Friday, May 08, 2009

EVERYONE LIKES TO BOW

Chris Floyd writes on the Atlantic Free Press site: 'High Crimes and Low Comedy in the American Imperium".

He’s commenting on a Joan Walsh piece (link in his article) about Obama’s sudden and unannounced visit to the troops in Iraq.

Walsh is gaga over the delirious joy and chummy huggies that the troops display in the presence of their Commander-in-Chief. This, We are meant to infer, means that all is going well, and that ‘it’s all good’ as they say nowadays.

Kudos to Floyd for noting drily that in a land where “the surge has been a success beyond our wildest dreams”, the Boss of All Bosses has to sneak into town quietly and quickly.

And good for the troops that they get a chance to feel good about something. The standard enlisted bumper-sticker, if they had personal vehicles over there, would be this-war’s GI motto: “Embrace the suck”. Ach.

But it is a little cringe-inducing, reading Walsh’s burbling, cheerible, breathless reporting.

You can easily get your hands on grainy footage – and even bright color footage! - of Hitler’s mid-and-late 1930s walks and drives in the midst of his people. Well-dressed men, women, and children, in their tens of thousands, cheering deliriously as he goes by, even sharing a grin with beaming SS security cordons, their eyes and fine white teeth glowing under the glint of those skull-and-crossbones cap insignia. There is even footage of him, in his huge Mercedes field command car, visiting troops in the field, equally delirious. One unit, apparently caught by surprise at some duty or perhaps recreation, is lined up in formation with nothing on but what look to be Speedos; yet the eager young arms are outstretched in salute, and the fresh young faces beam with excitement and joy. It was apparently taken no later than the early years of the Eastern Front. Then he stopped dropping by. And blamed what was left of them for letting him and his fine plan down.

We are, alas, a hierarchical species. Something buried deep in Our most primitive brainparts wants nothing more than to be in the presence of ‘power’, and – even better – to be approved and accepted by that power. Anybody who’s ever been standing there as the big, shining, be-flagged limo comes by knows the feeling: going a little weak in the knees, wanting to reach out, wanting to bow or curtsey even. And to be there in the midst of a crowd that feels exactly the same way – is very heaven.

Perhaps it’s the same feelings the bobby-soxers got in the presence of skinny Sinatra (the bedizened and wrinkled oldsters watching a much flabbier Sinatra in Las Vegas were happy just to sit there and applaud). Or the pre-Boomerlings cheering Elvis and the Boomerlings cheering the Beatles. And on up through you-name-it rock bands, glam bands (although you might get bitten or something), boy-bands, girl-bands, and celebrities innumerable. Or sports figures.

But national leaders – well, there you get into a different order of existence altogether. These people have the power of life and death, and are about as close as one is ever likely to come to a type of divine-power that all but the mature worshipper will mistake for the real McCoy.

(Although lots of folks cheer the Pope, who (famously) has no divisions at all, let alone planes, ships, or The Bomb.)

It’s OK for the kids.

But adults, Citizens whose brainparts have fully formed (though their performance can always be further developed if you’re up to it) … adult Citizens should be less concerned with touching the hem of his limo and a lot more concerned with what he’s doing with the government.

It’s time – as Obama himself says – “to put more responsibility on ourselves”.

Good for him. A President is no replacement for God or any god (or goddess, of course, if applicable). A President does have a symbolic role, but – unlike the Pope – you can’t, as a good pomo and thoroughly modern American, imagine that he stands there mystically accompanied and even advised by the spirits of his predecessors.

And that’s good, really. Given the lack of mastery too many folks have over their more primal brainparts, democracy, the Constitution, and the Republic stand a better chance of being well-tended if they’re not larded over with a thick patina of mystical sensibility. While the Framers fully appreciated the world-historical significance of their carefully constructed Constitutional machinery, they didn’t have any illusions that they deserved to be worshipped as gods or even semi-gods or godlings or what-have-you. They would get a distinctly uncomfortable feeling, and maybe even a frisson of horror, if they saw folks beaming at them with that certain bovine contentment that had no place in a house of government.

Rather than having somebody stay up late at night to write a ‘Dear. Mr. Gable’ letter to them, the Framers would prefer folks to sit up and maybe read a bit of the Constitution and then the day’s events in government, and then do some serious thinking. And then write to them.

The current crop of the Beltway elect, it is true, would prefer the ‘Gable’ route, if only because it keeps folks from asking hard questions.

But the less you question things, the more questionable things will become. And in a government with so many troops in the far fields of Contingency and Liberation, do We want so much of what it does to be so questionable?

The danger is that too many of Us will simply ‘delegate’ all of Our concerns, beaming them magically into the blinding aura emitted by the limo’s wax job, the flags, and the well-guarded persona of the Great One. Thus relieved of a ‘depressing’ burden of responsibility to think, too many consider themselves ‘free’ to cheer deliriously and enjoy the partay.

Can you say ‘bread and circuses’?

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