Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece, The Long Day's Journey Into Night, has star-crossed lovers, accusations, denials, confrontations, and enough drama to make a great opera. The play premiered in Sweden where they love emotional chaos, then played Broadway, and then the world. Yet it seems so over the top it always made me wonder if real people could be so self- deceiving and blind. But after a look at today's political far right, it is clear that they can.
After al Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center, George W. Bush started a war with a miserable backwater country run by a demented tyrant who'd had nothing to do with the attack. Bush strutted around in a jet pilot's G-suit, and called himself a "war time president," but instead of asking for sacrifice and citizen participation, he cut taxes, told Americans to go shopping, and set about wrecking the economic and ecological regulations that kept the powerful ("Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely") from destroying the country. The U.S. plummeted out of Bill Clinton's surplus into the most ruinous deficit in history, culminating in economic collapse.
Bush's approval rating plummeted too, to 22 percent, prompting Jay Leno to ask, "What is the matter with those people?" referring to the befuddled minority who still approved. But enough did see the truth to elect Barack Obama and hand him the daunting task of rebuilding our shattered economy.
Economic wreckage is less visible than that left by a tornado, and rebuilding harder to comprehend. Yet the obvious fact is that Bush and his amok policies destroyed the economy, a truth that Republicans, now calling for a return to those policies, deny. Some are charlatans and liars who only want to grab all they can. Others live in true denial, a self-deception as acute as those of the doomed characters in O'Neill's play.
Can the self-deceivers, abetted by self-seeking billionaires, succeed in reinstalling those who caused the disaster? Once I'd have said impossible, just as I once thought Eugene O'Neill's portrait of a whole family in denial was impossible. Yet I must wonder; can they possibly install another crew of rascals ready to steal all they can while setting the U.S. on another long journey into a night of national decline?