Wednesday, May 23, 2007

THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE

Over on Salon Gary Kamiya raises a huge point in his article “Why Bush hasn’t been impeached”, http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2007/05/22/impeachment/).

He opines that Bush hasn’t been impeached because too many of Us can’t face the bankruptcy of the fantasies and dark urges that were the basis of support for him. Thus even though the Dems have been in for almost half a year there is no impeachment on the horizon, despite all the now-coming-to-light illegalities that leave Nixon’s malfeasances in the dustbin of History; the Dems don’t calculate that there’s enough citizen support for impeachment.

This is a complementary explanation to the theory that the Dems don’t want to weaken the power of the government, or even re-cage it within constitutional parameters; they simply want to take it over for themselves. Their revolutionist Identities – now equaled in dangerousness by the soft fascism of the security-crazed soccer-moms – will not, probably cannot, dilute the font of that political power the grasp of whose levers has been their only meaning, calling and purpose in life (God, Virtue, and the Beyond having been Flattened to make room for their agendas).

Both explanations speak deeply to Our present danger.

We have become increasingly emotion-driven in the past few decades (almost as if the whole citizenry had become as ‘hysterical’ as now-quaint Dead White European Males once said ‘women’ were). We have become increasingly techy about our virtue and our ‘security’ – “offensensibility” as Opus the Penguin named it in the ‘80s. We have become increasingly Fundamentalist religiously (Freud would have a field day with this in light of current complaints about Islam): impatient, perfectionist, emotional, credulous, incapable of respect, cognitively immature in our either-or thinking, grandiose in the presumption that God has not only uniquely chosen us but has empowered us to lord it over others; queasily hypocritical in the double-standard by which actions we condemn in others are seamlessly accepted as virtuous when we do them.

And what We have become has cost its opposite virtues: patient, reasonable, modest, virtuous, mature cognitively and morally, displaying an integrity that extends from the characterological to the conceptual and the emotional.

This country – its citizenry and its government – has been displaying the characteristics of deep and pervasive immaturity overlayed by grandiosity of almost delusional intensity and complicated dangerously by its hyper-readiness to use its physical powers to extend its ‘issues’ out into the ‘real’ world and to impose them by force on others. That begins to sound a lot like Virginia Tech’s Cho. In fact, it sounds a lot like Bush himself. But it is also Us, or far too many of Us.

Meanwhile, the Town of Marlborough in ‘liberal’ Massachusetts has just passed a residence-activity restriction ordinance that bars registered sex-offenders from walking in its parks, eating in its restaurants, and residing in pretty much most of the town. And no doubt feels it has done a good night’s work. The point isn’t that the ordinance is unconstitutional; it’s that the townsfolk think that it’s a good job. And that the Supreme Court, where the matter may well end up, is almost bound to opine that if torture and the loss of Habeas is OK, then Soviet-level residency and activity restrictions must surely be OK. After all, if the greater evil is OK, then the lesser must be OK by the simple operation of logic. Or such ‘logic’ as obtains in our modern American reality.

This “violent self-righteousness” as Kamiya accurately calls it is a characteristic now of the ‘base’ in both the Democratic and the Republican Parties as presently constituted. And for far too many who would not consider themselves as active members of either Party’s ‘base’, such violent self-righteousness is still a perfectly acceptable, perhaps the only, Way to go.

This country now comes to resemble a monstrously powerful warship sailing through crowded waters with weapons-free. But those crowded waters are also now rather constricted by rocks and shoals and the ship is also running out of fuel. And those who command are uncertain of their continued authority and of their course. This is not a comforting scenario. And it isn’t Hollywood; the Ship of State is the very Republic bequeathed to Us by the Framers, preserved – however taintedly – by Lincoln, and preserved at all points by the sometimes dubiously-justified but so often generously-shed blood of its soldiery.

So between the forces of Revolution and of Reaction, this country’s citizenry comes to seem as volatile and unstable as France of the early 19th century. And between the Right that seeks Purity (its own brand) and the Left that seeks Perfection (its own brand) and both willing to see the country go to hell rather than ‘yield’ to the other, this country’s citizenry begins to resemble France in the 1930s, where the Left would have preferred Stalin’s governance, and the Right very much preferred Hitler’s governance, to that of the Third Republic. No wonder this country makes so much fun of France.

Meanwhile, the option of sobering up, facing reality about oneself, and getting the national act back together, seeking “a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations”, is ignored in the increasingly hyper-manic attempts to escape the national demons and – far more fundamentally – the imperfection and sinfulness that is as Original with America as it is with all Americans as it is with all human beings. To stop running all over the shop like an axe-murderer on steroids … you won’t see it from a Hollywood that no longer makes films for the ‘mature’ demographic, but while there is still a working awareness and conception of ‘adulthood’ in the classic sense among Us, then We really need to exert Ourselves here.

The revolutionists know that if We put the government back into the corral built for it by the Founders then they will lose their unboundaried power to play out their fantasies; they might even have their actions, as well as their visions, investigated more closely by a skeptical citizenry - the public that they've stampeded all these years. The fundamentalists know that if We put the government back into the corral built for it by the Founders then they will lose their unboundaried power to turn this nation and the rest of the world into a theme park Disneyfied according to the blueprints in the Book of Revelation.

And I think that the corporations have already come to the very quiet conclusion that – even more than the Mob Families figured about Cuba as Batista’s sun set – this country is no longer a reliably seaworthy vessel for their interests or their funds. They’ll be flown-off before the deck tilts too much for chopper operations, although too much for the rest of Us to launch the lifeboats. (But where would We go, I wonder?)

So, according to the theory that the Democrats don’t want to really preserve The Republic any more than the Republicans, then simply sweetening Our dreams with “the fall of the house of Bush” really isn’t going to solve the problems. Not any more than simply appointing a ‘woman’ to the presidency of Harvard is going to do much to recover the stunningly parlous condition of American education or putting all sex-offenders on reservations is going to ‘solve’ incest or save – in Michigan anyway – the sheep from violation.

The Republic – ‘Liberal’ in the classical sense that (as Thomas Nagel put it) certain aspects of the life of the individual are immune from the police power of the state – will find no support from the Left any more than from the Right. Indeed, with the effort to pre-identify and pre-empt selected crime-doers American law enforcement is set to take the path of the old Imperial Japanese ‘thought-police’. The simplest scan of the term limns the final result: ‘Imperial’.

Al Gore puts his finger right on it in “The Assault on Reason”: he calls it “the strangeness of our public discourse”. Even more than anything about the environment and global warming, what he is saying about Our “strangeness” must receive the full attention of every one of Us who can still muster the maturity to do so.

"We cannot escape history", Lincoln said. That includes ‘reality’, and that further includes ‘reality’ about Ourselves. The now florid ‘strangeness’ of American discourse and action, in the personal as well as the public realm, in foreign policy as well as domestic affairs, is the most serious danger The Republic faces.

Yes, the environment is changing (for whatever reasons) in ways that will gravely impact the physical world that We are used to; yes, the world has recovered from World War Two and there are now many potential competitors to American business; yes, the world is becoming even more tightly inter-connected, whether intentionally or not; yes, the oil is becoming finite just as many nations are now developed to the point where they want and need a lot of it.

But even as all these problems require Our best attention and efforts, The Republic itself – and We as its People – is becoming weirdly ‘strange’. As this site has always held, this problem has been building for decades. It has now reached the stage of efflorescence where serious measures must be taken, and quickly.

But this is a Republic and We are its People. No ‘Strong Man’ can be sought; no ‘Queen’ or ‘King’ (even Jeeeeezuzzzzzzzz). We cannot afford the magical and pagan idolatry of the Fundamentalist Perfect/Pure Hero. We cannot afford the idolatry of the magical and pagan Revolutionistic Perfect/Pure Idea. We cannot see Ourselves as Heroes; We cannot see Ourselves as Victims. As We cannot indulge a fierce idolatry, so We cannot indulge a sentimental idolatry. Idolatry is escape, and We are called very much to be ‘present’, here and now, to Who We are and to What We are and to the situation that is actually confronting Us now.

We are The People. Each human, each imperfect, each with powers latent or clouded, but Given. But each capable of taking the narrow high path of Maturity, of Respect for Self, for Others, and of living a mindful, respectful life in unremitting stewardship of this marvelous engine – clanky as it may be – of the Constitutional Republic.

This is Our ‘rendezvous with destiny’. Yet, if this be not a ‘common era’ but a ‘Year of Grace’, then We stand at this point not unaided.

If this be Grace, let Us make the most of it.

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2 Comments:

Blogger David said...

With 60% of the US population believing the iRak war was (at best) an error from the get-go and 75% now believing the war has been irremedially mismanaged, Dem pusillanimity is not based on the lack of popular will for impeachment of Cheney et al.

Au contraire, it is based on the will of their multinational corporate campaign contributors, who, in a tour de force this week, forced the Dems to drop a timetable for iRak withdrawal, drop any further gestures for campaign finance & ethical reform in Congress and secretly collude with the White House on a series of "free trade" bilateral agreements to further complete the movement of US manufacture and investment capital off-shore < http://alternet.org/workplace/52132 >

I see no 'front running' (ie. corporate supported) Dem candidate announcing plans to roll back the structure of legislation which undergirds the unitary executive. Instead: total silence on Patriot Act, Military Commissions, torture, unrestricted domestic spying on US citizens, loss of habeas corpus etc. All this erosion of civil liberties will be to the benefit of a Dem executive as he executes the orders of his corporate sponsors and they know it. Bush has taken the heat but he has established a new status quo. US government will be totally at the dispositon of the corporate interests who will win no matter which of their puppet parties does.

The time has come for a raucus, ill behaved Third Party financed by millions of groundlings who finally realize how definitively they have been betrayed.

This is not a psychological issue. It's economics pure and simple. We been robbed!!!

4:42 PM  
Blogger publion said...

I agree that there is a structural aspect to the challenge at hand, and that it is a significant element in understanding the problem and shaping a solution.

And frankly, I think a 3rd party is the only thing left to Us. The Dems have demonstrated that they cannot muster the integrity and the will – the True Grit, now consigned to the dustbin of History by the Identities, thus to be replaced by the Shit Grit of macho, Fundy, Bushist in-yer-face posturing.

And once again, I think that neither of the Parties really wants ‘democratic process’ back. To the Framers, the government that they shaped and constructed and founded was ‘good’ precisely because it allowed the genius of their society free play. Thereby the government ‘was’ good; it was not designed to ‘do’ good. And surely We cannot allow ourselves the indulgence of presuming that the Framers did not and could not imagine the alternative of the government ‘doing’ good. And indubitably they realized that governments by their very nature seek to engorge themselves, and are highly opportunistic predators in the pursuit of that goal (and this was half a century before Darwin).

But the excesses of the Industrial Revolution and the corporate revolution that made possible the Robber Barons and the (first) Gilded Age pushed toward a government that would ‘do’ good in order to restore the balance of equitable – we might even say ‘just’ – distribution of the bounty America was producing. And yet at the same moment in Our history, there at the end of the 19th century, the government’s ‘urge’ to do good, draped tastefully in the ‘Christian responsibility’ to do good, was launching Us outward, into foreign affairs (especially those that would be of advantage). Charity this was not, but neither was Perry’s gun-barrel invitation to the Shogun to join the modern world half a century before.

So structural change is necessary. But it ain’t enough. A Republic must be Peopled and – as has recently been seen – if the People keepeth not their City, then in vain do checks and balances keep vigil.

In that sense Ours a crisis of spirit (and theologically speaking, of Spirit).

Although America has always tended toward individualism, it is now balkanized thanks to the efforts of the Identities and their revolutions, that in turn created the gravid vacuum into which the Rove-ian/Bushist Imperium sought to govern in the Ottoman mode the balkanized and feuding tribelets to which We had been reduced.

Although America was brought forth through the sustained groanings and dreamings of adults, who could – according to their lights – draw on the strengths that Western and world civilization offers to humans seeking to achieve and express adulthood and Giftedness, yet now this country – again through the efforts of assorted Identities and their revolutions – has abandoned ‘adulthood’ as a life-goal and embraced its opposite. We are a youth-besotted society, a society that seeks to indulge its immaturity while at the same time claiming such immaturity is actually a higher achievement. But yet We swiss-cheese the Constitution to ‘protect the children’ from the immaturity and unripeness that surrounds them. And Hitler’s promise is forgotten: he will do what he has to do, whatever it takes, to keep ‘the Jews’ from contaminating Aryan children.

And America has always tended toward a certain Flatness in its conception of the Life’s space, of the Life-space. Yes, God is embraced as the Creator of the Material (valid enough) but therefore also willy-nilly as the Author and Enforcer of enrichment. Americans (or at least some of them) are His favorite children, and they are His deputies, and they are His enforcers. But the awefull gravity of the Material grasped and bent the nation’s spirit-light, so that even its most fervid ‘believers’ somehow got gold Cadillacs mixed up with the awefull mystery of Grace. And then along came the Identity-revolutions and – besotted with the visions of Lenin and the techniques of Goebbels and the Israel-ist assertion that utterly nothing in this world or the next would be permitted to stand in the way of their ‘existential’ security (does it amount to a functional paganism?) – and claimed that there is no Beyond and that that the essential fulfillment is political fulfillment. Perhaps the only fulfillment, for all practical purposes.

We must re-People this Republic or We shall lose it – and lose it meanly. Already our moral standing and the entire American Project is tainted for all time with the monstrous malfeasances and violences of the past six years. We have condemned the moral possibilities of the lives of thousands of our soldiers to an eternal unfulfillment just as surely as the German people similarly condemned to utter fatuity the hopes and dreams and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of their young troops. Was it unintended? Phooey, it was clearly foreseeable. We are all worse than sex-offenders now; no leering slavering stranger, no sex-addled priest, no voracious parent or step-parent, has ever caused grievous moral damage to so many so quickly.

To recover Ourselves as Americans all, as adults, and as human beings under Grace (simultaneously Gifted and under Judgment) … this recovery must constitute a new birth of freedom.

Otherwise, We shall once again find Ourselves at the mercy of a new vanguard elite, of the Left or of the Right it doesn’t matter.

4:13 AM  

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