Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BAAAD MOVIE, BAAAD FANTASY

Over on Salon, the always-worthwhile Gary Kamiya writes today about McCain’s inconsistencies (so shrewdly wrapped up in flag-waving): “Waving the Flag on Iraq”, http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2008/07/29/mccain/).

Coupla things come to me.

One, this ‘shrewd packaging’ has been around for a while. It’s reprehensible and it is precisely antithetical to a democratic politics. Democratic politics, We may recall, presumes that The People are informed accurately and promptly of all material relevant to matters of large and grave public import. But let’s not think that Mr. Obama’s election (and I do not seek Mr. McCain’s election at all) will make all of this dreck go away overnight. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the Attorney-General of Massachusetts recently stashed a Patriot Act-type ‘administrative subpoena’ authority for any possible crime deep within the text of a child-sex-offense law; like any good bank-robber, she used ‘the children’ and ‘sex-offenses’ as a shield to give the Commonwealth its own Patriot Act. And the Legislature and the Governor went along with it, the former voting for it in Patriot-Act-level majorities. Lovely. One can only wonder what will be ‘the next logical step’.

Second, Kamiya quotes McCain from recent comments:

"Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened. Our military, strained by years of sacrifice, would have suffered a demoralizing defeat. Our enemies around the globe would have been emboldened. Terrorists would have seen our defeat as evidence America lacked the resolve to defeat them. As Iraq descended into chaos, other countries in the Middle East would have come to the aid of their favored factions, and the entire region might have erupted in war. Every American diplomat, American military commander and American leader would have been forced to speak and act from a position of weakness."

Now, there’s a psychiatric term for this: projection. It’s when the (rather disturbed) patient feels that the badness inside of himself actually resides in some other person. So, in this case, everything patient McCain claims is a problem with Mr. Obama and the Democrats is actually a state of affairs rather directly attributable to himself and the Republicans (and wayyyyy too many Democrats). Because every single element of the nightmare vision he ticks off in his above quote has come to pass, as a result of Republican and his own action.

Yes, even the lasts point about American military commanders now forced to speak and act from a position of weakness. Over the weekend I came across a broadcast of ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’, the early ‘70s big-screen retelling of the attack on Pearl Harbor. You may recall that scene at the very end: Admiral Yamamoto explains ominously to his staff that their rather successful attack was through unfortunate circumstances made before the declaration of war was delivered to the Americans. He walks out onto the empty deck of his Imperial battleship, looking at the vast empty sea, with the text of his thought superimposed on the screen as the music swells to a satisfying (for an American audience) conclusion: “I fear we have only wakened a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve”.

Yes, I know how ruthlessly Incorrect he was: it should have been ‘filled him/her with a terrible resolve’. Try to move beyond the shock, now. It came to me that the movie was hugely and queasily dated; ‘the Americans’ aren’t a ‘giant’ anymore, however much they may be asleep. And they aren’t going to be winning any World War 2’s again. It’s already a period-piece, not only of 1941 but of 1971. That America is gone, baby, gone. When I saw it on the big screen back in the day, the idea in the back of my head was that, Yup, this is us, and now on top of the battleships we have nukes and B-52s and we can do the World War Two thing again whenever we have to. Not. Not ever again. And we still have the same B-52s by the by, now over half-a-century old.

Kamiya also notes that “the war is still going on, which mutes criticism of it.” So far so true. But it comes to me: this means that for a lot of powerful folks, the war will have to keep going on, if for no other reason than to prevent ‘criticism’ (and examination, and -oy! - investigation of it and them and all their pomps and all their works). We see this in assorted domestic initiatives and madnesses of recent vintage: by this point so many important folks have done so much that they’d rather not talk about to keep the things going for so many reasons that they’d rather not talk about … such that they can’t even begin to try to implement saner and more rational policies for fear of exposing all they’ve done, bringing it into public awareness. And it’s all too big a frak-up to deploy the old Pentagon scam: We did nothing wrong and we’ve already fixed it so it’s old news and let’s move on.

And Kamiya very rightly notes that what has had any success at all has been not the macho, go-it-alone, suck-on-this, aggressive ‘war’, but rather “painstaking police work, diplomacy, with sometimes unpleasant actors, good intelligence, the skillful use of carrots and sticks, knowing the local terrain, avoiding self-defeating moral posturings”. I’d like to point out that this list of options requires maturity, patience, and lots of stuff once associated with grown-ups, and grown-ups who were kinda ‘civilized’ and could live in a society of other grown-ups.

We are hell-and-gone from that now, and even Our government shows it. We elected these unripe chimps and sleazy kewpie-dolls, and they went and brought in others even worse than themselves. Maybe the Fundamentalist whack-jobs are right: there’s some sort of demonic possession here. Of course, rather than take the advice of them old, conventional, kinda unmanly Kathliks, the average Fundoozie will try to solve the problem with a trusty fowling piece, which won’t work on the type of possession now bethumping Us (and the rest of the world, and all its women and all its children, to say nothing of all the animals – as Scripture saith). Or perhaps vegetable oil will work on vampires in lieu of the unmanly Kathlik holy water. Such is the state of theology among Us these days.

Anyhoo, even if one doesn’t quite feel comfortable with the theological aspects of all this, one might retain one’s union card simply by discussing the psychological aspects of it: maturationally, We have lost a lot of ground in the past few years and decades and Administrations. Currently, We are ‘not quite performing at the higher end of Our range’, as the social workers tastefully and sensitively put it. Preventive aggressive assaults, locking lots of folks up, torturing them … oh my, there is some work to be done here, dear … are you insured?

Lying on the national couch will no longer be for the liberations of free sex while high as a B-52. It will be court-ordered, in order to see if We can stand trial. How in the high Sixties have We come to this? We had such promise once. Ah well, there are a million stories in the naked country.

Kamiya also acutely notes that McCain is banking (Wheeeee! Sorry!) on the media and Us not having much “memory”. Memory, except for the dubious though telegenic ‘repressed’ kind, is also a grown-up thing, if it’s to be done right. After all, the same mind that is trying to remember also houses the fantasy and dream functions, and the firewalls aren’t all that solid. And when the patient has done some things so bad that s/he finds it too painful to remember – not because of ‘tromma’ but because of dadblasted inescapable guilt – well then, the patient would experience a certain palpable urge toward a very selective, perhaps creative, memory. Like how We imagine that the arch-secularist and old-school Saddaam had up-to-date WMD and the means to deliver them, and that he was throwing nightly brewfests for radically religious jihadis in his in-house bar at one or another of his palaces. I mean, We wouldn’t just up and go over and whack him, would We? Gee, doc, that’s not me … is it?

Is it?

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