I confess to a hiatus in viewing Bill Moyers; I recently resumed watching. I really can’t say why I stopped or why I returned. But after seeing the last two episodes I suspect a possible explanation for both: The societal needs are as large and numerous as my abilities and energy are inadequate.
You may have noticed that I checked multiple categories for this post. I could have checked more. While it would be comforting to believe that all’s well, any sentient being with an ounce of compassion cannot escape the sobering conclusion: America, at least, sucks.
Surely not for the One-Percent, of course. They’re doing just fine and actually increasing their wealth. The Rest of Us, however, appear to be stuck, along with the economy, which may have entered a new normal of “secular stagnation.” Let’s look around to consider the state of affairs.
Our politicians refused to pass a simple piece of legislation that would have provided “Medicare for all.” Instead, they succumbed to the moneyed interests. As a result, we have a labyrinthian Affordable Care Act that actually transfers more dollars from the Rest of Us to the health care industry. Worse, whatever the benefits of ACA, and there are some, Obama was too busy elsewhere to ensure and insist that implementation be effectively executed. His signature legislation was held hostage to an easily distracted president who always finds time for other things, like spying and killing and golf.
Millions of Americans can’t find a job, even those who did what they were told by securing college degrees. Unemployment remains staggeringly high, and this Congress couldn’t care less.
And speaking of Congress, our government structure is obviously broken. A tiny minority known as the Tea Party can and does control what bills get passed, which don’t see the floor for a vote, and who assumes an office or a position on the president’s nomination. I think they’re crazy, but just enough citizens, aided and abetted by diabolical gerrymandering, elect and retain them to stymie major, and sorely needed, efforts to put people back to work, repair and improve public infrastructures, and provide sufficient income for all, including retirees.
While scientists accumulate evidence that the planet faces catastrophe without urgent and immediate action, the aforementioned Tea Party and almost all Republicans either deny the science of climate change or steadfastly believe that we shall somehow overcome through God’s will or exotic geoenginnering. Or we’ll simply adapt, though the details of how escape description.
On his last program, Moyers interviewed two physicians who are “fighting the good fight.” Both have been arrested multiple times for acts of civil disobedience. Here’s an excerpt from the exchange:
BILL MOYERS: So what do you do when you write a statement that the press ignores, or you organize rallies and events where maybe, five or six or ten people turn out and the press, again, totally ignores you? What, how do you feel about that?
MARGARET FLOWERS: Well, the mass media press is not going to cover this movement. They’re not covering it. I mean, there’s a very vibrant movement going on in this country right now. And that’s why we created PopularResistance.org. It’s a daily movement news site where we cover those protests.
BILL MOYERS: And what do I find if I go there?
MARGARET FLOWERS: You’ll find news stories about protests that are going on in the United States and around the world, as well as informational articles about current events that you’re not going to hear in kind of, the mass media. And you can go there and find articles about what’s going on. If you want to start learning about strategy or how to organize in your community, there are tools for that.
If you want to connect with resistance groups, and we try to uplift the groups that are in the frontlines of struggle, that are actually taking on these challenges very effectively. You can plug into those or the alternative is create, creating alternative systems. We have information about that too.
What gets me is that Bill Moyers has been interviewing political activists for decades, and almost invariably he asks how they keep going against insurmountable odds. Without exception his guests mention this or that protest group or organization that is working valiantly to make a difference.
What difference has been made? As I said, Moyers has been at this almost since he left the White House as LBJ’s press secretary. He’s got to admit that things have only gotten worse across a wide array of checked boxes, from poverty and war to civil liberties and health care. Yet, each week he sits across the table from very concerned citizens who throw out facts and figures that paint another dire picture of what ails us. What to do? Well, organize, protest, and otherwise engage in this or that struggle. After all, they are all struggles and they’re all against heavily entrenched interests.
Depressing as this comes across, Moyers interviewed John Nichols and Robert McChesney the week before. Their recent book, Dollarocracy, describes a political system ruled by the dollar rather than the people. Each page presents evidence to support their subtitle’s message: How the Money-and-Media Election Complex Is Destroying America.
Destroying America. Hmmm.
I don’t doubt the conclusion. I just wonder if America was ever privileged. Though I’ve often referenced “the relative halcyon days” of the 50s and 60s, the country at the time was rife with conspicuous racism, codified in draconian Jim Crow laws. White northerners exhibited hostility to people of color; they were just a bit more subtle about it. Women were generally treated as second-class citizens, forced to submit to dominant males, many, if not most, of whom were living their own lives of quiet desperation and anxiety. Oh, and it was not a good time to be a red, if ever there is.
Meanwhile public education is being attacked. It’s once again in crisis, a repeated offense. This time we’re all about testing the hell out of kids, even before they enter kindergarten. After all, we need data. For what purpose? The cynical goal is to trash public schools themselves, teacher by teacher. Then what? Since this is America, everything is about making money. Billions of dollars are spent each year educating children. Much, if not all, of that could be siphoned off by private entrepreneurs proclaiming the virtues of markets and competition and choice and all those presumed virtues that have delivered the world’s greatest economy.
Which brings us back to the beginning. How could it be great when it serves so few?
Okay. I feel a bit better. On with the struggles.