Thursday, November 15, 2018

Failed States of America

In the fall of last year, scores of people had just been massacred from the 31st floor of a hotel room in Las Vegas, with hundreds injured in the carnage. At the same moment, much of the US was still on fire after a devastating summer of burning towns and cities. To the east, much of the state of Texas and the neocolony of Puerto Rico lay flooded and in ruins.

Now in the autumn of 2018 we have just experienced another series of sensational massacres throughout the country, the deadliest fires in California history, and much of the east coast once again smells like mildew, having only recently seen the latest devastating floodwaters recede. Along with these man-made disasters is the latest electoral disaster, where once again the party of capitalism and imperialism has the majority in both houses of Congress.

Any of these developments could have been the sorts of things that would cause major changes to happen in a responsibly-run country. There might be big new federal initiatives to address the causes of these calamities – passing and enforcing gun control laws, ending the use of fossil fuels, depaving the flood plains.

But in the US, with our supposed representatives in government overwhelmingly of the bought and sold variety, these earth-shattering developments are not only not addressed by those with the power to do so, but there is a clear bipartisan effort to actually make conditions worse in preparation for the next time. And next time always comes.

The US is, by definition, a failed state. A state facing the kinds of calamities that will inexorably lead to the total breakdown of any semblance of social or political order, and yet it is institutionally incapable of mounting any kind of defense of its own society -- its own constituents, its own air, land and water.

The cost of housing is so high in so many places that millions of people are homeless, and 4 in 10 people in the US are essentially one or two paychecks away from homelessness. Our solution to poverty is mass incarceration, solitary confinement and riot police. We have completely drained and poisoned the world's biggest aquifer. In the summers we now have the world's most toxic air. We're burning and drowning at the same time.

Until further notice, my new name for the country in which I was born and raised is the Failed States of America.

Failed State
When you're working two jobs and living in a tent
When a house costs a million bucks and you can't pay the rent
When politicians say they'll help but it keeps getting worse
Each time the landlord lobby pulls the strings of the purse
When the human right to housing isn't even part of the debate
You know you're living in a failed state

When millions of citizens are spending half their lives
Locked up in a prison for trying to survive
When laws must be broken just to have a place to stay
When the prisons pay the senators to look the other way
If you have to be a criminal to put food on your plate
You know you're living in a failed state

When you're facing climate breakdown, when the trees are all on fire
When half the country's underwater, when a climate change denier
Runs the nation and the opposition party
Votes for oil rigs and pipelines, this is not so much a country
As it is a corporation, buckling under its weight
You know you're living in a failed state

When your nation is an empire facing daily blowback
And the only thing your leaders can think to do is attack
Bipartisan consensus that we need to spend
700 billion before the year's end
On a military budget to make America great
You know you're living in a failed state

When almost every day some psycho with a gun
Has to open fire on a crowd before it's done
When a music festival becomes a free fire zone
And all they can say is it's OK now, he was acting alone
Buy some armor, pray to God and hide behind a gate
You know you're living in a failed state

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