If America’s Economic Retraction Becomes Even Worse, Will We Behave Like the Waltons—or the Nazis?

In a recent essay, former NY Times foreign correspondant, Chris Hedges, asks what kind of America will evolve, should our current economic contraction prove to be the harbinger of America’s general decline as a world power.

Will we see reactionary “Father Caughlin” forms of populism become even more widespread, and might we perhaps even become an authoritarian or totalitarian nation?

Hedges seems to take America’s descent into a more modest economic consumption pattern to be a given, then asks: 

How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams of a superpower and a glorious tomorrow or will we responsibly face our stark new limitations? Will we heed those who are sober and rational, those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, or will we follow the demagogues and charlatans who rise up out of the slime in moments of crisis to offer fantastic visions? Will we radically transform our system to one that protects the ordinary citizen and fosters the common good, that defies the corporate state, or will we employ the brutality and technology of our internal security and surveillance apparatus to crush all dissent? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

Hedges’s writings (if they can be summed up in a few words) tend to be about GROWING UP, and acting like an ADULT.

We’ll see, should things get substantially worse economically, how “adult” Americans act. Hedges frequently assumes the worst in people. But I think that Americans, even if the economy goes into “permanent” decline, may prove to behave more like the Waltons than like the Nazis—but we’ll see.

Remember, the last time we had a Great Depression, the country rallied around a liberal (Roosevelt), not a totalitarian (like Hitler).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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