My favorite Halloween-week movie, promoted at a discount by Redbox, was "Daddy, I'm a Zombie," described as a coming-of-age film about an early teen named Dixie who turns into one of those living dead creatures that populate, along with vampires, so much of our culture of mass distraction.
I bring this up because in my own earlier years, social critics often referred to America as a nation of sheep intimidated by McCarthyism into silence and held in bondage by strangling rules of conformity.
Today, we have become a nation of zombies staggering through our lives while the rapacious vampires feed their lust for power and blood money.
The only music we can hear is our own song. We aren't talking to each other. We communicate mostly though social network and text message. There is no public conversation unless it involves Miley Cyrus — an important point since the generation gap has become a chasm that cannot be bridged.
We've come a long way to getting past our separations by race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, but now we segregate ourselves by insisting we'll only engage those who share our beliefs and values — the like-minded cohort that is so easily manipulated by the cynics and masters of power.
We used to worry about the mind-numbing impact of eight hours a day in front of the boob tube. Now we carry it with us 24/7, infecting our consciousness with digital blips from cyberspace as we live unreal lives in virtual worlds.
We have lost touch with reality and with each other.
It has been building for a long time, from the impeachment of Bill Clinton for sexual misconduct that would get the vast majority of our politicians removed from office if the truth about their indiscretions were known.
We blamed Bush and Cheney for wars that had bipartisan support after 9/11 with hardly a peep from anyone of influence questioning our nation's lockstep march to eternal wars that now are used to justify spying on everyone in the world's mail, email, phone calls and Internet browsing.
What a joke! A government that can't build a website to help us buy healthcare, or figure out that people like Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning or Aaron Alexis are security risks, isn't a threat to play the role of Big Brother as much as a senile old grandfather.
Yet, several times a day the tea party blasts out half-truths to mostly well-meaning, decent people in an effort to squeeze another few dollars out of them, playing on their fears and their anguish over a world that no longer makes any sense to them.
They accuse Obama of "crimes against humanity," of doing "everything in his power to subvert and ignore the Constitution and the power of Congress," aiding "terrorists with money and weapons, destroying the economy" and trying to "give amnesty to millions of illegals."
"His true colors have been exposed: he is a dictator bent on shoving his radical agenda down our throats," they said, calling for his impeachment while urging supporters to "lock and load" their weapons.
And now they are going from borderline seditious words against the president to cannibalizing their own by trying to oust all moderate Republicans, even the very conservative Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who dared to engage in discussions on how to fix the budget.
It's their right, to be sure, to say anything they want. It is still, after all, a free country. But surely there are limits — it is well established you can't scream "fire" in a crowded theater.
This is a very crowded theater, this America, and we are committing national suicide.
Incredibly, liberals delight in it as much as conservatives.
More than anyone, they are the political vampires concealing themselves behind benign smiles and feigned warm hearts while selling out to every conceivable special interest from Los Angeles to Sacramento to Washington, D.C., to keep power.
We are a nation divided against itself and, as we should have learned from the Civil War, in President Abraham Lincoln's immortal words, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
We are consuming wealth, not creating it, in a global economy where our richest corporations and individuals do their best to avoid taxation; where the middle class is being squeezed, has been squeezed for decades, and the opportunity to rise to the middle class grows dimmer by the day; where spying on ourselves and our allies seems rational in the name of a war on terrorism that is less a threat than the war on ourselves.
How can anyone in their right mind actually think we are on the right track is beyond me. It's like a marriage gone bad after so many good years. There has to be a starting point where we can talk to each other again, where we can hear each others' songs again, where we can find common ground and move forward.
But that would require turning a deaf ear to all those voices out there that flatter our basest feelings and those voices already inside our heads that insist on their righteousness, telling us we do not need to listen to somebody else's song; that in a narcissistic world, we are all that matters.
RON KAYE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Share your thoughts and stories with him.