The end of the 20th century was a time of relative prosperity and hope for humanity and the future. By the beginning of the 21st century, serious fissures in the façade of a hopeful and prosperous future were starting to tear the U.S. apart.
First., we experienced the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. So we went to war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Next, the U.S. exploited almost meaningless and incredible evidence to justify going to war against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Almost 20 years later both of those wars are still raging with no victor in sight and zero improvement in the lives of the people living there. Fifteen years into those wars terrorist incidents globally and those affected were at their highest point since 2001. And the terrorists that the U.S. was supposedly targeting were growing stronger and more technologically capable and gaining access to more and more funding for their “jihad.” And the moral resolve of the U.S. deteriorated as these wars went on. The U.S. instituted a preemptive strike philosophy and policy. For a time under President G.W. Bush, the U.S. decided that using torture in an attempt to gain important intelligence was more important than upholding the global legal and moral norm that torture is impermissible in any circumstance (not to mention the empirical fact that torture never produces reliable, useful intelligence). The divide between the Muslim world and “the West” became more pronounced and tense.
In 2008, there was a global market crisis largely caused by the instability that the U.S. Congress had created though a deregulation of banks. The deregulated banks began to make mortgage loans to people who could not afford to pay the mortgages. Then the banks figured out how to further profit from those “toxic” mortgage loan notes by bundling them and selling off the debt at a hugely discounted price on the stock exchange. Eventually, the market for these toxic debt bundles created a bubble, built on nothing but assumptions and poor book keeping, and then inevitably the bubble burst. Millions of people in the U.S. lost their homes, became deeply indebted and destroyed their credit for their lifetime. Meanwhile, while vulnerable Americans lost their homes, the elite bankers who created the crisis in the first place got bailed out with billions of taxpayer dollars and once they did they decided they should all get millions of dollars in bonuses. Politicians began the exploitative rhetoric of “Main Street vs. Wall Street” and the short-lived Occupy Wall Street brought the rhetoric of the 99% vs. the 1% elite into the common lexicon.
By 2010, the entire planet was being plagued by unprecedented catastrophic environmental events. It was decided by the entire worldwide scientific community that global temperatures were rising at an alarming rate because of the environmental effects caused by man made carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. Of course the poor people of the world suffered most from severe droughts, flood rains, shifting seasonal weather, rising sea levels, hotter summers, colder winters, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes, etc. And the poor have the most to loose in the future since their mobility is stymied by their poverty, their ability to insulate themselves from the effects of these disasters is limited due to severe resource constraints and they have no political voice since they are poor, uneducated and unorganized. Those making money from economic activity involving fossil fuels (including everything that is transported anywhere) were pitted against the vulnerable who have almost no defense against their environmental fate.
At the same time, in the U.S. black men were being killed by police with near impunity. Due to the prevalence of video recording cell phones, police were being caught on video while doing so and being broadcast worldwide through social media. The police in many areas of the country and in many inner cities were trained to racially profile and to consider black men as being guilty until proven innocent. Black men would be stopped for nothing so that the police could question them and then if the police decided for any reason that the person should be shot to death they would do so. Police were videoed choking an unarmed black man to death, shooting an unarmed man in the back as he ran away, shooting numerous unarmed black men in and around their cars because the police suspected that the unarmed black men had guns. Anytime a black man ran out of fear, resisted the humiliation of being stopped for no reason or was even misunderstood by the police, they could be shot and killed. It wasn’t just black men either. Black women and children fell victim to the inherent racial prejudice in the police system and the judicial system in the U.S. The racial divide grew as a result of mixed juries acquitting white officers of violent crimes against people of color. The racial divide also grew because politicians when forced to take a side, would always side with the police.
The “security state” spread to every corner of the globe. More weapons flooded the free market and the developing world than ever before. Every government that had the money sought “intelligence” on what their competitors/adversaries were doing, sought analysis of what “experts” predicted that their competitors/adversaries would do and sought security against their competitors/adversaries as well as everyone else since it is often difficult to tell who one’s competitors/adversaries were. The whole world became suspicious. At the same time the whole world became suspect. Everyone was ignoring the maxims, “Those who live by the gun, die by the gun” and “Love they neighbor as thyself.” The world powers were more interested profiting from people’s conflicts, then working to help solve those conflicts (except by selling more weapons for “security”).
By 2016, all of these divisions between Western and anti-Western ideologies, the rich and poor, the educated and uneducated, the safe and unsafe, the state and people of color and the secure and insecure culminated in the most divisive, derisive political campaigns in U.S. history. Every politician, Democrat and Republican, used the most abusive and derisive language possible to pit their political supporters against their alleged “enemies.” Of course, all of the politicians were worked up into a frenzy against “global terrorism.” However, they accused each other, because of each other politics and means of combatting terrorism, of actually supporting terrorism. Politicians pitted Main Street/small town Americans against Wall Street/city dwelling Americans. Politicians pitted scientists against people working in fossil fuel intensive occupations. Politicians pitted police against people seeking racial justice. Politicians pitted U.S. citizens against immigrants. Politicians pitted people who wanted to ban assault rifles against gun owners. Politicians pitted “political correctness” against the first amendment. Basically, politicians pitted everyone that the could get to listen against everyone that they could scapegoat and ramped up the rhetoric and vitriol to such a frenzied level that people began fearing one another more and seeing others success as their own failure. Politicians did not talk about unity. They did not discuss how we could and should work together to solve our common problems. They did not discuss the root causes of our collective malaise and economic challenges. They did nothing to alleviate our burden but instead heaped hate and fear and suspicion and dread onto our already considerable burdens. As a result, the left moved further to the left and the right moved further right and the political game became winner take all. Democracy and compromise and humanity and compassion and tolerance, be damned.
Due the total and utter failure of their politicians to fulfill any of their campaign promises in the past and their failure to insure a decent existence for all Americans, the people of the U.S. decided that they had nothing to loose and literally elected a clown to be their president. The “President” that the people elected was an amoral, narcisistic, nouveaux riche, sleazebag, with no experience in politics, no track record of having done a single decent thing for anyone in his life, a long track record of cheating on his spouses, of failed business ventures and of being an embarrassingly pompous and self-aggrandizing person whose only talent was building gaudy golf clubs and acquiring real-estate. But he “told it like it is” to simple people with nothing to loose and became the 45th president of the U.S.
To be continued…