Opening and closing of Chapter 9 Tennis On The Titanic
During the Gore/Bush/Nader presidential election, while the entire nation was hypnotized by the spectacle, I had a vidsion. I saw the Titanic churning through the waters of the North Atlantic toward an iceberg looming in the distance, while the passengers and crew concentrated on a tennis game taking place on deck.
In our election-obsessed culture, everything else going on in the world - war, hunger, official brutality, sickness, the violence of everyday life for huge numbers of people - is swept out of the way while the media covers every volley of the candidates. Thus, the superficial crowds out the meaningful, and this is very useful for those who do not want citizens to look beyond the surface of the system. Hidden by the contest of the candidates are the real issues of race, class, war, and peace, which the public is not supposed to think about.
The ferocity of the contest for the presidency in recent elections conceals the agreement between both parties on fundamentals. The evidence for this statement lies in eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration, whose major legislative accomplishments - destroying welfare, imposing more punitive sentences on criminals, increasing Pentagon spending - were part of the Republican agenda.
The Demacrats and the Republicans do not dispute the continued corporate control of the economy. Neither party endorses free national healthcare, proposes extensive low-cost housing, demands a minimum income for all Americans, or supports a truly progressive income tax to diminish the huge gap between rich and poor. Both support the death penalty and growth of prisons. Both believe in a large military establishment, in land mines and nuclear weapons and the cruel use of sanctions against the people of Cuba.
Perhaps when, after the next election, the furor dies down over who really won the tennis match and we get over our anger at the referee's calls and the final, disputed score, we will finally break the hypnotic spell of the game and look around. We may then think about whether the ship is slowly going down and whether there are enough lifeboats and what we should do about all that.