I haven’t written about the congressional impasse (polite word for food fight) over the debt ceiling, because really, what could I say that hasn’t been said many times by many people? But being here in Split, surrounded by evidence that human efforts at civilization have persisted over thousands of years, I’ve grudgingly recognized that our species has persisted through many periods of collective craziness, many characterized by even more self-destructive psychosis than now.
In other words, humans will survive the current capture of Congress by unreflective fanatics who believe God has instructed them not to raise the debt ceiling. (To be honest, I’m less sanguine about our ability to survive the climate-change deniers….previous generations haven’t had the means to destroy the Earth.)
But even though my brain–such as it is–tells me we’ll get through this crazy time, I have a lot of trouble understanding the emergence of the Tea Party. Not their existence; we’ve always had strains of malcontents–anti-social or anti-intellectual or white supremacist or other odd movements–but their ability to make resentment of taxes a rallying cry and a focus for so many people’s anger. And not anger at a particular tax or tax policy, but at the very idea of taxes. They have somehow convinced otherwise reasonable citizens that taxes levied for the general welfare are somehow illegitimate.
During this trip, the things we’ve most enjoyed are the products of just such taxes–great public transportation, preservation of historically significant sites, museums…Do these troglodytes think such services are supported by magic? Let alone police and fire protection, garbage collection, etc.? Are they really willing to forego the very things that make us civilized–trade with other cultures, which depends upon confidence that we will pay our bills, the myriad services that make our common lives easier and more pleasant, any sense of common purpose–for gated communities and personal gun collections?
Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve met lovely people who are not remotely anti-American but who are mystified and worried by what is happening to our political system.
We have another day and a half in Split, then two days in Rome before we head home. I wonder what we’ll find when we get there.