The Age of Lost Legitimacy
What is legitimate (in accordance with recognized or accepted standards or principles) in this world as we move forward?
Along with statesmanship, is it well and perhaps permanently behind us? We know where statesmanship went—long gone, the victim of partisan politics, but what of legitimacy itself?
One might wonder if it is legitimate to continue to support a Saudi government in the clear evidence of primary responsibility for the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center, their support of the most radical forms of Islam and continued human rights suppression. This is best and most recently indicated by the murder and dismembering of a critical journalist within their embassy in Turkey.
Yet armaments sales are offered as a reason (more likely the reason) for the unreasonable, because profits and jobs at Boeing, Lockheed and Ratheon are more important and we must use them to stabilize oil prices, even as oil fades as an energy source. They are on our side against Iran in the Middle Eastern death spiral.
Reasons, reasons aplenty, but are they legitimate?
Like fall follows summer, one illegitimacy leads to another.
Is it legitimate to struggle against nuclear proliferation and, at the same time, flood the nations of the world with the latest non-nuclear weaponry? Does it make sense to profit by selling arms, then be surprised by their use and ultimately find, to our utter amazement, that entire nations have been destroyed? Who (if anyone) will rebuild Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Palestine?
Selling arms is profitable, but rebuilding nations, lives and cultures is an expense beyond all capability and understanding. Profit has given way to all the human values we cherish—the very definition of illegitimacy.
Or perhaps, in our hearts, we no longer cherish them. Maybe the too-quick news cycle makes everything yesterday's news, including our emotions, basic morality and sense of fairness.That’s a possibility.
And yet this destruction doesn’t fall upon the heads of the destructors. Victims are others, not like we who profit. Their destroyed lives, blown apart homes and murdered children are not our lives, homes and children. If they die and drown and are kept in camps for generations in an effort to escape, it is not we who suffer that fate. That scale by which we judge those events is by definition, illegitimate .
So, if the others have been singled out and identified, who are the we of whom I speak?
We are the collateral damage, the innocent (or not so innocent) bystanders to the wreckage of world-order and we pay the price in other ways. The cost-benefit ratio arrives at our door on little-cat-feet, like old age creeping up year by year and almost unnoticed.
The we I refer to are you and I, the increasingly politically polarized, Democrats and Republicans, Independents, those fed up with politics in all its paid-off forms and too weary in our own life-struggles to even pay attention.
We worry instead about what we can deal with—paying the bills, keeping our jobs, putting food on the table and knowing, deep in our hearts that our kids will never be able to afford college, much less a home of their own.
Christ, that’s enough on our plates at this moment, thank you very much.
But it goes beyond even that. We arrived at this unhealthy and debilitating state of affairs by forty (and more) years of our two major political parties ignoring the American national condition in favor of what can be called nothing other than the politics of the highest bidder. Democrat or Republican, they are both co-conspirators in this downward cycle.
We talk about economic inequality, but that’s far too bloodless a term. That’s something that affects others.
But increasingly we have become the others. The super-wealthy captain the political ship and the rest of us are mere economic waste, thrown overboard. That’s not legitimate in a democratic republic, but it’s the fact.
There is no profit in schools, except for those engaged in the climb to a better life and that climb is not of interest to those already at the top. Nor is there a profit in solving homelessness, paving highways, repairing bridges or bringing business back to Main Street by clawing it back from Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart is profit and so is the weapons industry that consumes the 50% of our national budget that could solve all of the above. So, when peace comes too close, Washington rattles the sabers of war in its many forms to keep the wealthy wealthier. And we go along, confused by the rhetoric and defeated by the very process.
The $trillions wasted in the Middle East would have solved every single national issue of our gradual decline—but they weren’t profitable, except to you and me and our kids.
It might be a good thing to note that our mighty, all consuming military hasn’t won a single war since WWII. What it has done is destroy our international reputation, along with the lives and cultures of many nations. We don’t even know how to get out of these unwinnable wars, as our longest war in history muddles on toward its 17th year in Afghanistan.
That war, combined with Iraq, just brought us (and bought us) another generation of a Vietnam-style wounded veterans. The rich weren't there. The cost-benefit was paid for by you and me.
The mid-term national elections are around the corner. They are the most ignored of our already tragically underrepresented opportunities to take back control of an, arguably, out of control national politics.
I beg you to vote. I don’t care who or what you vote for, but please see that you’re voice is heard in November. Your kids and mine are depending on us.