I don't know about you, but very early in my public-school education, I was taught that our country is a democracy—the ultimate form of government for ensuring that the voices of the people will be heard and acted upon. I read those enduring words: "Government of the people, by the people, and for the people." It had such a sweet ring to it.
I learned about the importance of free elections and how every adult American—regardless of sex, creed, color, or ethnicity—can vote for the leadership that he or she believes will do the best job, fighting righteously for our success, protection, and happiness. I loved the stories of George Washington's cherry tree, his cold-weather crossing of the icy Delaware, Teddy Roosevelt's mounted Rough-Rider assault up San Juan Hill, and the historical underpinning of great slogans, like "Give me liberty or give me death" and "Don't tread on me."
At the same time, I learned that all other forms of government are inferior to ours and that some, like dictatorships, socialism, fascism and communism are downright evil. "Evil" was essentially about the voice of the individual being suppressed and losing the inalienable rights granted to all of humanity.
Big words. Big ideals. Big expectations. And I possessed that youthful, naïve smugness of knowing that I was on the right team.
Well, it all sounded wonderful, and, like most other school children, I believed what I had been told. America was the one country truly favored by the heavens; our country was great; all others were second rate.
But, somewhere along the way, I partook of the forbidden fruit. My eyes were opened, and my belief that our country was a genuine utopia was marred by uncomfortable truths. Many of the folktales, presented in school textbooks as accurate historical events, turned out to be romantic fabrications of America's greatness, and, from the '60s on, I had to acknowledge that, as a country, we are not always on the side of right, and, even worse, that our government has been responsible for countless deaths, unfathomable suffering, persistent systemic racism and wrongful international manipulations—including countless regime changes in "lesser" countries—almost always for our own economic and political gain.
I don't want to trash America; I love our country and believe our government is capable of greatness. But I am no longer a child; I have my own eyes and ears, and I am not stupid. What I am seeing, particularly in the past four chaotic years, is a country that's for sale to the highest bidder. It has slipped from being a genuine world leader to being an example, like the Roman Empire, of a failed state, surrendered aspirations and a tragic fall from grace.
Four years ago, we were still in a position of world leadership. Now our greatest allies consider our president to be a petulant toddler-buffoon, and our Senate, a pack of cowering wimps.
I'm not sure George Washington would have been willing to risk frostbite navigating an ice-packed river for what is now on the other side. America is not the place he anticipated. The lofty ideals of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution have been displaced by a government of veritable traitors, all serving their own interests and miserably failing to represent the voice of the people.
Our promised free elections are being manipulated through gerrymandering, voter suppression and the post-Citizens United corruption that comes from the incestuous relationship between politicians, constituents and the filthy lucre that determines election results. Pay-to-play is how the powerful corporations control our elections for their own gain.
Those in power are doing everything within their power to keep Hispanics, Blacks and other minorities away from the polls, and have propagated the "mother of lies" accusation that voting by mail is a fraud. The hasty destruction of the USPS, in an effort to prevent ballots from being counted by the deadline, is right out of the Trump playbook.
The wise balance-of-power has been undermined by an amoral attorney general, while Republicans have stacked the federal and supreme courts with conservatives who are set on the goal of having the few dictate to the many. Believe me; the Christian Right is only a handful of far-right immoderate conservatives. They do not represent America. And, no matter the assurance that Amy Coney Barrett won't let her religious views dictate her court decisions, she's already expressed her commitment to destroying a women's right to choose.
Furthermore, if I understand the word "wicked," it certainly seems to fit the situation—wherein a really sick president wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act—in the middle of a deadly pandemic—and leave tens of millions without health insurance coverage. He also seeks to deny women the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.
Americans need to understand: No one is going to force women to have abortions. If a woman doesn't believe it's right to have one, she won't have one. But don't turn our nation into a fanatic-driven theocracy. The founding fathers actually left God out of the equation for a reason. It is an affront to the idea of religious freedom for a few Bible-toters to dictate the consciences of others.
It has been a disaster since the election of 2016: Packing the courts with conservative justices, attempting to take away people's health care, depriving voters of their rights and the shameless bootlicking of our enemies are cardinal sins of the Trump presidency
Believe me; America can be great again, but that will only happen if voters make sure the Chaos in Chief gets his termination notice—"You're fired!"
The author is a novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.