The Pentagong Show

The Pentagong Show
United State of Terror: Is Drone War Fair?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An End, But no Beginning: Wolfe at the Door.

The USA, in the fall of 2008, was like the USSR in 1989. It had come to an end and a beginning. In September, in New York, in a marble-fronted, colonnaded building on Wall St. that's wrapped itself in an enormous US flag, which both hides and scurrilously boasts of its scoundrel's heart, there was a sudden crash that was heard around the world. The dead and worn out husk of the USA that was had been cracked and split right down the middle. But the living, changing, suffering thing within - the real USA - the USA that had always been, the USA that has yet to be, began slowly to emerge. It came forth into the light of day, stunned, cramped, crippled by the bonds of its imprisonment, and for a long time it'll remain in a state of suspended animation, full of latent vitality, waiting, albeit impatiently, for the next stage of its metamorphosis.

But the leaders of this nation have fixed their gaze so long upon the illusions of a false prosperity that they have forgotten what the USA looked like. Now they saw it: its newness, its raw crudeness, and its strength, and they turned away. "Give us back our well-worn husk, where we were so smug and comfortable", they said. So they tried word magic. "Conditions are fundamentally sound", they said, "I don't anticipate any serious problems among the large, internationally active banks that make up a very substantial part of our banking system", the Fed chairman intoned - by which words they meant to reassure themselves that nothing now was really changed, that things were as they always had been, and how they ever would be, Wall St. without end, amen.

But they are wrong. They do not know that you can't go home again. The USA, and the world, has come to the end of something, and to the beginning of something else. But no one knows what that something else will be, only that out of the carnage and the uncertainty, the wrongness of the leaders, grows fear and desperation, and before long hunger'll stalk the streets. Through it all there is only one certainty, though no one sees it yet. Unlike the USSR, the USA is still the USA, and any solution that comes to it will be the USA's.

The collapse of Lehman's was like the fall of a gigantic boulder into the still waters of a lake. The suddenness of it sent waves of desperate fear moving in ever-widening circles throughout the world. Billions of people still do not know what to make of it, and the waters of the lake have closed over the fallen boulder while most people have gone about their daily work just as usual.

But the waves of fear have touched them, and life is not quite the same. Security, even the sense of it, is gone, replaced with dread and an ominous foreboding in the air. It is in this atmosphere of false calm and desperate anxiety that Obama began his presidency. He had seen the boom-mad economy tottering on the brink of ruin. He had read in the eyes of people on the campaign trail the fear and guilty knowledge of the calamity that was impending and that they are still refusing to admit even to themselves ... especially to themselves.

He knows that they are still clinging desperately to the illusion of paper riches, and that madness such as this is unprepared to face reality and truth in any degree whatever. This gives him a premonitory consciousness that he is in for something. For, the "birthers" notwithstanding, he is an American, and, unlike his silver-spooned predecessor, he knows that there's something wounded about America. He knows that there is something twisted, dark, and full of pain which Americans have known all their lives - something rooted in our souls beyond all contradiction, about which no one has dared to write, of which no one has ever spoken.

Perhaps it came from the Vietnam War, and from the ruin of that shameful defeat and its degraded aftermath. Perhaps it came from causes yet more ancient - from the evil of Constitutionally-enshrined, racial-based slavery, and the hurt and shame of human conscience in its struggle with the fierce desire to own a Continent. From the knowledge that the phrase "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" only comes at the expense of "Death, Slavery, and the Surety of Despair", for those who dare stand in our way. Or perhaps from the tormented and repressed lusts of a harsh and bigoted theology, intolerant and always prowling, stirring stealthily, as hushed and secret as the thickets of Louisiana's bayous.

For it's not only the financial system that was hurt. There is another deeper, darker, and more nameless wound throughout the land. What is it? Is it in the record of corrupt officials and collusive governments, administrations twisted to the core, the huge excess of privilege and graft, protected war criminals and oligarch gangster rule; the democratic forms all rotten and putrescent with disease? The bloated surfeits of monopoly, and the crimes of wealth against the very workers that make such wealth possible? Yes, it's in all these, and in the daily tolling of the murdered children, the lurid renderings of promiscuous and casual slaughter everywhere around the globe, and in the pious hypocrisy of the press with its swiftly-forgotten prayers for our improvement, those editorial moanings while the front page gloats.

But it's not only at these outward forms that we must look to find the evidence of our nation's hurt. We must look as well at the heart of guilt that beats in each of us, for there the cause lies. We must look, and with our own eyes see, the central core of defeat and shame and failure which we, in embracing the lie of the Ownership Society, have wrought in the lives of even the least of these, our brothers.

And why must we look? Because we must probe to the bottom of our collective wound. As men and women, as Americans, we can no longer cringe away and lie. For if we do not look and see it, we shall all be damned, may already be damned, together.

But instead, we continue to avert our gaze; pretend that all we need is a little more time to get back on track; pretend we believe the next lie that'll salvage the tattered remnants of the myth of American exceptionalism even as that very financial system, for which we've mortgaged the future to save from its own calumnies, continues to deliberately undermine the foundations of technological prowess and Industrial productivity on which that exceptionalism was founded. Yet we derailed from that track, not only because the roadbed was rotten, but because the destination it was speeding us toward was hollow.

But instead we foam at the mouth and claim gay marriage will destroy an institution that's been debased to a Las Vegas sideshow; and pontificate over the sanctity of life even as a Secretary of State posits that the death of half a million children was worth the hypocrisy of the Iraqi sanctions; or fulminate over death panels for those who've led long comfortable lives while denying millions of children access to not only medical care, but to even a school lunch.

While billions of the world's poor strive to institute some form of government or societal protection against the vagaries of the ill winds of a heartless economic system, Americans strive mightily to tear them down, preferring to strip themselves naked to the predations of Capitalism than to see anyone they deem undeserving avail themselves of one cent of government largess.

These are not the actions of a prosperous society, but the desperate measures taken by a people who see themselves as besieged on all sides, a people who know, despite all the signs of excess and comfort surrounding them, that no matter how they strive, they can never save that which they earn: they are the actions of a people that see themselves as doomed.
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