Monday, November 22, 2010

A Non-Anniversary Celebration

I always wondered how long it would take. I mean for Nov. 22 to become, pretty much, just another day. Oh sure, there are some observances here and there, and a few articles ("JFK's Secret Service agents break their silence" -- right, that'll be the day), but when's the last time you heard the term "Camelot"? All it takes is a mere 47 years, and Jackie marrying a greasy Greek billionaire, and the rest of the family more or less melting down psychologically and politically (although, heaven knows, it took long enough), to finally lay to rest the Camelot myth. Not to mention revelations that the White House was a revolving door for whores (real ones, not just politicians) during JFK's time... and the evolving conventional wisdom that he really wasn't all that liberal in many ways -- especially when it came to the Cold War. He got us into Vietnam, and LBJ took that baton and ran with it -- but who, after all, hired all of those "brain trusters" who oversaw the Vietnam debacle? JFK, of course. And who got us into the ludicrous boycott of Cuba, which persists unto this day because no politician has the balls to do anything about it? So really, the JFK legacy is far from idyllic; many would say that it hovers somewhere between mediocrity and disaster. But for sheer telegenic star power, JFK has yet to be beat -- and don't bother me with claims that his good looks were at least partially due to steroids. The guy was a war hero, after all -- right? I don't think anyone has come up with a serious claim to the contrary. After all, "Old Joe" Kennedy was not averse to offering up his sons on the altar of American imperialism if he thought it might enhance the family fortunes in the long run. The only mistake he made was in assuming that there was an unlimited quantity of Kennedy DNA -- but Teddy and the next generation have shown that to be a fond wish. Never has the genetic concept of regression toward the mean been demonstrated in such a conclusive and brutal way. Ever notice how so many rich families eventually turn into a bunch of extremely ordinary people who happen to have a lot of money? Yeah -- the iron laws of genetics. Maybe it's actually a blessing, who knows?

Of course, there could be other explanations besides sheer "Kennedy fatigue" and 47 long years. (That's two entire generations since the assassination -- which would be kind of like someone trying to get me interested in the assassination of William McKinley. Wow -- that's sobering.) What are we going through right now? "The Great Recession" -- which is, I guess, the same as saying "The Little Depression"... perpetual wars (which we still haven't completely adjusted to as a nation or society)... and a greatly accelerated program of collectivization and totalitarianism -- compared to which, the early 1960s (before the hippies, note... or the urban riots... or the war on drugs... or just about anything else you can name) seem awfully remote by comparison. Every time I see pictures of those "ad men" and the June Cleaver-type housewives, I say "I wasn't around when that was going on" -- except that I was! But at the time, just as now, the baseline is the baseline -- we take it for granted. It doesn't seem odd, or weird, or bizarre, or "ironic" -- only in retrospect do those adjectives occur to one. We had air raid drills, "duck and cover", and fallout shelters -- well, of course! Any sensible society would have done the same. After all wasn't the Soviet Union the very embodiment of evil, and wasn't it run by madmen? Oh, wait -- that was Nazi Germany, and the Soviets were our allies. Gosh, it must have been very confusing for all concerned.

And what about nostalgia? What do I identify as my "good old days"? What will my grandchildren identify as theirs? Is nostalgia even possible any more? I mean, my parents had the Roaring Twenties -- Prohibition, bootleg gin, Al Capone... "great old cars" (and scores of makes, unlike now)... and the next generation had Benny Goodman, swing music, and World War II to keep them warm at night. Then things started to fall apart a bit... and what I call the Second Civil War started, not coincidentally at just about the time JFK was killed. Think: Nov. 22, 1963, and the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan for the first time a mere 2 1/2 months later. Why is this so significant? Well -- rock and roll, which had been around for a good ten years at that point, had prepared the battlefield for the cultural revolution to come. Rock and roll was not the cultural revolution, but it was at once a symptom and a driving force -- but it took the Great Disillusionment represented by LBJ and the Vietnam War to really bring things to a head. So JFK's assassination was a direct cause of some things, and an indirect cause of others... not to mention, it was the first major victory of the rising military-industrial-intelligence complex. And, it served as a damn good lesson to Catholics, to stay out of national politics. So in that sense it re-invigorated American Puritanism just in time for the rise of neoconservatism, which was aided and abetted by the Vietnam conflict. The mindset that got us into Vietnam was, or became, the neoconservative mindset, even if that didn't come into full flower until the invasion if Iraq. Because there was, after all, a grain of truth to the anti-communist struggle... but it was transplanted into, and morphed into, the anti-Islamic struggle with nary a bump, after the neocons gathered their forces during their exile during the Clinton administration. Vietnam was one of their founding myths, and they took over the Republican Party during Reagan's administration, and then lay in wait until George W. Bush came along, at which point the latter-day crusades began. And yet, at the height of the Cold War, all were equally mesmerized by the prospect of defeating communism and establishing an American Empire -- and JFK no less than most. So his status as a Cold Warrior should not be overlooked, even though it violates many of the premises of his hagiography.

And it may just be that a certain war-weariness has set in among the American public -- although you'd hardly know it from the plethora of public displays of "supporting the troops", and from the rank cowardice among members of both major parties when it comes to opposing any further involvement in the Islamic world. It is always easy for old men -- and the privileged -- to send young men -- and the unprivileged -- off to die... for any cause, or for no cause at all. What if everyone in Congress, and the administration, resolved never to send troops into any battle that they would not be willing to participate in themselves? It would not be the end of war -- but it would certainly be the end of these wars, and of most others. And then the Department of Defense could go back to being just that, and nothing more.

And yet our missionary zeal to remake the world in our own image, that got a huge lift from Wilson and a further boost from FDR, was still very much alive and well during JFK's time, and he believed in it... perhaps in a more sincere way than most of the latter-day cynics and profiteers. While it's true that people with ideals, and principles, create at least as many catastrophes as cynical exploiters do, their misguided zeal is, somehow, a bit easier to stomach -- especially if you've been given an American brain. The notion of fighting for ideas (as long as they aren't religious!) is something Americans are perfectly at home with -- and fighting simply for money, power, or personal glory is frowned upon, relatively speaking. And the Kennedy family had paid its dues, so they could not be accused of complete dilettantism. And there was certainly sufficient cynicism behind our involvement in Vietnam -- even as there has been behind all later conflicts (including the present ones). But one does have to wonder at the naivete and folly of people who thought it would actually be possible to conquer communism by force of arms. Communism was (and is), after all, an idea, like unto none other. It represents one of the most basic desires of humankind -- namely to be taken care of, non-stop, from cradle to grave... to be loved and coddled by an all-knowing greater power... to be part of a community of tireless mutual esteem-building happy faces. And to conquer this by mere force of arms? Why, they were every bit as naive as the people who now think we can conquer "terrorism" by the same means! Ultimately, it really is ideas that conquer -- ideas and demographics. And human psychology, I suppose -- at least in the aggregate. People simply got tired of communism; it's not as if it had ever worked, and then all a sudden began to fail. It was a failure from the start... just as Nazism was (in a moral sense, at least). What we need in today's society is more fatigue -- people have to get tired enough of war to actually do something about it. And they have to get tired of socialism, and totalitarianism (even if it's just at an early stage).

But in JFK's time, as you may recall, "soft" socialism -- of the New Deal type -- was triumphant. The conservative movement was as minuscule back then as the Bolshevik movement was in 1903. And it might have stayed that way if "Camelot" had really lived up to its name... and if LBJ hadn't given the Democrats a bad name... and if Nixon hadn't missed the opportunity to end the war in 1969... and if Carter hadn't given the Democrats an even worse name. These were all things that energized the conservatives and gave them a raison d'etre -- and when they finally triumphed in the 1980 election, well... it wasn't long before the movement was taken over by a group every bit as radical in some ways as the Bolsheviks -- namely the neocons. We now had a major force in American politics devoted not only to the American Empire, but to aiding and abetting Zionism. (The FDR era represented a nexus of sorts, but that was from the left, and the State of Israel did not yet exist.)

So in a sense, today's politicians -- pretty much all across the spectrum -- represent just the latest manifestation of the same mainstream mindset as JFK. It's all about American dominance, and empire, and military might at all costs... and isn't it amazing how little has changed in 47 years! Yes, we did have an interregnum of sorts with Carter, and a "vacation from history" with Clinton, but those were only pauses in the otherwise continuous escalation of American Empire folly. We're now engaged in the longest wars in our history with the least probability of victory -- which is, of course, exactly the way some people want it. And it's that cynicism too that may represent something new under the sun. As deluded as our "war hawks" have always been -- going way back to the Mexican War -- no one was ever able to convincingly label them "un-American"... that is, up until now. JFK was certainly not un-American, and neither was LBJ, as evil as he was. Even their advisors represented a perverse sort of Americanism -- a kind of robotic, soulless, neo-Puritan version. And Carter may have been un-American in the socio-cultural sense, but I don't think of him as anti-American; that distinction had to be taken up, for the first time, by Clinton... and is now paraded around in plain sight, and boasted of, by Obama.

And one might ask, in this day of internationalism and globalism, what, precisely, is so wrong about being... well, maybe not anti-American, but at least indifferent? What is wrong with, for example, letting anyone who wants to cross our borders and set up shop in this country with no restrictions? Isn't it the ultimately humane, and democratic, thing to do? And what's wrong with the Supreme Court honoring case law from around the world, on an equal basis with our own? And what's wrong with our combining our resources with, first, Canada and Mexico, and then ultimately with Europe (as if they weren't having fits trying to deal with deadbeat places like Greece, Portugal, Spain, and now Ireland)? What's wrong, in other words, with "celebrating diversity" by, basically, erasing all borders, and eliminating all hateful and "racist" economic restrictions and distinctions?

Well -- one thing that's wrong with it is that no one else is doing it. Not really. Places like Germany are starting to balk at having to hold up town-drunk economies like Greece... and people are more and more starting to see outfits like the EU as just another manifestation of the culture wars -- the greatest attempt yet to deracinate people, and render all traditions and cultures null and void. There are movements worldwide to restore traditions -- folkways, if you will -- and keep them from going extinct. And this kind of pushback has been happening in this country for quite a long time -- but the power elite are just now starting to notice. (Consider the way the MSM reacted to the "tea parties".) And I don't suppose that, even with the most crushing form of totalitarianism, traditions can be totally extinguished. For instance, nothing could have been more totally anti-tradition than Mao's "Cultural Revolution" -- and it did manage to destroy much of the old China. And yet with the easing of restrictions, many of the old traditions magically came back to life. The old people sitting off in a corner had been keeping secrets -- and they remembered, and passed it on. And this is how I suspect it's going to work for us as well -- on the surface, it will be the Brave New World of socialism, ObamaCare, "diversity" (which is another word for deracination and cultural genocide), and perpetual war... but on another level, people will be keeping the flame alive. One can only hope.

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