The Rotten Core
By - September 18, 2003
America faces one of its most serious challenges in history right
now. This challenge comes not from without, but from within. Every
generation, probably in every culture, hears the cry that the culture is
facing problems, and we hear that cry in America today as well, however
the problem in America is not the object of these cries, but instead the
problem lies with those who are making the charges.
Every civilization at some time faces the issue of rot, and the
nature of that rot and how it is dealt with determines how well that
civilization is able to survive.
In America today that rot is taking place in the core and it is going
The problem in America is not coming from radicals or the fringe, but
rather the lack of these groups is evidence of the full extent of the
rot itself at the core.
When the Enron scandal first broke back in 2001 I was listening to an
interview with an economic pundit on the news. The question was posed to
him as to whether the corporate scandals were an example of a few bad
apples, or a rotten tree. The response given was that this was just an
example of a few bad apples and that the tree was solid and fine. At
that time I felt immediately that he was wrong, and I took myself to
task to research just how deep the problems really were. Over the past
two years of analysis and introspection my worst fears about the depth
of American problems have been confirmed 10 fold.
Since I began my look deeper into the American core we have faced the
largest terrorist attack on American soil and waged war in two
countries, Afghanistan and Iraq.
No, the problem is not just a few bad apples, its the tree trunk, and
possibly even the roots. The rot in America is at the core of the most
cherished institutions. The rot is that what the majority of the
American public values as good is in fact the very source of our
problems. The rot is the way in which Americans hide behind
superficiality, religion, and patriotism to protect themselves from
reality and interaction with a world that does not match their
"beliefs". The rot in America is that the quick and easy answer, whether
true or not, is the only one that matters. The rot is evidenced by the
fact that we live in a nation that has enough private wealth to
fundamentally and deeply change the world for the better, yet we
rationalize why people shouldn't spend their money on anything but
themselves, and people would rather waste money on trinkets and lavish
home furnishings than figure out how to actually help the world.
We have convinced ourselves that consumerism is helping the world, and
that if it isn't, then its our "right" not to help anyway. This rotting
core is sold to us every day here in America and the reality is the vast
majority of people are buying, not only are they buying, but they can't
get enough and are demanding more!
I see the problem evidenced every day here in America in the bumper
stickers common on vehicles. It is impossible to drive through any
town or city I have been to (and I have traveled a lot recently) without
seeing numerous cars with large American flags on the doors and flags
that stick up out the top of the windows, like flags that one would use
in a parade. Bush/Cheney bumper stickers are still everywhere. It seems
about one in five cars has at least one Jesus fish on it. There
are a variety of American flag bumper stickers, which say things like:
"Fear This!", "These Colors Don't Run", "God Bless America", "Pray for
Our Troops", and "United We Stand". Last night I saw a bumper
sticker for the "Prayer Shield Program" on the back of a car along with
a sticker that said "Go JEB!" and "God is my pilot".
Now, the use of such stickers is one thing, but the telling aspect is
the predominance of these and almost total lack of any opposing views.
To me this is evidence of blind and religious patriotism, and all you
have to do is drive through any American town to see it.
I remember shortly after the war in Iraq started, I was in Arkansas
at the time, and on the road one day I saw a H2 Hummer, GM's new fuel
guzzling $50,000 military wannabe SUV, with a giant American flag
mounted to the trailer hitch on a flag pole that came up higher than the
top of the truck driving through town. The symbolism could not be any
more clear to me.
I went to a Wal-Mart a few weeks later and noticed that the entire
store on the inside was covered in American flags, on the ceiling,
hanging from the walls, on the ends of isles. Not flags for sale, just
flags as part of the decoration, literally there were over 100 flags on
display in the store, large flags. I looked down one isle and
there were about 15 flags mounted to the wall on flagpoles hanging out
at an angle. The store was packed solid with hundreds of people as well
with shopping carts full to the top, it was a busy day, and patriotic
music was playing over the store speaker system. Again I was struck by
the symbolism, though I was probably the only one in the store who was.
I was in yet another Wal-Mart shortly thereafter, a different one,
and they announced that a semi-famous gospel singer that was popular in
the 1960s was going to be coming to the store later that day to sing
patriotic songs and sign autographs.
The examples of mergers between Church, State, and Corporation in America are even more pervasive than
that. GM now has a gospel music campaign that is touring America, it
seems like about half the ads on TV have patriotic symbolism in them,
and of course an American car dealership would not be a car dealership
without more flags than a military homecoming parade.
I remember one thing that did strike me when the war in Iraq first
started. The message changed at the last minute to one of liberation,
and because of this I actually thought that I might just see the use of both the American and Iraq flags
together. I thought that I might see some cars
driving down the road with an American flag on one side and an Iraqi
flag on the other, or that at the very least I would see an example of
crossed American and Iraqi flags in the media, or that at one of Bush's
press conferences I would see both American and Iraq flags together
Well guess what, I never witnessed such thing. In the entire
time since the start of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" I have yet to see one
single example of the use of both American and Iraqi flags together. To
me this says a lot.
It speaks to the reality of the war in Iraq. I have studied enough
wars of liberation to know that when a society truly believes in the
liberation of a country, of a friend and partner in life, that they
celebrate not just by just trumpeting their own flag, but they embrace
the flag of their friends as well. I have seen no example of such
activity in America.
The rot that is facing America is institutional and fundamental. This
war in Iraq was billed as a war of liberation about a week before it
started, and the fact that it is such a war is debatable, but deep down
we all know this was a war of fear, hate, blind revenge, and patriotism.
The American public backed the war in Iraq out of fear, hate, blind
revenge, and patriotism, and after Saddam's statue fell we then gave
ourselves a pat on the back and called it liberation. Liberation it may
well be, and I hope that it is, but the reality of what this war is or
is not is beside the point in terms of how it reflects on American
society and we all know it.
When evidence of profiteering in the war and insider deals are
exposed in the media instead of questioning these issues many Americans
have already begun the apologetics for such actions. Americans are
already rationalizing exploitation of the Iraqis. Whether or not the
exploitation actually occurs is again irrelevant in terms of how the
rationalization of exploitation reflects on the American public. "The
Iraqi's should be thankful to us, so if we do a few things in our favor,
well, they owe us anyway." "Of course the administration is trying to
make it so that American companies get all the rebuilding contracts, we
paid for the war, our companies should get the work." "America needs the
rights to Iraqi oil to pay for the cost of the war; for helping them get
rid of Saddam."
There are two kinds of rot that take place in a civilization, the
kind that everyone is aware of, and the kind that everyone takes part
in. The kind we have here is the latter. The kind they had in Iraq was
The biggest example of the former in recent history was that of the
Soviet Union. The world shook when that nation fell and we all stood up
to take notice. It fell because the people of Russia knew there was a
problem and they became part of the solution. When that system fell it
fell practically overnight and it fell in on itself and the ruin was
mostly contained within it's own boarders. If America falls it will take
a much different path. If America falls it will be like the fall of
We have an election coming soon in America, about one year away. That
election will be the defining moment of half a century. That election
will tell us if America is going to stand or fall. If Bush is not
reelected then America has a great change of surviving, reflecting, and
progressing. If Bush is reelected then the message is grim. Whether Bush
wins because none of the other candidates are worthy of the office of
president, or because the people by a majority like Bush, the message is
the same either way. Either we as a nation approve of the obviously
treacherous actions and attitude of the Bush administration, or we are a
nation that can't produce a decent political leader. Either way the
point is one and the same, the country is falling, but not in the
relatively benign way of the fall of the Soviet Union, its falling down
a much more violent and dangerous path of self denial, blind patriotism,
delusion, fear, self censorship, and apathy.
If this happens, the United States is no small Germany rising out of
the rubble of war and depression, but instead the United States is a
towering super power with a firm command of all of the most awesome
resources in existence on earth today. The only thing that keeps these
resources in check is the will of the people.
In They Thought They Were Free Jewish journalist Milton Mayer
"Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany ~ It was
what most Germans wanted -- or, under pressure of combined reality
and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they
liked it. I came back home a little afraid for my country, afraid of
what it might want, and get, and like, under pressure of combined
reality and illusions. I felt -- and feel -- that it was not German
Man that I had met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under
certain conditions. He might be here, under certain conditions. He
might, under certain conditions, be I."