracy? It is the argument here that on November 22, 1963, we veered off into an alternate universe, a quasi-fascist state where the power of government and corporations, with the help of the military-intelligence monolith, has merged, and the slow destruction of true democracy has eaten away whatever freedom we have left.
Lies are at the heart of it.