Our House of Cards

Like many of you, I have watched the stunning NETFLIX series, House of Cards, since season one and have been frankly gob-smacked all along the way. Now deep into some fifty-odd episodes—that powerful theme song with its foreboding major/minor key change stuck in my head—I’m formulating my reaction. It took a while to get here. At first, I felt utterly thunderstruck; that “mouth hanging open, eyes wide in shock at the end of every shocking episode” mood is morphing into something more nuanced. The drama arises from the kernel of truth that we sense as we watch the “house of cards” that is politics being built higher and higher. WHEN will it fall? Like watching a slow motion train wreck, we are transfixed in horror, watching this locomotive barreling down the tracks, demolishing everything in its path. So describes our view of our elected representatives and the destructive games they play.
Like that locomotive, and very UNLIKE the delicately balanced house of cards, the leviathan of politics at the national level does feel like a monster. With so much weight and momentum, it seems impossible for us little people to affect it at all much less stop it. However, we are convinced to believe in the monster by the monster itself because it knows itself to be simply, a house of cards, not steel and steam.
I remember driving into work one beautiful morning in fall 2009. I had NPR on the radio as is my wont and the news was all bad. Apocalypse, financial collapse, the dire tone of the Morning Edition staff portended the end of times. I looked up from the dashboard, out through my windshield and into the sunrise. The traffic was still there, the desert was still there, the birds still flew and sang in the autumn sky. It occurred to me that the discussion of the utter destruction and total collapse of civilization on the radio was nothing more than numbers on a computer describing our worth. It was all fiction, a house of cards. In real life, the amount of stuff in the world, a number of resources, number of people, cars, birds, had not changed one bit. It was all just numbers moving around in giant computers that gave us all the feeling that the world had changed for the worse. How crazy is that?
Of course, we have no choice but to go along with the fiction. If your bank account has no pretend magical numbers in it, you can’t redeem them for food, clothing and shelter. If you have no job that credits the magical numbers into your account (remember you MUST have a bank account to be able to transact with money, either earned or spent) then you have no mechanism to convert your labor into the necessities of life.
Think about that for a minute. You cannot only make a product and use it to buy, or barter, for food. You cannot exist in the 21st century without a bank or financial institution converting your work into currency. We are all trapped this way, in a house of cards.
But the fact is that this ground-breaking series is laying bare the hypocrisy of Washington politics and that we, as Americans, are more and more aware every day of the fact that the emperor has no clothes. The monster is a paper tiger, and we do indeed have the power to stop the destruction. The emergence of Bernie Sanders (and in a perverse way, Donald Trump too) is a powerful predictor of the changes coming in the relationship of power and politics with We the People. The Greatest Generation trusted without question, their leadership for right or wrong. Sixty years later, the millennials are asking, rightfully so, WHO are these people and WHY do we think they should be trusted with power? This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius (when, it is said, power structures will be turned upside down, and the grassroots will lead to significant societal change).
Bernie’s message opens the door to see the real abundance before us every day, to reject the idea that the numbers in our computers define our worth or potential. The zero-sum game foisted off on the public by our feckless leaders is a fiction that is collapsing. We are a limitless species, with the rich abundance of the earth and our minds to create whatever world we want to live in. This is the heart of Bernie’s message and the hope of his followers.
Little birds unite, let’s flap our collective wings and create the winds that blow away the house of cards forever!

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