The disheartened and anxious ramblings of an angry, idealistic, passionate, sensitive millennial on this bizarre circus of craven lunatics, disingenuous cronies, greedy hustlers, a neo-fascist fear mongerer, and the last hope left for the resurrection of the American Dream.
Dedicated to and inspired by the life and work of Hunter S. Thompson
By: Bryan Bowman
In 1992, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont rose on the floor of the US House of Representatives with a sobering message to his constituents.
With a ruffled look of concern and sincere perplexion on his face, the Senator began his remarks:
“Sometimes I think that the people in this institution, and in the White House, are really losing contact, and not knowing what’s going on with the American people” he began.
“In case you don’t know, and haven’t seen the latest polls, the American people hold the President of the United States in contempt. They hold this institution in contempt.They hold the Republican party in contempt. They hold the Democratic party in contempt. They think that maybe, given all the crises facing this country, it’s about time that there was some bold leadership here.”
After staunchly criticizing the extravagant, excessive, and wasteful “defense” budget that the military industrial-complex has inflated, and pointing out the crises here at home that go unfunded, Sanders concluded by challenging his colleagues:
“Let’s have the guts to give some leadership to this country!”
Twenty four years later, despite the rise and fall of droves of new candidates and elected officials promising change, the level of dissatisfaction amongst the American electorate has only been exacerbated, as our political system has only grown more and more out of touch with its citizens. It has become quite evident that this is an institutional problem at the very core of our political system.
But in the strange and twisted saga that has been the 2016 presidential elections- a truly peculiar circus unparalleled in American history- many Americans have found themselves jolted awake from a lull of stagnant political apathy that has marred a deeply polarized political system. A system the average citizen has found themselves more and more disassociated from- disenfranchised by a boarder-line oligarchic system over run by dullards, hacks, and cronies.
A total perversion of the fundamental tenet of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, polluted by powerful special interests and an almost primal fixation on conformity, partisanism, and polarized gamesmanship.
The idea of “winning” and “losing,” “us” and “them,” and all the other lazy, bullshit, crutches we have leaned on as a nation to absolve ourselves from the responsibilities of engaged citizenship in a democratic society, has plagued our political process.
We have become too busy pointing fingers at one one another, demonizing the “other side,” and playing the petty game the two party system has created that we have been distracted from coming to grips with the far more pressing crises facing us as a people regarding our own system of governance.
In the absence of the watchful eye of an informed and engaged populace, our system of governance has been hijacked by interest groups and profiteers both inside and outside the government, largely preventing it from performing its most fundamental function- promoting the general welfare. Particularly in an age of a mainstream media that has bought into and fed into the cheap game that is partisan polarization – vetting all political discourse through a profitable lense of sensationalized nonsense.
In the context of all this, behind the scenes of television and tabloids, there has emerged a festering subsidiary of dejected dissenters- predominantly youths and idealists, empowered by perhaps the greatest and most significant human innovation since the wheel- the internet. I can’t help but liken their energy to that of another time and place, with differing circumstances yet nonetheless striking and telling parallels.
In perhaps his most prolific work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter Thompson fondly recalled the energy of his generation in another time of national anxiety and turmoil- the mid 1960’s:
“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of ‘history’ it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened…
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .”
If the laws of physics dictate that energy cannot be created or destroyed, I think that that very same energy has manifested itself in the campaign of Bernie Sanders, particularly amongst the unprecedented grassroots support it has garnered from the millennial generation.
Sanders has ignited a brush fire of passion and genuine interest amongst the young people of this country that an establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton could only dream of.
As the New York Times puts it, “armies of young voters are turning what seemed like a long-shot presidential candidacy into a surprisingly competitive campaign…For the generation that researchers say has been the most bombarded with marketing slogans and advertising pitches, Mr. Sanders, a former mayor of Burlington, Vt., has a certain unpolished appeal.”
The momentum of Sanders’ campaign on college campuses across the country has been palpable.
Last week at UMass, the Senator packed the Mullins Center like no recent sporting event or even concert could, giving a fiery hour long address in front of thousands of genuinely passionate kids on the legitimate, looming issues facing this nation. Issues no other candidate, as the Senator would put it, has the guts to address.
The vibe there that day was simply electric. I couldn’t help feeling that same sense Thompson spoke of of being there– being a part of something much bigger than myself, much bigger than even Bernie Sanders, in that time and place, whatever it meant.
A day later, a student debate was held on campus hosted by the University Union called “5 colleges for Hillary Clinton vs. UMass for Bernie Sanders.”
The result was striking. The supporters of Bernie Sanders, even to the most objective eye, completely mopped the floor with the Clinton supporters, who quickly became visually distraught and demoralized.
Almost uncomfortably so, the crowd assembled in an auditorium in Herter Hall, who must have been expecting a more evenly contested debate, tried its best to politely applaud the often stammering and stumbling Hillary supporters as they haphazardly tried to replicate the already haphazardly adopted campaign rhetoric of the former Sec. of State, but often awkwardly forgot to do so.
The Clinton team, despite being composed by at least one UMass student, must have felt like the away team in a playoff game, or the opponent of Tiger Woods in his hay day.
But I regret to say that I am fearful that all this energy, despite its increasing momentum nationwide, for all its sincerity, could be all for not. Perhaps it’s the same personal defense mechanism that makes me presume the Bruins will lose in the playoffs until proven otherwise- the same defense mechanism that prevents me from setting myself up for heartbreak- that will not allow me to get my hopes up too high.
But I think these anxieties, unfortunately, are not unfounded.
In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter Thompson continues his famous monologue by recalling where it all went wrong:
“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
This wave of energy in the sixties, unfortunately, just wasn’t enough to prevail. The forces of Old and evil, embodied near-perfectly by Thompson’s political nemesis Richard Nixon, were simply too powerful, too firmly entrenched.
The unstoppable force did not win out against the immovable object- the establishment- that remains comfortably idle under the laws of inertia.
But the thing about waves is that when one crashes and dips down, another, in time, rises in its place. Only time will tell if this time, in the digital age, it will have the force to prevail, or if history will follow its stubborn pattern of repeating itself.
And that is where we find ourselves on the eve of this Super Tuesday- a truly consequential moment in history.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing this movement- a strong and fortified levee protecting the establishment and its interests from the powerful tides of dissent and dissatisfaction- is the widely-held perception amongst many Americans that Bernie Sanders and his campaign is radical.
Sure, many of the seemingly common-sense proposals of the Vermont Senator are indeed radical in the context of mainstream politics, but what’s not often acknowledged is that many of these sentiments are actually widely accepted and supported sentiments held by the American people, the same general sentiments the Senator chastised his colleagues in 1992 for refusing to address.
Sanders is not radical, he is bold.
The bulk of it all is that our government has not been living up to its Constitutional creed of promoting the general welfare, insuring domestic tranquility, etc.- instead prostituting itself in favor of the interests of their bureaucratic cronies in the Department of Defense, the DEA, the NSA, the CIA, etc., and the elites and profiteers that dominate the political system from its periphery.
Addressing these problems will take a lot more than the establishment darling Hillary Clinton’s tired, opportunistic, and often hollow and disingenuous campaign rhetoric. She is a candidate whom near-perfectly epitomizes the shortcomings of Barack Obama, and we can expect the same fleeting hope and ultimate disappointment if she is elected.
She is a candidate who time and time again has exercised poor judgment and ended up on the wrong side of history, only to desperately reverse policies and pretend to champion the prevailing ones once it’s all said and done. A cheap trick waged on the populace.
She is a person who once, quite admirably, lead demonstrations against the human travesty that was the Vietnam war as a young college student, only to become one of the very people she once protested against, supporting the Iraq war in all its human waste and devastating consequences.
Her defense? “everybody was doing it,” a pathetic excuse even a high school pot smoker could never get away with.
Not Sanders. Not Ron Paul. Not statesmen with foresight and judgment. And while I genuinely respect her willingness to admit that she was wrong, the inescapable fact is that you cannot take back a vote war.
There is blood on Hillary Clinton’s hands- not just hers but many others- and no matter how hard she tries to cleanse herself of it, as Lady Macbeth learned- it never washes away.
Her go to rebuttal has been that a vote in 2003 is not a plan to defeat ISIS, but when you’re longstanding record reflects so many mistakes and misjudgments, not only in the past but also more recently in Libya and Syrian, how should we possibly be expected to trust in your leadership?
As Sanders puts it “people need to know the difference between hastily adopted campaign rhetoric and the real record and long-held ideas of a candidate.”
The disparity between the two in terms of being on the right side of history is far greater than just their views on war and peace. The record is replete with other such instances.
Sanders has been a visionary- a man ahead of his time- on so many issues its striking, while Clinton has trailed far behind, clinging to and chasing after popular opinion, then pretending like she was right there all along once all the dust settles.
Sanders has been a longstanding champion of the full realization of gay rights long before it was the cool new fad. He was cast off as a “radical” for being a staunch proponent of gay marriage and the open inclusion of gay people in the service of their country, long before these became the adopted norm.f
Clinton supported the now embarrassing Defense of Marriage Act signed by her “husband” and was A-OK with “don’t ask don’t tell” until the momentum to repeal it gained too much attention.
Bernie Sanders was arrested, twice, in the sixties for demonstrating for civil rights, and while Clinton has a fairly good record in that regard, which really is not difficult, she benevolently but staunchly supported “tough on crime” legislation that Michelle Alexander, author of what has become the bible for criminal justice reformers, The New Jim Crow, says, “decimated African American communities,” while padding the revenue of law enforcement agencies and the prison industrial-complex.
So this is the choice we are faced with: a statesman and a politician; a critical distinction to make, as the latter utterly lacks the conviction, principles, sincerity, originality, and judgment of the former.
Them, and a freak show of theocratic religious radicals and “greedy hustlers” on the other side that are so contemptible they do not even deserve a thoughtful indictment (Cruz and Rubio).
They have perverted the respectable conservative perspective to the point that they are unworthy of any sincere consideration, and have fallen so out of touch with the average American they stand no chance of garnering any ostensible support on a national scale. Their party is in shambles, facing debasement from an egotistical reality TV star.
The more sinister, dangerous, and ignorant, embodiment of the well-founded dissent and contempt for politicians and the political system has manifested itself in the shockingly absurd candidacy of Donald Trump, that sends shivers down the spines of millions of people who can only look on in bewilderment.
The only good that has come from Trump is that he’s really shaken the bastards and put them on edge. But any legitimate consideration of a buffoon like him who would, for example, impose a religious ban on millions of loving and hardworking people, would make that person as good a candidate for eugenic sterilization as ever (something that for the record I am 100% against in all contexts, only used as a demonstrative hyperbole to illustrate what I think is a fair point).
If we can, as a people, find the guts to support a candidate willing to propose the bold measures necessary to address the most glaring crises plaguing this nation, we have the power to make the wealthiest country in the history of the world a far more beautiful place, no matter how many pundits on TV cry “socialist!”
The apprehensions about advocating a candidate in favor of measured socialism are ones I can understand, but are ones that ultimately I think are unfounded and rooted in archaic Cold War dogma and the ghost of Joseph McCarthy.
There was once a time when this country understood that in the industrialized age, the government must take cautious but prudent steps to ensure that all of its people have a fair chance at pursuing happiness, and that the complexities of the modernized world demanded a more nuanced system of government that worked for all its people.
In the face of staunch opposition on the grounds of socialism, Franklin Roosevelt created the social security program, now widely accepted as a necessity to a free democratic society. He invested in infrastructure and put people to work here at home, something Sanders would love to replicate as our infrastructure, once the “envy of the world,” now lags in state of stagnant mediocrity.
Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, despite the loud objections of staunch free-marketers, broke up large banks and corporations, something Sanders now wants to replicate with a 21st century Glass-Steagall act.
Even Ron Paul, the libertarian conservative and personal political hero of mine, condemned Ted Cruz and said that Bernie’s stance on Wall Street and the Federal Reserve actually makes him the best free-market candidate remaining. He also commended the Senators stances on civil liberties- mainly on the Patriot Act and the NSA.
In many ways, the United States was the pioneer of trying to effectively use government to address major problems that otherwise would inevitably fester, and the rest of the industrialized world, including Canada and most of Europe have built off our model of old. The Cold War stopped our progress in its tracks, and the phobia of anything socialist it created continues to inhibit us from even considering and debating proposals that could be labeled “socialist.” A catch-all charge that absolves us from giving these issues the thoughtful debate they deserve. An easy witch hunt that requires no intellect or understanding.
If allocating tax revenue to actually better the lives of the populace constitutes some sort of unacceptable socialism, then you can call me Karl Marx.
Tomorrow, let’s have the guts, as a people, to take back our government for ourselves and force it to function in a way that serves all of us, not just itself and its profiteers.
Bernie Sanders understands, just as George McGovern did in 1972, “what a tremendous monument to all the best human instincts this country could be,” if we could keep it out of the hands of “greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon,” Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio.
We have the power to make our government invest in “jobs and education, not wars and incarceration.”
We have the power to transform and revolutionize our system of governance.
We have the chance to meaningfully better this nation. The stakes are huge.
It’s all on us now.