We’ve adjusted to the new normal, and that’s unfortunate

head in the sandDon Corrigan, newspaper editor, author and college professor, taught us something new at the Missouri Progressive Action Group meeting on Saturday. In addition to being an entertaining speaker, he reviewed in one presentation the many assaults on our environment and some promising positive steps people are taking.

Don told about his visits to European countries where corporations like Monsanto are being investigated in the media on a daily basis. European journalists he meets at various conferences ask him all the time why the American media doesn’t do its job any more? Where are the real investigative journalists today?

As Don spoke I was reminded once again of Ira Levin’s prize-winning science fiction novel, “This Perfect Day.” I read the summary from this Wikipedia entry after listening to Don yesterday.

As much as I try not to be a conspiracy theorist, it’s pretty much impossible these days not to see what’s going on behind the curtain of deceit.

What has been happening to our system of government over the last few decades is similar to the changes in our environment. Slowly we’ve become accustomed to highway signs telling us the air quality is yellow or orange and asking us to car pool. Slowly we’ve been adding up the number of wildfires, killer storms and dried up lakes. We are adjusting to what has become the new normal.

So, too, we’ve become accustomed to a political system so dysfunctional that all we can do is joke about it. All the while, we are becoming less “awake” as the characters in the novel struggled to become even as they were fed their regular doses of brain-numbing medication.

Just like Levin’s docile characters, we are controlled by something not that dissimilar to UniComp in the novel. Instead of one small group controlling society from an underground command center, we have multiple hands on the controls. They operate out in the open. We even buy stock in their companies and celebrate when our portfolios increase in size. Breathing toxic air is considered a small price to pay for our financial success, especially when the worst of the toxic air, water and land is in someone else’s neighborhood.

And the pollution has increasing seeped into our democratic form of government. Don Corrigan asked us why Missouri legislators continually pass bills that they know are unconstitutional when they’ve taken an oath to defend both the state and federal constitutions? How is that someone as cynical about political power as I am didn’t think of that? We are all aware of the bills passed in Jeff City that cost the taxpayers money to fight in court, and we tsk tsk about it. But have we ever really stepped back and recognized what is happening?

Every year, the discussions in our state legislature and, to a certain extent, in the U.S. Congress, become more and more bizarre. We are becoming accustomed to the charade that our “representatives” actually represent our interests. They talk about wanting to create good-paying jobs and then kill any effort to do that. They talk about protecting our health and safety then pass laws making it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute our air and water. They have done everything they can to empower the already powerful and anesthetize the rest of us.

Voter turnout in this year’s primary election in Missouri is estimated at 25%, at best. I’m not surprised that citizens have given up on our form of self-government. They’ve chosen “reality” TV over the reality they face every day trying to stay alive without health insurance, trying to keep their kids from being shot by a stray bullet, trying to piece together enough money from three lousy jobs to pay the bills. How can we expect them to recognize what is purposely being done to them by the people they elect?

I admire Don Corrigan for not giving up. He engages with people who totally disagree with him and tries to find something they have in common. He encouraged all of us to do the same. He also said to keep writing letters to newspapers because people really do read them.

Whenever I get really discouraged, I listen to Judy Collins singing “Democracy is Coming to the USA.” Then I remind myself how younger Americans are refusing to accept the toxic pablum being fed to them by politicians and media moguls. Hope springs eternal.