Thursday, December 28, 2006

PRESIDENTS AND PRECEDENTS

Walter Shapiro writes about Gerald Ford today in Salon (www.salon.com/opinion/feature/006/12/28/gerald_ford/print.html).

Shapiro thinks Ford did the right thing – pardoning Nixon and thereby precluding any further investigation into things. Ascribing complaints about that closed-off inquiry to “Nixon-haters” Shapiro then goes on to bray “America is simply not a banana republic in which former presidents should face the prospect of prison or ruinous civil judgments after leaving office”. Stop it. Stop it right now. It’s clear he’s concerned for appearances, not substance. In substance America - in its Executive – very much HAD started to behave like a banana republic. And when Shapiro asserts that our presidents shouldn’t face trial and lawsuits after they leave office, he’s once again concerned for appearances and not for substance. Because while we absolutely do not want to behave like a banana republic in the sense that a defeated opponent or simply a predecessor is hounded (perhaps to death) simply as one of the perks of victory or as the price of no-longer-being-in-power, yet we very much want to prevent becoming a banana republic precisely by holding those formerly in authority accountable for crimes they committed when they did hold power. We cannot and must not allow a political class of former honchos to develop, who – despite all their alleged and possibly apparent crimes – yet live in respectable luxury into their dotage like the recently-deceased Pinochet or Count von Kissinger or – of that same class – members-soon-to-be who still haunt the halls and dark alleys of Washington City. If we allow that class to develop, then we indeed will become a banana republic. And let’s not forget that Impeachment was put in there by the Founders precisely to cover the “treachery” of a Chief Magistrate (or his Vice). And it’s only a sign of our debauched times that it could even be suggested that blow-jobs qualified.

By pardoning Nixon – however decent a man Ford personally was – he gave things a huge push down along the path to non-accountability. No doubt the toilet-clogging dimensions of the crimes perped by the Reagan-era honchos was fueled by a sense that Hey, Nixon got off so what the foo? And included in those honchos is the father of the Incumbent, nor can we permit ourselves to imagine that apples don’t fall far from trees.

Worse, Ford prevented us from what may well have become a hugely salutary encounter with Truth, a deeply needed reality check. A People still reeling from the insidious manipulations of the National Security State was just beginning to come under fire from the opposite direction, from the 3rd and 4th level Advocacies of the Revolutions of the Identities. The People needed a reality check because America had indeed behaved – in its Executive – like a banana republic. And the best thing that could have happened was for The People to ask themselves what they had been doing or not doing which enabled this dreck to go on at the highest levels of the Republic (and yet it’s so easy to harrumph like an elephant and emit high-pitched gasps at the American Kathlik bishops, who – admittedly – continue to be low-hanging fruit).

But no. The People were treated like children and allowed themselves to be infantilized: give them the ongoing Pageant-of-America stuff, let them go to the beach or the mall, and if they’re male then let’em start worrying about their jobs and their wives turning them in for domestic abuse. Is there any mystery to the fact that in 2001 another Administration – crewed by ex-Ford honchos – figured it could run the same play, since The People had become even more debauched in the ensuing decades? Is there any mystery to the fact that in 2000 the Supreme Court figured it could get away with interfering in an election process and simply handing the election to somebody? And isn’t that itself one of the hallmarks of a banana republic? One of the warning signs?

Yet will The People, like a small child in a divorce battle, simply keep looking for some body ‘big’ to save them? Or will The People start to inhabit the public space and the role and the responsibility which is assigned to It/Us? Or is the concept of ‘The People’ itself become ‘quaint’ in this age of hyper-imperial American power? Is it that there is no room for The People, no need for The People, in the ‘unitary Executive’? If no need for The People, then why any need for a Constitution, the only purpose of which was to limn and limit the powers of the Branches so that the government could not – as these animals ferae naturae always eventually do – turn on The People and devour them. We don’t need Bolt’s “devil” to turn on us; we’ve cut down not only the laws but our own selves in our role as The People – and into the vacuum thereby created there are now racing plague-stuffed winds.

Did Sinclair Lewis say that when fascism comes to America it will come waving an American flag? Yes but more: it will come wielding the Book of Revelation. Wielding that Book as a weapon and as a totem – as an idol even – and not as a source of the adamantine Wisdom that there will be a Reckoning for each and for all, and that no human can control the judgment of that Judge, and that while we might if we wish look forward to it at the end of the day, we are best advised to keep ourselves occupied with walking humbly before our God and doing justice. Or, to repeat a fundamental American text that can never be too-often repeated: “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and for his orphan; to achieve a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” This will take a lot of work – let us give thanks we’ve still got it and get on with it.

Robert Scheer writes in “Ike Was Right” (www.thruthout.org/docs_2006/122706F.shtml) of Eisenhower’s warning about the “military-industrial complex” (he pretty much invented the term), now a couple of weeks short of 46 years ago. Ike’s advice was that “We should take nothing for granted, only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals …” Have We The People managed to do that? What has been done in Iraq – have We allowed that? If so, then we shall answer for it. If not, then We are still responsible for it. And for the dead, and for the widows, and for the orphans … blood is crying out from the ground: in Iraq, in Arlington, in a thousand cemeteries here and abroad.

Are we the alert and knowledgeable citizenry that Ike realized was essential to the taming of this postwar military-industrial National Security State? Or have We become something much less?

Ike goes on to assume and to hope that “We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow”. Funny he should mention “insolvent”, no? And do we care about “future generations”? Does their well-being provide a motive for getting out of bed in the morning? For taking the extra effort to think something through, or ask ourselves the Greatest Generation’s Great Question: Is this trip necessary?

Norman Solomon announces the P-U-litzer Prizes for 2006 (www.truthout.org/docs_2006/122706O.shtml). The Pulitzer Prize is not what it once was, if it ever was that. One “New York Times” guy got it in the ‘30s for reporting what a great place the USSRwas under its strong and wise leader. The “Boston Globe” got it a few years back for its investigative reporting during the run-up to the Iraq war – only the Globe was investigating something else, having to do with sex. You wonder if maybe the Pulitzer doesn’t need to be retired – temporarily or permanently – like the Presidential Medal of Freedom, now that it is hanging on the walls of such as Tenet, and Franks and Bremer – the latter two literally choppered out of town because the exit roads were no longer safe for their victorious SUVs – or even for their tanks. Nor did they stop to mitt the crowds on their way out of the White House grounds nor take a victory lap over to Arlington.

One of Solomon’s awardees is Glenn Beck, a CNN … personality, I guess is what you’d have to call him. Beck delivers a fine example of the Right’s co-optation of the language of ‘sensitivity’, of ‘female liberation’, and of ‘concern’, a classic instance of Evil hiding behind the appearances of (apparent) Good: To a newly-elected Congressman, a Muslim, whom he is interviewing, Beck says: “Sir, prove to me that you are not working for our enemies.” Shrewdly, he covers himself quickly with “I know you’re not”. Then gets the money-ball rolling again with “But that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans feel that way”. Masterful, really.

Solomon goes after Beck as a bigot, but there is a far greater evil here, a couple of them. The lesser of them is that co-optation of ‘nice’ language, of perfect ‘politically correct’ language: here it is deployed not to model a calm and open mind, nor to facilitate the discovery of Truth, but rather to lubricate the insertion of an actuality that is hell-and-gone from Truth, let alone Justice and Charity. Yet this is what has happened in this country: the decades-long imposition of ‘political correctness’ - albeit in a Good Cause – undermined and indeed perverted the primacy of Truth in this country. Truth could be constructed later; the best thing you could do was to make sure that the Result required at this stage of the (fill-in-the-Identity’s) Revolution is achieved; Results, not Truth or Integrity is all that matters – my, and how coincidentally military.

And that Political Correctness, having been erected into almost a free-standing institution, was ripe for subversion: by the ‘conservatives’ (who were themselves being taken over by the whacko-Southron-Fundamentalist axis) as well as by the unsleeping government, even alert to opportunities for expanding and engorging its power over the citizenry.

And worst of all, Beck’s gambit reveals the bottom-feeding gambit (perfected by Rupert Murdoch in our day) of appealing to the most inferior elements in human beings, to the dark suspicion and reflexive revulsions and hatreds, the squishy-hot muck that underlies all of our personalities (as Freud built his career on) BUT that does not – although primal – define us in our Fundamental and Genuine aspect, where – under Grace, according to a once-popular theory – we can refine ourselves, dwelling in our less-inferior, more-superior and ideal selves.

Again, to our huge detriment, it was the ‘science’ and ‘philosophy’ embraced by some of the Revolutions, certainly surfed by them, decades ago, that helped undercut the elements of existence that had for so long nurtured the steady refinement of human crude into its more ideal manifestation, into the broad, sunlit upland of a soul – and a society of souls – humbly but vigorously making the climb up the Ladder of Self or – if you will, adding another level to the vision – the Ladder of Perfection, or – again – the Ladder of Grace (more recently characterized, however inaccurately, as the “stairway to Heaven”).

Now, its fuel derived from the long pent-up energy of dissent against the doings of the aforesaid Revolutions, ‘muckraking’ took on a new meaning: not the old Progressive searching through wastebaskets and in the dark alleys for proof of gluttonous corporate malfeasance against the little people, but rather a raking intended to stir up the baser elements in viewers and listeners and readers. And the intense focus on ‘feelings’ to the exclusion of ‘thought’ (that ancient tool of patriarchal oppression) removed whatever watertight doors might have served to stanch the flow from below. Indeed, Limbaugh’s early TV years were actually a breath of fresh air as he simply reported accurately things which the PC MSM (wheeee!) suppressed out of loyalty to their allies, the not-yet-quite-victorious Revolutions. But then he gave in to the illusion that people were tuning in for him rather than simply for truth, and it was downhill from there.

We are at the point not only where such abuse of the Truth is possible and remunerative, but where a ‘news’ show can confine itself to ‘feelings’ (however base or confused) and still hold itself forth for public consumption. And … No, we can’t look to the government to suppress this crapulous dreck; the last thing we need to do is to be inviting that vampire over any more thresh-holds in the Republic. We The People need to demonstrate our distaste by speaking our minds and not-watching and discussing, until the purveyors of such tainted meat-for-the-mind find their ‘business’ no longer profitable. And in order to do that truthfully, in order to serve Truth, we must first shape ourselves to recognize and respect Truth. There is no short-cut. Just as there wasn’t any short-cut to Revolutionary goals through a stifling PC nor any shortcut to victory in Iraq by ‘shock and awe’.

No short-cuts. Just the long climb of the People, up from Inferiority. Into increasing Light. And Liberty.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Davidco said...

Nixon seems almost Lincolnesque in stature compared to the current Preznit who, possessing 'unitary executive' power that Nixon could only have dreamed of, has produced absolutely *nothing* of value in six years of policy making.

The waste of time, treasure and lives is breathtaking and tars us all. He has treated a continental superpower like a rich child's toy. The evil is so deep no American can escape it.

7:35 AM  

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