America’s Present Evils


America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without,
For I see clearly that the combined foreign world could not beat her down;
If we are lost, no victor else has destroy’d us,
It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night—
Nations sink by stages, first one, and then another.
Our lands, embracing so much, (embracing indeed the whole, rejecting none,) hold in their breast that flame also, capable of consuming themselves, consuming us all.
If thou art balked, O freedom,
From the house of friends comes the death stab.

Amid the huge inflammation call’d society, and that other inflammation call’d politics, what is there today of moral power and ethic sanity as antiseptic to them and all?
With unprecedented materialistic advancement, society, in these states, is canker’d, crude, superstitious, and rotten—political, or law-made society is, and private, or voluntary society, is also.
Pride, competition, segregation, vicious wilfulness, the traitor, the wily person in office, the hell of passion, the decay of faith, the fossil-like lethargy, and license beyond example, brood already upon us;
Not a man faces round at the rest with terrible negative voice, refusing all terms to be bought off from his own eye-sight, or from the soul that he is, or from the body that he is.

I can conceive of no better service in the United States, henceforth, by democrats of thorough and heart-felt faith, than boldly exposing the weakness, liabilities, and infinite corruptions of democracy.
I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease,
Tell the American people their faults—the departments of their character where they are most liable to break down—
Speak to them with unsparing tongue, rude, rasping, taunting, contradictory tones—
What ones are more wanted amid the supple, polish’d, money-worshipping, Jesus-and- Judas-equalizing echoes of current America? 

Thee coil’d in evil times my country, with craft and black dismay,
With every meanness, treason thrust upon thee,
Justice seems asleep, and sin raises its unblushing face in bold 
defiance,
From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable.

Though all the essential elements of the moral nature exist latent in the good average people of the United States, it is certain that a powerful national moral nature has not yet been developed.
In any vigor, the element of the moral conscience, the most important, seems to me either entirely lacking, or seriously enfeebled or ungrown,
In business, politics, competition, actual life, there seems to be a strange depletion, almost an absence, of the moral nature,
To severe eyes, using the moral microscope, a sort of dry and flat Sahara appears—petty grotesques, malformations, phantoms, playing meaningless antics.

We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout,
What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appalling.
The great masses of the mechanics, and a large portion of the farmers, are unsettled, hardly know whom to vote for, or whom to believe,
Pervading all classes of society runs the poisonous virus of disbelief, of that worst form of practical atheism, which makes illicit pleasure the sole end of existence.
None believes in these states, boldly illustrating them in himself,
The underlying principles of the states are not honestly believ’d in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings,) nor is humanity itself believ’d in.

I think the genius of our continent has complacently gone to sleep, these years, satisfied with having produced, in fashionable life, small aims, or no aims at all, only to kill time.
American society is settling itself, in utter defiance of American principles. It is settling itself in accordance with European principles. The modes on which it arranges itself involve the idea of caste—involve servants, masters, superiors, inferiors. We are all too prone to wander from ourselves, to affect Europe.

The people, credulous, generous, deferential, allow the American government to be managed in many respects as is only proper under the personnel of a king and hereditary lords; or, more truly, not proper under any decent men anywhere. 

I know of nothing more treacherous than the position of nearly all the eminent persons in these states toward the spirit of democracy—the swarms of cringers, suckers, doughfaces, lice of politics, planners of sly involutions for their own preferment to city offices or state legislatures or the judiciary or congress or the presidency.
A crowd of attorneys, seekers of contracts, bleeders of the treasury, limber-tongued lawyers, supple secretaries, milliners of diplomats, bullies without courage, angry dyspeptics, supple human hinges—are they this great America?
Never were publicly display’d more deform’d, mediocre, snivelling, unreliable, false-hearted men.
 

The meanest kind of bawling and blowing office-holders, pimps, malignants, conspirators, murderers, spaniels well-train’d to carry and fetch, infidels, terrorists, creatures of the president, creatures of would-be presidents, spies, bribers, compromisers, scarr’d inside with vile disease, gaudy outside with gold chains made from the people’s money and harlots’ money twisted together; crawling, serpentine men, the lousy combings and born freedom-sellers of the earth—from political hearses, and from the coffins inside, and from the shrouds inside of the coffins; from the tumors and abscesses of the land; from the skeletons and skulls and running sores of the great cities—such, I say, form’d, or absolutely control’d the forming of, the entire personnel, the atmosphere, nutriment and chyle, of our municipal, state, and national politics—substantially permeating, handling, deciding, and wielding everything—legislation, nominations, elections, public sentiment, etc.—while the great masses of the people, farmers, mechanics, and traders, were helpless in their gripe.

The official services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration; and the judiciary is tainted.
Every trustee of the people is a traitor, looking only to his own gain, and to boost up his party. The berths, the presidency included, are bought, sold, electioneered for, prostituted, and filled with prostitutes.

What deepening twilight—scum floating atop of the waters,
Who are they as bats and night-dogs askant in the capitol?
Can dew wet the air after such may be elected to Congress, and make laws over me?
Profuse acts of American legislation, every year becoming more and more profuse,
We almost need laws to protect us against laws.
Nine-tenths of the laws are not only unneeded laws, but positive nuisances—
Not one atom for the general good, but against it,
jobs got up for the service of special classes or persons—
And should be lopped off, and must be—it will be a great reform.

I think there can never again on the festive earth be more bad-disordered persons deliberately taking seat, as of late in these states, at the heads of public tables—such corpses’ eyes for judges—such a rascal and thief in the presidency.
What a filthy presidentiad!
What have you been about, that you have allowed that scum to be floated somehow into the presidency?
This poor scum eats dirt and excrement for his daily meals, likes it, and tries to force it on the states.

Must we still go on with our affectations and sneaking?
Are those really congressmen? are those the great judges? is that the president? the varied countless frauds of men and states?

Is nothing but breed upon breed like these to be represented in the presidency?
A pretty time for dead corpses to go walking up and down the earth, to guide by feebleness and ashes a proud, fresh, young, heroic nation of millions of live and electric men!

Must we still go on with our affectations and sneaking?
Are those really congressmen? are those the great judges? is that the president? the varied countless frauds of men and states?
Then I will sleep awhile yet, for I see that these states sleep, for reasons:
Today is what it must be, and America is,
And today and America could no-how be better than they are.

NEXT: AMERICA’S ECONOMIC INJUSTICE