November 08, 2008

America's Bush-Induced PTSD

Naturally, all of us here "progressives" (who may eventually summon the courage to call ourselves "liberals" again) are having a hard time believing that anything really good can come out of the election of Barack Obama as President.  I hear and read about it everywhere, this reluctance of good-hearted folk to take yes for an answer.  We're suspicious, wary, maybe slightly paranoid.  We startle at sudden noises.  It's difficult to sleep, we have intrusive hallucinations in which we wake up and discover we're still being ruled by an inarticulate little despot from the West Texas District of Connecticut. 

Okay, that last part is not a hallucination.  Bush is actually the reason for our national Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The Chief Dude, with his snarling sidekick Dick "The Dick" Cheney, absolutely trashed the United States. They hammered away at our self esteeem and patriotic pride.  They destroyed the world's finest legal system, left the economy a shambles, made the USA a feared and despised nation.  Certain tasteless jokes are circulating that with this big of a mess, naturally we'd hire a black man to act as janitor.  We are loath to trust The System to make any fundamental changes.  We'll keep both wars going, we'll maintain our various concentration camps in Guantanamo, Bagram, other black sites.  We'll keep illegally spying on ourselves.  Attorneys general with advanced cases of amnesia will say stuff like habeas corpus is not actually a part of the U.S. Constitution.  Joe Biden will refuse to comply with any Congressional investigations on the basis of a contention that the Office of Vice President is not part of the Executive Branch, nor the Legislative Branch, but is perhaps a wholly-owned subsidiary of JP Morgan Chase.

Well - time will tell, is all I can say.  Is the cruddy, dilapidated, depressed state of the Union the New Normal, from which there is no escape?  Will Barack Obama like all this "Unitary" power which Bush arrogated unto himself with the acquiescence of a prostrate Congress?  

I doubt it.  It's hard for me to imagine, for example, that Barack Obama and Joe Biden would sit down with a cadre of warmongering thugs, like the Neocons, and concoct a pretext for invading a country as a means of ensuring their reelection in 2012.  While Bush has never had any compunction about killing all those American soldiers in the Iraq war, and refusing even to count the Iraqis who have been killed, a war which the editorial page of The New York Times called "pointless" the day after the election, I just don't think Mr. Obama thinks or feels that way.  Imagine the callousness it requires to kill people in a pointless war simply for your own aggrandizement.  It's mind-blowing.  Yet there it is; that's our current President and the way he rolls.  Whether we realize it all the time or not, we've internalized all that, we have had to come to terms with having a President who operates at that debased level.  It creates a dark mood which haunts every aspect of American life, provokes a cognitive dissonance in which we cling to old images of ourselves while trying to reconcile the actual barbaric and uncivilized practices of this Administration.  Torturing human beings, ruining the lives of absolutely innocent men, such as the Chinese Uighurs finally, finally released from Guantanamo Bay after years of completely baseless captivity, simply because Bush & Co. could not be bothered to institute a humane system for reviewing their cases.

No, I do believe things will get much, much better.  We have to understand, at a deep level, that the fundamental problem with George W. Bush was that despite his occasional displays of maundering sentimentality, at his core everything he did was anti-human.  Don't ask me why. Don't ask me why he actively opposed and worked against the interests of the very people who elected him.  But he did.  And his malevolence had a global reach.  He also did everything he could to interfere with any international efforts to ameliorate global warming and ocean acidification.  He tried as hard as he could to fire up the Cold War with Russia into a new conflagration.

I guess the psychoanalysts and the social psychologists would tell us that what we have here is a serious case of co-dependency.  Bush has been enabled every step of the way by the reflexive respect and deference the citizenry shows to the office of the President, never mind the flesh and blood occupant.  So we have accommodated his outrages.  Even now he's spending his last days in office doing everything he can to despoil federal lands by opening up pristine wilderness to mining and exploitation.  Why, you ask?  Because it's who he is.  Because he's the President, we look for excuses for his mania for violating us, abusing us, cynically using the military under his command, but there's really no excuse.

So after such a bad relationship, it will take quite a while for us to trust again.  Gee, maybe this new guy is the well-intentioned, humane, compassionate fella he seems to be.  We guard our feelings however.  We're not sure.  We've been taken for a ride before.

November 07, 2008

Obama Presidency Fails; Anxious Voters Look to 2012 for Salvation

Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show, Ms. Maddow lamented the choice of Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff as a sure sign that Barack Obama had succumbed to Beltway Politics As Usual; thus; there was now no hope of real Change®.  She asked to be "talked down" by a guest commentator (from her hysteria, I guess), and he gamely tried without noticeable effect.  Well, let's face it; it's pretty obvious all is lost, isn't it?

At least we gave Barack a fair shot.  It had been nearly 48 hours since the election was called in his favor, and the pundits, bloviators, bloggers and other members of the Permanent Commentariat had waited a decent interval before pronouncing Barack's presidency dead.  You can't wait forever, after all. And the choice of Rahm Emmanuel, who's the brother of the guy who serves as the model for super-agent Ari Gold on HBO's "Entourage," well, what more can you say?  The Obama Presidency is doomed.  Rahm is "tough."  Some say he's ruthless, a hammer, that he once sent a dead fish to a Republican opponent, in the style of "Godfather I."  Barack's so nice we were all expecting him to appoint someone like Mr. Rogers to the post of Chief of Staff.  

What's the computer IM expression?  Oh yeah: STFU.  Shut The F*** Up.  Not that there is any chance whatsoever of that.  The blogosphere and the 24-hour news cycle of cable television were kicked into permanent high gear by the outrages of the Bush Administration and there's no going back now.  Everyone loves the sound of their own precious opinions too much - hey, I ought to know.  But still:  don't you think it would be a good idea to allow Barry the chance to take the oath of office (which he will actually uphold, by the way), settle into the Oval Office and, like, do the job for a year or so before we summarize his presidency?  

People are writing blogs like mad right now with titles like "What Barack Must Do in His First 15 Seconds in Office."  "Nine Critical Tasks During the Drive from the Inauguration to the White House."  "The 223 Most Important Issues for Michelle Obama to Consider in Assuming Her Role as First Lady."  "Melia & Sasha: What Should Be Their Role in Barack's Foreign Policy?"  "The White House Puppy: Would a Black Dog Be Too In-Our-Face?"  "Barack & Basketball: Should He Post Up Once in a While or Just Keep Firing Away from 3-Point Land?"

Enough already.  Let me just note one thing.  Yesterday I saw some footage of Barack arriving at a meeting, perhaps his first security briefing.  He got out of the back seat of a car, stood for a moment waiting for an aide to join him, and then walked through a door.  He was carrying a briefcase, a kind of soft valise, with the strap over his shoulder.  Get it?  Barack had information with him.  He'd been reading.  Have you ever seen any film of George W. Bush carrying anything, let alone a briefcase?  No, you haven't.  It's W's conception of the CEO Presidency.  He just listens to other people and then makes the call "from his gut."  That gut, at this point, has just about dissolved all of us in its digestive juices.  Someone with an intellect, however, knows that one can never understand the essential nature of an issue without running the details through one's own cerebral cortex, and the very best way to analyze information is through the ingestion of data through the reading process.  Barack Obama knows this and has always done it. It is why he is such a graceful and fluent writer himself.  It is why he was the President of the Harvard Law Review.  It is why he was a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago.

We have elected a deep thinker, a fast learner and a decent, mentally healthy man as President of the United States of America.  Let us sing hosannas from the highest roof tops for now, then stand back and let Barack grow into the job.  He's always grown into everything he ever tried.  He will not disappoint us here.


November 06, 2008

Howdy Doody, New America

I caught Spike Lee on "Morning Joe" the day after the election.  He was in great form.  His funniest take was on the crowd that heard John McCain's sanctimonious, saccharine concession speech in Phoenix, the one in which McQueeg tried to reinvent himself as a decent human being. Spike noted the distinctively "pale" appearance of McCain's rabid followers, the ones who booed when L'il Johnny mentioned Obama by name.  This isn't the America of the 1950s, Spike reminded that crowd, although they "apparently didn't get the memo.  This isn't the America of 'Leave It to Beaver,' 'Father Knows Best,' and 'How-dy Doo-dy.'"

No, indeed.  Spike spent half the preceding day in Obama HQ in Chicago and described the overwhelming energy of the place.  I spent a little time in the Obama HQ in South Florida on Monday, before heading out to a precinct in Mangonia Park on election day, and can attest to the same thing.  McCain field offices nationwide were apparently moribund joints, understaffed, with low morale and poor organization.  Obama staffers got out the vote for a solid two weeks in South Florida during early voting, as they did everywhere else that allowed the procedure.  McCain's people used an old-fashioned 72-hour approach to canvassing and motivation.  They lost the election before November 4 ever arrived.

The truth is the Republicans could have picked a wino up out of any alley in America, put an "R" next to his name, and the alkie would have won at least as many states as McCain did.  If they could dress him up a little, give him McCain's makeup artist, and if the guy had a little flair and charisma, which McCain would never have in a million years, the wino would probably outperform McCain by a mile.  McCain sucked as a candidate.  His running "mate" (and he wanted her to be so much more) does not know that Africa is a continent.  I am not making that up.  That's the person McCain decided to put one sketchy heartbeat away from the Oval Office.  "Country First," huh Johnny?  I could put an artful pun on that word "country" that would be closer to what you had in mind.

I think we've arrived at the point where the Evangelicals have been taken for a ride about as far as they ought to go with the Republicans.  In Europe they have parties (such as in Germany) with names like the "Christian Democratic Union," for example.  Why don't the Evangelicals unite with the Mormons and do the same?  Truth in advertising.  Stop kowtowing to the plutocrats and white supremacists and run on a straight Bible ticket.  Call yourselves the United Evangelicals or something.  Run directly on a platform that contends the Earth is 6,000 years old, that evolution is a myth and that fertilized cell clumps of 50 mitoses or so have souls with a destiny in Heaven or Hell.  Just put it out there and stop horsing around with fakes like McCain.  If you do so, it will probably promote the proliferation of other political parties to the left of the Democrats, like the Greens.  Then some real changes can start in this society instead of politics conducted only through these huge, monolithic dinosaurs we're currently saddled with in this country.

Meanwhile, I'm overjoyed that the unbroken string of pale folk in the White House has been broken.  In our orgy of self-congratulation (such as the anodyne history lessons of Chris Matthews on election night), let us humbly remember that African-Americans have been in this country for nearly 400 years, and that for the first 250 years they were owned by whites and worked for nothing.  America's early wealth was founded on this outrageous injustice, along with displacing the first "people of color."  White people don't really own the cuntry (oops), they just had a period of ascendancy which, as Spike pointed out, is drawing to a close.  As usual, as ever, as during Reconstruction, the po' white folk of the Deep South and rural America are totally freaked about that, but it won't change a thing.  That's just the way it goes.  Get used to it if you can.  The accommodation of reality was ever the wisest course.