I subscribe to a conspiracy theory. It's this: that those who actually run this country--i.e. those with unimaginable financial resources and the unswerving commitment to enrich themselves still further--have realized that it serves their ends to create and foment distractions that deflect the righteous anger of "the people" of this country. Easy enough to recognize on the right. We lefties love to castigate the Tea Party for what we deem their ignorance and stupidity.
But here's the thing: we lefties are being similarly manipulated, and we refuse to recognize it. Take, for example, the recently receding airport security, "don't-touch-my-junk" kerfuffle. I wrote a piece called "Pat Me Down" which allowed, albeit reluctantly, of what I saw to be a reasonable need for personal scans and searches in the light of new terrorist strategies that seem to involve multiple small-scale attacks rather than big, ambitious ones. (The news, yesterday, of a planned bombing with the unlikely target of the annual Portland, Oregon Christmas tree celebration is another in a series of mercifully--and narrowly--averted such attempts.)
I cross-posted the piece I wrote to my site at the Huffington Post, and was surprised by the immediate, mostly angry, and almost exclusively negative response. The responses this time came from those with whom I would for the most part agree--liberal or progressive thinkers, provoked by what they saw to be a threat to their individual rights and liberties. These are the same people, I believe, who are also now abandoning the president they elected in droves, disappointed that he has failed to meet their expectations and bring about the changes that he promised as a candidate...
It's my conspiracy theory that (to my mind) trivial issues such as this are being put out as glittering lures for those who, like myself, long for substantive action on broader and more important issues--like social justice; an economic system that benefits all, not just the fortunate few; the basic right to health care and freedom from hunger; our deteriorating education system; the rapidly decaying national infrastructure; and so on. The left is being co-opted by skillfully manipulated strategies to distract, divide and conquer, offering red meat bait to rile them up and then exploiting their discontent when it comes to election time. The winners, every time, are those who cash in on the work that Congress does at their behest. The losers are the rest of us.
It's worth noting that the distractions are not all calculated to provoke outrage. William and Kate will occupy much of our press and television time in the coming year. And, reliably, there's the "Holiday Season" with the illusion of bargains at the stores. But, sorry, friends--I hate to sound cynical in the pages of "The Buddha Diaries"--this is what it has come down to, in my view: shameless exploitation, by which our even our most basic instincts and our finest ideals can be manipulated with apparent ease to work against our interests and allow the well-oiled wheels of the oligarchy to turn smoothly.
As I see it, there's something of an irony in screaming "don't touch my junk" in the airport security line while terrorists have us by the balls--and are left at liberty to squeeze. And I mean not only the terrorists who threaten us from afar, but more particularly our own homegrown variety, the ones who drove us to the brink of economic ruin and seem intent on continuing the chicken run beyond the edge of the cliff. It's in their interest to have us boiling mad with the government about things that don't affect their profits.