Friday, March 9, 2012

Stupor Tuesday

Tuesday was the day set aside for the apotheosis of Mitt Romney – and, sure enough, the prophesied event seems to have occurred, although you wouldn't know it from the continued flailings of Santorum and Gingrich, who are starting to resemble those movie monsters that continue to growl and fight even after losing multiple limbs. Ron Paul, of course, is in it for the sake of ideas, and being the only man of principle in the race, he's not about to dry up and blow away out of consideration for politics. His strategy of hanging in there with the otherwise execrable Republicans has, in my opinion, been the correct one, since this way his ideas reach many times more people than they would have otherwise – more than if he'd started out running in the Libertarian Party or Constitution Party, for instance. Of course, many people are still expecting him to “cut and run” -- and the Democrats are praying (or whatever they do in place of prayer) that he does... but I don't think that's very likely. The “third parties” have their deals, their mini-empires, their rice bowls... and they are already well along in their own nomination process. Besides, Paul can continue to hang in there after the convention and after the election, and be a welcome thorn in the side of nearly all other Republicans... which, as Martha Stewart would say, is “a good thing”. If any consciences need pricking at this point in our history, it's those of the Republicans. (The Democrats, not having been blessed with consciences, simply need to be sent back to the pre-school cry room where they belong.)

But what made Super – or, as I call it, Stupor – Tuesday special to me was the remarkable conjunction of four front-page articles in the local paper... and if I were ever called upon to give a state-of-the-union address, I would not hesitate to use these as my text:

(1) “Voters back away from Santorum” -- the point being that Republicans have finally bowed to pragmatism over ideology, and have decided that Romney is the only candidate who has any chance of beating Obama in November. Well... I guess it's theoretically possible, I mean... it's theoretically possible that Hillary Clinton will some day become a nun... but what are the chances? As I've said before, the Republicans seem to be in perpetual denial about one key fact – namely that a good half of the voters pay no taxes. Zero, zip, nada. (Referring to income taxes now.) Their entire interaction with the federal government is in the nature of their receiving money that _other_ people have paid in taxes – and since Obama epitomizes this concept of redistributing wealth, and promises even more of the same, what possible reason could there be for tax receivers to vote for anyone else? And on top of that, Obama also has the unions in his pocket... academia... the press... the entertainment industry... trial lawyers... aggrieved minorities of all sorts... in short, pretty much everyone except for white, male, non-Hispanic, Christian, heterosexual taxpayers. Talk about a vanishing demographic! I mean... well, the irony is that this group still runs the country, as they always have, and constitutes the largest single component of the Regime... which is why votes, and elections, don't matter (assuming they ever did). The people with power will stay in power, no matter how tiny a minority they become, even unto invisibility. And that's why they can tolerate Obama – because no matter how much he manages to muck things up in the world of ordinary people, he can't touch them. And, he is easily bought, like almost all politicians. Bought – threatened – blackmailed... it's all the same in the end. Men become president with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, only to realize, in short order, that they are nothing but glorified servants. But by then it's too late... so they spend the next 4, or 8, years parading around looking “presidential”, all the time knowing that they are abject and pathetic frauds. But hey, the pay is good, and who doesn't love all that applause? Who doesn't like being able to lay siege to Congress once a year in the State of the Union address, with the poor Supreme Court justices forced to sit there in the front row, silent and stoic as cigar-store Indians? Yeah, it's great work, as long as one is realistic as to one's options (which are few, and trivial).

(2) “Israel asserts right to attack Iran” -- yeah, so what else is new? They've been asserting the right to attack anyone and everyone ever since their country was established. (For that matter, so have we. So I guess we're not all that different.) The subhead was “Jewish state must remain 'master of its fate', Netanyahu tells Obama”. OK, fine – nothing wrong with that. What I resent is that Israel is also the master of _our_ fate – diplomatically, militarily, and ultimately economically, because of the dire impact of the wars they have forced us to fight on their behalf. But the best part of this article was the accompanying photo – a classic! Obama is shown out of focus, and Netanyahu very much in focus, and staring at Obama the way a stern judge would stare at a juvenile delinquent. What one doesn't see is the tight rope attached to Obama's... um... certain delicate organs... with Netanyahu tugging on the other end, just to remind him who's boss. One false move, one stray word suggesting non-support, and Bibi would fall on Obama's throat like a starving timber wolf. Fortunately, our president is well-trained and, after 3+ years in office, knows exactly who is in charge and what his duties are towards them. So all is well. It's a beautiful thing, in a way – like being in prison, or Marine boot camp. No decisions to make, just obey orders. The lines of command are crystal clear; they do not waver with the winds of politics. And in an ironic way, it relieves the American people of all responsibility for our foreign policy – until we recall that we are the ones who voted all of these clowns into office. Then it becomes clear that it all began, as most things do, around the dining-room table. Our politicians are little more than super-sized versions of the demons that each of us holds within us. And they won't change until we do.

(3) “McCain calls for U.S. to strike Syria” -- as if we're underemployed with only Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and a few score other places on our hands. Again, there is a kind of austere beauty in the simplicity of such as Sen. McCain; the answer to any problem is to bomb it out of existence. ( I suppose the answer to childhood obesity would be to bomb McDonald's.) And I suppose it would be idle to ask if Assad's forces had killed more innocents than our drones in Afghanistan. And it all makes me wonder – what if McCain had been elected back in 2008? There's a good chance we would have gotten into World War III with Russia over Georgia, and all be dead now. But this guy is not only still at large, but is still in the Senate, and is allowed to express his opinions pretty much at will. I find this to be a worrisome reflection on the discernment (or lack thereof) of the American voter.

(3a) And not to be outdone, here's Mitch McConnell, who looks like a small-town grocer, urging military force against Iran. And this was done as part of a speech to – guess who! -- AIPAC. No one ever wants to just come out and admit that there is complete unanimity on any issue with implications for Israel – and yet that single fact drives not only our foreign policy, but is the primary factor impinging on our economy, our military, and our domestic security. But since there's universal agreement, I guess that means there's nothing worth talking about.

(4) “Holder defends targeting Americans in terror hunt”. Oh yeah, he's back – the clown prince of the Obama administration. Now, let's work through this idea for a moment. We can “target and kill American citizens overseas in the war on terror”. OK... but what's “terror”? We already know the answer to that question – it's whatever the government says it is. We know, for instance, that a fifth-grader who brings a BB gun to school is officially designated as a “terrorist” -- or at least found to be committing “terroristic acts”. So would it be OK for CIA mercenaries to move in and kill him? Oh, wait – Holder said “overseas”, didn't he? Right – but how long is it going to be before the same logic is applied on the domestic front? And how long before the “right to target...” trickles down to state police, county sheriffs, city police departments, the dogcatcher, etc.? When you define “terrorism” or “terrorist activity” in as broad and general a way as it's been defined by the government, then virtually any activity can be so described, and virtually any citizen can therefore be designated a “terrorist”. Which means that virtually anyone can be killed for terrorist-type activity, either already carried out, or in the process of being carried out, or in the planning stage, or no further along than the local bar when someone has had a few too many. We tend to forget that the government is like a very large dog – try giving it one small doggie treat when you're holding a 100-lb. bag of treats in your other hand. It can't be done. Before you know it, the bag is ripped open, the contents devoured, and you're lucky if you still have all 10 fingers. This has happened with every other government program and “initiative” in our history; what makes us think it won't happen in this case as well?

(5) Bonus article! From page 2: “Legalizing drugs not possible, Biden says” -- this was at a gathering in Mexico City. Here's the real gem: “Biden said that even if drug legalization might have benefits, such as reducing prison populations [not to mention adverse impact on blacks], it would engender health problems [more than the “War on Drugs” does?], expand drug usage [this is not the experience of Portugal, for example] and even create bureaucracies for drug distribution.” Don'tcha just love that last point – as if the “War on Drugs” did not already constitute a massive bureaucracy, not to mention a perennial threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Well... I don't know if the Latin American leaders have the cojones for this, but what if they all got together and simply legalized all the drugs we spend so much time obsessing about, and so much money (and lives) trying to fend off? That would, I think, apply pressure where pressure is due – on our #1 Puritanical obsession, which borders on psychosis at times.

So OK – is this not ample fodder for a speech of any length? Could it not be part of a “teaching moment”? Someone needs to get up in front of the American public and – with reference to things like empire-building, subservience to Israel, the War on Terror, and the War on Drugs – scream, “get over it!!” None of these things is necessary... they are all massively destructive, not only to our freedoms and to the economy, but also to our overall quality of life... they are making us no friends but countless enemies... and they make us look like fools on the world stage. Fools, yes – but dangerous ones, because we still carry plenty of big sticks, even as we flail around blindly. We are, perhaps, at the most dangerous stage, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, when it comes to a declining empire – we are, in many ways, trapped by our own delusions, deceived by our own power (or former power), and feeling cornered diplomatically, economically, and militarily. There is no sense in which we are better, or better off, than we were, say, at the end of World War II when we could enjoy victory on all fronts and on many levels. Flawed as we were, we could still claim to be an exemplar and a friend to man. But then the deterioration started – Vietnam, our own cultural revolution, our totally misguided reaction to whatever it was that happened on 9-11... and so on. And yes, it is painful, because we were (at least my generation was) brought up to expect more. We did not yet realize that there is an iron law of history, and of cycles of growth, consolidation, and decay... and that the United States was on the brink of entering a long decay phase. Each new revelation raises the same questions – how did things get to this point? Why wasn't the process stopped, or delayed, or redirected? Why us? Why now? There is no feeling quite so frustrating as that of being trapped in history – of being on a timeline that future generations will look back on and shake their heads, the way we shake our heads about Rome, or the Ottoman Empire, or the British Empire, etc. But it seems as unavoidable as any natural cycle – and this may be the key. Maybe it is just another natural cycle, even though it appears to be something above and beyond nature. Perhaps the United States is, more than anything else, just one very large, old, sick, lumbering organism that has finally staggered to the edge of the tar pits and is wondering whether or not to just wade in and make a blissful end to it all.

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