Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

When I was a little girl growing up in Canada, we all looked on the United States as a sort of marvelous big brother. Having two big brothers of my own, I was familiar with the concept. Big brothers might push you around a bit… but God help anybody else who tried to hurt you. They were capable, lordly, godlike… but willing to kneel and lend a hand if you needed it. They could do anything… and do it better than anybody. They beat up bullies and comforted the oppressed. They were awesome.


And America was just like that. Americans could outfight, outthink, outmuscle and outfox any enemy. They were our super-heroes. With a scrap of hair and a speck of dust they could find a criminal anywhere in the world and bring him to justice. They could build anything, no matter how high, how wide, how impossible. They could cure cancer and put a man on the moon. Americans were awesome. They made us all feel safe. We adored them.


Then somehow, around the end of the millennium, it all began to change. The world’s big brother lost its mojo; fumbled and stumbled and looked uncertain. When it was hit hard it reacted like a bully, and blustered about “shock and awe” instead of being silent and deadly and right on target. It sat back helplessly and allowed a beautiful city to drown; let vital infrastructure begin to crumble away while thieves slipped in the back door and stole everybody’s life savings. American intelligence could no longer find a needle in a haystack in Siberia… it couldn’t even find the weapons it was certain were in the desert, or the man who killed 3,000 innocent people on a clear autumn day. America wasn’t the lean, hard-jawed warrior with an army of secret agents who kept their counsel and struck without warning… it was soft bureaucrats who’d never been in danger but had no hesitation about exposing the identity of a secret agent for personal gain.


Now America has gotten fat and aimless and started wearing its pants way down below its belly. It can hardly fit into a military uniform anymore. Its educational and cultural standards have begun to slide and coarsen, and some of its bridges are tumbling into the water. It took longer to fix a destructive little hole in the ocean floor than a tiny South American country took to flawlessly hoist 33 men to safety from the bowels of the earth.


And like a bewildered animal floundering around in the water and trying to decide which side of the river is safest, America is about to re-elect the very people who presided over the worst of its abrupt decline.


Suddenly America is no longer the country that can do anything. The whole free world is terrified by America’s inexplicable weakness and confusion. It’s so scary when your big brother is no longer there for you, quiet and strong and competent.


Oh Brother… where art thou?

 


About filistro

Filistro is a Canadian writer and prairie dog who maintains burrows on both sides of the 49th parallel. Like all prairie dogs, she is keenly interested in politics and language. (Prairie dogs have been known to build organized towns the size of Maryland, and are the only furry mammal with a documented language.)
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37 Responses to Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

  1. Bart DePalma says:

    Where is Reagan when you need him?

  2. filistro says:

    It looks like Mort Zuckerman has been thinking along the same lines. Mort thinks America lost its mojo because of the economic decline. I don’t agree. If I were to isolate the moment when America’s slippage began, it would be the invasion of Iraq. That was wrong, it was based on a lie, it was the kind of unprovoked attack you’d see from a cowardly bully… and most of all it was UN-AMERICAN.When American invaded Iraq, it lost not just its mojo but its soul. You can get always your mojo back just by pulling up your socks and starting to whistle… but it’s harder for a nation to recover its soul. YMMV… but I think almost all of America’s current malaise has flowed, in one way or another, from that single wrong act.History will show that the Bush administration has a lot to answer for.

  3. shiloh says:

    @BartlesWhere is Reagan when you need him?~~~~~Your demi-god is dead an has been for quite some time ~ thanx for asking! :)>>>As to America, shit happens! πŸ˜‰ James Buchanan/Hoover/Nixon/cheney/bush.Hey, everyone has a rough go of it every now and then as you pick up the pieces after a disaster ie Hoover/Nixon/cheney/bush and move on.This time though god πŸ˜‰ has put an additional hurdle in America’s path as after electing an African/American president, god has allowed all of “our” uneducated fear/prejudices/hatred/boogeyman nonsensical childisness to come to the surface and be on full display for all the world to see …>Re: Osama bin Laden:For your amusement and future reference, here’s what Bush has said about bin Laden at various points in time, depending on how he was trying to spin things:”The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.” ~ G.W. Bush, 9/13/01″I want justice…There’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive,'” ~ G.W. Bush, 9/17/01, UPI”…Secondly, he is not escaping us. This is a guy, who, three months ago, was in control of a county [sic]. Now he’s maybe in control of a cave. He’s on the run. Listen, a while ago I said to the American people, our objective is more than bin Laden. But one of the things for certain is we’re going to get him running and keep him running, and bring him to justice. And that’s what’s happening. He’s on the run, if he’s running at all. So we don’t know whether he’s in cave with the door shut, or a cave with the door open — we just don’t know….” ~ Bush, in remarks in a Press Availability with the Press Travel Pool, The Prairie Chapel Ranch, Crawford TX, 12/28/01, as reported on official White House site>“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.” ~ G.W. Bush, 3/13/02″I am truly not that concerned about him.” ~ G.W. Bush, responding to a question about bin Laden’s whereabouts, 3/13/02 (The New American, 4/8/02)~~~~~>It is interesting after the 1972 Olympic terrorist attack on Israeli athletes, Mossad quietly tracked down all of the terrorists and terminated them w/extreme prejudice!It’s amazing what a small country can do, eh … and then there’s amateur cowboys er chicken hawks cheney/bush!carry on

  4. Mr. Universe says:

    If I were to isolate the moment when America’s slippage began, it would be the invasion of IraqFor me it was the travesty of 2000 when Scalia threw this country into the toilet. Although I have to give props to Al Gore for bowing out and moving on to greater things near and dear to my heart.’An Inconvenient Truth’ did more to galvanize the world behind global warming and understanding than any elected office ever could.

  5. parksie555 says:

    The complexity of the task faced by BP (by the way, a British company!) at the bottom of the sea floor was infintely more complex than those faced in the mine rescue. And BTW, it was Americans that drilled the hole and provided the design for the rescue capsule in Chile. Just sayin’.Why do liberals hate America so much πŸ™‚

  6. shiloh says:

    hmm, what caused the BP disaster?Cost cutting, greed, bypassing/ignoring common sense regulations er criminal charges may be pending as (11) workers died.No one died in the Chilean mine disaster.btw, define complex as BP greed caused the disaster.and p555, attempted sarcasm has to have some basis in truth to be effective …take care

  7. parksie555 says:

    Shiloh – Did you read the BP report? I read all 193 pages. And while I am not an expert on petroleum engineering, I have 20 years of experience in industrial automation in chemical plants and have participated in numerous hazard analyses, and sadly, many incident investigations. My take was just like most other industrial accidents it was a combination of poor decisions, not following procedures, design flaws, mechanical failures, and just plain bad luck that caused the disaster. Greed a small part of the puzzle.And even if it were greed what the hell do the policies of a British company have to do with America’s decline?

  8. shiloh says:

    p555, you deflected to BP, not me.take care

  9. Eusebio Dunkle says:

    My AP US history class was a lesson in critical thinking. We learned the text to pass the test. My teacher also shattered its propaganda soaked vision of America and revealed the complexity of history. After the course, (and testing out of the college requirement – a huge mistake) I was tasked with learning 20th century history on my own. I have never been impressed… This 20 yr downfall you speak of seems to follow a constant ~50 75 100 150 200, arguably ~234 yr negative trajectory. I bring this up because post Sept. 11 has gone about as I expected. Unprecedented, irrational, vengeful retaliation, the sacrifice of liberty/civil rights in pursuit of security, and mass acquiescence by the population. Now that it has been embraced and perhaps extended by another administration, it’s all but locked in as a permanent reinforcement of the negative slope.

  10. filistro says:

    @Eusebio… Unprecedented, irrational, vengeful retaliation, the sacrifice of liberty/civil rights in pursuit of security, and mass acquiescence by the population. This is interesting to me. What causes an entire nation to react in a certain way (so reliably that it’s what you “expected”?) And what explains “mass acquiescence by the population?”Maybe it’s simply because this was the first time America has ever been hit hard at home, and it was a shattering experience. As shiloh points out… when Israel is hit, they don’t get mad, they don’t get terrified, they just quietly GET EVEN. And they target the actual perps… not some bunch of hapless folks who sort of resemble the guilty parties.But then… Israel has been hit many times. Its citizens carry a history of attacks deep in their bones… and they’ve learned how to live with constant danger.So… maybe that’s what makes the difference? Or maybe it really IS the mindset of a nation’s leaders, and under a different administration America’s reaction might have been totally different. Say Al Gore had been declared the winner in 2000. I wonder how HIS admin have responded to 9/11… and how that would have affected subsequent history and America’s current malaise.Fascinating subjects for speculation… and (perhaps) object lessons for the future.

  11. shiloh says:

    Speaking about the decline of American civilization er teabaggers πŸ˜‰Karl Denninger, Tea Party Founder, Blasts Palin, Gingrich & ‘Douchebag’ Tea Party GroupsKarl Denninger, an original organizer of the Tea Party, is out with a livid blog post blasting current leaders of the conservative movement and the apparent hypocrisy in their views of the economic issues that originally catalyzed its creation.According to Denninger, “Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Bob Barr, and douchebag groups such as the Tea Party Patriots” are to blame for the bastardization of a movement that now seems focused on “Guns, gays, God,” instead of the Tea Party’s original mission: to castigate the federal government for supporting the “rampant theft” of taxpayer dollars that went toward “propping up FAILED private businesses.”Here’s the down and dirty of what Denninger believes the Tea Party was all about:In short, The Tea Party was and is about the the corruption of American Politics and the blatant and outrageous theft from all Americans that has resulted. It is about personal responsibility and enforcement of the law against those who have robbed, financially ****d and pillaged the nation.Denninger’s analysis of the movement now led by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and represented by GOP candidates such as Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and Christine O’Donnell is biting:Tea Party my ass. This was nothing other than The Republican Party stealing the anger of a population that was fed up with The Republican Party’s own theft of their tax money at gunpoint to bail out the robbers of Wall Street and fraudulently redirecting it back toward electing the very people who stole all the ****ing money!Denninger also spoke to MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan on Tuesday about the transformation of the Tea Party.~~~~~Karl Denninger on MSNBC

  12. Realist says:

    @filistro,Maybe it’s simply because this was the first time America has ever been hit hard at home, and it was a shattering experience.Some Americans alive in December, 1941, might have a different opinion.And what happened after that? All of the Japanese on the west coast were rounded up and shipped to places like the desert of Utah. Most of them never got their property back after the war was over.And there was mass acquiescence by the population when it happened.

  13. filistro says:

    @Realist..Some Americans alive in December, 1941, might have a different opinion.Pearl Harbor was an act of war on a military target. It was nation vs. nation. 9/11 targeted CIVILIANS, which made it much more peronal. People everywhere thought it could just as easily have been me. People still think that.You are quite correct, however, about the terrible over-reaction… and again, one that targeted the wrong group.

  14. shortchain says:

    filistro,Sorry, but at the time of Pearl Harbor, no state of war existed between Japan and the USA.The result? Concentration camps for Japanese immigrants. Hiroshima. Nagasaki. Not to get into whether those were justified or not, let’s just agree that the results were horrific.The response to 9/11 was anything but unprecedented.

  15. filistro says:

    @shortchain… Sorry, but at the time of Pearl Harbor, no state of war existed between Japan and the USA.I didn’t say it did. I said the attack was an act of war. Do you disagree?I am distinguishing it from 9/11 which was an act of terror (ie, targeting civilians) and as such, unprecedented. Though I have already agreed the response was (in some ways) NOT unprecedented.

  16. shortchain says:

    filistro,I’m sorry if I misconstrued your position.I have a lot of trouble blaming the citizens of a tyrannical government for the actions of the government — in this case, the actions of the 1941 Japanese military. Yet, as in all cases, modern or ancient, it resulted in the suffering of the innocent, relatively speaking, civilians.Let me just state, for the record, that the decline of the USA has been gradual and sporadic, with the election of Nixon, his re-election in 1972, followed by a brief reversal, and then followed by Reagan, who presided over a long period of decline under his Alzheimer’s-diminished abilities. Remember the invasion of Grenada?The invasion of Iraq was a symptom of the decline, not a cause. The causes will ultimately be listed, in the history books written a few hundred years from now (probably in Chinese) and include:1. The growth of hereditary elites and concentration of power and wealth into a smaller percentage of the population.2. The growth of power and influence of the military over civilian policy.3. The selling and transfer of American manufacturing and technological know-how overseas.4. The decline of American journalism.5. The increase of corporate control of money and influence over elections and government regulations.

  17. filistro says:

    shortchain… that’s an interesting list. Which of the 5 would be the major factor, do you think?I woudl pick #1. I think all the others flow from #1 because in any country, once a small moneyed group has a stranglehold on power, 2-5 become more or less inevitable. And once you reach 5, it is also irreversible. By then the democratic process is so corrupted and the wealth so vastly unequal that people can’t rise up and insist on honest governance even if they are able to see what’s happening.And then, of course… the fish rots from the head down.

  18. shiloh says:

    Remember the invasion of Grenada?but, but, but “we” kicked butt in Grenada!Just sayin’Hey, Reagan needed a distraction after his embarrassment w/the terrorist Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. And his further embarrassment when he cowardly cut and ran from Beirut after he stated categorically he wouldn’t do so.Oops!Justices Scalia And Thomas’s Attendance At Koch Event Sparks Judicial Ethics DebateGeorge Bush: ‘I Miss Being Pampered’ πŸ˜‰ somebody give Bush41’s little boy a lollipop!IL-Sen: Kirk fundraised in China, then voted to ship jobs overseasPA-Sen: Sestak updatesSestak (D): 44 (39)Toomey (R): 41 (46)>hmm, several of us intelligent πŸ™‚ intuitive internet progressive pundits have mentioned the concept of peaking too early … for about (6/8) mos.Martha Coakley is quite knowledgeable of said concept, eh.take care

  19. shortchain says:

    filistro,As you point out, the list isn’t composed of independent elements. They generally follow from the concentration of power into the hands of a largely hereditary elite. It’s a natural consequence of unregulated capitalism.

  20. GROG says:

    fili,I thought that was a beautifully written article and I don’t completely disagree with your premise that America has lost some of it’s mojo. I do however, disagree with the reasons.I think it has do with the steady rise of liberalism in this country over the past 40 years. The family has been weakened. The number of single parent families have soared. Christianity has been vilified. The welfare state has been expanded. Government has grown. The national debt is out of control. The teacher’s unions are destroying public education. Illegal immigration has been praised. The list goes on.As Europe is realizing the dangers of socialism and are running away from it, we are running towards it. France is being forced to cut it’s wonderful social programs because they’re broke and riots are breaking out. Greece is bankrupt. And we’re full speed ahead in the same direction. That’s why this election in 2 weeks is so important.

  21. GROG says:

    fili,I thought that was a beautifully written article and I don’t completely disagree with your premise. I do however, disagree with the reasons.I think it has do with the steady rise of liberalism in this country over the past 40 years. The family has been weakened. The number of single parent families have soared. Christianity has been vilified. The welfare state has been expanded. Government has grown. The national debt is out of control. The teacher’s unions are destroying public education. Illegal immigration has been praised. The list goes on.As Europe is realizing the dangers of socialism and are running away from it, we are running towards it. France is being forced to cut it’s wonderful social programs because they’re broke and riots are breaking out. Greece is bankrupt. And we’re full speed ahead in the same direction. That’s why this election in 2 weeks is so important.

  22. DC Petterson says:

    @filistroIf I were to isolate the moment when America’s slippage began, it would be the invasion of Iraq.I disagree. It began with the election of Reagan. Clinton was a welcome attempt at recovery. But Reagan’s idea that America, as a nation, should not do anything big (except maybe militarily), that really killed us. Nixon planted the seeds when he decided we were not going to continue going to the Moon. Dreams died. We became all about the profit. Reagan extended this idea, and we became all about corporations, and screw the common people.Iraq was the obvious kicker, embedded within an administration that pretended to Reagan’s empty-headed nastiness. It was a cult of stupidity. Reagan and Bush 2 were both empty suits, animated by puppeteers who wanted to simply channel America’s wealth into the hands of the moneyed elites. And they are funding the Teapers, a propaganda campaign encouraging American rednecks to embrace this agenda. Eventually, we’ll come to our senses. We survived eight years of Reagan, eight years of Bush 2, and even had eight years of Clinton to intervene. Now we’ll have eight years of Obama. We are improving.

  23. shrinkers says:

    Killing italics.

  24. marc miwerdz says:

    Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell speech was quite prescient: ‘Beware the military-industrial complex.

  25. shortchain says:

    GROG,But, but, but — as Bart will explain to you, ad infinitum, this is a center-right nation!But do go on. I’d love to hear how the teacher’s unions caused the concentration of wealth and power, or how the single-parent families drove the development of the multi-national corporations and the creation of the huge journalism empires like Rupert Murdoch.I’ll be waiting for your explanations, which I’m sure are at the tips of your fingers.

  26. swampmongrel says:

    Disagree with pretty much everybody.America’s success was based on almost unlimited natural resources and geographical isolation. (Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries her industrialized rivals were kicking seven shades of shit out of each other while America sat back and got rich). Now the resources have almost run out America has had to go further and further to find new supplies and has overreached. The American Empire is ending just like every other empire has.Shame.

  27. shortchain says:

    swampmongrel,What you say might have been true, before 1930. After that, however, American resources haven’t generally been so much depleted as passed by for cheaper sources overseas.How do you explain 1941-2000?

  28. filistro says:

    GROG… do you also blame liberals for the shrinkage of the middle class? If so, how? Did these folks just choose to drop from modest prosperity down into poverty because they’re all too lazy to work?(Or do you even agree the middle class is shrinking?)

  29. GROG says:

    @shortchain:Why didn’t you ask filistro how the Iraq war caused our bridges to fall into rivers, and caused thieves to steal our life savings, and prevented us from plugging holes in the ocean floor? The answer is that she didn’t say that, and I didn’t say “the teeacher’s unions caused the concentration of wealth and power, or how the single-parent families drove the development of the multi-national corporations and the creation of the huge journalism empires like Rupert Murdoch.”I was referring to America losing it’s mojo. I believe it can be traced back 40 years ago to the liberalization of America. Filistro believes it can be traced back to the Iraq War. Difference of opinions. That’s all.

  30. Monotreme says:

    I just posted something over on “Home Repairs” that would fit equally well here. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll just refer you to it.

  31. GROG says:

    filistro,Liberalism needs poverty. It needs as many people to be in the grasps of government as possible. The larger the welfare state the better. Because once they’re sucked in to government dependence, Democrats can count on their vote and their children’s votes for generations. I blame liberals for the growth of the welfare state in America.

  32. Realist says:

    @GROG,Liberalism needs poverty.Hardly. Every liberal I know would be thrilled if poverty were gone tomorrow. There’s so much more to do after that.I blame liberals for the growth of the welfare state in America.You seem to blame them for everything wrong with the world, from what I can tell. Feel free to explain where I’m wrong about that.

  33. shortchain says:

    GROG,You appear to be a bit confused. By your reasoning, before liberalism, there would have been no poverty. I guess it didn’t exist in the middle ages.

  34. GROG says:

    Are you saying there wasn’t liberalism in the middle ages.The left must have poverty in order to survive. You guys need people to take government handouts. You need to herd as many people into the ghettos in urban America as possible. You need government dependancy. Your survival depends on it.

  35. shiloh says:

    grog, try makin’ one of your inane posts w/out using “you”Just a suggestion as it can be difficult, but generalizations never make good arguments …take care

  36. shortchain says:

    GROG,Your ignorance of history is showing. Liberalism did not exist in the middle ages. It was a product of the Age of Enlightenment, which we are now leaving.As for needing poverty, umm, no, liberalism has no need for poverty. In many communities where there is, effectively, no poverty, liberalism is alive and well.The Iraq war caused bridges to fall down by wasting money on the military and by sending it to the pointless Iraq adventure rather than spending it on infrastructure.Not that conservatives would spend on infrastructure anyway. In a very real sense, Conservatism, causes poverty.

  37. DC Petterson says:

    GROG, it is the conservatives who create more poverty, by redistributing wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich. The wealthy need an impoverished class to do the work of the society, so the rich can live on top of them. That’s basic conservative capitalism. Without the poor, there could be no conservatives.See? It’s a game anyone can play. GROG, how about we drop the empty stereotypes? I won’t pretend to know what goes on in the heads of conservatives. But I will say that liberals wish to abolish poverty. Your scenario presupposes that the desire of liberals is only to gain power — thus, having a dependent class is a means to an end. But this assumption says more perhaps about you than it does about “liberals.” It is you who seem to assume that all anyone wants is power. As a liberal myself, I would be more than happy to stay out of any position of authority, if, in return, it would end world hunger.

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