Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Great White Hope

I predict that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president. I believe the fix is in. Somewhere a gaggle of old white guys—good old boys—have been tasked with choosing The Great White Hope; they’ve chosen Romney.

Romney will get the party nod not because he is the most knowledgeable about economics or foreign policy.  So far his performances have demonstrated he has about as much depth as a wading pool. And it sure isn’t his ability to connect with audiences. To quote Robin Williams, “He has the warmth of a snow-pea.” Those who have dubbed him “the Rom-Bot” are closer to the man’s political raison d’etre.

What those wizened old bastards, waxing cynical in their dotage, are counting on is Romney’s ability to be the Everyman. Now, in this context what this means is Every White Man. I realize this excludes many progressive white people who, if they read this, would object however; according to the political arithmetic of electoral showmanship you are no longer really white. You are beyond the pale.

Romney’s appeal is to the pale, to the anemic, to the walking dead. It is an appeal of a blank slate upon which these unimaginative denizens can attach their hopes, their dreams, and their less than subtle racist visions of restoring the United States to greatness. For greatness read whiteness. And Romney, lacking much of a vital identity of his own, will not bleed through the layers of gauzy hopes projected onto him. 

Romney stands ready with the image of the privilege he carries as a White Man to reoccupy what is surely thought of His Proper Place in the White House. And that warms the cold hearts of those geezers who have made Romney their man.       

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Myth of Morality

I’m only several pages into The Forging of the American Empire by Sidney Lens and I’m already struck by his summation of the animating impulse of American Empire under the phrase the myth of morality. So powerful and all embracing is this myth that we have committed the lives of men and women and our economy to the pursuit thereof, blind to the reality that underpins it.

The grace notes of this myth are on full display in the campaign rhetoric of the presidential candidates. We hear of democracy, freedom, equality spoken against a star-spangled backdrop of political tradition and we think we know what is being said. But what does democracy mean in a context of disenfranchising voters, a feat that if accomplished turns those thus affected in unpeople. The unpeople according to George Orwell are those who are not considered, whose viewpoints are not just ignored but negated. What does freedom mean in a context of indefinite detention, an ugly provision of the odious Patriot Act granted continued life by Obama? And what can equality mean against an overall backdrop of privilege, a disappearing middle class, and institutional racism?

Those questions, however, if raised at all, are answered with an insistence in the primacy of the myth and with impatience for what is deemed obvious. As Howard Zinn, in his introduction to Len’s book, writes:

            In early 2003, Michael Ignatieff, a Harvard professor, wrote in the New York

America’s empire is not like empires of times past, built on colonies, conquest and white man’s burden. We are no longer in the era of the United Fruit Company, when American corporations needed the Marines to secure their investments overseas. The 21st century imperium is a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy.

Only someone blind to the history of the United States, its obsessive drive for control of oil, its endless expansion of military bases around the world, its domination of other countries through its enormous economic power, its violations of the human rights of millions of people, whether directly or through proxy governments, could make that statement.

As Zinn makes clear, we must ignore American misdeeds in order to derive solace from this “myth of morality.” We trumpet our bellicose international interventions in slogans such as “Freedom Isn’t Free” when, more to the point we should proclaim, “Free Markets (so-called) Are Not Freedom!”

Monday, January 2, 2012

Change the Channel

...oh, and Happy New Year!

Two days into 2012 and I'm wondering if perhaps the world didn't end after all. Even after 10 days of time off in which I did little but eat and rest and read (with a little writing thrown in for variety) I'm left feeling weary and worn-out.

And while reasons for my exhaustion may include my advancing years, I'm blaming it on 2011. Think of the the multitude of significant events that took place in 2011. Without taxing my already low energies I think of the continuing economic crisis, the continuation of the most odious aspects of the Patriot Act, the continuation of Git-mo (I'm too tired to look up the proper spelling for Gwantomato), the entire host of GOP candidates for President...

As these events occurred I was subject to outrage. I ranted. I raved. I had long phone conversations. I wrote letters. I signed petitions. I tried, in short, to take a stand. But on what was I standing?

It seems a continual game of the Rabid Right to successfully bait the left with outrageous statements. And at this juncture I realize that I should trot out an example of such outrageousness, but I lack the strength to do so. So, lacking the energy to produce proper evidence I ask that you trust me.

Now that I've gained your trust, I want to say that the Rabid Right--and by Rabid Right I include the Republicans and Democrats-- is wrong. Wrong about what, you might ask? Well, don't ask; you trust me, right? Well, alright then...

As the past few elections have demonstrated, being in power is about tapping vast amounts of cash. Remember, Obama raised record amounts of $ from Wall Street. That's right, this so-called socialist raised a shit-ton of dollars from the seat of capitalism. And when the rent came due, Wall Street got bailed out. You might wonder what Obama got out of the deal besides a peculiarly shaped office from which to run the world, yet isn't that enough? And isn't that reason enough to spawn a host of power-hungry misfits to run for office? Strip away the rhetoric (I almost wrote high minded rhetoric but there is nothing particularly high minded about bigotry and greed ala' Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, or Newt Gingrich. And as for Romney...Well, tailor's dummies don't say much) and very little is left.

Or rather, what is left is injustice. Surprised? That's because the thick fog of bullshit usually hides that unpleasantness. And that is outrageous! And that exhausts me, and so I'll close now.

I wonder what is on T.V.....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"American! Why do you not honor your poets?"

I found the title for this entry in Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids. It was a question addressed to her by a caretaker of a Parisian cemetery where Smith had gone to pay her respects to Jim Morrison.

I was reminded of this question this morning as I read in the New York Times Robert Haas' account of being beaten by baton wielding police while attending the Occupy Berkley protest.  This former U.S. Poet Laureate had gone to the demonstration with his wife to observe and to plead with the police for the safety of the students. Such intentions earned him bruised ribs and the consideration of what he refers to as contingencies, things that don't necessarily have to be so.

And I wonder what would it take for us as a nation to honor our poets? Where might we go as a people who respected the vocation of vision not tied directly to a bottom line? How might a polis be that could embrace the tension of disonance? What might it mean to encourage the production of poetry in our children, in our workers, our politicians, our elderly? 

Such questions, I realize, are dismissed as naive. Life is serious requiring hard-headed men making pragmatic decisions. Even so, I found the fullest answer to why we don't honor our poets in Saul Bellow's novel Humboldt's Gift:

 The country is proud of its dead poets. It takes terrific satisfaction in the poets' testimony that the USA is too tough, too big, too much, too rugged, that American reality is overpowering. And to be a poet is a school thing, a skirt thing, a church thing. The weakness of the spiritual powers is proved in the childishness, madness, drunkenness, and despair of these martyrs. Orpheus moved stones and trees. But a poet can't perform a hysterectomy or send a vehicle out of the solar system. So poets are loved, but loved because they just can't make it here. They exist to light up the enormity of the awful tangle and justify the cynicism of those who say, "If I were not such a corrupt, unfeeling bastard, creep, thief, and vulture, I couldn't get through this either."

So what little honor we allow poets, if honor it may be called, is to damn them with self-justification, it is to pity them.  As should be obvious in the illustration of Haas' experience at Berkley, pity is a brutal emotion employed to maintain the disadvantage of the pitied. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Iowa Straw Poll...What a Riot!

In the aftermath of the London riots many in the United States are asking, “Could it happen here?” There is fear in the question, an acknowledgement that if such events could occur in Great Britain with its civil social traditions what portends for us whose civil traditions are of a less restrained variety?

I’ll intentionally ignore the precedents of riots linked to political and social unrest on both sides of the Atlantic, not because I don’t think history should be ignored but because my point is more to the point of what has been called “the commodification of dissent.”

One need only consider the recent Iowa Straw Poll where Michelle Bachmann emerged as the front-runner in a pack of political midgets. Fun House mirrors furnished by the largely corporate media exaggerate to chilling affect Ms. Bachmann’s victory. And as outrageousness eclipses any vital political discourse, other charlatans join the fray.  Enter Rick Perry, the anointed candidate from Texas!

What I’m suggesting is our political process has degenerated to the “cult of personality” and that our campaigns are but exercises in vanity for those who parade, not ideas, but hubris. Once in office these egoists rum amuck behind the fa├žade of patriotism, behind   engineered catastrophe, behind self-righteous religiosity, and behind a fear promoted for the continued enrichment of the privileged. With faux outrage they loot the public coffers for their comrades in the private sector and ride roughshod over democratic ideals.

So, while the pundits continue to dissect the etiology of unrest in London, I’ll hazard this premise; in the United States we’ve domesticated unrest, tarted it up in ersatz Christian piety, shrouded it in notions of outraged elitism, and, every 4 years we run it up the flag-pole to see who’ll salute. And in a culture primed for spectacle the candidates can count on the bedazzled populace to make the appropriate gesture.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Bathhouse

That bathtub in which Grover Norquist wishes to drown a shrunken government  is crowded with children, single mothers, and the many colors of the poor. They circle the drain. The middle class have their collective toe in the water while the rich snap their naked buttocks with twisted towels of dirty dollars.