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A New Wave of Juvenile Delinquency is Sweeping Across The Country

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How politicians set off firecrackers to distract us

Politics is what our elected officials do instead of their jobs.

We've become the Disunited States of Politics. Theatrics instead of legislation. Fist-pumping instead of research. Smirk instead of negotiation. Angry camps instead of consensus.

The state of government is not unlike the state of the press: trivia over substance, yak over discovery. It's a work-avoidance issue. Doing politics is easier than representing constituents. Bullsh*tting constituents is easier than addressing their needs. And infotainment is easier and cheaper than inquiry.

Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan are more important than a new symphony or a breakthrough in science. Doctors and lawyers and corporate CEOs think it's their God-given right to make more money than artists or teachers or soldiers.

We've taken the easy way out, but it's not the way towards republican democracy, it's the way towards plutocracy: manipulation of the people instead of service to them.

Alexander Hamilton idolized Julius Caesar, the man who brought down the Roman republic-for its own sake, of course-and instituted a kind of Oriental imperialism previously unknown on the Italian peninsula. Today's Republicans, espousing Thomas Jefferson's misgivings about central government, have in fact embraced corporate imperialism, a far more formidable force than any central government.

When I consider the divisions that the press and the politicians have aggravated in our life I think of the tensions in rural and exurban communities between people rooted in the land for generations and newcomers, often second-home buyers. The "locals" want the business, but they don't want the newcomers. The Republicans want a strong America but they are, as usual, on the wrong side of science, never having heard of hybrid vigor. Our strength is our diversity, but the Republican nativists want the kind of Anglocentric Norman Rockwell America our film, television and advertising casting directors impose on us.

Our politicians, with the docile assistance of our media, are busy creating a nation of them and us, of local versus newcomers, of foreigners versus "natives". They don't particularly care who the natives are. They could be Irish, they could be German, they could be Anglo, they could be almost anything but "them." Right now Muslim Americans are "them." Hispanics are a close second. Tomorrow it could be Jews. It probably won't be the Irish or the Germans or the Swedes because they "pass." They pass for Anglo. Some 65 percent of us are white non-Hispanic non-Latino. The rest of us are "them." Nobody knows exactly how many white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are left, probably less than 30 percent. With the retirement of John Paul Stevens there are no Protestants on the U.S. Supreme Court.

This issue is at the heart of New York Rep. Peter T. King's witch hunt in the House of Representatives. He is hunting "them" down. King is of Irish descent and a supporter of the Irish Republican Army. He claims to be inquiring into the radicalization of American Muslims. But he is himself a radicalized Irish-American. Perhaps the Anglo Protestants who support his circus act should think about that. He doesn't see this as a paradox, because he only cares about riding a bandwagon back to Congress. Who is investigating him and his money sources? Not the press, which is as responsible for this racial stereotyping as the politicians.

This isn't the kind of representation we deserve, and it isn't the kind of representation the founders, who are always being quoted by King and other radicals, envisioned for us. They envisioned hard-working Americans who would put down their hoe or their hammer or their pen for a while and serve us honestly in our legislatures. They didn't envision a permanent political class that feels entitled to sinecure. If they could have foreseen this class they might have taken further steps to prevent its formation.

We're sending people to Washington and our state capitals to climb into bed with Daddy Warbucks. In order not to be photographed in bed they have to take steps, and their primary step is to distract us with spectacle and bravado. We spent $70 million to investigate the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton carnival but only $9 million to investigate the sub-prime mortgage crash that impoverished millions of people. From that $9 million we learned a great deal, but not enough. From the Lewinsky-Clinton folly we learned nothing, but it sure did distract us while the politicians kept on picking our pockets and playing games. How can this be justified? Where are the news stories standing the culprits up against the wall, comparing the costs and the results of these inquiries, questioning the perps?

Pickpockets often bump us to distract us. This is what the press and the politicians are doing. Let's him and you fight while we pretend to serve you, they're saying. Let's set off firecrackers so nobody will notice we're in a helluva mess and not much is being done about it. Let's shout, pout, sulk, accuse and stomp so the voters won't notice that political juvenile delinquency is a much bigger issue than they suspected.

Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia's Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latté first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller's Room, in 1999.

Del's book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal Latté's fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother's art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt's art: http://www.irenericepereira.com

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