Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why Your Vote Means Nothing -- But Go Ahead, It Couldn't Hurt

As the election season goes into “full swing”... well, we tend to forget that there is always a campaign going on, the same way there are always wars going on. Perpetual campaigns and perpetual wars – that's America in our era, and we have become so inured to it that no one seems to mind, or to remember when it was any other way. In fact, it would seem strange if it were any other way. So, Obama's 2012 campaign began, roughly, on Inauguration Day of 2009, with barely a beat having been missed between the 2008 election and that fateful day.

We are being treated to what are referred to as widely differing “visions” of America – what it is and what it should be. And these differences, while in some cases genuine (in terms of rhetoric), will be of little consequence no matter who gets elected. (Think "discretionary" vs. "non-discretionary" budget items -- all the big and important stuff is "non-discretionary".)  But the most prominent, and consequential, vision of all – namely that of the U.S. as the world's policeman – is never questioned, and never debated. It is axiomatic – an assumption requiring no proof... a meme, if you will. It can, in fact, be said to be the one vision that completely unites the two candidates... and the one that will not be altered in the slightest by the outcome of the election. Oh, sure – there are murmurings now and then about Obama being less than enthusiastic about asserting America's world dominance, but actions speak louder than words, and when we have troops stationed in nearly every country on earth, private armies at work in nearly as many places, and are fighting a “war on terror” that is, in fact, a war on Islam... well, it seems to be stretching it a bit to call Obama weak in any way military.

Besides, we are treated, on a regular basis, to the spectacle of both Obama and Romney going over to Israel to prostrate themselves before the throne of Zionism, kiss the feet of Netanyahu and his cronies, and declare our “eternal” bond with Israel and our willingness – nay, zeal – to pay any price, and make any sacrifice, in order to fight the various “existential threats” that Israel claims are directed at it daily. (And BTW, why is it that our politicians never use the word “eternal” in any other context but this? Think about it.) It seems that just declaring war on Islam isn't enough – our politicians also have to report in to the head office to reassure our overseers that we aren't about to wander off the reservation. (Now, why this sort of thing doesn't result in an instant, and violent, rebellion on the part of the taxpayers and voters... well, that's another question.)

The recent campaign stop in Jerusalem on the part of Mitt Romney is illustrative. He did the usual kowtowing, and donned the yarmulke, and did that thing where you stick a little piece of paper into a crack in the Wailing Wall (I suspect that at least half of them are Chinese fortune cookie fortunes)... and then proceeded to suggest that, compared to the Palestinians, the Israelis have “a superior culture” and enjoy “the hand of providence”. Well... at least he's honest. I mean, in the sense that this has always been the neoconservative position and Romney is nothing if not a neocon. The Evangelicals, in fact, seem to believe that Israel is superior to the United States, and that Judaism is a superior belief system to Christianity, and that the Jews are – dare I use the term in this context? -- the master race. And, that it is the ordained task of the United States to be on Israel's side through thick and thin, so that we will be found worthy as the end times approach and the final judgment is laid down. In other words, America is fated to be the servant of Israel, and Americans are... not fated, but privileged, to be the slaves of Israel. So what Romney said is perfectly consistent with all of this, and I have to admire his – perhaps naïve – honesty on the matter. I'm not sure Obama would have been quite this open and unabashed about it, although he certainly acts as though he agrees with it all when it comes to policy.

And lest you think I exaggerate about these issues, there are scores of books on the subject that support this model... and all you have to do is look at our electoral process and our foreign policy to see that there is absolutely no doubt. And when it comes to our politicians, the Republicans are, almost to a man, completely dedicated to this world view, and the Democrats... well, again, they are not as blatant about expressing it, but they never do anything to contradict it. The only bind Obama is in – if it even is a bind – is that slight awkwardness of having had a Moslem father, and having a Moslem middle name, and having Moslems among his black constituency. But these things are easily smoothed over, as he has done with signal success so far.

But none of these trivial differences between the candidates has stopped the captive media from favoring Obama at every turn. You'll notice, for instance, that every other word coming out of Romney's mouth is termed a “gaffe” -- and the pathetic thing is that the Romney campaign doesn't argue! They as much as admit that it was a gaffe by either retracting or “clarifying” -- which means that, basically, they are admitting that the Democrats have made up all the rules and are in charge of enforcing them.

Obama, on the other hand, is never allowed to mis-speak by the media. And whenever he's accused of having said something controversial, the media rush to his defense, claiming that he was “misunderstood”, or that “paranoid, right-wing haters” are twisting his words. And again, no one argues.  And he never has to take anything back, or explain, or apologize.   

This is another reason why Romney's campaign is doomed, in my opinion – and watch him pick someone for his running mate who is either a fanatic, a nut, or an airhead. The Republicans remain the “stupid party”, even as they have pretty much caught up with the Democrats in the “evil” category. 

But let's get back to the real issues. If Israel is the “driver” for our foreign policy – which it is – and our foreign policy, including military interventions, wars, covert operations, etc., is the biggest single piece of our economy, then it can be said that Israel is the driver for our economy (aside from any links they may have to banks and international financial markets). So any economic woes we suffer can, to some degree, be traced back to Israel. I know, this seems simplistic... not to mention “paranoid” and “anti-Semitic” and all that crap... but I challenge you to show me an exception, the way I challenged anyone, a while back, to show me a single government program that is not, at heart, a jobs program.

Look at it another way. What if we were not stuck on Israel the way Br'er Rabbit was stuck on the Tar-Baby? Well, it would have saved us billions in direct foreign aid, for one thing – and I don't mean just to Israel, but to all the countries surrounding it, as bribes to keep them from attacking Israel. And if we hadn't been meddling in the Middle East all these many decades, we would not have suffered the “blowback” that came in the form of 9-11 (regardless of which model you adopt as to what really happened that day). As Ron Paul memorably said, “They're over here because we're over there” -- and the fact that Rudy Giuliani nearly had a stoke upon hearing that proved that Paul was right on target.

So... take us out of the Middle East (military, if not in terms of trade), and you avoid 9-11, which, in turn, avoids the “War on Terror” and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. It also avoids abominations like the Patriot Act, the TSA, and all the other totalitarian measures that have been enthusiastically adopted by the regime since 9-11.

The bottom line is that the “Israel bill” for us amounts to... well, not just billions, but trillions... and the rate of expenditure simply continues to accelerate. (I say “expenditure” but I should really say “borrowing”, since that's what's necessary to keep the whole enterprise afloat.) And yet, in the long run, has it made Israel's future secure (even as it has threatened our own future in nearly every respect)? Can even the most hardened, fanatical “Christian Zionists” turn their gaze toward the Promised Land and pronounce it a place of peace? No – and my personal feeling is that this is at least partly because Israel, i.e. the State of Israel, is a gigantic mistake – the biggest political mistake of the 20th Century, in fact. (And there are, by the way, Jewish groups that agree with this, so it's not just about race or ethnicity or religion.)

Setting aside the suicidal folly of establishing a Jewish state smack in the middle of its age-old enemies... and the folly of the U.S. promising to provide any and every kind of support in perpetuity... is the State of Israel really what the Bible is referring to in the various end-times prophesies? The Evangelicals seem to think so... but pardon me, I'm skeptical. For one thing, the State of Israel is secular. It may be Jewish in the racial/ethnic sense, but it's not any more religious than the U.S., and probably less so. Not only that, but Christians are treated as second-class citizens in Israel, because they happen to also be Arabs... and they are treated as downright non-persons or subhumans in the West Bank and Gaza. How do the Evangelicals come around to thinking that this sort of thing is consistent with New Testament prophesy and teachings? Well... I won't attempt to analyze what's going through their heads; that has already been done quite competently by any number of writers. But it's a bit ironic to see American politicians – nearly all at least nominal Christians -- repeatedly going over to the Middle East and embracing people who think their messiah was a fraud and their religion an abomination. Do I detect a hint of masochism and a lack of self-worth and self-esteem on the part of the Evangelicals in this matter? Um... yeah. Do I detect a desire to wind up on the winning side of world history, even if that side represents materialism as opposed to core Christian beliefs? Yes again. It seems to me that real faith would want to reject the glamor and superficial success of the powers of this world, in favor of the eternal verities... but that doesn't seem to have occurred to the Evangelicals... or to the Mormons either, if Romney is any example. They still cling, if you will, to shopworn and failed notions of manifest destiny, American exceptionalism, and all the rest. We will unite and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel to smite the filthy Arabs, Islamists, and “terrorists”... and once they are conquered, the new age – heaven on Earth – will commence. This is their core vision. The core vision of the Zionists, on the other hand, is to restore the kingdom, which includes much of what is now the Islamic Middle East. (Don't believe me? Look at their maps some time.) And as far as the Zionists are concerned, if all the Christians on earth dry up and blow away, so much the better – as long as they have served as cannon fodder and a source of raw materials in the meantime. And I suppose the Evangelicals believe that, by that time, they will have been welcomed into the Jewish/Zionist world as full-fledged members, and thus be immune from any chastisement. But – as Mr. T would say – I pity the fools. I think they are the object of the greatest con game of all time. Unfortunately, the rest of us are all caught up in the same con game. The America we thought we knew has turned out to be something strange, and alien, and rare, if not unique, in history – but for all the wrong reasons.

But it would also a mistake to claim that our politicians are all sociopaths and fanatics who spend all their time preying on innocent citizens. Even given the relative meaninglessness of our elections, it remains true that we are the ones who put these clowns into office. We're the facilitators; we're the ones who support them in their delusions (or their cold cynicism). We could do better, but we won't, and it's because we are prey to the same delusions. Either that, or we are so fear-ridden and hobbled by political correctness and the propaganda apparatus that we don't dare do otherwise. Even during the primaries, there were people who said they agreed with what Ron Paul was saying, but they wouldn't vote for him because... um... well, they weren't sure. That's fear talking, folks. That's a cowed, fearful, cowardly populace made up of “free” Americans, and it's what we've become. The few who stand up and speak the truth are mocked and ridiculed, and pronounced beyond the pale by the media (including the so-called “conservative” media).

So... if we have a country ruled by people who are committing what amounts to treason, then aren't the people who vote for them also traitors, or at least delusional and brainwashed? So it would seem... and we have only to seek precedents in history to see how this works. The Germans did not all of a sudden become insane, as an entire people, the minute Hitler took office... and they didn't all turn sane again the day he died by his own hand. Things are seldom that simple. Yes, there has to be a core of insanity, and it has to be powerful. And it also has to be able to control, or at least influence, the thinking of everyone else through the propaganda apparatus, AKA the media. Or failing that, it has to be able to exert absolute control, through intimidation and brute force; this is the time-honored formula of all totalitarian regimes past and present.

And then there are the outliers, who rebel either openly (a risky business) or in secret. I suppose it's like the ubiquitous bell curve, with the fat middle consisting of people with no absolute principles, who are generally good-intended, but who can be influenced by an unending barrage of propaganda. On the other end is the fanatical core – the SS in the case of Germany – opposite the people of principle who won't budge no matter how much pressure they feel, or how unpopular their views are. The wishy-washy middle can be convinced, on one day, that it's perfectly OK to haul Jews off to the crematoria... and then on another day, that killing babies in the womb is just jolly... or even that having some consideration for others – some non-Darwinian feelings of charity – is a good thing. They can be made, in other words, to think, and do, the right thing for the right reasons... or for the wrong reasons. And they can be made to think, and do, the wrong thing for... any reason at all, or no reason. They are, in other words, political. They subscribe to what Ayn Rand called “social metaphysics” -- that the will, and the “mind”, of the group – the collective – is the source of all truth. Those on the fanatical end of the curve at least believe in something, even if they're badly mistaken. In this they are the true flip side of those on the other end who cling to the truth. I can't get too perturbed at “true believers” in other religions, for example, because I understand their mind set. They believe in absolutes, as do I. There is a point beyond which politics and relativism fade away, and what remains is, for the philosopher, pure ideas, and for the believer, articles of faith. I have no problem with anyone's faith – i.e. with the phenomenon; it's how they act on it that can become problematic. I'm not against the “terrorists” because of their faith (the way the Evangelicals and the U.S. military would be), but because of their implementation of it – and I can't even object to that on all counts. Since when, for example, is defense of one's homeland considered “terrorism”? And yet that is the term we are fed, day after day, by the propaganda apparatus. We invade a country, the natives fight back, and that makes them “terrorists”. Seems like we've regressed a bit in our thinking over the last couple of centuries. At least at one time we accepted that other peoples' nationalism, and loyalty, and love of homeland, were mirror images of our own, and thus had innate validity, even if we wound up in conflict. Nowadays, anyone who believes or adheres to anything but the American “script” is considered deluded, crazy, or a “terrorist”.

But now we have to dial back the argument a bit, because there is a great hue and cry, especially among libertarians, that the United States has, through some subversive, gradual process, “become” what it is today, through the machinations of cynical politicians and other people of ill will. The notion is that “the real America” actually did exist at some time in the past – and you have to choose the point at which things began to slide. Some will say as recently as 9-11... others will say Vietnam... still others the New Deal, or World War I, or the Progressive Era, or the Civil War... right back to the point when the ink was not yet dry on the Declaration of Independence. And if only we could “return” to those halcyon days, before FDR, before Wilson, before Teddy Roosevelt... to those sepia-toned times when America really meant something, e.g. rugged individualism, independence, freedom, etc. (The implication also is that there was a time when this was truly a “Christian nation”, untroubled by the egalitarian politics of minorities, victim groups, religious and cultural “sensitivities”, etc.) However, an argument can, and has, been made that our very founding was the work of not only humanists and Deists, but also people who would today be called “Christian Zionists”. The American experiment, in other words, was not so much about “rights” and “freedoms” as it was about a political program with a strong eschatological component. The very energy that fueled colonization, and westward expansion, and manifest destiny, and America-as-cop, had, as its source, an overarching religious, or pseudo-religious, vision... and what we are seeing now is the reductio ad absurdum of that vision – perhaps the final stage. Because, after all, if we take on hopeless debt in the interest of “ideas” as manifested in foreign policy and military adventures... and if we are forced to become what we behold elsewhere in the world – i.e. collectivists and totalitarians – in order to fight against it... then doesn't that pretty much spell the end of the American experiment? Doesn't it, in fact, indicate that there were fatal flaws from the beginning that are only now fully manifesting themselves?

Now granted, this experiment, if you will, has had a good, long run of it – longer than any comparable experiment in philosophically-based government. Compare the French, for example, who killed a king then wound up with an emperor a few short years later... or the Soviet Republic and all of its clones... or Nazi Germany. The landscape is littered with the broken, rusted remains of failed utopias. So whatever we did, and whatever our reasons were, it did work... not for a while, but for many generations. Not as long as Rome, certainly, or the Chinese Empire, but long enough by modern standards, when all historical processes seem to operate in fast forward. Nikita Khrushchev promised that the Soviets would “bury” us – i.e. that the day would come when we would fall and they would remain standing. Well, it didn't work out quite that way, and I suppose that the survivability of any modern system is a direct function of the degree to which it's totalitarian – i.e., the more totalitarian the lower the life expectancy. (Extreme cases like Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, or Afghanistan under the Taliban, certainly add to the accumulated evidence, even if they are not conclusive.) Of course, the standard liberal argument is that the Soviet system would have held on longer “if only we'd given it a chance”. Yeah, right. The fact is, we did give it a chance – all the way from the Russian Revolution up to the early 1950s. No, their destruction was of their own making, and the fatal flaws in their system were much more fatal – more virulent – than the fatal flaws in ours have proven to be. But fatal they are, nonetheless... and I don't think the process could have been altered, turned back, or reversed by any trivial machinations of political parties, or even by charismatic leaders. It is, in that sense, an inexorable part of the repeated cycles of history – of human fallibility and concupiscence being projected onto the political system. No political system can alter or “fix” human nature, as the Soviets found out; all a political system can do is provide us with more or less protection against each other – i.e. against human nature in all of its less-desirable aspects. A system that brings out the worst in people – again, as all totalitarian systems have done – is, it seems to me, less desirable than one that serves to ameliorate things and lessen the pain... and our system, to give credit where credit is due, succeeded in that better than most others. And yet, eventually human nature will catch up with political programs, and we see evidence for this each day. The politicians of old might have been gentleman farmers who spent a season in office, then returned to their real occupations... whereas today, we have the spectacle of politicians who know no other way of life, and would, in fact, be incompetent in any other. If “those who can't do, teach” (a bit cynical even for me), then those who can't earn an honest living go into politics. Well, it's not hard to imagine the eroding effect this is going to have in the long run – and it's not at all hard to see it in action in our time. Romney is, in this sense, a throwback, since he has had considerable success on the “outside” -- in the (so-called) free market... whereas Obama was, apparently, born with a campaign button in his mouth, as was Clinton and so many others. What can we expect, then, from lifetime politicians other than more politics? And if politics has become totally corrupt, as I believe it has, then what can we expect other than more corruption, and the moral and spiritual decay that goes along with it?

So, one might ask, what is to be done? Put up with it? Accept that we are living in a fading, failing empire which will eventually be overrun by – who knows? Hispanic hordes from south of the border? The Chinese? I mean, who is in the batter's box now, even as we strike out? Who will inherit our mantle as “the” superpower? Or will it be more a matter of warring states, with no one totally dominating, far into the future? Or – is the age of nations, and nationhood, coming to a close, to be followed by an age of financial powers that have no use for borders, race, ethnicity, language, or any of the other traditional sources of cohesiveness, pride, and self-esteem? But won't that system be just as contrary to human nature as the communist systems were, and thus lead to the same result? I fear that we will not see the answer in our time. All we can see, and that vaguely, are trends – and they do not look at all promising. It seems we are regressing to a new dark age, “where ignorant armies clash by night”, and all is overseen by evil men in dark, brooding castles. If so, our only hope is in the human spirit – not flawed human nature in its entirety, but that faint glimmer of hope that was placed in all of us by an unseen hand.

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