We can’t call The New Americanism The New Patriotism because the corporate neocons have already bastardized the term so severely that the phrase would never fit. The new part really isn’t patriotism, anyway. It’s something truly new, a subtle combination of protectionism, tribalism, and patriotism that is neither divisive nor exclusionary, and it certainly isn’t political. Although Barack Obama will forever receive most of the credit for giving birth to the concept in a speech he made at the 2004 Democratic Convention, the concept lives in all Americans. We’ve just buried it underneath so much greedy, corporate tripe for so long that its life has been all but strangled out of the public consciousness. This new reality represents a bonding of Americans to each other. Numerous learned authors and even a few legendary Republicans have contributed to its rebirth. Pat Buchanan has been speaking and writing about it for decades. So have Kevin Phillips, Paul Krugman, Paul Stiles, David Sirota, Naomi Klein, and Bill Moyers. Lou Dobbs is the latest convert to the movement. We are Americans: check your hyphenated nomenclature at the gate. The New Americanism movement is a rejuvenation of all that we have lost since 1970, the year we took those first baby steps down the path to our own demise. That was the year we began trading quality for quantity.

It’s really a shame that we have to slide deeply into the rabbit hole of a New Great Depression to discover ourselves and the valuable national unity that we so long ago sacrificed to the gods of short-term profits in every field of endeavor. Phil Gramm resigns from the McCain campaign for making exactly the same sort of remarks he was making as a Texas senator twenty years ago. The only thing that has changed in that period of time is that the state of the U. S. economy has continued to worsen until everybody and his hound dog is ready to admit it! Stevie Wonder can see the problem now. Even Ray Charles can see the problem, and he’s blind and dead! Something like eighty-percent of Americans think the country is going in the wrong direction. Many people could see this Titanic setting sail back when Reagan announced his presidential campaign in Neshoba County, MS, when the welfare queens took all the safety-net lifeboats. They had a problem fitting their Cadillacs into the small boats, but Reagan told us they floated away Coupe de Ville style, and some of us believed him. Now we have nothing left but a horde of Hummers headed for an iceberg.

Americans will soon have to downsize. President Carter encouraged us to tighten our belts, but we were already too broad in the rumpus room to accept that little bit of squeeze. Now we are trying to dump Escalades and Navigators off the poop deck of the Titanic fast enough to try to stay afloat. We don’t have enough electric cars built in America to plug into a power strip, and the power grid itself is costing us too much to heat and cool our McMansions in the desert. Of course that problem will fade with the sunset as we lose more and more of our 4-10,000-square-foot, slap-doodle spec houses to the foreclosure monster. Nothing rings the wake-up bell like trying to sell your home for $50,000 less than you paid for it three years ago. Since McCain’s too fat to effectively convince us to tighten our belts, it looks like Obama’s going to have to do it.

Turn out the lights when you leave. Older things of value will become precious to us again. Spending time with extended family members and good friends will become fashionable again, since most of the fashion malls will slowly, creepily, become ghost towns with dust bunnies replacing shoppers. Many of us will not freak out over the latest poison tomato scare because our tomatoes will have been grown in our own back yard, or the neighbor’s garden. Some of us will become a little less broad in the beam due to the bicycles in our garages no longer covered in layers of dust. Mickey D’s will still be everywhere, but the ubiquitous drive-throughs will feature far less noisy, idling engines. We’ll still go to Home Depot and Lowe’s for our gardens and home improvement projects, but we’ll be visiting familiar locations because a new store won’t be opening every week. Wally-World will still dominate the market. Which market? Every market there is to dominate. Some things never change.

Many of us will get to know our own state’s history a little better, even if the school systems never improve. We’ll be taking vacations closer to home, and the new adventure of learning things about ourselves will replace expensive shopping excursions and overpriced vacation experiences. We shall slowly come to learn that we don’t have to travel out of the country, or even across the country, to experience a vacation that feels very different from our personal work environments. We can drive to vacation destinations just as our ancestors did, in an ordinary car. The family will have the privilege to spend time together without first passing through a metal detector or surrendering their nail files. Vacations will once again resemble the Griswolds at their best, without an expired grandma tied to the roof rack, of course.

We may have to throw a few foreigners out, guard our gates a little more effectively, and stand up to the Chinese manufacturing bullies to get things under a reasonable level of control, but the escape hatch is slowly sealing itself closed forever. We must take many, assorted, new types of actions before the final air hisses through the seal. We could stand around like chickens in the barnyard waiting for the arrival of Colonel Sanders, but somehow I don’t think we would care much for the ending of that movie. Waterworld ceased to be shown at the Cineplex years ago and that should be a hint. We shall soon be running out of water instead of floating on it. Taking away the corn for ethanol is only going to make the cows mad. Shipping food from one end of this great nation to the other is going to get ridiculously expensive without a decent railroad system to beat the high cost of diesel fuel. We aren’t dentists: we can’t drill our way out of it. Will Amazon offer free shipping only over $100? Will FedEx ground some of its planes? Will all the independent truckers retire to Hooterville and raise hound dogs? Will country music become real, country music again? Maybe we are finally remembering that the commentators on CNN and Fox News actually have only one vote apiece. Maybe we are noticing that Bill Gates is only one American with one vote, the same as that retired hound dog breeder. The raccoons may not agree with the premise, but the breeder is probably contributing more useful work to his country than is the hedge fund manager that made millions by moving money around on Wall Street. There are few things as powerful as a simple realization. We are one people. We are Americans.

The following sources offer reference points and further reading. This is a very minimal listing of some of the best material available on this extensive subject. Most of these sites link to many others covering various aspects of our sinking economy.

Patrick.netFiendbearBull/Not BullCNN MoneyCharles Howard KunstlerRobert Reich

Floyd M. Orr is an author, commentator, and book critic. Some of his more poignant compositions can be found at Nonfiction in a Fictional Style. All his books and contributory works can be found at B&N and Amazon.

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