June 03, 2009

Getting outside the box

I saw myself quoted at length on a website maintained by a pro-Rick Perry group in Texas, people working to help Perry defeat the challenge of Kay Bailey Hutchison for the Republican nomination for governor. Which in Texas is tantamount to the election itself, of course.  The webmeister down there in the Lone Star State liked my takedown of Keith Olbermann; in essence, I thought Olbermann's criticism of Perry's "secession" remarks was a little uninformed.  It's fine to list all the glories of being part of the USA, but while you're at it you should not argue that sending all that tax money to Washington D.C. (and dealing with the legal consequences of the Supremacy Clause, which makes it difficult for medical marijuana people, for example, to be entirely free of federal hassles at the state level) is an unadorned blessing.  It's definitely not.  Plus, sometimes I just think Keith gets carried away with himself in his self-appointed role as vindicator of the Liberal American Tradition, especially because his technical grasp of legal issues, for example, is micrometers in depth.  Still, overall I think he does valuable things, and his break with corporate complicity when he started his Special Comments was a watershed event, and he is to be commended for his courage.  It looks easy in retrospect, but at the time it was shockingly refreshing.  But now I've given the Texans "Ol'Blowhard" as a sobriquet, and they're running with it.

Okay with me.  I write more in the vein of Mark Twain or H.D. Thoreau, that of an observer rather than a reformer.  I don't really believe the United States can be reformed, so it's easier now than ever to adopt that posture (or pose, if you like).  Those who argue the other way are often in the business of arguing reform; that is, they make their living at it.  That would make it worthwhile and help to overcome the cognitive dissonance.  I think the United States is simply too corrupt, too complex and too incomprehensible at this point to be successfully reformed through the democratic process.

The "single payer" issue tentatively raising its head (in order to be blasted away) is probably one example (among thousands) that might be used to demonstrate the point.  As Michael Moore pointed out so eloquently in "Sicko," we're the only major industrialized country in the world which insists on keeping health care a for-profit business.  This leads to literally sickening results, such as Moore's footage of a poor homeless woman "transferred" by USC Hospital to a skid row clinic in downtown LA by buying her a cab ride.  I had my own extensive experience with the American medical system during my mother's last, lingering fatal illness.  In the middle of all that anxiety and trauma, I couldn't believe how much time I had to spend arguing with the hospital's "social worker" (whom I called The Bouncer) about just how soon they could get my mother out of there.  I had to argue, cajole, plead, threaten them, to get them to do a simple blood test of her hematocrit so she wouldn't be sent home in a dangerously anemic state (lab work costs money, you see).  It was heartbreaking.  And that was with the benefit of Medicare.  I can't imagine what people go through who are too young for Medicare and too broke to buy insurance. I guess that woman staggering in the gutter in Los Angeles could tell us.

The medical system is rotten to the core.  And more than that, as I was saying to a friend, it underlies the basic lack of social cohesion in this country.  If you can treat other people like that, let them die so medical insurers can continue to profit and so that certain people can have "world class" treatment for their illnesses while others have none, then you've passed judgment on the value of American life.  You don't take it seriously, and you don't regard it as your problem, either.  We are absolutely not in this together, and all this rah-rah stuff about "9-11" and "supporting the troops" and the rest of it is a bunch of steaming bullshit.

So if a Rick Perry website wants to quote me, go ahead.  I think it's a hoot.  If Texans actually want to secede, to try something else, why should they not be allowed to do so?  We're not really going to assemble an "Army of the Potomac," invade and seize Austin, are we?  Where would we get the troops?  Aren't they all deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and hell, aren't a great percentage of them Hispanics from Texas anyway?

When people begin to talk that way, about secession and other way-outside-the-box notions, it's because they are beginning to give up on the idea of national reform.  They see a federal government borrowing 50 cents of every dollar it spends, and spending 64% of its discretionary money on a huge, bloated military establishment with 750 bases and forts worldwide, with entitlement programs careening toward fiscal collapse, and still refusing to rein in its profligacy in fighting completely useless, irrelevant wars -- and it registers, perhaps unconsciously at first -- this is completely nuts.  And so very strange ideas start popping up.

I don't blame Barack Obama for this stuff, by the way, just for the record.  All of this is beyond his ability to control outcomes.  I like his style, his intelligence, his class, the respectful way he treated Nancy Reagan, his calm temperament.  I imagine myself in a conversation with him, maybe somewhere on the Upper West Side in a bar, loosening up, and then saying some of the stuff contained herein.  And I think he would flash that incandescent smile and say, "It is a mess, isn't it?"

1 comment:

  1. John Read6:48 AM

    Texas was the last state to accept Lincoln's conditions to rejoin the Union. We missed our chance then to get rid of them. I say, Give it back to Mexico.