With This Election, What Exactly Does America Yearn to "Take Back"?

With This Election, What Exactly Does America Yearn to "Take Back"?

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It is not only the Tea Party candidates who wish to "take back America." Large pieces of real estate in such coastal California "people's republics" as Santa Monica and Santa Cruz also need, it seems, to be taken back. "Let's Take Back Santa Monica," is the campaign slogan for attorney Susan Hartley, who is running for city council. Up the coast, concerned citizens are sufficiently dismayed to establish a civic organization called Take Back Santa Cruz.

Then there is Meg Whitman, who is campaigning aboard her "Take Back Sac Express," wishing to retrieve the state capital from an incumbent who happens to be a member of her own party.

Silly sloganeering is a part of any campaign season, yet when a single expression of anger crosses ideological lines to become pandemic, it begins to point to more serious, deep-seated dangers.

Tea Party supporters believe that America needs to be taken back from "liberals" or "the left," while, in fact, the center-right has largely prevailed politically since the late 1950s under the guise of a two-party system. Hartley in Santa Monica is primarily anti-development, wanting fewer buildings, more trees and no Santa Monica Municipal Airport come 2015. Take Back Santa Cruz wants to "make the streets of Santa Cruz safe and free from drugs, gangs and abusive behavior," as stated on its website.

Whitman, according to one of her commercials, wants to remake a backwater Sacramento into another Silicon Valley, where she excelled (with a little help from the gold rush of a new technology that rewarded many a fool while leaving legions of the wise in the dust).

Yet wanting fewer "liberals," more trees, no "abusive behavior" and a Sacramento running on microchips, still begs the question: What is it really that Americans of every stripe want to take back? What is it that has been taken away from them?

Indeed, a nation that has always ignored the deep inequities of its class structure to the point of denial is beginning to sense that something really has been taken from it—something as substantial as the ability of people to earn a decent livelihood as the ogres of unemployment, debt, foreclosure and unaffordable health care wreak their havoc on what used to be the middle class. Trees and gangs, liberals and whatnots, for the time being are used as mere sedatives to mask the true anguish.

The dirty fact being largely disregarded by all candidates this campaign season is that 85 percent of Americans now have to make do with only 15 percent of the country's wealth. They fight for crumbs and find solace in overblown accounts of "celebrity rehab," whose secret, specious message is that the rich folks are having it just as bad.

Meanwhile, with flags waving and tri-color lapel pins gleaming, the Tea Party throngs have been duped into screaming "communism" even when a pallid health reform measure aspires to provide the sickest and the poorest with a modicum of security. One can only imagine the cries of outrage if a candidate were to propose a more equitable income distribution in the era of gargantuan corporate bailouts and executive compensations to match.

False hope and—more dangerously—false outrage to "take back" will keep America docile for the time being, while stores still brim with bread and "reality TV" provides the circus. Yet the real danger signs are already apparent, as politics and clowning become confused, most people getting their news from Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly while Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell emerge as credible candidates for the White House and the U.S. Senate.

This laughing breed, of course, will soon be swept aside, replaced by a "charismatic" and "benevolent" autocrat who will soar to the top even faster than a Palin, striking a chord with a desperate people by scapegoating any number of convenient suspects—to include "immigrants," Muslims and the Chinese.

The widespread material poverty that augurs dictatorship is already accompanied by an equally dangerous poverty of spirit, with Lady Gaga as a musical "artist," cheap trash heading the bestseller lists, and another "Jackass" as the prestige fall film release.

What is it really that America wants to take back? The country still lacks the courage to articulate the answer, which is understandable, considering the scale of the robbery in progress and its many dire consequences to come.

NAM contributor Behrouz Saba is a Los Angeles-based writer and native of Iran.