Oh Fa Chrissake...
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter", he answered,
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
- Stephen Crane, 'In the Desert'
If you boil DU (especially GD) down to its core essence, I believe you'd wind up with that lone syllable...and of course, doing so will leave you fully screwed for life, because you’ll start asking "Why?", too, which is the most dangerous, maddening, dispiriting, absolutely essential question there is...especially if you come up with an answer, because that will only lead to more questions, and yeah, that's your ass.
"Why?" is this awful little universe with a black hole at the core, bursting with the dark matter that is everything you don't know yet, what you suspect, what you dread, what you imagine, and whatever it was that got you asking "Why?" to begin with. "Why?" is three letters and a lifetime long, the most contagious DU affliction, and the one thing we all truly have in common with one another.
Why are we in Iraq?
Why would we make war on Iran?
Why does the majority in Congress allow its own subpoenas to be ignored?
Why is our Constitutional panic-button "off the table"?
Why are so many 'powerful' people so lacking in basic shame that they will literally say anything, no matter how gruesomely false or dangerous, if it helps them look good on TV?
Why do the Democrats go along with so much of the horrific Bush/Cheney program?
Why did they vote in favor of eviscerating FISA oversight?
And the Military Commissions Act?
And the Patriot Act?
And the Homeland Security Act?
Why? Why? WHY?
I. Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 1886: SCOTUS ruling granting 14th amendment rights to corporations, one decision among many, and corporate personhood is now settled law. These entities, with this decision, have the same rights as us.
II. WWII and FDR: Roosevelt rewired the American economy by fiat, changing its nature into a wartime machine that eventually manufactured two regimes into defeat. A few companies became astonishingly rich from government production contracts, and enjoyed newfound power and influence.
III. The Truman Doctrine, 1946: Kennan's Long Telegram from Moscow, warning of the threat posed by Stalin, became the basis for the Cold War policy to "contain" the USSR. The most fateful policy of the containment-based Truman Doctrine was the decision to make permanent the wartime economic footing set up by FDR to fight WWII. From then on, right up to this day, a significant foundation of our economy was the preparation for and fighting of wars. The defense contractors who got rich in WWII became wealthy beyond imagination, and their influence grew even more.
Milestone: By 1960, the private apparatus of war production was a kingdom unto itself. The loop of self-justification was set, and it became a frictionless machine that devoured tax dollars and turned out weapons to make sure we always needed weapons and would keep paying those tax dollars to get them.
And here was Eisenhower, saying farewell in 1960...with a speech that seems so radical today, an oration unlike any uttered by an American president...and one no president would dare give today. Everyone knows the big quote from that speech, but it is so very worthwhile to read the entire passage that warned of a new and dangerous power:
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea. Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
He warned us, and he was right, and all he said has come to pass.
IV. Vietnam: 25 years of warfare further enriches that military industrial kingdom. That was their profit-taking time. Perspective: most Americans view Vietnam as a lamentable, error, a fool’s errand, a total disaster, a crime, or some permutation thereof. The Defense industry folks and their stockholders, however, see Vietnam as an unqualified success. 25 years of spending on their products? It was Christmas every day for a quarter-century.
V. Buckley v. Valeo, 1976: SCOTUS ruling that said money was the same as free speech, and the legalized bribery and wholesale purchase of politicians was upon us.
Lay it all together.
Corporations with human rights, enriched by war and the permanent establishment of the wartime economy, positively cash-glutted after 25 years of war in Vietnam, and legally able after ‘76 to buy and control the entire government. These are the super-citizens, who have all the rights you have, but have ten million times more power to press those rights. And they bought it all, bought the news and the information, bought the radio and the newspapers and the book publishers, and when they couldn't buy any more they had their pet politicians pass more deregulations, and they went on buying. Above it all, however, is the ingrained economic necessity for warfare and strife.
It comes down to this.
Any politician of either party who reaches national stature has, at some point before, signed on the dotted line agreeing to support and maintain this situation. The Democrats do this just as the Republicans do. Every president since Truman has done this. On this all-important point, there is truly no difference between the parties.
One reason for this display of unswerving bipartisanship is straightforward: if this whole charade was stopped cold today, the American economy would shatter like a crystal goblet dropped upon flagstones before sunrise tomorrow. The world would melt down, period. One might argue “Good, needs to happen,” and be eloquent in that argument, but no pol in DC is going to make it happen.
This economy needs warfare, and will collapse without it. Both parties know this well enough, and so both parties work to keep the carousel whirling. Why did the vote for the IWR? Why do they seem listless about thwarting an Iran attack? Because the economy requires it.
Why? There it is.
But here’s the oddest part, at least for me. All of that is depressing and disgusting and daunting to six hundred decimals, right? I think so. But when I finally accepted the truth of the deal, I mean accepted it down in my bones, I became filled with this sense of inner calm and peace; I could actually sleep at night and function without constantly having my needle in the red zone. I still have it, that sense of calm. It was one of the most important realizations of my life: happiness is fleeting, but real clarity lasts forever. I have some of that clarity now, I see what the deal is, and though it is gruesome and terrifying to behold, at least it isn’t some big damned mystery anymore.
That clarity makers dealing with these Democrats so much easier. If the field guide says the bear is going to shit in the woods, and I see a brown bear pinch a loaf underneath an oak tree, I’m not going to be surprised. The Dems will do what the current system requires, and that won’t change anytime soon, and it no longer staggers me. The bear’s gonna shit in the woods, it says so right here in the guide, so…
Has it always been like this? Are there no heroes or role models in national politics? Meh…well, that all depends on what one requires from a hero. Take Bobby Kennedy, for example. A great hero of mine, a family hero, someone who passed through astonishing agony and found new wisdom, deep passions and genuine empathy on the other side.
That’s Bobby swapping Commie-hunting stories with Joe McCarthy.
Yes, that Joe McCarthy.
From PBS: “In the 1950s, Robert Kennedy, like most Americans, despised communism. At the time, the Soviet Union was "Enemy #1." But RFK honed his anti-communism working side-by-side with the nation's leading red-baiter, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. A Kennedy family friend, McCarthy vacationed with the clan on Cape Cod, and even dated two Kennedy sisters, Pat and Jean. When Bobby needed a job in 1952, after working on his brother Jack's successful Senate campaign, his father Joe Kennedy picked up the phone. By January, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations had a new lawyer.”
PBS continued: “He would last barely six months, done in by a rivalry with McCarthy's chief deputy, Roy Cohn, as well as disenchantment with their overzealous style. But the months with McCarthy would follow Kennedy for the rest of his life, helping define the "Bad Bobby" that many liberals could never quite forget. Though Kennedy had long since moved on, he found McCarthy's death in 1957 "very upsetting." In historian Ronald Steel's words, "for him the errant senator was a kindred spirit -- one engaged, as he was himself, in the struggle against evil."”
Imagine if DU had been around back then? Oh, the thrashing Bobby would have taken in GD, complete with “If Bobby is nominated, I won’t vote!” ultimatums and all the rest of it…deservedly so, I might add. Power politics is a dirty business to get involved in, or even close to, especially if you’re stupid enough to actually care about more than paying back your donors and keeping your seat. We’re pretty stupid, I guess…thank God…but we’re also smart enough, hopefully, to know that all of them are dirty, all of them signed on the line that is dotted, and scourging away their dirt is our purpose in this, so we have to be our own heroes if we are ever to prevail.
I don’t care all that much about who the Dems nominate next year, because all of them are beholden to the same system. Yes, even Dennis…and if he wins and then attempts to take the system down, the system and its profiteers will fight back (asymmetrically, in fact, through the constant eruption of foreign wars instigated 20 years ago by US policies and/or Cold War gamesmanship), and he will probably fail in the end…or he will succeed and thus obliterate this paradigm, ushering in an era of anarchy and war that’ll make the Dark Ages seem quaint by comparison. Probably, however, if he wins…he’ll get a briefing on what the really real deal actually is, and he won’t be any more willing to stop the music than the others. Even Dennis.
And there is no doubt that the GOP is a genuine threat to national security and global…well…everything, I guess. The Dems may be playing the same fiddle regarding our warfare economy as the GOP, but there are enough genuine and important differences between them to merit my undivided attention. Enforced fundamentalist religion? Annihilated cities? Executive supremacy and Constitutional butchery? Choice? Stem cell research? Using NSA against the populace?
The list goes on…and yes, the Dems truly have aided and abetted a lot of that…but I do not believe they’d have done anything like that had Gore been allowed to move into his House. Joe Lieberman might have tried, but that’s it…but there is juuuust enough moral difference between those who enable such policies and those who actively pursue them, juuust enough to allow me to maintain that patience…
…and if I happen to throw up into my own soul every so often, well, that’s when I get to flex my coping skills…and that’s also when I remind myself that the bear’s gonna shit in the woods, just like the field guide said, so never mind being surprised by anything. There’s not enough hours in the day to indulge in feeling appalled by some totally predictable turn of events. The bear’s gonna poop. That’s how it is…for now.
My job is to get these rubes elected, again and again and again, and to be patient. Every time we increase our majority, we will increase our ability to pass good laws and appoint good judges…which will slowly bring the country back from the far-right mentality that has dominated for years…which will make it possible and then probable to elect better Dems, and better Dems again. It’ll take 10-15 years just to get the national head out of the national ass, which is precisely where the GOP has been shoving it since ’81, but that’s cool, because I’m patient. Like a stone.
I don’t matter. The idea that is, was and can again be America is all that matters. I’m not supposed to be happy, or pleased, or self-satisfied, or anything other than quietly and patiently horrified. My job is to cope, to work each day on this, and to play for the long term…ten elections minimum, and maybe there’ll be a bit of progress.
The question: Why?
Because we “need” war, period, and have for more than 60 years.
When will that change?
That depends on us, our patience, and our strong stomachs.
It won’t change tomorrow, or after the next election. No candidate of this moment will change it in any measurable sense. But it can be done. It must be done. We are Americans, children of a crazy dream, always striving to make that more perfect union, so that we will be a little more free tomorrow than we were yesterday.
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