Where did we go wrong?

At one point in Eliot’s Tale, Eliot and his old friend Mike contemplate over a cold beer  just exactly what happened to the hippies, yippies and various counterculture movements that had taken to the streets to “change the world.” As Mike says, “What the hell happened to the belief that there could be a better way to live? I mean, shit, I sit here sometimes and think I’m no better than my old man when it comes to taking responsibility for the world…Or was the big, bad system really that big and bad? Just swallowed us up, spit us back out, laughed at us thinking we had some magic power.”

It raises a good question for those of us who were there then and now have to wonder what indeed did happen to the righteous indignation and genuine anger that helped stop a war, implement civil rights, topple a crooked administration, etc. We found ourselves now with two wars–one never justified–a staggering economy pushed to the brink by obscene profiteering, a natural environment in deep trouble, and, perhaps most frightening, a political system nearly unable to function. Yet, where is the outrage and the protest? Or have we become so comfortable, so complacent that it just doesn’t seem worth the effort to rock the boat?

As a friend of mine said recently, with a certain amount of regret and resignation in his voice, it’s being proved that the American people are getting the government they deserve. His comment came hard upon the astounding decision by the Supreme Court that determined that corporations have the same free speech rights as individual citizens. It was a stunning legal turnaround that puts the entire political process in play, with corporations and wealthy individuals no longer limited in the monies they can devote to controlling the system for their own benefit. But at its most fundamental level, this decision demonstrates that even the Supreme Court, which is charged with upholding the rule of law, has now become a political body driven not by respect for the law but ideology. The founding fathers created the court to hold check over the other two bodies of government, to make certain that the rights of the country’s citizens were protected. Instead, this court now proves itself as beholden to special interests as any congressman who consorts with lobbyists and takes their money.

This is now an activist court that can no longer be trusted to make fair and equal decisions, and that is truly a scary thing. Combine that with career politicians–another concept never envisioned by the founding fathers–and we now face a future in which the needs and desires of the electorate–that’s us average citizens, by the way–will be ignored in the name of ideology and special interests. The Supreme Court will be difficult to head off at this point, but the politicians can still be stopped with a vote–assuming we take that process seriously. And for god’s sake, let’s please implement term limits to eliminate the career politicians who serve only themselves.

Remember “power to the people?” Funny how that 1960s slogan, instead of becoming a statement of strength, has instead become a joke, a relic of another time and place. Really does make you wonder what happened to all the hippies who believed it was possible to change the world.

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