American Shithole #2 — How Deep Is Our Shithole?
By Eric Wilson
Ugh, what a week already.
I have entertained adding the occasional silver lining/ray of sunshine to a column that could likely depress more often than elate. This would require a subheading. American Shithole: Turds of Wisdom, or American Shithole: Kernels of Truth, perhaps.
Or, American Shithole: I Just Can’t, Today.
If I do include any rose-tinted hangover editions, they will be few and far between, because this country is a hot mess on a lost weekend. America has tossed its keys in the sewage drain, taken its shirt off, and is wandering around a Walmart somewhere with one flip-flop on, looking for paint thinner.
What’s worse is that when we survive this administration, a lot of our issues will still be here. They were here long before too many of us got drunk on fear, populism and stupidity.
So I watched the State of the Union, and if you had happened to be listening from the next room, you would have been privy to cackles, expletives, and you might have even heard an eye-roll. The President did actually address a few of the following issues that ultimately he will do nothing about:
Our infrastructure is indeed collapsing, as it has been for decades. Our interstates and bridges are in dangerous disrepair. When the Eisenhower administration — a republican administration mind you — set in motion a tax plan requiring the wealthy to shoulder significant expense for new infrastructure, the plutocrats in response undermined middle-class and poor families for three generations; in what has become an ongoing effort to maintain a conservative voting bloc by pitting Americans against each other.
We haven’t adequately invested in infrastructure since.
Public schools have been shortchanged at every turn by the ruling class. It only requires a reporter to shove a microphone into the face of a Trump supporter for evidence of an undervalued education. Or, if you are feeling particularly courageous, a Jimmy Kimmel street interview.
The only true danger to any aristocracy has always been an educated and well-informed populace. We’ve had nearly three generations now of Americans voting against their own self-interests, and the dumbing-down of rural America in particular seems to be worsening.
Healthcare is a joke without a punchline. If keeping the citizenry ignorant isn’t sufficient, or if you can’t keep them all dumb enough, then keep them scared for their lives. Nothing works better — if scaring the shit out of people is your intent — than the indifferent bureaucracy of insurance companies and America’s special brand of super-capitalism strip-mining human misery for market value.
The real danger posed by Obamacare is that it offered hope to the hopeless. It is as if the healthcare available prior to the Affordable Care Act — basically unaffordable access to bottom-of-the-barrel health services, and the crippling debt that still somehow followed — was expected to be taken as a blessing, a kindness from our benevolent benefactors, and not an insidious effort to leverage struggling Americans into quiet submission.
Powerful people like the Koch brothers were very angry that the poor and needy of our country were able to taste the merest hint of true freedom that Universal Healthcare would provide.
This too is the ultimate function of student loans, where America stands again as an outlier, saddling our best and brightest young people with an albatross right out of the gate. The only purpose of these enormous debt burdens on our youth is to create leverage and fear.
Speaking of scholastic environments, as of January 23rd we have had eleven school shootings this year. This year that started, this month. Eleven. That’s more than the rest of the western world’s countries combined. Let that sink in a moment — if anything can sink in amidst this ceaseless maelstrom of fear, greed, lies, horrific violence, and profound stupidity.
“Where’d you get your figures, Librul?”
We have access to data for school shootings worldwide, for one, because these atrocities rarely happen anywhere else — I am assuming this is because in non-shithole countries, the images of your own dead children in classrooms is so fucking horrific, people actually do something about it.
Or we could just keep flooding our communities with bump stocks and military-grade assault weaponry, because you know, freedom.
We are one of the only western countries where opioids are only available from a physician, and somehow unrelated, we are the only country suffering from a catastrophic opioid addiction crisis. A crippling death sentence that has no geographical, class or racial barriers has already shuffled a few of my favorite artists off this mortal coil. I guess that song I wrote for Tom Petty “Running Down a Fentanyl Prescription” will have to remain unrecorded gold.
The situation is already so toxic in some smaller communities that literally no family has been left unchallenged and unchanged. Why are rural communities hit hardest? Infrastructure, in part. Everything is connected.
Drug distributors that saturated this small West Virginia town with 20 million painkillers probably sleep like kittens.
Weaving like a drunk on a highway throughout this quagmire of poverty, ignorance, poor health, drug addiction and despair, we have our embarrassing legacy of racism and prejudice. Thriving, it seems, in the basements of weary mothers everywhere. Along with a disgusting resurgence of misogyny that I was not expecting either — certainly not from those significantly younger than I am. Throat-punching these mongoloid fucks should be considered civic duty.
And then we have men, some once-revered, that turned out to be rapists — that have in some cases, systematically abused power and position over the course of decades. If the situation were normal, I would probably take weeks to unpack how disappointed; disgusted I feel by Charlie Rose, and others I admired. Or even linger over the Schadenfreude I have experienced for shit-bags I never liked in the first place. I’m looking at you, Matt Lauer.
We just don’t have the time to reflect, not these days.
Ultimately, in Machiavellian fashion, moderating and doling out most of this misery we have the billionaires, whose lives are so far removed from anything remotely representing normal human existence, it begs the question: who are these greedy fucking assholes? In my opinion, billionaires are the real dead weight for humanity. Dead weight created in a soulless economic construct gone haywire.
A report in Newsweek recently shared some numbers that I find most troubling for a group of people I already despise. If the billionaires of the world were to share just 1/7th of what they earned this past year — not the billions they already horde, just 15% or so of what they accumulated on top of that this year — extreme poverty and starvation would end.
Instead, the Koch brothers will invest more than they ever have before in an attempt to win 2018 elections for the republicans that they have already pocketed long ago. All just to stay as rich as possible. That is what this has always been about. This is about obscenely overvalued gluttons staying obscenely overvalued, no matter the human suffering.
We — and by “we” I mean those of us that are influenced by generosity and compassion, and some sense of fucking decency — must truly resist. We must find ways to rise above our own instincts as Americans; with our seemingly ingrained worship of the ultra-rich. Look, I don’t want to have to keep breaking it to you, but these guys are fucking assholes.
These (547 or so) comically overvalued and overpowered individuals aren’t all evil, but the damage done by the worst among them (Koch Brothers, Mercers, etc.) is incalculable. There is also the stifling effect of having that much value out of circulation; even if they weren’t guilty of tampering with American politics — creating the Tea Party, for example — their greed manifested is strangulating the pursuit of happiness for nearly everyone else.
On top of the heap we have Trump — dumbest, luckiest douchebag of them all. Faux billionaire, if there ever was one. The Giant Orange Idiot is nearly universally despised by friend and foe alike — with the notable exception of his base, that bastion of intelligence worried about brown people coming to take their dirt piles. Hey Cletus, no one is coming for your fucking shitty dirt pile in Bumblefuck Nowhere, U.S.A.
Trump also has the support of the evangelicals, who as I have stated, are one rung above the flat-earthers in problem-solving and critical thinking capabilities.
If we continue down this path, the United States is in danger of becoming this century’s answer to Nazi Germany, or at least an oligarchical, nationalist, modern-day version of it. And if you think that’s bombastic, then I suggest you review your history books, and perhaps take another look around you right now. This hollowed-out husk of an American Dream — is ripe to turn dystopian nightmare — and that is something to which I hope we will not silently bear witness.
Before this starts reading like a manifesto, or a really painful civics report, I think it’s time to wrap this one up. What can I say? Being forced to watch Trump speak for 90 minutes makes me chatty. Or barfy. Yes, by Thursday’s posting, I am sure that the memo has already blown up. Be strong my beautiful brothers and sisters. Find your line, and fucking hold it.
I would like to close with a pleasant thought that came to me a year ago now:
There will come a day, perhaps you’ll be on a date or spending the evening with a good friend, you’ll be enjoying a quiet exchange over a comforting meal, and the conversation will turn. One of you will inhale sharply and say, “wow, we haven’t heard that name in a while.”
A moment of silence may pass with reflection. You’ll both sigh, perhaps grin, and that grin might broaden into a smile.
I don’t know what year it’s going to be. I don’t know if I will live to see it, but the collective ‘we’ are going to have this moment. It’s going to be a magical moment.
I hope this thought brings you some comfort, my fellow Americans.
Stay tuned next week for American Shithole: Skid Marks of Justice?