Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year, America, And Good Night

Happy New Year, America, And Good Night

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies . . . If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] . . . will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered .”
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1809

“I Want My Country Back."
--oft-seen sign at tea party rallies

This is the time when people think back on the previous year and look ahead to the next, filled with hope and dreams for how much better things might be: I’ll get that gym membership, I’ll really work toward that promotion, find a new place to live, quit drinking so much.

America is nothing if not hopeful.

But I can’t help but feel a brooding suspicion of late that the American Dream is actually over, and perhaps has been for some time. Maybe we’re just too caught up in the minutiae of everyday life and lilliputian political battles fought by tiny men to realize it.

I can’t help but think that America is dead.

The tea-baggers had it right all along--they just had the wrong target. If only they had a rational fear of green instead of an irrational fear of black, they might have gone down in history as a prescient group trying in vain to head off a very real threat to America, instead of merely the latest iteration of the Proudly Racist Dumbophile party that crawls out from under a (presumably white) rock every few decades. And of course, it didn’t help their messaging that, like everything else in this country, they were co-opted by people with money who saw a chance to make more money.

But they were right when they said fascism is coming to a country near you--only it’s not Obama who will finally kill America, it’s big money. Government is partly to blame, to be sure, but only in terms of its increasingly craven efforts to enable big money to finally complete the dismantling of America.

Game over, folks. They’ve won.

This is neither epitaph nor call to arms, though I hope it can be a bit of both.

Truth be told though, I’m leaning more towards epitaph. As far as any potential call to arms goes, I’m not even sure there’s anything to be done.

Besides, who would you call? What weapons of rhetoric might said heroes employ? Might you elect some fighter to speak truth to power, one who could somehow remain above the monetary fray that is modern American elections? Who could possibly remain untainted by the nakedly self-serving lure of lucre that politics has become, and still get elected in the face of the tidal wave of corporate campaign cash that washes over every political race these days?

Even if you found such a fighter, I’m not sure there are any actual fights remaining. Most of the screaming these days has the hollow feel of a dumbshow or the harmless chest-pounding of pro wrestling.

Sure, the rubes think it’s real, but the people doing the pushing and shoving are all in on the act.

Picture a cage match featuring George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Broder and Keith Olbermann in wrestling tights and share my horror.

Today’s mock-battles of the pundit-titans merely front for the vestigial left and right, battles fought on the ground by people who don’t realize the war is over. Like ancient Japanese soldiers holed up in caves long after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they fight Quixotic, delusional wars, these remnants of sad, old, dead battles of blue and red, none of which really matter anymore.

In the face of the violence that has been done to the Republic in recent years--which is of course merely the capstone, the culmination of the long-view, oft-stated intention of money to separate democracy from the demos--any argument between the old left and right now smacks of a futile, rear-guard action, the useless gestures of a corpse that doesn’t yet realize it is dead.

Things like ending DADT, or extending unemployment benefits or keeping tiny tax cuts for the middle class--all of these seem like little more than the twitching of a finger or toe as the nerve endings die.

Political rhetoric today is the sound of gas escaping the cold body politic.

For all intents and purposes, America is dead.


Once there was a time when, even if we all knew that politicians had ulterior motives--that they were serving their own needs, as well as those of the people, as well as those of business--even so there could still at least be an honest conversation about how best to allocate resources and how to most fairly serve those various needs.

That time is past now. The greedheads have won. There will be, there can be no more honest political conversations, not among those whose opinions matter, anyway.

The dream is over. The American one, as well as the more general dream of small-d democracy.

If that sounds portentous or as though I am overstating the case, ask yourself this: from whence might the winds of change blow? In the face of the utter failure of the Obama Administration to grasp, much less rectify the danger of the gaping disparity between the power of the haves versus that of the have-nots, what party or individual might be able to gain enough traction to roll back the rules in a such way as to curtail the power of money? Someone with more money?

We began to see the end of fairness and real democracy--the bare lies shining through, as William Burroughs put it--when both Bush and Obama signed off on TARP funding for the biggest banks with no strings attached, and which paid high-rolling banks 100 cents on the dollar from taxpayer funds for losses that were, after all, the banks’ losses, not ours. We could also see it in the continuation of two poorly thought-out (but profitable to some) wars. We saw it in the giveaways to drug companies and insurers in healthcare “reform” that reforms nothing, that simply forces millions more customers to sign on to be dealt with unfairly by greedy insurers playing the same bottom-line games they always have.

But the real nail in the coffin, the ultimate betrayal and final death knell for democracy and surrender to the needs of big money over all else can be seen through the prism of three recent events: the capitulation on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the Obama FCC killing net neutrality by signing off on rules written by the big telecoms, and the drumming up of calls for “austerity” in the form of dismantling Social Security.

These events signal the fruition of the wet dreams of Republicans, yes. But more importantly, they are the dreams of the Republicans’ financial overlords.

Think about that for a moment. We are used to Republicans cheering for big money; that’s sort of how it’s always been, perhaps how it was always meant to be. And that was okay--the push and pull between business as represented by Republicans, and the people as represented by Democrats has always been a conversation we as a nation needed to have.

But when the Democrats side with Republicans and thus big money, and flee (fleece?) the people, heading for literally greener pastures, where does that leave the people?

Out in the cold. When the Democrats as well as the Republicans demonstrate over and over that the only voices worth listening to are those with money, then truly America can no longer exist as it was intended, not in any real sense.

When we are told that we must all tighten our belts in order to “save” Social Security from a pernicious, apocalyptic debt that doesn’t apply to it at all, even while taxpayer bailouts rocket bank and financial institution profits to record highs, even while we add nearly a trillion dollars to that debt to further line the fat wallets of the very, very wealthy; when we are told that the flow of the freest, most democratic form of information ever in history is now to be sold to the highest bidder in order to...ensure net neutrality somehow, then the politicians aren’t even pretending to believe their own lies anymore.

If they could at least come out and say, “Our constituents--the only ones we care about, anyway--are rich. And they want more money. And because they hate and fear the poor, they want the poor to have even less power and security because it is easier to exploit them that way.”

At least then we could respect their position as an honest one.

The dreams of the forefathers in their more benevolent moments, to have a democratically elected government that serves at the pleasure of the people it governs, and does the bidding of the people it governs, and is in fact made up of the people it governs, is over. The oligarchs have largely locked out anyone not of their tribe, or who isn’t willing to spread his legs and bend over in order to join them. The Citizens United ruling saw to the last vestiges of honestly-fought elections, although the writing has been on the wall on that front for a very long time. No longer do politicians even feel it necessary to hold up a fig leaf and pretend to be fighting for the people.

Take for example Tea Party darling Rand Paul, and his hilarious whiplash turn from anti-earmark crusader to playing team ball within a week of being elected (from the WSJ):
In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, [Paul] tells me that they are a bad "symbol" of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky's share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it's doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in, in the dead of night. ‘I will advocate for Kentucky's interests,’ he says.
Of course, his was merely the most ham-handed turnabout. And truth be told, he’d be a fool to do otherwise; the era of the rule of corporations has been heralded.

Get on the boat if you can find a seat, and more power to you, literally, if you find yourself in a luxury cabin on the upper decks like Mr. Paul the younger has. Even if the Titanic is sinking--and they all know it is--at least the view will be better up there. Certainly better than down in steerage, or already floating face-down in the icy water where most of us find ourselves.

And barring catastrophe on a global scale, this is not a dynasty that can be overthrown. This is not a dynasty that might one day lose a war against another faction, or be usurped by another family, or breed itself out of power. The faces in charge may change, but the corporate dynasty is not one that will ever or even can ever see some new power take away its throne, not as long as the current iteration of society and culture hold sway. The corporate dynasty is an immortal one, immortal in ways the ancient Egyptians could only dream of, and wielding power the ancients could not even fathom.


Now, understand, I am no naïf. I am not a wide-eyed ‘anarchist’ kid impressing freshman girls by holding court at the local coffee shop, stroking my very first neck-beard, fresh out of my poli-sci class, dreaming dreams of Jeffersonian sugarplum fairies and power to the people and change we can believe in.

No. I am downright cynical when it comes to government as well as people. I have been voting long enough to cast votes against Bushes in three different national elections. I lived through the triangle-shaped disappointment of Clinton’s second term.

Trust me, it would take a lot more than a sip of Obama Kool-Aid to get me drunk on Hope.

So, to see the things I have been seeing even through the prism of my jaded eyes and still, still be shocked and demoralized--well. Let’s just say I’ve read my Howard Zinn, and I’ve read my Noam Chomsky, and even knowing all that I know about realpolitik, I am nonetheless horrified to the point of despair.

I despair for my countrymen, and I despair for my country.

And I see current trends leading us inexorably down a path towards a fascist corporate state further grinding away at the rights and powers meant for the people, turning them instead to service the needs of the corporate state itself.

We are already seeing more blatant examples of the state as an arm of corporate power enforcement. BofA’s fear of the next Wikileaks revelation and using, apparently, the government to shut down servers that might post embarrassing documents which may or may not outline illegal activities should strike fear in the heart of anyone who ever contemplated dissent.

We can also see examples of the state ratcheting up ‘security’ measures that are largely useless in terms of keeping us safe, but which are quite effective in terms of keeping the populace in a constant state of fear and control. The Patriot Act and the constant drumbeat that ‘we must be on the alert for terrorists’ have long since washed away much of our Fourth Amendment rights to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches.

[Sidebar: keep in mind that the idea, the whole point of terrorism is to terrorize, to terrify, to strike fear in people. You’ve seen the pictures--do you think people, law-abiding American citizens are afraid when they approach the security lines at the airport? So who’s the terrorist here? Just sayin’...]

Also, this president has stated that his administration continues with the Bush/Cheney policy that the president can order the execution of Americans as well as foreign nationals without due process, and can imprison people charged with no crime indefinitely.

So where is all this leading? When Empire arrogates more power unto itself, it never gives it back willingly.


Not even when the threat is lowered, because the threat will never be lowered, at least not quite enough.

The terror threat will always be orange.

We have always been at war with Eastasia.

We will always be at war with Eurasia.

And in our current straits, the confluence of corporate and state power has never in history been more acute, nor has it had more control over every aspect of the lives of the people through media propaganda, and through a trillion-dollar nationwide network of ‘security’ systems, and through a cowed, ignorant, and meek populace, easily distracted by shiny things and completely unaware of what’s being done not only to them right here and now, but also what’s being done to the future, and to anyone unlucky enough to be born into it.

All of these steps--ratcheting up of ‘security’ controls, curtailing information, institutionalizing corporate control--if one were prone to a paranoid view, these could be taken as a well-orchestrated plan.

I’m not quite willing to suggest that there is a cabal that foresaw and contrived to put America in this position.

But I will say this: I’m not the only person who has seen where all of these factors taken together might lead. And while you or I might not like where things are going in some vague, restless sense, there are those who salivate at the specifics of what this dread future might mean in terms of their own power and wealth.

But here is my little ray of hope, my grim trickle of cold winter sunshine: to participate in a lie is to perpetuate that lie. It is to legitimize the lie. We know the game is rigged--why should we pretend otherwise? Why should we continue to play along?

If everyone refuses to play the game, then logically, the game must end.

Quoth REM, ‘To withdraw in disgust is not the same as apathy.’

Even if this attitude means nothing in terms of the big picture, in terms of actually stopping the slide, at least it can make me feel as though I am not completely powerless. It takes away my despair, if nothing else, and it puts me in more of an argumentative, stubborn, combative mode.

For what it’s worth.

So Happy New Year, America, and good night, good night, my love.

Sleep now. It’s almost over.

You’ve had a great run. I will miss you, and believe me, many, many more people will come to miss you too, as they realize you’re gone, and that you’ve been gone for some time. I wish we could have done more. But in the face of so many small-minded, greedy men and women willing to pimp you out for nothing, for crumbs from the table of the wealthy, there was only so long we could hold them back.

Sadly, many of those betrayers were the very same people who benefited most from your largesse.

But we share their guilt.

They were disgustingly eager and willing to turn around and tear at your still-living body. But we stood by and watched in helpless horror as they stuffed great gobbets of your steaming flesh into their slavering mouths. We watched while they crawled over your body like huge, fat insects, fucking you in the various gashes they themselves had inflicted upon you, injecting your wounds with their vile, poisonous eggs, raping you in a thousand bloody ways. We stood by and watched even as you wept silently and jerked and quivered and bled as they tore at you, even as you tolerated their foul attentions.

On your behalf, I offer a solemn “fuck you” to the men and women who killed you, America.

To those men and women I offer more of the words of William Burroughs:

“Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.”

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