Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you? Go ahead, make my day.
— Harry Callahan, Sudden Impact (1983)
Late Friday night the word came down that congress made a deal with the White House to avert a government shutdown. Too bad. If history teaches us anything it is that the American electorate does not believe in close calls.
In the last hour of the Bush administration, when congress was compelled to hand over billions to Wall Street in order to avoid a global economic meltdown, you would have thought we learned a lesson. We did not. We watched as the government reinstated the same catastrophic policies that placed us at the brink of catastrophic implosion.
We learned nothing. We continue to vent our rage at anyone but the criminal party. We continue to vote for pandering politicians who claim that government is the problem. We continue to support policies that favor the corporate elite.
I am reminded of the man who shot himself in the foot to cure a bunion. Seeing the damage the doctor said: Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t have a headache.
At some point we have to come to terms with the fact that we are a republic, a representative democracy, and therefore we are ultimately responsible for the actions of our elected officials. We enable them. We instruct them to get right back on that runaway train and point it straight over the cliff.
Feeling lucky, punk? Go ahead, make my day!
We all lived through the Bush years yet we are still listening to the same foreign policy geniuses that blundered their way into two losing wars in the Middle East. (If you thought we won in Iraq, check back in five years: Iran won the war and we were the biggest losers outside of the Iraqis.)
We all watched the free trade, free enterprise, free market economic purists drive us to the precipice of a great depression yet here we are doubling down on the same policies that created the crisis.
Like a compulsive gambler who’s been days too long at the tables, we’ve decided gambling is not the problem. It’s all a matter of timing. This time it will all work out. We’ll draw the lucky ace of spades and break the bank running.
Why shouldn’t it work out? Last time around it worked just fine for the CEO’s and the wealthy shareholders. They got to keep our money while we got our homes foreclosed, our jobs shipped out, our unions busted, our rights nullified and our wages cut to the bone.
Voices on the left who are not afraid of summoning phrases like social good and income inequality must be growing tired to death reminding people who work for a living that the parties in power do not represent our interests, the Tea Party least of all. They must grow tired defending the ineffectual Democrats over the offensive Republicans on the ever-diminishing grounds of least harm.
It’s like turning to the Don’s accountant to resolve the problems of the Don.
I know I’ve grown tired, damned tired, and I feel I’m down to two choices: Vent or walk away.
So go ahead, fellow voters, make my day: Shut it down! Let’s get a good look at life without the government. Let’s go back to square one. Let’s get back to the days of America’s greatness! Let’s have an industrial age without industry! Let’s work for lower pay! Let there be no safety standards, no inspectors, no regulation or oversight. If people die, so be it. It’s the cost of doing business. We have too many people anyway. Let a few thousand or million perish at the hands of the industrial machine. There will be more for the rest of us!
Why half measures? Let’s give all the money and all the resources to the elite. They’re better educated and nicer looking. They know how to behave themselves at dinner parties. Let them have it all and let the rest of us live in accordance with their wishes. What’s good for Wall Street is good for Pennsylvania Avenue!
Let them dig for oil in the national parks. Let them burn coal until the skies block the sun! Let them mark the way to the next mass extinction. Let them fight wars for oil and water and uranium with the blood of our working sons and daughters!
Go ahead, decimate social security, scrap Medicare and bring back a time where child labor is not only possible but necessary! Bring back squalor and recklessness in the workplace! Bring back segregated schools and reserve higher learning for the wealthiest elite.
Go ahead, let them have it all but don’t you dare say you did it for your children. You sold the children out along with the rest of us so at least have the courage to say so: You did it because you didn’t want to pay your fair share.
At least have the foresight to know your children and grandchildren will curse you for your selfish folly.
Go ahead, shut it down, let it crash and burn! But then, when it’s all done and the destruction has moved across the land like waves of a tsunami, have the decency to stand aside and let those who saw it coming and sounded a warning in vain, build a new world from the ashes of a fallen empire.
Let that be your final legacy.