Saturday, December 02, 2006

STRAWS BLOWING

I’m riffing on a few things culled from here and there.

Sidney Blumenthal has a piece in “Salon” (www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2006/11/30/2006_election_trends/print.html) called “Generation Dem”. He notes that “in retrospect it is conceivable that the 2006 results will be revealed to be just one movement of a rapidly swinging pendulum whose internal mechanism is a fickle electorate”. Yes but no. It’s too easy and avoids the more serious implications. Yes, we are starting to experience wild swings in the preferences of voters (as distinct from the more focused if unexpected ‘swings’ in certain Republican-controlled electronic voting machines). Students of the R.M.S. Titanic’s final break-up recall how at certain points in her final hour, movement of one sort or another took place in some sections of the hull. Perceived by the passengers up close and personal these movements were taken as hopeful signs that at least a part of her (and thus they) would remain afloat. Alas, the informed realize that such movements were simply the last contortions of a massive hull being wrenched apart by huge and conflicting pressures – the accumulated dynamics of inrushing waters and the shifting weight of vast pieces of machinery now tearing loose from their foundations; she was in her death throes, though few involved wanted to contemplate that possibility.

It’s my concern that the reason for the “fickleness”, for the wild swings in the votership’s “mind” is precisely because the votership is losing its mind, so to speak. The votership is losing its ability to apply concentrated critical thought to Matters Public. Hence the votership is yielding to Feelings, which are far more mutable than thoughts. Hence the votership is increasingly unable to function as Citizens and – collectively – as The People. Hence the whole delicate mechanism of the Constitution, whose Branches are implicitly based on The People as continents are based on tectonic plates (regardless of how long ago you believe said plates were brought into existence), is tearing loose from its foundation. No, God is famously The Church’s One Foundation; for the purposes of the Republic’s survival, The People are the Branches’ one foundation.

But as noted elsewhere on this site, the ability of The People is greatly diminished: decades of accumulating inflow are pulling all apart. Consumerism doesn’t want mature folks able to resist their impulses, able to contain their needs and desires within the framework of realistic possibility; the Advocacies do not want folks able to resist their Feelings – especially their Outrage and sense of victimization; the mainstream media do not want such folks, because it’s a lot cheaper and more quickly profitable to stampede a herd than to collect and present accurate information to discerning readers; the government as It – true to the nature of its kind – doesn’t want any obstructions to or dissent from its ever-engorging authority; and the Fundamentalist ascendancy (broadly defined) has raised Feeling (as opposed to Thinking), patriotistic Obedience to the government (as opposed to critically engaged, constructive discernment), and self-declared, quick-acting, assertive Authority (as opposed to modest, sustained engagement) to the status of Faith and Morals. We are, to quote the inimitable southern sheriff, in a heepa trubble. As I see it, the votership’s most recent performance was not so much discerning as spastic, reflecting an unthinking emotional reflex far more than a discerning, careful, serious conclusion soberly reached. If we don’t want to go so far as to draw the similarity to that of certain post-mortem movements of corpses, then at least we might consider the upjerk of a lower leg when the knee is tapped by a doctor … or by the practical-joker next door.

Related thereto, Elizabeth Kantor has an Op-Ed in the 11/30/06 issue of the “Boston Globe” titled “Unlearning Literature”. She relates that a recent survey of fourteen thousand college students from fifty colleges around the country reveals that college seniors know less about American history and government than college freshmen. Let’s not even ask how much math and science those seniors know; let’s indeed ask just what and how much they do know. The Long March of the Advocacies through the halls of academe have yielded mostly inedible if modestly decorative fruit. That the halls of academe themselves are now almost all beholden to the government for large fractions of their annual revenues adds no joy: beneath the surface daffiness and downright anti-reality in the classrooms, the institutions themselves are greatly enfoeffed, if not in thrall, to the government. And having taken the proverbial King’s Shilling, they are now bound to all its works and pomps. Cue the tasteful tinkle of champagne flutes, or the gekko-like clicking of plastic Chablis glasses at fundraisers for the useful idiots and lower-level apparatchiki.

But if you can’t say you are educated, you can loudly assert that you know everything you need to know because you are – more specifically: have declared yourself – “saved”. Thus you are now a “prayer warrior”. I get a reely reely bad feeling about this. Not about God, nor about Truth, nor about Honor, nor Virtue, nor Charity. No. About whether any person not already sainted (it requires dying, now remember) is capable of simultaneously platforming (as the Pentagoons say) the mindset and heartset and skill-set of a warrior a-n-d a Citizen.

A Citizen is required to be careful, reflective, respectful of all voices, concentrated on coming to a judgment, skilled in deliberating to an agreement with other Citizens. Warriors (excepting the ones in the King Arthur fables and its descendants) are required to do things that are not at all like that, and to do so not under the steadying burden of Civic Affairs, but rather under the red-hot, bloodbright, death-dark intensity of battle. Well, actually what is most fabulous about the King Arthur stuffs is that having done the day’s chopping and stabbing, the bhoys retired to the castle for either mature governing or harmless drunken revelry and bonhomie (not excluding the proverbially entitled “wenching”) with no bothersome after-effects. No consequences in fairy tales; that’s why for most of Western history they’ve only been for kids. The long Catholic struggle to bring yourself and those whose lives you touch a bit closer to the image and likeness of God is hell and gone from the callow, righteous crusading against the not-saved that is the Fundamentalist religious hubris, cross-bred with the small-town suspicion of Others and with the military and berserker hubris, and (temporarily) allied with the Outrage-ista Advocacies of the Middle and Far Left.

Which brings us to Senator Hagel (R. Neb.) Op-Edding in the “Washington Post” (www.truthout.org/docs_2006/112906Z.shtml). Entitled “Leaving Iraq, Honorably” it is the Senator’s assertion that we can, proving that either fairy-tales have now extended their sway into the ranks of adults or that some of the most influential people in the country are, functionally, children. How we can possibly retreat honorably from something so … otherwise … begun, is a question that the Senator doesn’t answer. He does however demonstrate sufficient wit to sidestep it: we meant well. “Our honorable intentions in Iraq”, he smarms, eyes glistening. Tell it to the dead – upon whom be eternal peace. Tell it to the wounded, the emotionally deformed, the spiritually wracked, in their hundreds of thousands – to whom may many angels minister, diverted, I fervently pray, from their dayjobs as extras in Apocalypse and Final Days flicks.

Equally witfull, he pre-emptively disassociates himself from the folks for whom ‘angel’ and ‘sword’ are interchangeable: “The world will continue to require realistic, clear-headed American leadership – not an American divine mission.” Whooooo-eeeee. Sum bhoys in a heepa trubble! Maybe the world will continue to need us. On the other hand, any surviving officer addressing the surviving passengers huddled on the strange but dry, New-York-bound decks of the S.S. Carpathia by saying: “The voyage of the Titanic continues” … well, it’s sorta true, but in such a small way that it winds up coming across as not only stupid but arrogant.

The America that won World War II, that conducted the Marshal Plan, that endured the Cold War and remained standing at the end of it – that America, and its place and its Moment, are going, slipping down and away like Japanese battleships. In terms of its standing among the world’s nations and in terms of its inhabitants functioning as Citizens and as The People (or even a people) … things have been lost – and on our watch – that will never be recovered, that are beyond recovery. Nor, as evidenced elsewhere in this site, will I ascribe this subtle catastrophe merely to the Republicans and their demonically evil influence; decades of the Advocacies and the toxic Postmodern flatulence had – true to the name – deconstructed far more than they ever constructed, long before the appalling Incumbency was installed. And re-installed.In far too many parts of the world, and for a long time, I think we will be viewed as the Soviets were toward their end: big, bumbling, but still dangerous. And if the best plan that can be devised in the buttcrack bars and the bosky neocon thought-retreats is to snap our fingers from the decks of freshly-painted aircraft carriers, well … what’s Plan B? or Z?

And last but not least, Colonel Ann Wright, USAR (ret) reflects on “Torture, the Geneva Conventions and the School of the Americas”. (www.thruthout.org/docs_2006/112906D.shtml)
She asks: “Are military lawyers taught … (at each Service’s JAG School) … to parse regulations that prohibit torture into guidelines that provide legal cover for torture?” Well, whadda yuh think, pardner? For whom do these lawyers work? Who’s paying their salary? Who’s paying the law school loans off? Who’s paying for the Boxster out there in the officer’s lot? The Army, the Navy or the Air Force. That’s who their client is. (Even when they’re your defense counsel, unless they want a quick ticket off the glory train.) So they’ll do what they’re told.

And for two reasons: 1) they’re lawyers and they’ll do what their clients tell them to, and 2) they’re officers and they’ll follow their orders. The fact that they get all the nice things they get is pure cream. The fact that they were first attracted to the JAGs because of the nifty ad in the legal mags that featured just a stark set of handcuffs in grainy black and white … that’s the cherry. Of course, there may be a diet in store: being tried for war crimes tends to drop the pounds, although their Commander-in-Chief, looking ahead carefully for perhaps the first time in his administration and maybe even his life, has artfully put up a speed-bump that if left in place will save them all from the slammer and even – vampires are indeed a guild! – from the searing light of public inquiry and – BLEAAAAAHHHHHHHH – Truth.

And what sort of a lawyer will one be, having made one’s bones in this type of racket for 20-plus years? Do they then, having battened and fattened, simply retire and allow their kind to die out? No. They become Deans of law schools, or faculty members at famous universities (the ones, you’ll recall, enfoeffed to the government and addicted to its Shilling), or even Clerks of the Supreme Court, where they either make more like unto themselves or protect the guild in divers twilight ways. Or maybe fan out into local prosecutors’ offices, maybe in your own city or State. Yes, Mr. and Ms. Citizen, they’re out there even now. Or they’re in some office somewhere in the military’s evening world, waiting for your son or daughter to call, looking for help. Goodnight and thanks for tuning into the show. Remember to buy (blank) soap-flakes and (blank) toothpaste. They’re the only kind true blue Americans use. Yah.

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