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Fri

21

Dec

2007

What is Spiritually Wrong With America: The Loss of the Ideal, the Failure of the Heroic
Friday, 21 December 2007 23:40
by Andrew Bard Schmookler

What is spiritually wrong with America, that the american system could not protect itself better against these Bushite forces?

Are we to believe that things could have happened like this — that a criminal regime of this sort could endure, not signficantly confronted — at just ANY time in American history?

One thing we know: there hs NEVER been such a pervasive pattern of lies and crimes in the American presidency as with this Bushite bunch.

Here we have a list of scandals — some of them profound scandals — that sometimes gets to seem like almost every day brings a new one. And — still — America deals with this administration as if it were a genuine presidency, as if it were more than a bunch of criminal suspects.

What does it say about the state of the country that we have not reached consensus on regarding this regime as criminal and fascist and downright evil, and has not used the mechanism designed for the nation to defend itself from this kind of usurpatious power.

It is not clear if the battle against the Bushites COULD be won. If this battle IS winnable, but is just not being fought, what does it say about the spiritual state of America that the system has failed to do what it was supposed to be designed to do?

The people failed. The press failed. The Congress failed. The opposition failed. (”The Lament of a True Patriot” at www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=919

What is the reason for this failure?

The battle must be fought somewhere, or it will be lost. John Cochrane wrote in a comment: “When the most powerful nation in the world abandons the principles that require a prisoner to receive a fair trial and hearing within a reasonable time all of us might note that what happens to them today may happen to us tomorrow.”

To which I respond: Yes, the nature of the forces behind this Bushite regime is that there is no limit to how much power they would seek, no point at which they would not push toward complete power. So there is no truce line between allowing their violation of the detainees rights and their marching further and violating ours. You’re right, John.

The battle must be fought, and quite likely it is better to fight it sooner rather than later.

So why does America not more forcefully confront this regime? What is the spiritual defect that could explain this failure?

Fighting against a powerful force, fighting against gangsters, fighting against bullies, fighting against people who are altogether lacking in scruples and willing to do anything to protect and extend their dominance — this is the work of heroes.

But in America, in our time — and particularly in those players in the political arena who are representative of the liberal half of the American spectrum — heroes seem to be in unusually short supply.

What is the source of this dearth of heroism?

At one level, I think, the problem is that along the way we — in culturally liberal America — lost sight of what we thought a human being is supposed to be. We withdrew the emotional and spiritual investment in an image of the human ideal as something we felt impelled to strive toward.

I can see it in the movies: the movies of the 30s, and 40s, and 50s, were MUCH MORE INTO LOOKING AT THE ADMIRABLE than movies in recent decades. In some liberal circles, “admiration” as a human practice has become as quaint as honoring the Geneva Conventions became in other, right-wing circles.

When people engage less in admiration it is a sign they investing less energy into the ideal image of the human being.

The protagonist as someone we can admire. Losing that is a symptom of a spiritual disease: a letting go of the energy that should invest itself into the cultivation of the good.

Our movies don’t have to go back to the naivete of the movies of an earlier era, but they can do more to get us to invest ourselves in an image of a kind of human ideal. A Jimmy Stewart, a John Wayne, a Bogart, a Gary Cooper, a Burt Lancaster — now there was a man one could admire, in some ways anyway. But one would not quickly say the same of Nicholas Cage or Johnny Depp. Something of an ideal — in terms of some ethic or other — is being offered for us to identify with.

The liberal half of America — with its disinvestment in the image of the human ideal, providing fewer images and ideas to support the achievement of that ideal — helped lead the way downward for the moral structures of America.

In particular, the draining of energy from the image of the ideal impoverished the motivational springs for acts of heroism.

Heroes, generally, are people who have cast themselves into that role because of their devotion to living up to a heroic ideal. In the heroic ideal of the American man — enacted in countless films of an earlier era — when evil rises up, the ideal American man rises up to fight it. He does not shrink, in fear, from that fight. That would be a violation of the hero’s ethic of honor.

In America today, we do not now have enough people who would rather die than dishonor themselves, even if that death were merely a political one. We do not even seem to have enough people for whom it is a tough choice if the path of the honorable hero leads through great danger.

That’s what the movies I was brought up on were always teaching us boys: you stand up to evil and you fight to defeat it. Captain Midnight. Batman. Superman. Jimmy Stewart in MR. SMITTH GOES TO WASHINGTON. John Wayne in countless films (though the question of good and evil was muddier with him). Or my hero Burt Lancaster — who was, in my adolescence, my idea of manly strength and courage — as an American individual in FROM HERE TO ETERINITY and as the French railroad man Lapiche during World War II in THE TRAIN. Gary Cooper in, for example, HIGH NOON.

None of these guys ever played people who would allow themselves to back down from the Bushite power out of fear.

In this way, those in the American culture still interested in the ideal — the religionists — were handed over by the cultural left to the con-artists rising on the right, to the Bushite powers with their phony heroism conceiling the very things — greed and power — that Jesus most railed and fought against.

And the failure of the heroic on the left also opened the way for phonies from the right to posture in jump-suits aboard aircraft carriers — the photo-op enacted to con those Americans hungry for an image to admire. The regime sold them heroism where there was none, where indeed there was only thuggery dressed up in hypocrisy.
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justplainbill said:

0
...
Has anyone on the left had an original thought or idea since 1968? Lord, what whining, predictable cliches you all pass back and forth. This article is rife with them in fact and innuendo. Your generalized rants about the "Bushites", the "Rethugs" and the "facsists" are too tiresome by half. You think every time an asteroid hits the moon it's a conspiricy on the part of the administration. And when it comes to money, the Mood Rings really start to glow. You want decent jobs so that decent Americans can live in decent homes and send their kids to decent schools and you can retire with decent pensions and enjoy decent gratis healthcare the entire time all these other decent events are taking place. And when it comes to paying, excuse me, subsidizing all this? Why, the government, of course. Take the 10% of the people who pay 90% of the taxes now and shake them down, dammit. They're getting rich off the backs of the poor. There's another glib cliche no one's ever been able to explain but, dang, does it sound good! If you ever got what you purport to want, you'd dry up and blow away.
 
December 23, 2007
Votes: +0

Thomas E. Reed said:

0
A misguided search for kid heroes of the writer's youth.
The editorial writer was talking about the loss of the "heroic ideal." He mentioned John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Batman, Superman, and a bunch of other kid ideals of the 1940's and 50's.

The writer missed a couple of things; those characters were severely flawed, even the fictional ones. Batman, for instance, has been through three Boy Wonders; alienating one, suffering the death of another that he didn't train properly. He's a lousy father figure. John Wayne portrayed a cliched manliness that some felt disguised a repressed homosexuality. Bogart went through three awful marriages until he lucked out into a good one, but he was alcoholic and self-destructive even there.

Those characters mentioned as ideals in the article were also all men. Not a Rosa Parks among them.

The point the somewhat deluded writer was making was that there were no examples, IN POPULAR CULTURE, of a lone man going up against a corrupt system, and that is why Bush and Company got away with so much. I would point out the "Planet Hollywood Mafia" as counter-examples. Schwartzenegger, Stallone and Willis all portrayed just that kind of hero, and made fortunes from their movies. They were also right-wing, their evil enemies were quite often of foreign races, and they almost never stressed a brain cell trying to comprehend or show compassion.

I would argue that those pop-culture, superstar heroes helped pave the way for the criminality of Bush. And beating up on actors like Johnny Depp or Nicholas Cage - no matter how wimpy they may appear or be in reality - is misleading. The problem is not that we lack TV, movie or comic book heroes. The problem is that we lack them in real life, or we don't recognize or appreciate the ones we have. (Have a talk with John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, a World Trade Center first responder or an Iraq/Iran amputee veteran sometime.)
 
December 23, 2007
Votes: +0

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