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  • Writer's pictureKaren L

What Happened to our Constitution?

Thoughts nag at me, like a tap on the shoulder. I am reading a dystopic novel which accounts for my feeling of dread and despair. But not only the book, which happens to be exciting, engenders apprehension. The news--our reality--disturbs me--the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, threats to democracy, inflation, and the destruction of our planet.

How does a small minority come to control the Supreme Court and all of the republican Senators? How is it that a reactionary group has become mainstream? Why do people vote for candidates who supposedly espouse thoughts counter to their beliefs? Most importantly, why do numerous Americans sleep through their days, ignoring reality?

As an example, I heard and read that, according to polls, more people want to keep Roe v Wade in place than not. Yet some of these same voters must be supporting the candidates who are "pro life." I doubt most citizens desire a country that burns up, leaving dust in place of plants and animals. But still I see the Denalis, GMC's, Suburbans, Range Rovers, and monstrous pick-up trucks on the suburban roads, usually with one driver and maybe one passenger. The multitudes should be scared but not of hard-working refugees. Why aren't the people rising up in fear? I know there are many who are afraid and trying to change our bad habits and policies but obviously not enough people. Otherwise, we would be looking at a rosier future.

I thought 9-11 would change us. Trump would surely convince the half of the country (that voted for him) we must protect our democracy. The pandemic would connect us in a common bond to preserve life. The insurgency at the Capitol would illustrate the actual danger in our midst. Shootings, homeless, teen suicides, the opiod epidemic, extremes of wealth and poverty should sway voters towards change. No, no, and no.

The seeds of the craziness we witness were planted in the last half century. Not to be self-righteous, but my family feared Barry Goldwater and George Murphy; at a young age, I felt sick about Nixon and Regan's popularity in California which continued through their presidencies; the Bushes scared me too. First there was the silent majority, but as a young adult I laughed them off. Then there was that mysterious conglomeration of voters from the center of the country. ("What's The Matter with Kansas?") Large portions of our country continued to be persuaded by fear of inflation, no gasoline, terrorists from abroad, minorities from our own land not to act in their best interests.

I knew something wasn't right. I shuddered when Jimmy Carter lost his second bid for the presidency and Reagan won. I remember literally feeling ill when Carter was blamed for the Iran hostage crisis, and Reagan received credit for bringing the kidnapped state department employees home. I hated Reagan's popularity. I knew he was a fake, though now considered a mild version of a conservative from today's perspective. Alarm bells sounded in my head when Clinton became shrouded in shady circumstances. The Monica Lewinsky episode was political fodder for the vultures waiting nearby. Landslides--Mondale and Dukakis were too intellectual and liberal. Why didn't the Democratic establishment read the tea leaves?

There have been bright spots of justice--civil rights; women's liberation; gay rights; education of the handicapped; and an acknowledgement of drug abuse, mental illness, and the long term effects of poverty and discrimination, to name some advancements. However, with frightening consistency, we see the majority return to fear, narrow mindedness, and selfish impulses.

Why do Americans prefer populists who instill fear rather than smart people who seem logical and rational? Most citizens are reasonably intelligent and kind, working daily to protect their families and live a decent life. Does the answer lie in exhaustion or apathy to what does not affect them directly? How can law abiding adults adulate money over other values? We all understand that wealth does not insure the good life.

At the present, we live in a country controlled by a minority of power brokers with a death wish for democracy, equal rights, freedom, and a cleaner environment. They care not a whit for the future, choosing immediate gratification for power. I cannot believe that we are on a permanent spiral downwards ending in the demise of democracy, liberty, and the dreams of equality. I am not a super patriot, never shy to weigh in on ineptitude by our government. But I do believe that what the framers of the Constitution established is far better than the alternatives. I believe individuals are capable of making sound decisions as described in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

I end with book banning. Now, how stupid is that? Do these zealots not recognize the dangers inherent in curtailing the printed word? Nazis burned books; we see where that led. The Bill of Rights is not to be used capriciously at the whim of some irrational parents. If you tell a person not to read a book, you can be sure they will read it. Even my proper grandmother read "Lady Chatterly's Lover" covered with plain paper. I will not ask the same questions again. I consider my readers to be smart.

© 2022 Karen Levi

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