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Signs of the Times for Sat, 04 Mar 2006

Signs Editorial:

Charles Sullivan
Calling our form of government a democratic republic does not make it so. We are what we do. By now it should be abundantly clear that most Americans are incapable of recognizing real democracy—because they have never been subjected to one. Perhaps no culture on earth is more materialistic or delusional than ours.

Compared to much of the world, America’s behavior is tragically pathological. We react to planetary warming by driving metal gas guzzling monstrosities, rather than enacting conservation measures. Americans have the habit of doing the opposite of what we should. Our so called leaders think our sensibilities are too delicate to expose us to truth—so reality is omitted from our diet as if it were a plague. Rather than receiving nourishing truth, we are given the opiates of propaganda that affirm and reinforce our odd self destructive behavior. We are held captive by the lies that are deftly woven from the threads of capitalism, and persuaded to act against our own interest, as well as the public good.

Propaganda is like a powerful and paralyzing drug that induces the most bizarre social behavior. In the mind it acts like an opiate that provokes psychotic episodes of self harming conduct. We are a nation addicted to oil and violence; a people grateful for our chains of ignorance and servitude to the gods of consumerism and unrestrained capitalism—the very gods that are our undoing.

The drip bags of propaganda are permanently attached to our veins to assure that we never awaken from our news-induced coma. Mind control is more subtle than the open use of coercive force in shaping human behaviors. No one is more effectively enslaved than those who think they are free. Witness the glee with which so many naïve and witless conservatives cheer on the neocon cabal in the mistaken belief that their policies do them good.

The paradigms of our time, which drive our behaviors, have been deftly marketed to us without our knowledge—subliminal advertising’s finest frenzy. So effective are these media campaigns that few of us even bother to question their authenticity. The result is a virtually comatose culture of consumption and waste that is incapable of defending itself from the predation of wealth and power. Propaganda marginalizes and renders us useless as citizens, by affecting our ability for self examining critical thought. We can no longer add two plus two and get four.

In this land of uncommon grace that is blessed with fabulous wealth, mantras are repeated over and over, without regard to validity, until they become ingrained in the public conscience and assume the authority of truth. They become our cultural paradigms, the bedrock of society, whose moral authority is rarely revisited.

Centuries of self deception have led us unerringly to the present moment. Everything that contradicts our version of reality is expunged from the public record. Americans do not like to confront unpleasant realities. Let us not hear about the abuse of captives of war. Rather than take action to correct the gross injustices we routinely heap upon the world, as demanded by conscience, we simply deny their existence. We turn our backs on any reality that assaults our conscience and suppress the evidence. We go on as if there were no consequences. Cause and effect is not something we wish to ponder, so we sweep it under the carpet.

In a world where other cultures respect human rights and cherish some notion of justice, America’s sociopathic behavior is seen as the belligerent obscenity that it is. Our actions on the world stage are justified by fallacy and drip with a hubris that has no basis in truth.

There can be no justice without truth; no peace without justice. If we truly reap what we sow, we are in for some hard times in the years ahead. When our government behaves irresponsibly and with violence toward the world, it is incumbent upon the people to restrain it, to remake that government in the image of the people, rather than the elite. But this is only possible with an aroused and wakeful electorate. Revolution requires an informed and militant citizenry. Awakening is the first step in the long and difficult journey to self liberation. The people will not rise until they awake. If they are to awaken, we must get them off the opiates that make them comatose. We must get them off the commercial news.

Progressives and conservatives alike recognize that we have an obscene and belligerent presidency that is buoyed by a frightened and timorous congress. They see that the institutions of government are not servants of the people—they are the servants of their corporate pay masters. Depravity and concentrated wealth hold sway in the halls of government. The White House is a brothel teeming with corporate lobbyists, whose fornications are conducted beyond the pale of public view. Congress is as awash in corporate money as maggots on a corpse. The Bush cabal has to go.

However, we must also recognize that the cancer extends well beyond Bush. We must recognize that the system itself is the malignancy. Effective and conscientious citizenship demands more from us than paying taxes and exercising our right to vote. It demands that we act for the common good with conscience and tenacity of purpose. Let us finish the revolution that was begun here in the 1700s.

Real democracy cannot be served by paying homage to freedom through garish displays of trinkets—flags and plastic yellow ribbons. These symbols are shallow, superfluous, and disingenuous. Anyone can administer them. To do so requires neither courage nor effort—real patriotism requires an abundance of both. Unlike real patriotism, the symbols of patriotism do not require thought or understanding—they are a conditioned response to the choreographed propaganda that oozes from our televisions and radios, the words that drip from the nation’s daily newspapers. Real patriots do not encourage the champions of Manifest Destiny in their grim work of conquest and empire—they actively oppose them and resist. Those who uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights when the government does not are the real patriots. They are America’s dissenters and protestors. They do not require flags and ribbons to demonstrate their patriotism. Their every gesture, their very lives, is an expression of the patriotism that might have made America a different place than it is now—if only there were more of them.


Charles Sullivan is a furniture maker, photographer, and free lance writer residing in the eastern panhandle of West Virgina. He welcomes your comments at

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