Now, This Is War: A Refrain, In Thomas Carlyle Fashion, by the so-called 'Dumbed-down Left'
(Was "America, The Hopeless") -- by Michael Rectenwald
This essay was originally intended to recount how a nation going wrong under Bush and the Republicans is now going to get worse. The story was already turning into a tired litany, a prayer for deliverance, a desert psalm, repeated ad nauseum. It goes something like this: 'Americans were handed a Republican president that stole his office. With a spineless "opposition," he proceeded to run roughshod over the will of the majority, to revoke protections for workers, to throw away international treaties for environmental protection and against war criminals, to endanger us by us his neglect for security, to destroy our once thriving economy, to run up a 6 trillion dollar federal deficit to pay tax cuts to the wealthy (after being handed surpluses), to wreck our international relations by inane and bellicose one-sided 'ugly Americanism,' to rant and rave and now probably to enact an unprovoked assault on an essentially defenseless sovereign nation in order to remove its leader and take its oil.' (I will not provide the linked resources so often wrought for the Internet reader, whose next thought is only one click away. The assiduous political savant will already know all of this, and the rest will either deny it, or not care).
I was going to detail how Americans, "knowing" all of this, or at least having such information available, returned more of his kind, more boorish, hawkish, and revolting Republicans, beholden to the pugilistic dictator's "vision" of the world. Over the pathetically enervated and nearly ineffable or wholly unarticulated "alternative" view posed by the Democrats, American political consumers, seeing nothing "new" (newness being the sine qua non of consumerism), like well-conditioned shoppers at an "end-aisle" grocery store display, returned to the Senate and the House more of Bush's kind--bought and paid for by big money, cookie cut in ideological sameness, like parts turned out of a war parts factory.
Given the obvious fact that the Republican agenda is antithetical to the interests of any majority, in the US or the world at large, one might conclude, with some Europeans, that Americans are either suicidal, mentally retarded, or both. But this is not the case; Europeans cannot imagine the extent to which the American media has, especially since the repeal of the Fairness in Broadcasting Act (circa 1986), been overrun by corporate interests allied to the Republican agenda. Nor do Europeans, with a strong leftist tradition, understand the failure of the US political system to develop any substantial opposition party to forcefully and clearly articulate a political vision other than the one foisted by said corporate media. The articulation of an alternative is left to the castigated voices of the Internet, like those of the CLG. If the people are "dumbed down," it is only because they suffer from paucity of real political education and analysis. Dumbing down is more the fault of such people as New York Times writer, Nicholas Kristof, than any fault of the Internet activists, or the people in general.
But I am feeling far too hopeless about this nation (and by implication, the world) to write "America, the Hopeless." "America, the Hopeless" is supposedly an oxymoron anyway. One doesn't juxtapose those two words. To do so is heresy. It violates one word with another, and vice versa. It violates the American standard of saying nice, bright and dreamy things in connection with the name, "America." America has become synonymous, in popular parlance at least, with hope itself. To say otherwise is tantamount to treason and goes against the grain of American mythology. And, as almost everyone knows, when you do that, you run the risk of being killed. Furthermore, to do so is to actually cry out against hopelessness, and I don't want to do that, not now. No, I need to luxuriate in the pathetic condition of our national socio-politics. I need to see the condition of the American socio-political body without recourse to or even mention of the word "hope." "Hope" gives us an illusory escape, even when the suffix "less" is appended to it. I need to write without any involvement of "hope." I need to bemoan without hope about how we will face a far worse crisis now, both domestically and internationally. We will have more deficits, a worsening economy, more lost jobs, more reactionary repression, more expensive wars for the oxymoronic "Pax Americana"-peace with Empire, perhaps more terrorism, and definitely a continued erosion of personal "rights," whatever they were.
But America is not hopeless. In fact, as those who are now cashing in on the sound of jingoistic bells (their version of Christmas "jingle bells") will tell you, things have never been better. They would have you equate their international exploits and domestic sheep-shearing exercises with your personal welfare. And, like a loyal football fan watching your favorite team crushing its "opponents," you might feel better as America the Hopeful goes on a winning streak around the world, knocking out "dictators" hostile to the interests of our dictators. You will cheer, run around hanging yellow ribbons from trees, flying ticker tape when the dictator's forces return home with yet another "win." But, like the football fan, you find yourself empty-handed in the end. The win signifies nothing to you, or worse, exacts "sacrifices," either of your children, your siblings or at least of "domestic programs." This opposition of "domestic" and "war" will relegate the "domestic" to the back burner, to the bottom rung, just as patriarchy has historically relegated women's (supposedly "domestic") work to low status and low pay. You will go empty-handed but full of "pride," as your nation blows up distant buildings for your entertainment and the pockets of the investors who paid big money to produce this multi-trillion dollar sequel to Bush I.
America has an infection. It is bound to spread her domestic infection everywhere she goes, and she intends to go everywhere. This infection has been detailed at great length elsewhere. Basically, it involves a far right turn to authoritarianism--a failure of the Democratic party to oppose it--an abdication by the the "loyal oppositon" of political and moral responsibility for their own and their own government's actions. I have given a partial diagnosis before, and it has been grim. It is now grimmer. The disease has to do with more than "rank partisanship." In fact, it is anything but partisanship that is the problem. (No, the Democrats and the Republicans are not the same! This kind of conflation, rather, is symptomatic of the pathetic lack of perspicuity that is the voter's, and especially the non-voter's, mind. This kind of 'thinking' is the collapse of reason, an utterly imbecilic treason of the mind to the discriminating faculty. This idea is indicative of the disease itself). Party conflation is not the problem; the problem is a lack of strength, a lack of fortitude, a lack of understanding and articulation of interests, a lack of socio-political and philosophical education, in short, a lack of knowledge and sense! Party is not the problem; the problem is actually making a party to make sense. The Democratic leadership, in thrall to the DLC, needs a political education--it just got a spanking. Let's see if it learns anything by it. But as it is, there is no substantial organized, party opposition to what is now a dictatorship in earnest. (I won't point out how many times Bush has confessed his desire to have a dictatorship, with him as the dictator. Look it up yourself, if you don't know. I'm tired. As Allen Ginsberg once wrote, "America, I've given you everything, and now I'm nothin'").
This lack of sense has meant that very little light reaches the American "soul," for lack of a better word. This is the fault of its teachers--or the forfeiting of political "education" to the corporate media. The corporal debilitation of the corporate mediated American mind has resulted a disease of reason. Rightwing rhetoric has shut down the mind. Even academics are intimidated. Not only is America addicted to stupefaction, it is a sick consumer, spreading germs as it shops; it buys only according to packaging, according to length on the shelf, according to the dictates of marketers and advertisers, all corporate concerns. That is, if it isn't heard on one of the corporate media outlets, it can't be true. Corporate consumer mediation has infected the soul, down to the marrow. Americans are hooked on advertising phrases. There wasn't a "Republican gale" blowing last night, there was an "Idiot Wind." There is no wonder that America chooses the agenda of an "Idiot Usurping Lying Weasel" (the phrase is from Lori Price, CLG and was cited in an Op-Ed in yesterday's New York Times) even after this weasel stole its position, stole its money, and now proceeds to steal its world.
I would have thought myself the last person to deny consumers their goods, and I don't mean to. I mean to point out that the lack of discrimination between the marketing of supposedly benign, inert objects, cannot be accepted in connection with "leaders." America will either develop critical faculties, or it will die.
America is sick with the same kind of obeisance to authority and blindness to reality that once plagued Germany. It is sick with atrophied perceptive faculties, a disease of the moral "eye"-as such it is myopic, absurdly so. There is no stopping them now, thanks to a moral, political and spiritual disease plaguing America. If this diagnosis is grim and my prognosis even grimmer, I can only be happier when the future proves me wrong. I am not holding my breath.