America Floods My Inbox

Or, how Bush lost, and restored my faith in democracy

For the big-money boys, naturally, it's all the better if America's once prosperous citizenry is reduced to a mass of TV-badgered wage slaves. The big money's behind the Bush cabal's frenzy for deregulation, limits to damage and malpractice suits, relaxation of environmental and product safety standards, and everything else that's going to make this country a little worse every month for the next four years. Like the big government bureaucracies that the right wing is always complaining about (while it banquets on their largesse), corporate capitalism is a faceless entity with no human interests. Unlike government bureaucracies, however, a corporation has no human responsibilities; its only obligation is to make money. It doesn't care how it does this or who benefits. Ask yourself, "Cui bono?" about any corporate action, and the answer obviously isn't the nation. Nor, as recent collapses have demonstrated, is it the shareholders (who nominally are the company) or the employees. So the only people who really profit when a corporation gets the Bushians to shred another sector of the social or ecological safety net are the top executives—the minute percent of Americans who have actually gotten richer over the last four years. They can't buy a consensus, but they can buy, apparently, just enough votes to squeak an unmitigated criminal incompetent into the White House.

And since they have all the psychological tools of mass-marketing at their command, they can buy the public distractions that confuse less-watchful voters. Just now, the minute-percenters are hungering for your Social Security contributions, so expect some massive spin on this subject, though the Social Security system appears to be in sufficiently fine shape to survive with only minimal adjustment for at least the next 35 years. As with Iraq's mysteriously vanishing weapons of mass destruction, the needless "overhaul" of Social Security is an excuse for what's likely to prove another disastrous and costly quagmire, for which, again, your grandchildren will have to foot the bill. The future is not relevant to corporate interests.

Neither is Christianity, which was the big fake issue of the campaign and the source of the most heartening e-mails in my inbox. Though the reductive network version tried to make this election all about "faith-based" issues, a startlingly large number of Christians of every sect were eager to tell me they understood the difference between church and state. They too were frustrated with the noisy minority that wants to reduce the power and the glory of their religion to a set of knee-jerk issues. Christianity, in this dehydrated version, means you're anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and anti-stem cell research. Just add vindictiveness. As for what you believe and how you conduct your life, those are metaphysical matters we don't bother with anymore, right? Such a constricting, totalitarian view is as repugnant to Christian teaching ("Judge not, lest ye be judged") as it is to constitutional law. Why should abortion be such a pivotal issue for Christians? If the answer is, "because it's murder," then why would a Christian vote for the party that legalizes assault weapons and campaigns for the death penalty? It's intriguing that "faith" tends to choose issues that rile people's emotions, rather than those that awaken their beliefs. One could theorize, for instance, that the anti-abortion movement is merely a capitalist plot: The more unwanted children get born, the more uneducated low-wage workers are available, and the less you need to pay them.

So I was moved to hear, from so many devout Christians, that they saw through the fake-Christian scam, and that it was urging them not to a disgusted repudiation of their church, but to a deeper study and renewal of the principles of their faith, which is not based on bullying and bigotry, but on love. Given the obvious Jewishness of my last name, of course, I also received a fair sampling of the bullying and bigotry. I was told that the Democrats lost the election because "Jews control the liberal media," which makes little sense—and made even less after a few writers on the other side told me that Bush's agenda was all a "neocon Jewish plot" hatched by Leo Strauss's students at the University of Chicago. It's apparently an article of faith among bigots that Christians can't do anything unless a Jew tells them to.

Which could be said to prove that, even by their lights, I won the election, since those who hate me believe that I run the country. And, in fact, I do—as one among millions. The flood of mail in my inbox taught me that those millions, quiescent after years of economic boom under the Democrats, are waking up. As the disastrous results of Bush's policies start coming home to roost, their voices, which carry the nation's conscience, will increasingly be heard. I've heard them, and I believe. And unlike religious visionaries who hear voices, I have the e-mails to prove it.


mfeingold@villagevoice.com

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