The most disconcerting aspect of the 2004 Election is the comatose electorate, including both GOPs and Dems. (There are a few Greens including of course Ralph Nader who do see what has been going on—but not many). Most Americans simply don’t realize how systemically divided our country has become. Of course there have been inklings from the beginning; the nefarious two thirds of person rule in the Constitution that guaranteed that slave states would have many seats in Congress with no slaves citizens: But up till recently we had been closing the gap between the Reality of limited justice for all and the Ideal of fair and equal justice no strings attached.
Take the twin careers of former Polish peasant Martha Stewart, self made millionaire and George W. Bush, legacy pseudo success: Martha now sits in prison for one indiscreet phone call, proving that uppity feminists are not above and beyond the call of a twisted justice system.
Then take George W. Bush. Unpunished drunk driver. AWOL even from the Houston Champagne Squadron. So he could get a jump start on real Vietnam Vets at the Harvard Business School where one of his teachers reports that this widely proclaimed Compassionate Conservative Christian found Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” “corny”: Some compassion: Some Christianity: Then this serial bankrupt did what is considered the Worst Sin of Capitalism. He dumped his Harken stock, betraying his stockholders by insider trading. The SEC rather lethargically called him on it but never punished him, even when he was long overdue on his reporting this felony. This grubby little stake was what gave him astonishing access to the Texas Rangers. And little wonder he became a born again Christian: By some as yet unexplained “miracle” his tiny stolen grub stake in the Rangers made him a millionaire Crawford TX rancher, who loves to clear his brush. Nice non-work if you can get it. But Martha can’t, in her West Virginia work camp.
And because he’s an archetypical Rubber Stamp, mega-felon Kenneth Lay financed his rise to the Governorship of Texas, where he did whatever the business community wanted while pretending to be a religiously driven populist: LEAVE NO CHILD BEHIND; just neglect to finance the fatuous words. The TX test results are beginning to trickle in: Fraudulent populism. What would you expect from a man who brags he never reads newspapers and whose favorite philosopher is Jesus, and who smirks in a Yale address that “C” students have a bright future: LEAVE NO IGNORAMUS PREZ BEHIND. Kenny Boy is not in jail. But Martha is.
And what are we to believe about His Hammer, Tom DeLay, whom the House Ethics Committee “admonished” for egregious breaching of their rules. DeLay’s major success in the last Congress was to gerrymander a dozen or so new uncontestable GOP seats by a curious redistricting that left Texas geographers and demographers scratching their empty heads and complacent hearts. It’s time to retire the term gerrymander. Nowadays, districts are DeLayed. And elections are not won or last in Florida. They’re Jebbed: Jim Baker, Tony Soprano Scalia, and Dick Cheney go duck hunting and the Republic teeters off in another secret direction.
And consider the new-fangled Florida Poll Tax: It consists in sending State Police in civies (but sporting very obvious weapons) into neighborhoods where octogenarian blacks have fought for their voting rights for generations. To look for cheating: So tax-paid Pol-iceman intimidate old people for GOP majorities. That President Bush has not indicted those state police is a scandal: Martha reads about these crimes in her West Virginia work camp, but does nothing.
And consider how the media simply don’t get it. We were recently treated to a Beatification Ritual in which the future Saint Ronald was praised for single handedly destroying Communism (even though the CIA reports he never read said the Soviets were self-destructing from internal contradictions). The union-busting, Star-War fantasizing non-thinker was actually designing federal deficits to undermine Social Security and Medicare. Bush II dreams the same nightmares from the security of his stolen Texas ranch. The worst mistake President Reagan ever made was to de facto abolish the Fairness Doctrine: this led to the stupider and stupider waste of money on TV tsunamis of lies and counter-lies: Think of how our deteriorating schools could have been saved if these tele-debauch/debacle funds had been used to fix them.
How sad this all is. As a professor of American Literature, I used to tell my students that Am Lit was the greatest unread literature in the history of mankind: And that a people who didn’t read their great writers eventually lost their minds. That I believe is our present condition.
As I flush the slime out of my junk e-mail every morning (The American Dream has been cheapened to Bigger Dicks, Longer Erections, and More Naked Babes to Masturbate to), I wonder how we got so far off track. I think it began in the 1920’s when we made the Auto King—you could rise from Chevvie to Caddie in one easy life if you were lucky. Study? That was for drones: Save for the Future? That was for squares who weren’t with it soon enough. I grew up in Detroit in the 1930’s. So this is in my bones. I paid my way to a Ph. D by working in the automobile factories. I credit my not succumbing to this false life style to my Roman Catholic education, in which the Social Idealism of Pope Benedict XV prevailed.
The 1920’s began the infantilization of America that now threatens US. Tom Friedman has recently Op Edified on the impending disaster of our Sand Box culture: where adolescents who should be studying are frittering away their lives with video games and cell phones. Idiot voters for an idiot president. A Kerry victory will not reverse this degeneration. It will merely slow the speed of deterioration.
Which brings us to Iraq, the greatest threat to us and the world at this moment. Bush moralizing over the war reminds me of William Howard Taft’s banal comments on our then recent subjugation of the Filipinos. Yes, Virginia, America was an imperial power over a century ago. It wasn’t Iraqi oil then. It was coaling stations for our New Navy. He said, with terminal fatuousness as their new Governor General: “We are bringing our little brown brothers the blessings of Christianity”. Alas, for the poor little brown brothers, the Spaniards had done just that—three hundred years before.
So our Iraqi misadventure is not something new under the American sun. We’ve been there many times, done that something or another just as foolish many times before: It’s just that our minds, totally absorbed in sports statistics, have no space for the spaces beyond our Leagues, Little as well as Big. The Greek word “idiot” means someone who is locked into himself so completely he can’t communicate with others. Sound familiar? In those nefarious 1920’s we started to create the Celebrity Culture that has made idiots of us all. Movie stars, sports heroes, fashion queens. False lives. Not our own. And voting once every four years doesn’t make for a functioning democracy. Our bad habits have caught up with us.
When the Cheney cabal tells George to go to war in Iraq because they see down the road we will collapse as an industrial nation unless we control that oil, George repeats Condi’s clichés. Except the Saudi hijackers flew into the WTC and the Pentagon because they couldn’t beat us any other way, lacking equivalent armament. Just as the Palestinians use human martyrs because they don’t have the four billions of armament we give the Israelis every year to “defend” themselves. We’ve told ourselves these lies for so long we no longer can think straight.
Bush, in his AW SHUCKS simplemindedness, buys the myth that the End Days are coming. And we send thousands of poor young people (the rich stay home, as always, in Champagne Squadrons whenever possible) to protect Halliburton’s profits, using God talk to ease the pain of those who really suffer—and die.
It’s a mug’s game, as we are beginning to see—in these Two Americas, where black, brown, and poor white go straight to Death Row, while our least favorite Felon, the First Felon, executed more DNA denied prisoners than any other governor in Texas history. It’s called compassionate conservatism, or Rove Raving, or shrewd electoral politics.
I call it what it really is--the cynical and complete corruption of the American Dream, of justice fair and square, for all. And that includes Donald Rumsfeld for his interrogation procedures, Kenneth Lay for his extortions, and George W. Bush for his unpunished felonies, including imaginary WMDs. At the very least, the First Felon should give a presidential pardon for Martha Stewart—so she can go to John Kerry’s Inauguration. It’s only fair. With liberty and justice for all.