Calling our form of government a democratic republic does not make
it so. We are what we do. By now it should be abundantly clear that
most Americans are incapable of recognizing real democracy—because they
have never been subjected to one. Perhaps no culture on earth is more materialistic
or delusional than ours’. Compared to much of the world, America’s
behavior is tragically pathological. We react to planetary warming by driving
metal gas guzzling monstrosities, rather than enacting conservation measures.
Americans have the habit of doing the opposite of what we should. Our so called
leaders think our sensibilities are too delicate to expose us to truth—so
reality is omitted from our diet as if it were a plague. Rather than receiving
nourishing truth, we are given the opiates of propaganda that affirm and reinforce
our odd self destructive behavior. We are held captive by the lies that are
deftly woven from the threads of capitalism, and persuaded to act against our
own interest, as well as the public good.
Propaganda is like a powerful and paralyzing drug that induces the most bizarre
social behavior. In the mind it acts like an opiate that provokes psychotic
episodes of self harming conduct. We are a nation addicted to oil and violence;
a people grateful for our chains of ignorance and servitude to the gods of consumerism
and unrestrained capitalism—the very gods that are our undoing. The drip
bags of propaganda are permanently attached to our veins to assure that we never
awaken from our news-induced coma. Mind control is more subtle than the open
use of coercive force in shaping human behaviors. No one is more effectively
enslaved than those who think they are free. Witness the glee with which so
many naïve and witless conservatives cheer on the neocon cabal in the mistaken
belief that their policies do them good. The paradigms of our time, which drive
our behaviors, have been deftly marketed to us without our knowledge—subliminal
advertising’s finest frenzy. So effective are these media campaigns that
few of us even bother to question their authenticity. The result is a virtually
comatose culture of consumption and waste that is incapable of defending itself
from the predation of wealth and power. Propaganda marginalizes and renders
us useless as citizens, by affecting our ability for self examining critical
thought. We can no longer add two plus two and get four.
In this land of uncommon grace that is blessed with fabulous wealth, mantras
are repeated over and over, without regard to validity, until they become ingrained
in the public conscience and assume the authority of truth. They become our
cultural paradigms, the bedrock of society, whose moral authority is rarely
revisited. Centuries of self deception have led us unerringly to the present
moment. Everything that contradicts our version of reality is expunged from
the public record. Americans do not like to confront unpleasant realities. Let
us not hear about the abuse of captives of war. Rather than take action to correct
the gross injustices we routinely heap upon the world, as demanded by conscience,
we simply deny their existence. We turn our backs on any reality that assaults
our conscience and suppress the evidence. We go on as if there were no consequences.
Cause and effect is not something we wish to ponder, so we sweep it under the
In a world where other cultures respect human rights and cherish some notion
of justice, America’s sociopathic behavior is seen as the belligerent
obscenity that it is. Our actions on the world stage are justified by fallacy
and drip with a hubris that has no basis in truth.
There can be no justice without truth; no peace without justice. If we truly
reap what we sow, we are in for some hard times in the years ahead. When our
government behaves irresponsibly and with violence toward the world, it is incumbent
upon the people to restrain it, to remake that government in the image of the
people, rather than the elite. But this is only possible with an aroused and
wakeful electorate. Revolution requires an informed and militant citizenry.
Awakening is the first step in the long and difficult journey to self liberation.
The people will not rise until they awake. If they are to awaken, we must get
them off the opiates that make them comatose. We must get them off the commercial
Progressives and conservatives alike recognize that we have an obscene and
belligerent presidency that is buoyed by a frightened and timorous congress.
They see that the institutions of government are not servants of the people—they
are the servants of their corporate pay masters. Depravity and concentrated
wealth hold sway in the halls of government. The White House is a brothel teeming
with corporate lobbyists, whose fornications are conducted beyond the pale of
public view. Congress is as awash in corporate money as maggots on a corpse.
The Bush cabal has to go. However, we must also recognize that the cancer extends
well beyond Bush. We must recognize that the system itself is the malignancy.
Effective and conscientious citizenship demands more from us than paying taxes
and exercising our right to vote. It demands that we act for the common good
with conscience and tenacity of purpose. Let us finish the revolution that was
begun here in the 1700s.
Real democracy cannot be served by paying homage to freedom through garish
displays of trinkets—flags and plastic yellow ribbons. These symbols are
shallow, superfluous, and disingenuous. Anyone can administer them. To do so
requires neither courage nor effort—real patriotism requires an abundance
of both. Unlike real patriotism, the symbols of patriotism do not require thought
or understanding—they are a conditioned response to the choreographed
propaganda that oozes from our televisions and radios, the words that drip from
the nation’s daily newspapers. Real patriots do not encourage the champions
of Manifest Destiny in their grim work of conquest and empire—they actively
oppose them and resist. Those who uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
when the government does not are the real patriots. They are America’s
dissenters and protesters. They do not require flags and ribbons to demonstrate
their patriotism. Their every gesture, their very lives, is an expression of
the patriotism that might have made America a different place than it is now—if
only there were more of them.
Charles Sullivan is a photographer and free lance writer
residing in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments