The building is responsible - R.H. Joseph

How ironic that it wasn't the political activists of the 1960s that led America into anarchy, there weren't enough of them. Only the self-indulgent, disengaged masses could provide the necessary impetus.

To the detriment of their fellows, like alcoholics and religious zealots many Americans are allowing individual and collective self-interest to rend the social fabric. When we allow our various indulgences to prevail over our responsibility to the collective we have initiated the destabilization of society.

The impact of such egotism is felt in areas as specific as traffic intersections and as sweeping as geo-political intersections.

There was a time when responsible Americans prepared to stop when a traffic light went yellow. Now even the red has little impact. The individual comes first.

Likewise, rules regarding right of way and other aspects of vehicular courtesy, rules enacted for the safety of the collective, no longer obtain. The individual comes first.

As my dear old daddy used to say, "Son, you've got to pay the piper." When one or more cars run a red light, when someone pulls out in front of you or blocks an intersection with no thought to the consequences, the ramifications of these various acts are of considerably greater consequence than any localized inconvenience.

We live in an era when no one takes responsibility for their actions; the social contract has been rendered null and void. America's greatest days are behind us and ours is a disintegrating culture.

And just as people run stop lights because there's no one to catch them, our leader, President Bush, has the military and economic might to arbitrarily decide which international laws and signed treaties he will continue to acknowledge. Though not the people's choice, our appointed leader is the quintessential example of what we as a nation have become.

Rather than having members of his administration take personal responsibility for the physical and psychological tortures perpetrated at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq the president has decided to raze the building. Perhaps his constituency will be satisfied by such hollow symbolism, but the thinkers among us are well aware the building didn't torture anybody.

From an historical perspective this refusal to take personal responsibility is unfortunate for as world politics make clear, ours is now a global society. The ramifications of our self-indulgence, the arrogance of arbitrarily ignoring the Geneva Conventions for example, impacts everyone on the planet.

The Bush league, America's metaphorical alcoholics, are presently drunk with power and in the midst of their stuporous self-deception are making the same mistake all addicts make: they neither engage in self-reflection nor attend to the counsel of objective observers.

Only rich kids and the delusional believe they are entitled to everything. Only religious zealots believe their retreat into the intoxication of self-aggrandizement is not a burden to be borne by their extended family: us.

And what could be more intoxicating than the belief one's behavior is reflective of the will of the divine? Plots involving individuals who believe they are in direct contact with a supreme being are appropriate for the television and cinema but Bush's obvious and unsettling mania allows him to believe he has the right to run those metaphorical red lights that define the parameters of international behavior. And when he or his administration is called to task for egregious violations of the social contract we discover no one is responsible, or a building is responsible.

Because I've had enough I write this to encourage the rest of us, those who understand both personal and shared responsibility, to begin the process of wresting control from the self-indulgent and their representative, the Commander-in-Chief.

The Bush league may take pride in knowing those states that continually occupy the nethermost positions on national SAT scores maintain their fervent faith in their golden calf but the rest of us, those who read books rather than ban them, those who recognize spirituality transcends religion, those who include rather than exclude, we too inhabit the Deep South.

Our votes matter and it is our responsibility to our country and our future to rise up in this time of crisis and remove from office those who shame our nation, who dissemble and obfuscate, who assign blame to inanimate objects.

Too long have the rabble held sway in our society; America has suffered at home and abroad. Change depends upon you.

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. His column appears on Wednesdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.