Apocalypse later

With nearly religious fervor, the Bush administration is mortgaging America's future into oblivion.

Topics:

Near the beginning of “Saturday Night Fever,” John Travolta’s Tony Manero, frustrated that his boss thinks he should save his salary instead of spending it on a new disco shirt, cries out, “Fuck the future!” To which his boss replies: “No, Tony, you can’t fuck the future. The future fucks you! It catches up with you and it fucks you if you ain’t prepared for it!”

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but America has morphed into a nation of Tony Maneros — collectively dismissing the future. And nowhere is this mindset more prevalent than at the Bush White House, which is unwavering in its determination to ignore the future.

The evidence is overwhelming. Everywhere you look are IOUs passed on to future generations: Record federal debt. Record foreign debt. Record budget deficits. Record trade deficits.

And this attempt to “fuck the future” is not limited to economics. You see the same attitude when it comes to energy policy, healthcare, education, Social Security and especially the environment — with the Bushies redoubling their efforts to make the world uninhabitable as fast as possible. (See their attempts to gut the Clean Air Act, gut the Clean Water Act, gut the Endangered Species Act, gut regulations limiting pollution from power plants.)

And the even bigger problem? They don’t see this as a problem. In fact, it all may be an essential part of the plan.

If that last sentence doesn’t make a whit of sense to you, then you are clearly not one of the 50 million Americans who believe in some form of “end time” philosophy, an extreme evangelical theology that embraces the idea that we are fast approaching the end of the world, at which point Jesus will return and carry all true believers — living and dead — up to heaven (the “rapture”), leaving all nonbelievers on earth to face hellfire and damnation (the “tribulation”). Christ and his followers will then return to a divinely refurbished earth for a 1,000-year reign of peace and love.

In other words, why worry about minor little details like clean air, clean water, safe ports and the social safety net when Jesus is going to give the world an “Extreme Makeover: Planet Edition” right after he finishes putting Satan in his place once and for all?



Keep in mind: This nutty notion is not a fringe belief being espoused by some street corner Jeremiah wearing a “The End Is Nigh!” sandwich board. End-timers have repeatedly made the “Left Behind” series of apocalyptic books among America’s bestselling titles, with over 60 million copies sold.

And they have also spawned a mini-industry of imminent doomsday Web sites like ApocalypseSoon.org and RaptureReady.com. The latter features a Rapture Index that, according to the site, acts as a “Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity” and a “prophetic speedometer.” (The higher the number, the faster we’re moving toward the Second Coming.) For those of you keeping score, the Rapture Index is currently at 152 — an off-the-chart mark of prophetic indicators.

Now I’m not saying that Bush is a delusion-driven end-timer (although he has let it be known that God speaks to — and through — him, and he believes “in a divine plan that supersedes all human plans”). But he and his crew are certainly acting as if that’s the case.

Take the jaw-dropping federal debt, which currently stands at $4.3 trillion. Just last month the Government Accountability Office released a report that found that Bush’s economic policies “will result in massive fiscal pressures that, if not effectively addressed, could cripple the economy, threaten our national security, and adversely affect the quality of life of Americans in the future.”

And what was the administration’s reaction to this frightening assessment? Vice President Dick Cheney shrugged, took a hearty swig of the end-time Kool-Aid and announced that the administration wants another round of tax cuts. Basically a big “fuck you.”

Then there’s our trade deficit, which ballooned to a record $165 billion in the third quarter of 2004, when imports exceeded exports by 54 percent. Thanks to this imbalance, America is racking up a staggering $665 billion in additional foreign debt every year — that’s $5,500 for every U.S. household — and placing the nation’s future economic security in the hands of others. Here is Bush’s response to this daunting prospect: “People can buy more United States products if they’re worried about the trade deficit.” Sounds like he has really got it under control.

I guess after the rapture, debts of all kinds will be forgiven. The White House is promoting a similar “What, me worry?” attitude with our live-for-the-moment energy policy. America currently spends $13 million per hour on foreign oil — a number that will only increase as U.S. oil production peaks (within the next five years) and as consumption by industrializing nations doubles over the next 25 years.

So is the president pushing for a long-overdue increase in mileage standards or launching an all-out effort to break our dependence on foreign oil? Hardly. Instead, he’s getting ready to make his umpteenth attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

And that is just a small part of the president’s full-bore assault on the environment, best summed up by Sen. Jim Jeffords, the ranking minority member on the Environment and Public Works Committee: “I expect the Bush administration will go down in history as the greatest disaster for public health and the environment in the history of the United States.”

That said, it’s not hard to see why Bush has hopped aboard the Apocalypse Express. Acting like there’s no tomorrow dovetails just as neatly with his corporate backers’ rapacious desires as it does with his evangelical backers’ rapturous desires. It offers him a political twofer: placating his corporate donors while winning the hearts and votes of the true believers who helped the president achieve a Second Coming of his own. No small miracle, given his record.

It’s important to point out, however, that the problem does not lie just with the White House and the end-timers. Acting as if we have a finite future has infected our entire culture. Just look at personal savings, which have fallen to next to nothing, with Americans socking away a meager two-tenths of 1 percent of their disposable incomes. Meanwhile, the average U.S. household carries about $14,000 of credit card debt; one in four consumers spends more than he or she can afford; and, as a result, every 15 seconds, someone somewhere in America is going bankrupt. Which, I guess, in Bush World is how an angel gets wings.

All this represents a seismic shift in our cultural outlook. Since the nation’s founding, the American ethos has been forward-looking, geared to a bountiful future, with each generation of parents working as hard as they can to ensure a better life for their children. Those days are clearly gone.

And it has put our entire civilization at grave risk — a point echoed with great clarity by Jared Diamond, whose new book, “Collapse,” looks at the reasons why so many great civilizations of the past have failed.

Although Diamond offers a range of reasons why these societies collapsed, one message comes through loud and clear: We’ve got to stop living like there is no tomorrow or “fuck the future” will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist, the co-host of the National Public Radio program "Left, Right, and Center," and the author of 10 books. Her latest is "Fanatics and Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America."

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>