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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

An Apology To The World

(Execution after Nuremberg Trials - 1946)
(Being a Commentary on Recent Events)

I am an American.

I am ashamed of that fact today.

Anyone transported from the relatively sane year of, say, 1972, might watch today’s news reports and be excused for believing he or she had stepped into a dystopian future run by the vicious grandspawn of Richard Nixon.  While not blood relatives, the people responsible for the clusterfuck which passes for both foreign and domestic policy are certainly their political descendants.  

And I am ashamed of that fact, also.

You see, I have many friends in lands foreign to the United States, and increasingly they are fearful of traveling here, for any reason.   Some of them are Persons of Color, and are afraid that what passes for police in large parts of the U.S. will simply shoot them.   Others aren’t altogether certain they’d be able to go home again, as it’s now possible for the U.S. government to simply detain someone they consider a terrorist, forever.

Yet others are simply straight-up afraid.   And for that, too, I am ashamed.

I realized yesterday, having downloaded and read about half of the Congressional report on CIA torture, that all of these people are correct in their fears.  

I would like to apologize to them.  

You see, I grew up in a different time.   I and those my own age trusted our government to tell us the truth.  The police were there to help us.  1% of the population didn’t own everything – that was the product of another era, and those of us who Stayed Awake in Class learned about the Gilded Age, the Great Depression, and the restrictions put on straight-up greedy people to prevent them from taking over again and selling the rest of us out, bag and baggage.

Our parents had participated in a world conflict which had ended some ten years before most of us were born, and we knew that there hadn’t been much choice – our national survival was at stake, and that of many other countries which had simply gotten in the way of a handful of dictators.

Today, we’re at ‘war’ with an amorphous thing called ‘terror’.  If you ask a kid who’s the same age I was back then, he can’t point to a map and tell you where ‘terror’ has its lair – not like I could point to Germany and Japan.  In fact, even the staunchest supporter of the ‘war on terror’ can’t tell you much about it – except that people named Beck and Hannity and O’Reilly are really, really fond of the idea of killing people in the Middle East with funny-sounding names, because terror, and stuff.

I was raised of a time when the best of America was readily exported to the world – in the form of things like the Berlin Airlift, the Peace Corps, and the Cultural Exchange Program.   We made the world a better place.

While I still believe in that, I’m also not blind.   The ongoing programs have had their budgets slashed in favor of spending nearly 70% of our tax revenues on the military.   Terms like ‘extrajudicial assassination’, ‘enhanced interrogation’ and ‘rendition’ have found currency in everyday vocabulary.  

I’d like to believe in a future for America.   Unfortunately, and right now, we are a liability to the peace of the world.  The very people we’d entrust – our elected officials – to correct these problems are now the very ones who benefit from them, thanks to an ocean of money which is poured into the U.S. electoral process.  

And for that, too, I am ashamed.

I know who did it.   I only have to look as far as a mirror.  When my vote ceased to count, I could have taken to the streets, as I did in the early ‘70’s.   I could have made my voice heard, and encouraged others to do so.   I didn’t.   The Germans didn’t say ‘no’ when they had a chance, either – they traded temporary prosperity for permanent enslavement. 

No, the two countries weren’t the same – I know that – which makes our situation all the more damning.   We ceased to teach basic Civics in high-school, preferring to bow to the pressures of parents who didn’t want their kids exposed to ‘politics’.

To paraphrase Trotsky – the kids might not have been interested in politics, but politics was certainly interested in them.

What’s to do?   Sadly, I don’t believe there’s much we can do.   Two political parties are entrenched in the collective psyche of the body-politic; neither are bound to do anything but serve their corporate masters; since the ballot-box is no longer of much value, and since none of us are wealthy enough to buy a Congressperson through the miracle of a lobbyists’ checkbook, we’re stuck with three other alternatives.

The second alternative, the soap box (or protest) was tried in the fall of 2011.   On the same day in November of that year in a coordinated effort, police departments across the country assaulted the Occupy camps, destroyed them, and rounded up the movement’s leadership.  The subsequent prosecution and imprisonment of people like Cecily McMillan sent an unequivocal message to every person in America:  Further protests will not be tolerated.

The third alternative, the jury box, has also been tried and found wanting – the thing about suing the government is that it first has to consent to be sued – and if it does, then the case is heard by a Federal judge who isn’t exactly impartial – people tend to get testy when you sue their boss.  

Even if a case is attempted which would, say, produce a more level playing field on election day (see the Citizens United ruling for your archetype) – the case has an uphill-slog in a Supreme Court full-up with servants of the 1%.

The last alternative?   It’s one no sane person wants to consider – the cartridge box.   (I’d like to go on record as saying that while I believe this is probably the only alternative left to the American people, I don’t like revolutions.   They have uncertain and messy outcomes.)

Kennedy said it best – those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.   We’re now to a point where the things the government has done in our name are in the open – and they are intolerable to any thinking citizen. 

Nations in this position turn violent – first on the rest of the world; then on themselves – then, if history is any guide, they fall apart, and quickly.   My gut (and six years of college-level history) tells me that we’re to the falling-apart stage, or very close thereto.

And I don’t want that.   But I don’t want to live in a nation where I have to be afraid, and where I have to apologize to the rest of the world for the actions of my government.   I no longer want to be ashamed of what the United States has become, and of what it does in my name.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tittybabies, The 1%, and the Olympics

Olympic Symbol -  Used without permission.

Why I  Don’t Give A Damn About The World’s Olympic-Sized Love-Fest With Wealth
“I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived” were the words of one of the characters in West Side Story; a musical about what was then called ‘juvenile delinquency’.   Today, in a counterargument worthy of Schopenhauer, children of the 1%’ers are now saying that their depravity is because they were raised with every advantage, and are thus unaware of any consequences. The sad thing is that there are judges who actually agree with this nonsense.

Not long ago, I heard a similar argument from a soon-to-be-Olympian, claiming that Olympic participants didn’t get ‘any respect’.  Vladimir Putin is shocked – shocked, I tell you – that people are raising a wary eyebrow (along with straight-up statements of corruption) at the $51 billion dollar price tag of this year’s Winter Games.  Gone are the days when emergent nations could field a modest few participants in the ‘classic’ sports of disqus, javelin, et. al.  Today, the Olympics, as with everything else, is the province of the wealthy few.

While some rely on both private and corporate sponsorships, a disproportionate number of Olympians simply tap the family finances – this is what makes it possible to snowboard 10 hours a day rather than having to schlep like the rest of us goons and get a paying job.  Some even sell themselves to another country – a sort of ‘Olympic mercenary’ – when that country is in need of someone with their particular athletic skills.  (Understandably, poorer countries in Asia and Africa want the citizenship requirements tightened in order to prevent that last one – but this is only one of many issues corrupting the Olympics, and as with anything, money talks – and poor countries walk.)  

In point of fact, for thirty years the United States (and much of the rest of the world which had a cabal of filthy-rich people capable of purchasing their respective governments outright) has transformed itself into a bang-on plutocracy.  This ‘rule by the wealthy’ manifests itself in large ways and small – from corporate ‘bonuses’ to the aforementioned pampered ‘athletes’.

Whether it’s the kickbacks and corruption on which the very stadium in Sochi was built, or the privileged-few who get to participate, the Olympics is the manifestation of plutocratic corruption – the Olympics, like so many other things in the New Millenium, have become the province of the very rich, and a love-fest/celebration of wealth.

Lenin?  Marx?  They’re rolling over in their graves, along with Jesse Owens and others who participated in the competitions of a simpler time.

Likely, you'll hear one or more well-coiffed and painfully young 'journalists' on one of the major cable networks going on and on about the roundup of stray dogs in Sochi; the latest 'accomplishment' of a 1%'ers wealthyspawn as they 'do what they love', or (quelle horreur!), the complete lack of basic toilet-function in the Olympic village.

Me? I've got better things to do this month than put more money, albeit indirectly, in the pockets of these people. There are other, better things to do - and I hope you'll join me in doing them, no matter what they are.
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