Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Wheels Come Off...

OK people, one more time...
-- Sinclair Lewis
We no longer live in a free country. The fruitloops, wingnuts, cornpone nazis, Bible-thumping demagogues, race-warrior rednecks, fat-cat plutocrats and sundry ruling elite have the levers of governmental power firmly in their greasy hands and they aren't even being subtle about using them to maintain power over the rabble. The cops at the GOP convention in St. Paul were just a flicker of this ugly statism. The NYPD acting like Gestapo or the NKVD on behalf of our GOP overlords four years ago were another mere flicker. The Secret Service is keeping the press away from the crowds at Palin rallies and publicly denying that cries of "Kill Him" and "Off with his head" are happening at them, even though video evidence is widely available to the contrary. Taking a cue from Moose-a-lini's declaration that we have pro-American and anti-American parts of, urm, AMERICA, we now are treated to the sight of elected public officials denouncing other elected public officials in Congress as un-American:

(why is there never a damned HUAC around when you need one!)

We have the GOP actively trying to create their own Sturmabteilung in Wisconsin. In California, the R's are not even trying to hide their racism with "Obama Bucks" nor their moral degeneracy in advocating the torture of their opponent. The wingnut Rightie hate-radio bloviators are so determined to make their paranoid listeners join them in seeing a conspiracy under every rock that one of them accuses Obama of creating his own Obama-ized version of the American flag when he saw pictures of Obama in front of flags with a big "O" on them, even though Ohioans would be surprised to learn that he'd adopted their fine state flag for his dawning dictatorship of one during a speech in Toledo, Ohio. Speaking of conspiracies, the attorney scandal (remember the why's and wherefore's of Alberto Gonzales' departure from public life?) is an actual conspiracy ongoing, as we now learn that not only is the FBI investigating ACORN for vote-fraud, just weeks before the election but several US Attorney's offices are proceeding with their own investigations in the wake of McCain's hyperbolic screech in the last debate that ACORN is a threat to the very fabric of democracy. In the wake of that accusation, the GOP brownshirt brigades in Seattle and Boston vandalized ACORN offices, while ACORN officials in Cleveland and Providence, RI received death threats. I'm certain that it's all a coincidence.

This is no longer just the whimpering of a few disaffected ex-hippies and assorted leftist student groups. The country is disintegrating after 40 years of Rethuglican "leadership" and the foot-soldiers who enabled and reinforced the Nixon/Reagan/Bush I & II regime are reverting to type as the failure of all their most-cherished tropes and assorted other lies bespeaks their own personal failure and it makes them angry and prone to seek a scapegoat. Like Germany in the 1920's & 1930's. McSneer and Moose-a-lini are doing everything they can to solidify the racist, persecution-complexed middle of American society. Note that I didn't characterize it as "underbelly" or some such. It isn't. This putrescent hatred is interwoven in the very fabric our national character. It is the legacy of a nation built on genocide and human chattel slavery.

I'm not sure what they think will come of it, but the way I see it, McCain is a rich, grumpy, entitled old man who doesn't understand why the world won't just give him what he wants by dint of his gender, skin color, pedigree and resume and if he has to dip his widdle-footsie into the stinking, sulphurous, seething pool of evil that bubbles in the heart of the political right, then so be it, it can't possibly stain him because so doing furthers his ambitions and thus must be for the greater good; not the greater god of all Americans, mind you, but the greater good of the good Americans, the pro-Americans, his friends & family & business partners. His denials of the actual ugliness of his campaign's behavior stem, I think, from his pathological inability to see the wrongness of the underlying worldview that drives the behavior. In other words, the rabble who advocate violence are only doing so in the name of defending John McCain's America. As another senator from Arizona said at the beginning of the Right's nightmarish march to political hegemony (just before going down in defeat to the last Democrat to preside over a national consensus):
"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"
Which, in light of how utterly without principle or scruple they've conducted their political affairs since reads now like marching orders for a movement. Rethuglicans have seen every action through that lens and John McCain is no different, which is why the souring tone of his rallies doesn't phase him and the preposterousness of his distortions of fact and outright lies simply don't compute for him. His moral compass is broken, his internal ethical radar calibrated to different priorities.

Sarah Palin lies on the other side of McCain's cynical political calculations. She is a dimwit and a demagogue, but she is not a leader, good or bad. She is just another slack-jawed, Kool-Aid drinking rabble who got herself fast-tracked up the ranks through sheer pluck, luck and a total absence of core principle. If she were smarter, she'd be like Karl Rove - a collaborating member of the proletariat who knows his place on the food chain and instead assists the plantation masters in keeping the other slaves in line to earn favors, priviledges and access. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is too stupid to know that she isn't one of them, but rather is the type of manipulative social-climber who takes any apparent lack of social status as merely a failure of perception to be remedied by MILF-y charm, will to power or a well-timed shivving. She is the shiny new face of the same old blood-thirsty, Dixie-anchored rump of an electoral coalition McCain's approaching defeat will reveal.

By "Dixie-anchored" however, I don't mean geographically, although that will be true as well. The Solid South will remain so, even if the city-fied transplants from DC and other dins of iniquity further up the Eastern Seaboard make Virginia and North Carolina swing back and forth over the next few election cycles. No, I mean the mindset and values of The South, the mythical south of the redneck NASCAR "Lost Cause" Sunbelt sprawling cookie-cutter suburb & mega-church popular imagination. THAT South, the one that gets weepy when Lee Greenwood sings "Proud to be an American," is nationwide. And the policies of the ruling class over the last 40 years - enacted through the vigorous machinations of their pet political party, the GOP - have made their lives immeasureably worse through regressive taxation, crony capitalism, a self-justifying military-industrial war-making complex , industrial sell-off, rigging of the financial system and a relentless culture war. These are the ways that a greedy, pernicious ruling class maintains its power not just in America, kiddies, but everywhere in the world. They create a politics, through violence or bribery or both, that will eventually come to resemble the political Right in any country anywhere at any time in history for they are all the same in their fundmental desire to protect power & priviledge and supress the masses for fun & profit. Sometimes this is called monarchy, sometimes a dictatorship or a banana republic or a fascist state, sometimes it is "The People's Republic of..." and the plutocrats mouth communal doctrines of the "for thee not for me" variety, but the desire to constrict, restrict and suppress is an impulse of the political right.

Billmon, who vanished for a few years before re-surfacing recently back over at Daily Kos, wrote about the American variety of this eternal theme on his now-defunct blog (hence - no link):
If I had to boil our modern kulturkampf down to two words, they wouldn't be blue and red, they would be "traditionalist" and "modern." On one side are the believers in the old ways -- patriarchy, hierarchy, faith, a reflexive nationalism, and a puritanical, if usually hypocritical, attitude towards sexual morality. On the other are the rootless cosmopolitians -- secular, skeptical (although at times susceptible to New Age mythology), libertine (although some of us aren't nearly as libertine as we'd like to be) and less willing to equate patriotism with blind allegiance, either to a flag or a government. . . .

Rapid social changes often produce cultural reaction, which in turn spawns angry political movements. Post Civil War industrialization and financial colonization produced the Populists -- both good (Mother Jones) and bad (Tom Watson and Pitchfork Ben Tilman). The waves of 19th and early 20th century immigration spurred the rise of the Know Nothings and the modern Klu Klux Klan. The New Deal and the civil rights era incited the John Birch Society and Goldwater conservatism. And now the blowback effects of globalization (what conservative ideologues sneeringly deride as "multiculturalism") coupled with the patriotic and xenophobic passions unleashed by the war against Al Qaeda, have turbocharged the traditionalists into declaring something close to all-out war on the modernists -- as symbolized, at the moment, by the traitorous New York Times. . . .

The right, in particular, needs the culture war like a paralytic needs his iron lung. It reinforces a simplistic sense of tribal identity (us against the other) that is essential to the paranoid political style -- as Richard Hofstadter dubbed it -- but that increasingly doesn't exist in American society as a whole. The reality (and this brings me to my second point) is that there are not two cultural camps in America but three: the traditionalists, the modernists, and those in the middle, who may be pulled in one direction or another by their ethnic backgrounds, religious faiths, personal life histories or any or all of a thousand other factors.
A running topic on his blog was the Spanish Civil War, which he persuasively argued was a strong analog to the type of war we're going to have when our Civil War 2 breaks out. The Spanish Civil War was a brutal affair that pitted neighbor against neighbor, neighborhood against neighborhood. It was not a matter of armies blue and gray (or is it blue and red?) ranging against each other across open fields. It was fought with meat cleavers and clubs in alleyways and in the streets. The Nazis helped out with planes and guns, which gave us "Guernica", but that conventional 20th Century-style warfare was the exception. The rest of the war was vicious and rife with atrocities.

Touching on that idea, I wrote about it over at my old LiveJournal site:
I think this time in our history is comparable to the years leading up to our previous civil war in the hostile balkanization of the political camps. Back then, it was about slavery. BTW, never let anyone argue that our Civil War was ever about anything else but whether or not we would be a nation that allowed the ownership of human beings. Anyone who does argue thusly is a southern apologist merely muddying the waters to dilute their own reflected regional culpability.

So, I think we are barreling toward a civil war, something like the Spanish Civil War, a war lacking in front lines, where neighborhoods fielded partisan gang armies against the gang armies other neighborhoods, where neighbors hacked their next-door neighbors to death, where not even churches could offer safe harbor against murderous mobs. I fear for this country because predominant regional political differences as expressed by congressional representation belie deeper cultural differences that have more to do with religious affiliation, level of education and line of work and union affiliation and exist everywhere all at once apart from larger political culture. I am thinking, for instance, of true-blue Austin, an island of education and cultural sophistication in deep-red Texas, a sea of menacingly willful ignorance, hostility to cultural diversity and easy violence. I am also thinking of the fact that the police force in this bright blue city (to say nothing of the firefighters, or even blue-collar union members in general - the number of IATSE stagehands who LOVE George W. Bush is both sickening and shocking - and the entire Borough of Staten Island) are a bright shade of scarlet because red-ness & blue-ness is not an expression of regional difference, but rather of deep-seated cultural impulse. Police in general, NYPD in particular, are always on the side of authoritarianism. As metaphive once pointed out to me - for the police the whole civilian population is divided into two groups: perps and sheep. For police it is not about "protecting and serving" but rather maintaining order first and protecting property second, and serving people only insofar as it reinforces the first two items.

When the shit hits the fan, in Austin I would fear for the safety of the community that has grown up around the University at the hands of an armed and culturally resentful wider population with a collective chip on its shoulder - the animosity between Texas A&M and UT-Austin is only good-natured to a point. In New York, the police are also armed and deeply sympathetic to the racist, violent, and culturally resentful impulses normally attributed to the dark side of Jeff Foxworthy's America. Up to this point, NYPD and their blue-collar fellow-travellers have reached a kind of truce with the liberal forces that dominate this city, but unleashed by widespread social unrest, who knows what kinds of ugliness could ensue.

That is why I argue that the next Civil War, as murky as the lines of our previous war of brother against brother were, won't be even as well-defined as that one.
And, sadly, the fascists won in Spain. They were never defeated and Franco died in his bed of Parkinson's on November 20, 1975. If Obama wins this one, I fear an epic outbreak along all the traditional social and cultural and class lines in this country that could escalate, spurred on by rhetoric from the hate-spewers on talk radio, into a gradually-escalating civil conflict. Their side doesn't view any Democratic administration as a legitimate governing body. Add to that the racial component brought on by Obama's skin color, intensified by the cultural bigotry of his odd-sounding name, amid an economic crisis and a deeply unpopular war abroad, and you have the Ruling Class' Frankenstein's monster going off the rails in a likely violent national social upheaval.

I fear for the health of the candidate and that of our nation.

More on this topic later.

1 comment:

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