Americans in the Bubble

Alongside the minutiae that made for interesting reading of the recent Newsweek piece by Thomas and Wolffe, “Bush in the Bubble,” a complementary thought did cross my mind. What if we, the American citizenry, are the ones living in a bubble… isolated, clueless, without a clear fit in the world’s puzzle?

It’s definitely relevant to Americans’ well-being whether Bush lives in a bubble: in the realm of his White House, surrounded by a retinue of ideologues and incompetent cronies. It’s of far greater consequence, however, whether the rest of us in America live in a bubble… while failing to recognize it, admit it, and change it.

Unlike the authors of the article, I don’t place Bush in the bubble because of any failure to listen to Jack Murtha; or because of his inattention to those around him who could offer sound ideas and counsel; or because his pigheaded character might prevent him from any form of compromise.

Nor do I see Bush in the bubble because of any missing social skills [Reaganesque humor the least of it]; nor because of his lengthy inarticulateness and short attention span; nor because of his lack of education and culture… or his disdain for the possibility of acquiring the smallest measure of either. In fact, I see no need to search for reasons: not when a bubble has always been Bush’s abode- if not from the time of conception, soon afterwards. And to this date, curiosity has yet to scratch his brain to elicit questions as to what might be happening outside that bubble.

Up to the time he entered politics, Bush’s bubble housed all that was necessary to meet his personal whims and desires. Now, in his role as a politician, and as leader of “the” superpower, his bubble has simply inflated-to-scale, fortified by his much-avowed, yet often questioned Christian faith… for toting a bible and being re-baptized do not by themselves a serious Christian make.

Bush may not like to think of himself as a product of evolution; and his critics would find it hard to believe that he could be a progeny of “intelligent design.” As a compromise, let’s just advance the notion that he might be an archetype of mediocrity, a generational transplant from a once ruling class that forever lingers, living off its panache.

But whether he is, or has been, living in a bubble needn’t be critically important to America; not to a democratic, politically-aware America. What is profoundly important, however, is whether Americans, not Bush, live in a bubble. For if we do, true democracy and political relevancy may be going down the tubes… and fast! After all, if Bush lives in a bubble, he does so by choice. But if Americans have accepted to live in a bubble, they have done so by surrendering their choice… by welcoming the captivity that comes with fear and ignorance.

Neither ideas nor ideologies are to be blamed for the current state of affairs, for our imprisonment in the bubble. Americans are not captive of religion, but of religious quacks; they are not captive of free enterprise, but of predatory capitalists; they are not captive of some repressive form of government, but of corrupt politicians that milk the ideals of democracy for their own selfish ends.

When it comes to foreign policy, most politicians of the two acceptable denominations, aided by a “respectful” self-censured mainstream press, have pushed us into a bubble by instilling in us, in soft tones at times and vociferously on occasions, the need for dominance over other people in the world. Thus, America’s three-prong foreign policy that spells empire: protection for Israel- under any and all circumstances; protection for our commercial colonialism- to maintain our so-called “standard of living” [“standard of consumption” would be more apropos]; and, of recent vintage, the right to preemptively check-mate any nation that might dare challenge America militarily, even in what could be interpreted as self-defense. In our bubble, we fail to understand why this behavior is so abhorrent to other peoples, other cultures, other nations.

On the home front, the US, for all its wealth in both resources and resourcefulness, has become the planet’s breeding grounds for consumerism and greed. The government, shamelessly during the past five years, has disregarded meeting the most basic needs of America’s growing “throw-away” class, now adding up to one-fourth of the nation’s population… regardless of what government-friendly statistics [on poverty] say.

America is fast changing from a society with a long tradition of acceptable pluralism and charity-consciousness to a faith-based nation where patriotism wears best with a flag in the lapel, and skillful business deception is allowed to rule the day. It’s this ongoing change, and the inability of Americans to see it, much less stop it, that gives credence to the proposition that we do live in a bubble.

We’re exiting 2005 with the same lack of compassion and wisdom in government that was in evidence during the previous quadrennium- domestically and internationally. We are allowing ourselves to be governed by a person whose arrogance is calibrated by our ignorance, and we don’t seem to care. Unquestionably, in our bubble, ignorance is bliss!

Americans are unlikely to puncture the bubble they live in… not in 2006. They would need to recognize, and reject, a foreign policy that predated, and likely will outlive, Bush. And the probability of that happening borders on zero.