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David J. Dalrymple: Author encourages fight against corporate tyranny

January 3, 2019

Chris Hedges’ latest book, “America: The Farewell Tour” (2018), is a sober assessment of where our nation is.

This award-winning journalist brings his years as a war correspondent, reporting for the New York Times, and political, economic, and theological understandings to this critique.

The title suggests we are living in a dying culture, mourning our democracy which has been co-opted by corporate America. Hedges tells it like it is in chapters addressing society’s decay, heroin, work, sadism, hate, gambling, and freedom.

Hedges notes that Trump is “the grotesque visage of a collapsed democracy.” When worlds collapse, persons of raw ambition arise from the social bottom for whom moral values are incomprehensible.

“Trump and his coterie of billionaires, generals, half-wits, Christian fascists, criminals, and moral deviants play the role of the Snopes clan in William Faulkner’s novels.” That clan represented how scum can rise to the highest levels of government.

With or without Trump, the ruling elites will “continue to force a subservient population to work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as border walls, fracking, and war.

Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations.”

Over thousands of years empires have lost their futures in acts of colossal stupidity and hubris. America is no exception. Inept and corrupt leaders have loosened their anger, fear and resources into self-defeating wars and foolish building projects.

Their greed and hedonism leave the majority of the population in poverty, hunger, illness, powerlessness, cynicism, distrust, and despair. Their promises of an idealized past that will magically return are built on lies. When reality sets in, they scapegoat minorities in acts of violence.

Hedges grounds his critique in the stories of women and men who have suffered the consequences of corporate America: struggling blue-collar workers, the unemployed, imprisoned, and homeless as he tours the country.

He observes how despairing people get intoxicating pleasure as temporary relief through the sex industry, heroin and opioids, banal and endless entertainment. We avoid facing what we have become.

Hedges sympathetically interviews persons wounded by deindustrialization, antilabor laws, deregulation, and corporate takeovers of our public institutions.

The 2017 tax code is an example of the surrender of the state to the rich.

Hedges concludes that, “The U.S. government, subservient to corporate power, has become a burlesque. The last vestiges of the rule of law are evaporating. The kleptocrats openly pillage and loot.

Programs instituted to protect the common good-public education, welfare, and environmental regulations-are being dismantled. The bloated military is unassailable.

Poverty is a nightmare for half the population. Poor people of color are gunned down with impunity in the streets.

Our prison system, the world’s largest, is filled with the destitute.

There is no shortage of writers who warned that this dystopian era was approaching.” But we did not listen. We will pay for our negligence.

This book is a wake up call for political activism and non-violent resistance. It encourages us to wake up out of our complacency while there is still time to act.

It reminds us, “All of the movements that opened up the democratic space in America-the abolitionists, the suffragists, the labor movement, the communists, the socialists, the anarchists, and the civil rights movement-developed a critical mass and militancy that forced the centers of power to respondOnly when ruling elites become worried about survival do they react.

Appealing to the better nature of the powerful is useless.” Our mid-term elections reminded us that participatory democracy matters and that the majority of Americans reject the vilification of others due to religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender.

Our political leaders need to listen to what the people on the street are protesting, whether for better funding of education, universal health care, keeping industry and jobs in our home towns, ending useless wars, rectifying income inequality, addressing the devastating impact of ignoring climate change, or insuring that no one is above the rule of law.

David J. Dalrymple, Ph.D., is affiliate minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, a pastoral psychotherapist and Jungian psychoanalyst, and has been adjunct faculty in Religious Studies at Marshall University.

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