Last night I had comfortable old friend Bill Moyers on the teevee, the man who years ago introduced me and about 50 million other people to Joseph Campbell. Moyers, a sincere, smart and spiritual man, was taking on Tom Delay and other players in the Jack Abramoff scandal that shook Washington a few years back.
In a PBS series that will ultimately explore such topics as evangelical Christians in the "green" movement back to the land and the future of the Internet, Moyers will take us to that shining land of his own heart, mind and soul -- the true relationship of government, the corporations, and church in American life.
The Abramoff segment exposed a long-term corrupt plan facilitated by the cynicism of the electorate. In fact, it stated that the cynicism itself was orchestrated by, or at least incorporated into the plan. At the conclusion of the broadcast, Moyers sat down with Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America and Norman Ornstein, who wrote a book called The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track. Both men are disillusioned and brave, and both do their best to help us navigate through the labyrinth of complex and converging paths that have gotten our nation's leaders to the place where they now are. They show us how an Abramoff and a Tom Delay could happen when we are only trying to be like Bill Moyers, trusting, faithful, and doing the right thing as best we can.
Click on the link above to read more about the special, including a transcript. Living in fair hope, I wonder if there is anyway the citizens can ever get the country back, if it will ever be responsive to our needs, if there is any way when honesty and plain talk will ever trump money and hidden motives again.
In our short-sighted, self-centered way, we have always thought it smart not to trust politicians, a quality which Ornstein says has played into the hands of the amateurs with their own self-interests at heart. The candidate has only to say, "I'm not a politician," and we elect him. But politics at best is the art of compromise, even of "politeness," or at least that is the root of the word. Ornstein says a politician should not always be synonymous with "crook."
It has been a long time since Americans could grasp that. I wonder what it will take to make that happen.