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I am disturbed by a certain madness that has taken hold of a significant number of Americans. Jingoism bordering on nationalism has always existed. So has the mindless materialism and conformity to a rigid standard of media induced normalcy. The fact that many people have been dumbed down to a point that renders them child-like, both intellectually and emotionally, is so common that it no longer seems particularly disturbing.

This new madness that I find so disturbing centers around the callous disregard for the individual. It is though people have become so dehumanized that the most blatent incarnations of evil are accepted as normal. Influential people who hold positions of leadership routinely make despicable statements and ordinary people cheer them on instead of being shocked.

Where a beautiful sunset over majestic mountains might have once been described as glorious, now it is the mangled corpse of a young American lying in a Baghdad gutter that is described as glorious. People who hold themselves out as highly moral Christians advocate torturing human beings for no reason other than that they are different, and therefore suspicious.

Many people experience a perverse pleasure when others are thrown into prison for some minor infraction of the law. Many of these people assume anyone charged with a crime is guilty until proven innocent and they will rally to the defense of police thugs who kill innocent citizens by mistake. It is not unusual to turn on the radio or television and hear someone casually calling for genocide by turning an entire nation into a "glass parking lot" with nuclear weapons. This type of statement is usually based solely on paranoia about what someone might possibly do at some time in the future.

The process of catagorizing people has divided America into many groups and has resulted in the dehumanization of everyone. Politicians have divided us into voting blocks and corporations have divided us into catagories of consumers. Yet, there is no concern over the general welfare of individuals. Instead, we are taught to distrust each other while government provides benefits and privileges to specific groups. Foolishly, the government and corporate hacks who catagorize us seem to believe that every individual in a given catagory thinks the same.

We have been divided into groups by age, sex, wealth, religion, location, political beliefs, race, education, and lifestyle. Individual rights have been cast aside in favor of group rights and special rights are granted to those groups with political clout. It is no wonder that society has become dehumanized as we are no longer identified as individuals but only as a part of some group.

The communitarians of the right and the collectivists of the left no longer view the individual as having any rights or dignity. We are merely pawns that consume products, generate tax revenue, and vote. That one individual or one group must suffer for the "greater good" is accepted as desirable by many. I believe it is this mindset that has led to the dehumanization and the total disregard for the human rights of individuals.

We now have a society where war is glamorized as being glorious and righteous. This extends to a militarized police force that is deemed heroic even if they gun down someone by mistake when they raid the wrong house over an illegal substance that is less harmful than many legal substances.

We live in a society where privacy no longer exists. The practice of warrantless searches or wiretaps is excused with the bromide that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide. While the crime rate decreases in America, the prison population has grown to become the largest in the world. Meanwhile, police continue to fill prison cells - often in an attempt to prevent crimes while people who have committed actual crimes are released from prison to make room for new arrivals.

The notions that government and corporations can create the utopia they often promise have proved to be false. Humans cannot be transformed to perfection through laws or products. The idea of a democracy where 51% of the voters can impose their vision of perfection on the other 49% has also proven to be unworkable. Instead of the utopian vision promoted by television commercials and the platitudes of pompous politicians, we now have a dystopia. A dystopia embraced by those afflicted with a certain madness.

This article contributed by Tom Blanton of Richmond, Virginia.