America’s downward elevator ride: Biden promises hope — is that enough?


He sat on his porch smoking a joint with a friend, and laughed as I walked by.

I was headed for the nearby Boys Club to hear Joe Biden speak. I didn’t have time to ask him what he found so amusing, but I vowed to myself to do so later.

Biden put in an appearance in Monterey Park, a city of about 60,000 people just east of Los Angeles, less than two months after a horrific mass shooting there. He told the crowd of more than 250 that he was there “on behalf of the American people to mourn with you.”

Local politicians, longing to be seen next to the president, made a point of pressing the flesh among the crowd. Monterey Park Mayor Jesse Sanchez told reporters he was “incredibly optimistic” that something could be done about the “epidemic of gun violence” in the country.  Activists among the crowd were a little less sanguine. “At least he’s talking about the issue,” said Charles L. Blek from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “It seems like it’s always baby steps, but Biden does care.”

After four years of Donald Trump offering little more than “hopes and prayers” as deaths mounted across the country in a seemingly daily display of random mass shootings, Biden came here to announce an executive order, which in effect just urges Congress to action. Still, it was welcome news. “At least someone in our government appears to care,” another young woman explained. 

Man, talk about low expectations.

The overall sense of dread that nothing will ever be done about gun violence in America hung like a pallor over the assembly of survivors and local residents, in keeping with an uncharacteristic gray day rains and flooding continued in Southern California.

Biden’s speech was laced with hopeful language, but also reflected the tone of those who wonder, “Does anything work anymore?”

More than ever, this country seems worn out. Donald Trump is still out there preaching fear and hate. Ron DeSantis is doubling down on it. Other Republicans still can’t admit reality, and the Democrats can’t get a handle on how to deal with it.  On the same day Biden spoke about the loss of lives in a high-profile mass shooting, the EPA proposed its first-ever action against the “forever chemicals” that are turning our drinking water into cancer cocktails.

“I don’t even know what to say to that,” one of the young men at the Boys Club said. “It seems like it’s all bad news.”

According to Rep. Judy Chu, the Democrat who represents this district, the Lunar New Year spate of gun violence that claimed 10 local residents — and several more in Half Moon Bay, a few hundred miles north — was “an attack on Asian Americans.”

“It feels like our society has unraveled,” one young activist told me. 

Who am I to argue with that? We are a diverse species that disrespects its diversity. We are intolerant to the very diversity of thought that enables us to understand our environment. We are fearful of everything and most everyone around us.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve heard dozens of people speak similar thoughts. “Feels like we’re trending down.”  There is a fear of civil war and bank collapse. We no longer even look at our entertainment institutions that traditionally give us respite from the storm with the respect we once gave them. 

Jim Carrey said, “We’re no longer the cool kids,” when speaking about the Oscars. He could have been talking about pop music, the NFL, the NBA or Major League Baseball. Movies these days suck, to put it bluntly. No one reads books. A mother at the Boys Club Tuesday told me, “My kids are out of control.”


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It is as if we are frozen in fear — and nothing makes that feeling more tangible than the realization that we are not safe in public.

Instead of trying to solve that problem, everyone is torturing themselves over the definition and application of terms like “racist,” “misogynist,” “woke” and “gender.” Millions apparently think that if you show 30 seconds of isolated video, then, hey, there was no violence on Jan. 6, 2021. There are those who describe Tucker Carlson’s propaganda as showing a “mostly peaceful” protest and claim the video was “unedited.”

Uh huh. All video is edited, and Carlson’s chop-shop turned out a video that was the equivalent of claiming that the Titanic’s maiden voyage went great. 

Here’s a reminder that no one is being prosecuted for just milling around, or simply walking to the Capitol. It wasn’t as if those involved in the insurrection advanced from the White House to the Capitol like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil, growling, spitting and spinning. They’re being prosecuted over those moments of violence or vandalism that led to loss of life, injury and property damage.

But you can’t talk to people and explain anything anymore without it resonating in the deepest chambers of some very hollow hearts, and being twisted into a narrative in direct opposition to reality. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, now the majority leader in the House of Representatives, got shot in a mass shooting and still supports cheap and plentiful handguns. If you’re a survivor of a random mass shooting and still can’t endorse responsible gun policy, there’s little hope you’ll face the facts about an insurrection.

Once upon a time we had a ban on assault weapons. Mass shootings dropped. But Congress, in its eternal display of a lack of collective common sense, let the ban expire. Now, few of us aren’t fearful about assembling in public. 

It doesn’t take a genius to see that authoritarians don’t have to be as melodramatic as DeSantis in trying to ban peaceful assembly or free speech: Just arm the populace, slash mental health care and education, and destroy the economy to the point of hopelessness, while parents remain too busy working to spend time with their children. Bingo — you have the secret sauce. We have the illusion of freedom of assembly, but that’s problematic when you know you might get shot in any school or church or nightclub, or at the local barbecue.

The last 40 years have been a descent down a dark elevator. Education has been dismantled. Savings are nonexistent. Jobs have gone overseas. Organized labor has been attacked. We’ve had members of Congress propose not just destroying Social Security, but raising the mandatory retirement age to 70. Women have lost the ability to care for their own bodies. We live with diminished expectations, but on the upside we still have plenty of racism, hate and guns.

One of the chief architects of this intellectual and economic dystopia is the senior senator from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell.

Mitch is both the byproduct and legacy of Ronald Reagan — the co-architect of our modern world.

McConnell, who is now 81 years old, was discharged from the hospital on Monday after suffering a “minor rib fracture” and a concussion after tripping and falling at a private dinner party last week. At the advice of his doctor, his next step will be a “period of physical therapy at an inpatient rehabilitation facility before he returns home,” according to McConnell’s communications director, David Popp.

For those who surmise that McConnell may be replaced as one of Kentucky’s two senators by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, let me throw cold water on that idea. McConnell oversaw state legislation that limits the governor’s ability to appoint a successor, should that time come. Beshear will have a list of three people, supplied by the Republican Party, from which to appoint a successor. Democrats in the Kentucky legislature couldn’t stop McConnell’s coup; they are more rarely seen than UFOs. 

McConnell is the big reason we have people like George Santos, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Kevin McCarthy representing us. He was integral in destroying the checks and balances of responsive government. He did that solely to promote himself, which is what he has done consistently for 40 years. Mitch McConnell is now and always about himself — and the deep irony there is that the Republican Party, as it exists now, no longer wants him.

McConnell has become the enemy of his political bastard children because even he finally had to recognize reality and stand up to the garbage that Trump, Carlson and Fox News have shoveled out about the Jan. 6 insurrection.

That’s what I was thinking about as I left Biden’s speech and walked through the downpour in Monterey Park to my car. How different would things be if we recognized and voted out those people most dangerous to our democracy, like Mitch McConnell? How much better would the national mood be if we had an assault weapons ban, universal health care, retirement savings and organized labor? Popular music might be better — so might the movies. Maybe people would even read books! Oh, to dream. 

I was buried deep in my thoughts when I walked past the man on his covered porch who I’d seen laughing earlier in the day. He and a few friends were still gathered there, and still laughing, hours later. Maybe it was the weed, or maybe he was laughing for another reason. Whatever it was, his laugh was infectious. So I had to strike up a conversation and find out what was so funny.

He tilted his head, the way  my dog does when he’s curious. “You really want to know? Porque?” 

“Because you have a great laugh,” I replied. “Que chistoso.”

Que chistoso,” he said with a smile. “The cops, they kiss the politicians’ ass while the cameras are on. But after you guys leave, they’ll beat us down. The politicians ignore it and you won’t report it. And that, vato, I find very funny.”

He said it without a hint of guile, but what he said next chilled me. “No tenemos esperanza, vato.” 

We have no hope. 

His was the laughter of someone who believes his goose is cooked and is just watching it all go down while the rest of us pretend we are solving problems. Until that man sitting on his porch has some hope, we’re all cooked.

This country has never dealt with gun violence. It is partly, maybe largely,  the hopelessness of those who see our politicians failing so miserably that fuels the fire that leads to  more deaths, more violence, more fear.

Read more

from Brian Karem on Joe Biden’s America


Source : https://www.salon.com/2023/03/16/americas-downward-elevator-ride-biden-promises-hope–is-that-enough/

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