Bill Moyers at Progressive Forum: An East Texas Sage's Optimism Twists in Today's Ill Winds
Bill Moyers believes that the sun-baked scattered bones of Wall Street's carcass are being picked clean by "animal spirits" -- namely, hyenas, and that these scavengers believe that they are justified, indeed morally sanctioned, in behaving as such, and that nobody in government is willing or able to stop them.
Courtesy Progressive Forum Bill Moyers: Having a hard time seeing the star-spangled glass as half-full.
Thursday night's event began with one, two or maybe three instances of Rick Perry-bashing (I can't remember the third, something about the EPA maybe?), turned quietly but definitely dark after introductory remarks from Progressive Forum president Randall Morton and local attorney David Berg, who brought the spry, 77-year-old Moyers to the Wortham Theater stage.
In his rolling, gently pastoral baritone, Moyers talked about the mighty daily struggle that is his fight to retain his optimism in the American experiment as he -- and the country he has loved for so many years -- each appear to be entering their twilight years.
Moyers likened our current times to the 1850s -- and we all know what came next. (Or do we? Moyers would likely contend that too few in this amused-to-death nation even know when the Civil War took place, or why it occurred, for that matter.) Moyers added that our current predicament reminded him of a darkly comic Mark Twain story called "The Terrible Catastrophe," in which Twain placed a group of characters in such a horrendously cruel bind that he abruptly ended the story with these lines: "I have worked these characters into such a fix that I cannot get them out. If anyone thinks he can, he is welcome to try."
The January shooting of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords was to Moyers a fire-bell in the night, a harbinger of a great reckoning, and the event that informed almost everything he said. Could a thinking American retain his optimism about his country's future when American discourse has become rancid enough to foster such a mutant as Jared Loughner?
On the one hand, he said, there was true selflessness on display -- some in Giffords's entourage literally took bullets for others. That showed Moyers that true selflessness still existed, just as it did when a young Australian boy laid down his life for his little brother when rescuers came for them both during a flood. "People still step out of anonymous crowds and become heroes," he said.
But what about the aftermath of the Giffords shooting? Moyers mentioned that sales of Loughner's handgun of choice -- a Glock 19 -- exploded after the massacre, and that a Republican group in Giffords's Arizona district raffled off a Glock 19 as part of a fundraising drive. (According to various reports, it was actually a Glock 23, but still...)
All of that, and the violent movies he saw broadcast in the hospital waiting room where he had gone to visit Giffords, inspired him to brusquely tell a woman he met there that he believed that America could not solve all its problems.
He sees a political culture that has withered to a zero-sum game where there is no sympathy whatsoever for the losers in any given battle. Modern politics stifles our best instincts instead of nurturing them, he said. All of it is explained in Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, he said. "Step by step," authors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson write, "and debate by debate America's public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many."
And then there's Big Business...Boy howdy is there ever big business. Or are big business and government one and the same?