Apocalypse: On the Verge

by Ron Steinman

With the rise of the ultra right in our politics and the emergence of The Tea Party as its bedfellow, I cannot help but think that, lately, we in the United States are on the verge of the apocalypse. Do not think for a minute that the Tea Party represents anything new about the far right. It is only an ugly manifestation of people who care more for theory than the people who are the nation. If those in these movements get their way, modern America will end and those in need will forever experience isolation.

America is in a downward swing because a few loud voices stifle any discussion about a viable state, and thus the necessary growth and safety that enhance everyone’s lives. Here, for example, with help from the Center for American Progress, is a list of only some of what we will lose if the far right gets what it wants.

Never forget, the people who want to change how America takes care of its own consider themselves strict Constitutionalists. I am no expert, but I would bet the house that if the Founders returned today they would state quite clearly that the Constitution is a living thing and that for the sake of how America evolves, it, too, must evolve and change with the times. This is the list. Read it and weep because if the far right gets what it wants, America will never be the same again.

•Social Security and Medicare

•Medicaid, children’s health insurance and other health care programs

•All federal education programs

•All federal antipoverty programs

•Federal disaster relief

•Federal food safety inspections and other food safety programs

•Child labor laws, the minimum wage, overtime, and any other labor protections

•Federal civil rights law

Look what Republicans in Congress are trying to do with disaster aid. They want to tie the money Congress gives to victims of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and all manner of natural disasters to deficit reduction, as if reducing the deficit will solve all of our problems.

The potential loss of the help those programs provide to people should be enough to get your blood boiling. It has always been the way of the government to gladly provide funds for those victims who cannot help themselves by giving aid in time of need. Now, Republicans want to provide aide only if the government reduces money used elsewhere before they help the distressed- people in often-dire need.

Republicans have apparently lost any conscience they once might have had. I never believed in compassionate conservatism, at one time an interesting buzz-phrase from the recent George W. Bush era, but even if it existed in  small part, it is clearly now dead. It is obvious the Republicans in the Congress and their passionate constituency care little for their fellow man.

They are true believers, if not grand opportunists. I will give them that. But, what they are not, are people devoted to the betterment of man.

If Republicans and the far right get their way, I fear for the future of this country. I fear for my grown children and my 5-year old grandson because they and he will suffer the most. Especially the 5-yearold because he is innocent, a pawn in the hands of the unfeeling conservative crowd that has put the fear of change in people. It is a fear that is well out of proportion to reality, but, unfortunately, it is real and dangerous.  And, entirely possible if the right wing gets its way.

In Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel, ‘The Road‘, he describes a barren world that is the result of an unspeakable catastrophe. Into this landscape McCarthy places a father and his young son as they travel endlessly, seemingly without hope, through a mostly dead world in the post-apocalyptic world in which they live.

McCarthy writes of the father;

“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like groundfoxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes which to sorrow it.”

That is the life for the pair until the end of the story when hope seems possible. As the father lay dying, he has this short conversation with his son in his effort to make sure the boy carries on their mission of survival.

“You have to carry the fire.”

“I don’t know how to.”

“Yes you do.”

“Is it real ? The fire?”

“Yes it is.”

“Where is it? I don’t know where it is.”

“Yes you do. It’s inside you. It was always there. I can see it.”

The father dies and the son embarks upon another life, with another family, also struggling to survive.

McCarthy’s desire is, I believe, that the son will experience a future that is less bleak than what he knew when his father was alive. Not perfect, but less miserable. Perhaps. Perhaps McCarthy sees a decent future where no one else does.  Perhaps, though I doubt it.

When the story ends, at least on paper, it is not final. The message from ‘The Road’ is that perhaps there is something beyond the world they have been traveling through, despite it being a world that is barely alive. But we will never really know.

There are no guarantees the future will be better than the path the father and his son had been traveling. The future remains bleak. As today in a climate of high unemployment, crooked bankers, selfish politicians and no evidence that politicians want to help anyone but themselves, there is no evidence life will be better beyond the horizon. If we as a people succumb to the Tea Party and the increasingly narrow minded, power hungry conservative politicians, the end in all its bleakness will surely prevail.

We cannot allow that to happen. For starters, we should require the people who want to take everything from people who have too little to live with anyway to read McCarthy’s unyielding vision and perhaps wonder about the survival of humanity, especially in these times that continue to be desperate for so many.


Editor’s Note:   Ron Steinman is executive editor and a columnist for The Digital Journalist and The Digital Filmmaker. An award-winning producer for NBC News and NBC’s Today Show, he served as bureau chief in Saigon during the Vietnam war, and later as bureau chief in Hong Kong and London. At ABC News Productions, he produced documentaries for A&E, TLC, the History Channel and Discovery. He is currently an independent documentary producer, director and writer through his company Douglas/Steinman Productions. He is the author of eight books, including “Inside Television First War: A Saigon Journal”, that details how NBC News covered the war in Vietnam.


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