May 10, 2008

Very Sorry, But Some Trouble Again

[SAD NEWS: I'm writing this early Monday morning. Fidele died last evening. The end was very peaceful, or at least appeared to be. She had been sleeping very quietly, as she had been all day, and then she was just...gone. Her body gave out completely. Fidele would have been 15 on July 4. I've only just begun to absorb the fact that she's no longer here. I can't get over how fast this was. Most of the day Friday, she was absolutely fine, or seemed so. She even ate a very good breakfast on Saturday. And now she's gone.

Only a week ago, on my birthday, the cats woke me up very early. Wendy was licking my right arm, and Fidele was licking my left arm. This was serious licking. Cyrano sat at the foot of the bed, watching the proceedings very intently. I thought he was smiling. "A wake-up bath for Dad on his birthday!" I have an active imagination. And now she's gone.

I'll call the pet crematory service when they open in a few hours. I last had to use them six years ago, so I think the cost of everything will now be about $200. Some of you have been very kind and generous. Obviously, there won't be any vet expenses for Fidele, but I do plan to take Wendy and Cyrano in for checkups. I've been remiss about that and now feel very guilty about it. Actually, I've always felt guilty about it, but now I feel especially guilty. If I had done it regularly (which I didn't primarily because I could never afford it), perhaps the vet would have caught something going on with Fidele. Well, not much point in dwelling on that excessively now. But if anyone wants a refund, please don't hesitate to let me know. Honestly, it's not insensitive or awful in any way at all. You made a donation thinking one thing was happening, and now it isn't happening any longer. It's fine, truly.

Fidele holds a special place in my heart and has a special connection to a person I loved very much. I'll explain all that when I'm not so distraught, perhaps in a week or two. Otherwise, I'll be back to blogging tomorrow or the next day.

Goodbye, sweet girl. You brought much happiness and joy into my life. Bless you always, and rest well.]

With that last essay, I'm beginning to get into the meat of those issues that most concern me right now. Yes, all the rest of this has been warming up. :>) And I am just beginning; there is lots more to come. I mentioned in the previous article that it is in part an introduction to certain themes in the tribalism series, and I hope to republish tomorrow one old essay in particular which will kick off that series. (I have to write some new material to place that article in the required context. That piece has been offline for a few years, due to moving the blog, corrupted archives, etc. I'm discovering some other relevant essays from several years ago that I may republish as well.)

A number of you have been very generous over the last few months. As always, I offer you my deepest thanks and gratitude. Some of you also sent me gifts for my birthday, for which many further thanks. I want to offer a special thank you to a reader (whose email address I don't have, or I would have used it long ago) who sent me a huge bunch of items from my Wishlist a few months back. Thank you, thank you, thank you! A lot of you are wonderfully kind.

Donations made it possible for me to pay this month's rent, as well as some current bills. I was also able to take Fidele, my oldest cat, to the vet a couple of times. She thankfully was much better for a while, but now very suddenly, she's much, much worse. The trouble started last evening, and it's continued today. I spoke to my vet, who had no openings today. She gave me the number of an emergency, 24-hour clinic, if I need to use it before Monday. If Fidele seems not too horribly badly off through Sunday, I'd prefer to go to my regular vet, where I have an appointment for 10 AM Monday morning. They're wonderful, and I feel very comfortable there.

But Fidele is in bad shape. I hope it's nothing worse than a sprained leg or pulled muscle, which is what some of the symptoms suggest. The vet also said it might be back trouble. But she's having other problems, too (but none seemingly related to what had been going on before). I'd describe it all, but I'd start blubbering, which wouldn't be terribly helpful to either Fidele or me at the moment. In any event, we'll be off to the vet in the next day or two. Given my own physical frailties, each trip of this kind becomes a fairly monumental affair. Oh, well.

Thanks to some donations that came in during the last week (more birthday gifts, I suspect, for which thanks again), I have several hundred dollars. That could vanish overnight, depending on what the vet finds. I'm also preparing myself for the fact that I may have to make the ultimate difficult decision in a few days, if the indicated treatment(s) are horrendously expensive and/or if it appears that Fidele will never be much better, and probably doesn't have any good times left. Damn. Crying now. Shit.

Anyway. It's more than likely that I'll be close to broke by the middle of next week, or even sooner. So although I hate to ask still another time for donations, because I have no other source of income at all, ask I must. If you have any spare change rattling around in any amount, no matter how small, I'd be extraordinarily grateful.

I don't think there's anything else to add. Maybe another shit or two. Shit. This business is truly awful. I've been through it with four cats of my own, and with ten cats or more belonging to close friends. It never gets any easier, not in even the most minuscule degree. It's always awful.

Once again, my enormous thanks for your time and consideration.

Choosing Sides (III): Let the Victims Speak

[Updated at the end.]

Part I: "Why America May Go to Hell," and Feeling Young Again

Part II: Killing Truth and Hope -- The Fatal Illusion of Opposition

I want to begin a discussion here of a very complex subject. I'll be exploring these issues in considerably more detail in some planned upcoming essays, so this theme will hopefully become clearer in time. But I need to introduce the subject now in connection with these articles about the Wright-Obama controversy, and as a partial prelude to my series on tribalism, which will commence shortly.

In late March, I published an essay entitled, "Bullied, Terrorized and Targeted for Destruction: Our Children Have Learned Well." That article concerned a horrifying NYT story about a young boy who became the target for continual, viciously cruel, often physically damaging bullying beginning when he was only 12 years old. In urging my readers to consider some broader connections, I wrote that, "The United States government has bullied, terrorized and not infrequently destroyed a long series of nations and peoples of numerous nationalities for over a century" -- and I then listed a number of examples of this policy, with links to earlier pieces describing various atrocities in detail.

I also wrote:
As I discussed in my essays about the high school students who protested the Iraq occupation, and who were threatened with suspension and expulsion for displaying a seriousness and humanity that is absent in most adults and in almost all our political leaders, the central lesson imparted to children is the necessity of obedience to authority. See "Careful the Things You Do: Wishes Come True, Not Free," and "When Awareness Is a Crime, and Other Lessons from Morton West" for the details. The high school students were taught that the idea of impartial and "blind" justice is a lie -- they learned that adults are usually lying when they insist the cruelties they inflict on children are for the children's "own good," just as our political leaders insist the horrors of Iraq are for the "good" of the Iraqi people -- they were taught that institutions of authority and the people who implement their policies will lie about anything and everything -- and they learned that the extent of your awareness of the world around you, and the extent of your sensitivity to and concern for the sanctity of human life, will be the extent to which you are punished.

They learned that cruelty and violence are not to be condemned, but constitute the coin of the nightmare realm of our culture: cruelty and violence are enacted many times every day in films, on television, in our personal lives, and by our government on a national and international scale. You will be rewarded for cruelty: the crueler you are, the greater the reward.

Our culture teaches children that, if you are perceived as "weak" or "fragile" or "delicate" or "sensitive," and if you are a boy or a man -- well, then, you are probably a queer, a faggot, a freak. Freaks are not fully human, which makes them excellent subjects for laboratory experiments. Endless cruelty can be inflicted on freaks, and your friends -- and many adults -- will honor you for it. And freaks certainly cannot get married. Even Barack Obama says that he prefers "civil unions" to gay marriage, for civil unions are more than good enough for freaks. Separate and not equal is fine for freaks. Obama is also not above more vicious instances of ridiculing freaks.

Our children learn all this, and many more lessons of the same kind. Of course, they are often vicious bullies. Our government is a murderous bully on a scale that beggars description; most politicians are bullies; the majority of adults are bullies to varying degrees. Why wouldn't these children be bullies? It's what they've been taught. In the most crucial ways, it's all they've been taught.

These children are the perfect embodiments of the central values of our culture. They have learned well.
The Times published some illuminating letters about its article, letters that are often very painful to read. Some of those letters are excellent:
Your article ponders why Billy Wolfe is a victim: is it his learning disability, his physical appearance, his attitude? No. The truth is that there is nothing about Billy, or any bullied victim, that justifies or legitimizes deliberate, repeated physical violence. Bullying is learned early and practiced often in schoolyards across America.

Everyone involved suffers: bullied kids, like Billy, who feel unsafe and alone; bystanders who learn the code of silence; and even the bullies, who may enjoy that momentary feeling of power, but who long term also pay a huge price, if the primary way they know how to connect with another person is with cruel words and their fists.

Starting early, parents and schools, in partnership, need to make it a priority to quit blaming the victim, and to teach lessons of empathy, every day. It's the only way to make school safe for every child.

Hang in there, Billy. It's not your fault.
Keep these issues and the details of this awful story -- only one story out of countless similar stories -- in the forefront of your mind. And then imagine my horror as I read this letter about the Billy Wolfe story:
The fortunate thing for Billy Wolfe is that he has supportive parents who are showing him acceptable ways of fighting back. The tragedy is that there are far too many kids in similar situations who, for one reason or another, can't turn to their parents.

As a former teacher in the New York City school system, I know how reluctant school officials often are to take definitive action in such circumstances. Yet, when a victim explodes or acts out in unacceptable ways, these same officials are shocked and indignant.

Why can't the bullies who make Billy's life miserable every day be suspended from school until they learn that intimidating and tormenting their peers will not be tolerated?
Focus on the critical sentence: "Yet, when a victim explodes or acts out in unacceptable ways, these same officials are shocked and indignant."

What exactly are these "unacceptable ways" of exploding or acting out? Who decided they were "unacceptable"? Why is it that "reluctant school officials" will not "take definitive action" against the bullies -- thus tacitly conceding that the bullying itself is not all that "unacceptable" -- while the same officials are "shocked and indignant" when the victim protests too strongly?

This pattern, and certain of its origins, will be found throughout history, in every culture around the world. The pattern is a simple and deadly one: the oppressor -- that is, those who are in the superior position, whether they are parents, school officials, or the government, or in a superior position merely by virtue of physical strength -- may inflict bodily harm and/or grievous, lifelong emotional and psychological injury, but the victim may only protest within the limits set by the oppressor himself. The oppressor will determine those forms of protest by the victim that are "acceptable."

You see this pattern with regard to many helpless, lonely children in addition to Billy Wolfe:
RICE, Texas - A fifth grader with a rare deformity says two teachers put him on display for a science lesson.

Robert Will Harris has Stahl's ear, which causes points to form on the ears. He and family say two fourth-grade teachers at his school used his deformity to teach a lesson in genetics.

The boy says the teachers pulled him from his class twice in one day and took him to their classrooms to show his ears.

Officials with the Rice Independent School District acknowledge the incidents happened, but say the teachers meant no harm. They say the teachers were simply trying to teach genetics and family traits.

The family says the boy's ears have nothing to do with genetics. His parents say they no longer want their son used for show and tell.
I recounted this story in "We Are Not Freaks." About the child in the story, I wrote:
You should think about what the boy in this news story felt. If he allowed himself to experience fully the humiliation and the shame, and the immense rage to which he was fully entitled, and if he felt it for more than a couple of minutes, it would kill him. That's how the repression begins in the case of the innocent victim: it is the only way he can survive. And that is what this culture, and what many of you, do to gays and lesbians, just as it was done and continues to be done to women and African-Americans, to many immigrants in our past and again today, and to far too many other groups to name.
It is true that victims of this kind of cruelty, especially when they are children, cannot allow themselves to feel their justified rage and anger completely for too long. Such extreme emotions are terrifying to experience, to a degree that most adults have entirely forgotten and never understand. In the next few days, I will republish an essay of mine from several years ago that recounts how I relived certain of those emotions myself. You will see how frightening and disorienting the experience is.

But there is another reason the victim cannot fully experience and give voice to his anger -- and that is his certain knowledge, conveyed by parents, teachers, the government and everyone else in a position of authority, that displays of such emotions are not permitted. If you go ahead and reveal how angry you are in defiance of the prohibition, you will be severely punished for your transgression.

Think about this very carefully for a moment. The oppressor may inflict unimaginable cruelties on innocent victims -- but the victims may only protest in ways which the oppressor deems "acceptable." The profound injustice is obvious, but not in itself remarkable or unexpected: this is how oppression operates. But ask yourself about the deeper reason for the prohibition. This is of the greatest importance: the victims may only protest within a constricted range of "permissible" behavior because, when they exceed the prescribed limits, they make the oppressors too uncomfortable. They force the oppressors to confront the nature of what they, the oppressors, have done in ways that the oppressors do not choose to face.

The fifth grader in the story would have been fully justified in screaming at his teachers for minutes, even hours. He would have been fully justified in demanding to know why his teachers humiliated him so mercilessly in front of his classmates, and why they exposed him to cruel scrutiny and mockery in this way. He had every right to ask why his teachers -- his teachers, who are supposed to protect him from gratuitous cruelty and who are supposed to be devoted to his well-being -- would so deeply betray their role. But what do you suppose would have happened to him if he had reacted in this way? As in the case of Billy Wolfe, his teachers would have been "shocked and indignant." The boy with Stahl's ear would almost certainly have been punished again -- for identifying the nature of the cruelty perpetrated against him and protesting against it.

In "The Limits of Politics," I summarized some of the dynamics involved, drawing on the work of Alice Miller:
There are several interlocking parts of the mechanisms that Miller describes that must be kept in mind -- and these parts help to explain what is missing from our political debates. The first part is obedience to the demands of the parent and/or other authority figure -- the second part is denial of the pain experienced by the child himself, when he is made to "conform" to arbitrary edicts and to suppress his own spontaneous, genuine emotions -- the third part is idealization of the parent and/or additional authority figure, since the child depends on the parent for life itself and dares not challenge the parent or the parent's "good intentions" -- and the final, inevitable part is the denial of the pain experienced by others. If we fully acknowledge the injuries sustained by others and the pain they experience, it will call up our own injuries. Because this would call into question our most fundamental sense of ourselves, this cannot be permitted. In this manner, the deadening of the soul -- which began with our own souls -- must expand to deaden us to the full reality of the selves of others.
You will find much more on these themes in my Alice Miller essays, and in the final installments of my series "On Torture." See the last two parts of that series, in particular ("The Truth that Lies Within, and the Truth that Many Will Not Face").

The most common justification for the endless cruelty and violence inflicted on innocent victims is that the oppressor acts as he does "for your own good." This alleged justification will be found in every episode of America's intentionally provoked wars of aggression. It was used to justify the Mexican-American War:
The simple truth was, Polk wanted more territory. No president in American history had ever been so frank in his aims for seizing real estate. ...

Perhaps to dignify the nakedness of Polk's land lust, the American citizenry had got itself whipped into an idealistic frenzy, believing with an almost religious assurance that its republican form of government and its constitutional freedoms should extend to the benighted reaches of the continent then held by Mexico, which, with its feudal customs and Popish superstitions, stood squarely in the way of Progress. To conquer Mexico, in other words, would be to do it a favor.
The same view was voiced during the brutal war of occupation in the Philippines:
At the end of the Spanish-American War, we collected Puerto Rico as a colony, set up a protectorate over Cuba, and annexed the Hawaiian Islands. President William McKinley also forced Spain to cede the Philippine Islands. To the American people, McKinley explained that, almost against his will, he had been led to make the decision to annex: "There was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and christianize them as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died." McKinley was either unaware of or simply chose not to inform the people that, except for some Muslim tribesmen in the south, the Filipinos were Roman Catholics, and, therefore, by most accounts, already Christians.
Today, after the U.S. government launches a criminal war of aggression against a country that never threatened it, and sets in motion actions that have led to the slaughter of more than a million innocent people, almost every leading politician utters obscenities such as the following:
Our troops did the job they were asked to do. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They conducted the search for weapons of mass destruction. They gave the Iraqi people a chance for elections and to have a government. It is the Iraqis who have failed to take advantage of that opportunity.
Hillary Clinton may offer an especially offensive version of this line, but the same line is peddled by most others of national prominence. This is American exceptionalism at its most nauseating: the U.S. government murders over a million people, unleashes chaotic violence that will almost certainly continue and get still worse, and it's all the Iraqis' fault. It can never be the U.S.'s fault, not with regard to Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq, or the many other interventions and wars of aggression in which the U.S. has engaged -- for the U.S. is the oppressor, and the oppressor sets the terms of debate, and the "acceptable" terms of protest. (You will find many more examples of this sort of thing in "Racist Nation.")

Hillary Clinton is an entirely awful politician in my view, although no more awful than almost all the rest of them. But whatever one's opinion of her and of the way in which she has managed her campaign, the extent of the mockery, cruelty and even implied violence directed toward her is astonishing. It is also sickening, for it is obvious that much of that mockery, cruelty and implied violence is directed at her because she is a woman. The comparisons to a psychotic Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, the threats that someone should take her into a room and "only he comes out," and all the rest proceed from the view of women embraced by a power structure whose nature and operations have been established and are still dominated for the most part by white, affluent, straight men. Yet when women complain about any of this, they are variously told: "Oh, it was only a joke!" Or: "Well, yes, it's bad, but it's not that bad." Or, to put it in starker terms that many men would use if they expressed the truth of their own view: "For God's sake, be a man about it! Suck it up!"

For to be a man under the prevailing view, and to be the United States government, means that you fully embrace the casual, unprovoked, indefensible use of cruelty and violence to get what you want, even and especially when you have no right to it whatsoever, while you deny your own pain and the pain of everyone else.

This returns us to the matter of Jeremiah Wright, and Barack Obama. I have explained in detail the manner in which Obama has chosen to embrace the American exceptionalist myth that is the life blood of the past and current power structure. This is a matter of considerable moment: in this manner, Obama has chosen to embrace not just one lie, but a long series of bloody, awful lies. Obama has thus chosen to deny the truth of racism in the United States and in its history, and the fact that racism remains embedded in almost all major institutions of power in this country.

In the second part of this series, I excerpted an article by Margaret Kimberley. Once again, I emphasize part of what she wrote:
Black people are and always have been the largest group of truth tellers in the United States. Our history proves that the country's most beloved mythologies are shams. Our every day lives tell us that racism persists, and that our political leaders lie constantly. We were always very difficult to fool, that is until Barack Obama ran for president.

Our commitment to truthfulness has been tested and found to be severely lacking, all in the name of seeing a black president. Obama's campaign has been filled with a laundry list of lies. Obama burst onto the national scene after his speech at 2004 Democratic convention. In that speech he famously said that "There is no black America." His statements during his presidential campaign have since gone from bad to worse.

First there was no black America, bad enough, then he acknowledged our existence but claimed we have no problems because "we are 90% of the way towards equality."


The omens don't look good. While Wright is generally supported, black opinion makers have urged him to shut up because they fear that the truth will damage Obama's chance to win.


It will be a sad day when black people stop telling the truth, all in an effort to elevate one ambitious man to his dream job. If Obama's support in the black community is any indication, most black people will end their historic progressive politics and applaud this country's criminal activity just because the head criminal looks like them.
The title of Kimberley's article is, "The End of Truth." And this is one of the major reasons why Obama is so enthusiastically supported by certain Americans, including many liberals and progressives -- for he protests the grave injustices perpetrated against black Americans, but only in the ways that are deemed "acceptable" by the white establishment.

Obama's view of race relations in America will not provoke shock and indignation on the part of those in positions of authority, or those who wish to be -- for Obama says that black Americans have nothing to be shocked or indignant about themselves any longer. Perhaps black Americans are entitled to be angry about the past, but they shouldn't be too angry. Yes, terrible injustices were committed, but that's all behind us now. Now, we can comfortably move into a "post-racial" future, simply because we say so. The institutionalized racism that still permeates much of American life will vanish, because we will pretend it is no longer there. You should just forget about the generations of black American men who have been imprisoned, the numerous ways in which doors are slammed in the faces of other black Americans, and the lives that are blighted and sometimes ended by the murderous racism that continues to this day.

Never mind any of that. It's time to "move on." If you don't, it's your fault.

This is the same message delivered to many children, to the Iraqis, to women, to gays, to every other group that is oppressed by the institutions of power in this country. Don't be too angry or too upset, and never confront those in power or who enjoy a privileged position in this society with anything close to the full reality of the injustices they have committed, and that they continue to commit.

People should understand that this message is deeply damaging, and potentially deadly. We can only move beyond terrible pain and injury after we fully acknowledge and understand the damage that has been caused. Among other things, this requires that we explicitly identify what has been done and do so in detail, so that the effects can be discharged in ways that are not destructive and violent. If the victims are forbidden to go through this process -- as those in power forbid them to do -- the damage does not miraculously vanish. It goes underground, for such feelings do not disappear because you wish them to. When they are driven underground, they will inevitably surface at some point -- and when they do, the consequences may be terrible indeed.

Acknowledge the truth. Understand the grievous damage that has been done and that continues today. Talk about it as much as may be required, even if it takes years. Those who enjoy privilege and power have had their turn, as they still do. It is long past time to let the victims speak. If what they have to say makes you uncomfortable, that's too goddamned bad. Let them speak -- and listen to what they have to say.

It's not the fault of the victims. It's the fault of those in power. They ought to understand that, finally, and then they ought to fix it -- which is to say, they ought to fix themselves.

UPDATE: I've already started receiving all-too-predictable complaints that I have committed a mortal sin by mentioning the misogyny directed at Clinton, while failing to document the pervasive anti-black discrimination directed at Obama. I may write more about this in the near future; for now, a few brief points.

First, there is certainly a great deal of vicious discrimination directed at Obama. It may be very widespread. In fact, I have more than a slight suspicion that such discrimination may finally deny him the presidency, assuming he is the nominee. I have documented the racism inherent in the American political system, and in American culture and society generally, in numerous posts; follow just a few of the links above to my many essays on this subject. It can hardly be said with any degree of seriousness that this is an issue I have neglected. (And I have not even mentioned in this postscript what I say on this subject in the above essay itself. Now I've mentioned it. Perhaps certain critics of mine should reread the above article, paying particular attention to my specific reasons for criticizing Obama's denunciation of Wright.)

Second, and this is a very serious problem with regard to Obama specifically: as I discussed in detail in earlier essays (again, linked above), on most critical issues, Jeremiah Wright was correct. He spoke the truth. But Obama has denounced Wright's views on all the major points. Obama has emphatically stated that it is not the truth. As noted above, Obama thus embraces the American exceptionalist myth -- which is, to be precise, a white American exceptionalist myth. It is the myth of the ruling class, which throughout most of our history and still today is a white ruling class. The comparatively few black Americans who rise to national prominence do not change this reality -- and, like Obama, many of those black Americans also adopt the American exceptionalist myth. Moreover, as Kimberley notes, Obama has declared that all these problems are 90% solved.

This places Obama's would-be defenders in an unusual predicament: they want to defend Obama on an issue about which Obama refuses to defend himself. Obama has told us there is nothing of any significance he needs to defend himself against. In this way, Obama has removed the weapon from his defenders' hands. He has told them -- as he has told Wright -- to shut up and keep quiet about it. Obama doesn't want Wright to discuss it, and he doesn't want you to discuss it.

This is a monumental problem. Because Obama seeks the highest elective office in a society which is based on and still revolves around the myth of American exceptionalism in numerous and often complex ways, it is probably the case that he has to deny the truth. That does not change what the truth is. If you choose to defend him against viciously discriminatory attacks, and if you go so far as to suggest that those attacks are systemic and widespread, you call into question certain of the critical premises underlying Obama's campaign (that he is the "post-racial" candidate and similar claims).

He doesn't want you to defend him too strenuously on this issue, if at all. Think about that, and get back to me.

May 09, 2008

Cultivate Your Sense of Wonder, and Live Ecstatically

I believe that the justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity. Through the ministrations of radio and the phonograph, we are rapidly and quite properly learning to appreciate the elements of aesthetic narcissism -- and I use that word in its best sense -- and are awakening to the challenge that each man contemplatively create his own divinity. -- Glenn Gould, quoted in "Glenn Gould: Musical Individualist"
In "Passing on the Sense of Wonder," I wrote:
I know that some people view my writing as bleak and pessimistic; they think I approach events from a perspective that is despairing and fatalistic. Some believe my primary message is that we're headed into monumental catastrophe, and there is nothing to be done about it. In the most important sense, such a view of my work strikes me as surpassingly strange. It is absolutely not how I think about the world at all. To begin with, the fundamental fact of life itself, coupled with the further extraordinary fact that we are aware of it, is nothing less than miraculous to me. Many times a day, as I'm reading or listening to music, and once in a very, very great while when I'm writing and think I may have stumbled onto a particularly pleasing way of expressing some idea, I'll think: "Isn't this just the most amazing thing, that people can create in this manner!" I consider the supreme artistry of Maria Callas, and I am overwhelmed and inspired by the greatness of which human beings are capable. The breadth of that kind of vision, together with an exquisite sensitivity to the smallest detail and an unbreached dedication to settling for nothing less than the absolute best we can do, fills me with wonder. It makes my own soul sing, and I am determined to work harder than ever in my own small way.

If I had to select just a single word to express my deepest feeling about the world, and about humankind, it would be that one: wonder. I consider it a measure of how unevolved we are that so many people appear to be capable of that feeling only when they contemplate an imaginary, supernatural plane. It is hardly surprising that our world holds so much unnecessary suffering, when so many people are willing and eager to condemn it to second-rate status in favor of one they've made up out of whole cloth.
A little farther on in that essay, discussing what may lie in our future culturally and politically, I said:
I think it highly probable that our circumstances will continue to get significantly worse, although this deterioration may come quickly or comparatively slowly. You may live the rest of your life without seeing the worst of what will happen, or even anything close to the worst -- or you may not. There is no way to know, and the variables are close to infinite. But I say again: it does not have to be this way. Extraordinary events have transpired in history before, and they might again. We need a miracle, but not one delivered to us from a supernatural realm: we require a miracle that we create.

It can happen. Hold on to your sense of wonder; if you do not have a sufficiently strong one, then develop it. For me, it is the most precious resource in the world.
I read the Glenn Gould passage that appears at the beginning of this piece, and which I don't recall ever seeing before, in this fascinating entry, which I came across because of this post. I offer my sincere thanks to Peter Saint-Andre; the particular terms of his kind words mean a great deal to me. "Flecks of Light" and the earlier Callas essay may be my two favorites of my own essays, because they are so deeply personal. I myself am not at all certain that I merit in any significant way Saint-Andre's comparison to Gould. Aside from my incurable dissatisfaction with my own work and my reluctance to claim too much for it, I am largely unfamiliar with Gould's writing and thought, although I have a number of his recordings. Clearly, I will need to read the books that Saint-Andre mentions.

In the second half of "Passing on the Sense of Wonder," I mentioned two works that I had recently viewed and read, and that capture aspects of this perspective, Alan Bennett's The History Boys, and Albert Jay Nock's, Our Enemy, the State. I quoted a brief speech of Hector's in The History Boys; as I wrote, Hector is "a teacher of about 60 who 'merely' provides 'inspiration,' which the headmaster considers 'unquantifiable' and therefore insufficient." Hector tells his students:
Pass the parcel.
That's sometimes all you can do.
Take it, feel it and pass it on.
Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day.
Pass it on, boys.
That's the game I wanted you to learn.
Pass it on.
From the conclusion of Saint-Andre's essay about Gould:
Although Gould never accepted students, he emphasized to those who did that "your success as teachers would very much depend upon the degree to which the singularity, the uniqueness, of the confrontation between yourselves and each one of your students is permitted to determine your approach to them" (Gould 1984, 5). He cultivated in himself "those virtues of temperamental independence which signal the genuine re-creative fire" (Gould 1984, 252), almost to the point of becoming a hermit. He longed for "a world where nobody cared what anybody else was doing -- in which the entire group-think ... syndrome utterly disappeared" (Gould 1984, 460). This ethical individualism is fully consistent with his views on the mission of the artist, which Payzant describes as follows:
According to Gould, artists have a moral mission and art has an unrealized potential for the betterment of humankind. Human improvement can occur only as the result of modification in our attitudes as solitary, private individuals, and not as some kind of collective modification of our species, voluntary or not. Each person must accept the challenge of contemplatively creating his own "divinity." "Divinity" here refers to the better part of individual human nature, which for Gould is the introspectively and ecstatically contemplative part.... (Payzant 1984, 120)
Yet this artistic mission is not moralistic, nor does it involve the kind of "preoccupation with an art that communicates easily with the masses" or "insistence upon an overt message" (Gould 1984, 174) that Gould found so repugnant in Socialist Realism. For Gould, "the purpose of art is ... to serve its own end, from which each man will derive what he chooses to derive" (Gould 1984, 170). It is this ideal that Glenn Gould pursued throughout his life as a musician and thinker, and that makes him a powerful example of aesthetic and ethical individualism.
And the final paragraphs of "Passing on the Sense of Wonder":
We should note the conclusion of Nock's Epilogue too, where Nock proposes "a violent frontal assault" on the "vocationalists" like Murdstone, who think "the world be merely a place to work in," a world where "nobody seems to be having a very good time," whether poor or rich:
All the physical apparatus of happiness is about us, and yet no one, apparently, is having a cent's worth of fun out of it. Well, here is the classicist's opportunity. He can throw his experienced eye, trained by his incessant commerce with the ages, over this anomaly and show cause for it. He can survey the life of our well-to-do and poor alike, and show that about the only fun to be had out of such a life is the search for fun, and show why the desire remains ungratified. He can show by practical example -- by horrible example -- where, in the preparation for life, certain essential values which have been disregarded by the vocationalist, come in. Thus he has now an advantage which he never had before, in the opportunity to appraise a whole society which represents quite fairly the finished work of his opponents. But we are convinced that he will once more merely fumble this advantage unless he stands immovable upon the bed-rock thesis that life is given to human beings for their enjoyment, that all its other purposes, if it have any, are incidental and ancillary to this one; that the human world by its original intention is not Murdstone's world, not a world of industry and efficiency, but a world of joy.
Just before Hector's final speech in The History Boys, Hector's rival, Irwin, says: "He was a good man but I do not think there is time for his kind of teaching any more." One of the students replies: "No. Love apart, it is the only education worth having."

Live in the sense of wonder, and in the world of joy. Take it, feel it and pass it on.

That's sometimes all you can do -- for someone, somewhere, one day. It's everything.
I now add that, when you engage in this process, you yourself live ecstatically -- today.

And that is everything.

May 07, 2008

Choosing Sides (II): Killing Truth and Hope -- The Fatal Illusion of Opposition

Part I: "Why America May Go to Hell," and Feeling Young Again

Toward the beginning of "The Nightmare Made Real," I wrote:
You desperately need to understand this: the next President of the United States, no matter who it is, will enter office knowing that he or she can systematically and regularly authorize torture, order mass murder, direct the United States military to engage in one campaign of criminal conquest and genocide after another, oversee uncountable acts of inhumanity and barbarity -- and he or she will never be challenged or called to account in any manner whatsoever. It may have taken the Bush administration two terms to bring us to the point where such evils are committed and even boasted about in broad daylight, while almost no one even notices -- but this will be where the next President starts.

And for this monstrous, unforgivable fact, you can thank the Democrats and those who whore themselves for the Democrats' success in our disgustingly meaningless elections.
See the earlier post for a fuller argument on this subject.

A crucially related issue connects to the earlier post, and it deserves discussion separately. That issue is the following: there is nothing so dangerous as the illusion of opposition, when in fact no such opposition exists. Many of us have seen movies or read books which, in broad outline, tell the following story: a cruel villain inflicts terrible misery and suffering on innocent victims. A brave, fearless defender of the victims unexpectedly appears. The victims rally behind their defender, and they increasingly come to view him as their savior. The battle between the villain and his forces on one hand, and the victims and their defender on the other, rages fiercely. One side seems destined for victory, and then the other. It takes a very long time before victory is assured for either side; the toll of battle is awful for everyone. Finally, the villain defeats the victims and their brave defender, and the villain emerges as more powerful than he had ever been.

In the final scene, we learn the truth: the victims' defender had been working for the villain all the time. The defender had never been on the side of the victims: instead, at every critical juncture, he made sure to misdirect the victims' efforts just enough to make certain that the villain was never seriously threatened. The defender had to do this subtly; he had to lie on every matter of moment, and he had to do so repeatedly. He did all this expertly, and the victims never suspected his actual goal. The defender is handsomely rewarded for his work, for he delivered the victims into the villain's power, making certain that the victims would never again be a genuine threat. And the illusion is complete: even after they had lost and their lives had been destroyed forever, the victims never doubted their hero or the fact that he had fought for them so bravely.

In many essays, I have documented the inexorable development of the political system in the United States over more than a century: toward a corporatist-authoritarian state domestically, coupled with a militantly, violently interventionist foreign policy. (Once again, see these articles and the other essays they link for the details: "Blinded by the Story," "It's Called the Ruling Class Because It Rules," the "Dominion Over the World" series, and "Cui Bono? -- and Bush's Monstrous, Deadly Dare.") This system encompasses every area of our national life. It is reflected economically and politically through an inordinately complex series of interconnections between nominally private business enterprise and government (including government on every level: city, county, state and federal), and through endless, intentionally incomprehensible regulations (which are usually crafted by vested business interests themselves and serve to protect already entrenched powers and shut out new competitors, a process which became a significant national force during the Progressive era); it is reflected culturally in a strangling, exceedingly narrow range of permissible, "acceptable" thought.

The military-industrial complex -- or what is now often more accurately described as the military-industrial-congressional complex -- is the most significant component of these interrelationships, but there are many other parts. They encompass all major industries, and almost every minor one, as well as many of our educational and cultural institutions. There is no aspect of our national or personal lives that is not significantly overseen, regulated and, when necessary to protect those in power, punished by government.

This system as it exists today consists of innumerable interrelated, constantly moving parts. Countless agencies, commissions and bureaucrats act in concert and on their own to expand their power, and that of government generally. The system has a life of its own; it is its own reason for being. It sustains itself, and it seeks more and more territory for its dominance. The exercise of power and the acquisition of still more power are not directed at the improvement of the lives of "ordinary" Americans, whoever they may be; ordinary Americans are of no interest or concern to the ruling elites, except insofar as their labor and often their lives are necessary for the maintenance of the lives of immense comfort and privilege enjoyed by the powerful. Power is not the means to some other end, although that claim is a crucial element of the extraordinarily successful propaganda so willingly swallowed by the public. Power -- its exercise and maintenance, and the acquisition of still more power -- is the end.

The Republican and Democratic parties, as institutions of power in the United States, have both worked toward this end for many decades, as they both work for its continuation today. Yes, there are certain policy differences between the two parties; those differences can be of significance for specific individuals, as discussed in the second half of "Cui Bono?" But these are derivative, comparatively unimportant issues. As I wrote in that earlier essay:
I urge you to keep in mind the full meaning of the following from [Chris Floyd's] post: "even minute mitigations in the operation of vast power structures can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people, simply due to the scale on which such structures operate." If you choose to support one party over the other because of those "minute mitigations" that "can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people," that's fine -- but intellectual honesty ought to compel you to recognize the great danger you're courting. That danger lies in "the scale on which such structures operate." We are talking here about the massive power of government on a huge scale. A government that has the power to save you also has the power to kill you. When power is institutionalized on a gigantic scale of this kind, as it now has been in the United States, it is easy enough to flip the switch from a policy you abhor to one you approve, depending on who holds power at any given moment. But government is not run by some impartial, unbiased, God-like and fictitious force: it is run by individual human beings. One person may flip the switch in a way you think is wonderful; the next person in control may flip it back again, and slaughter another million people.

You may think that this system is not going to change in the foreseeable future or in your lifetime, so it is better to have at least semi-decent human beings in charge of it. In some circumstances and with regard to certain issues, I might even agree with you. But be clear about the nature of the system you are thereby supporting: one of immense power, that can cut down any one of us if even a single individual in a critical position decides to do so. And given the issues on which the two parties agree at present, I see nothing to recommend the Democrats over the Republicans. They both stand for endless war and global interventionism; they both stand for authoritarianism on the domestic front.... For me, all other issues recede into insignificance. If you make a different decision, at least be honest about the nature of your choice. That's all I ask.
Given this system and its nature and complexity, it is only ignorance, a failure to understand history, politics, economics and culture, and/or repeated, habitual dishonesty and manipulation that can permit anyone to believe that a single individual could reverse these developments over more than a century, or alter them in any significant manner whatsoever. You may wish to engage in magical thinking -- as even liberals and progressives like to do these days, when they repeat with straight faces that Barack Obama's goal is "changing the very nature of politics" -- but deluding yourself that miracles will happen will not alter the nature or direction of our political system. Liberals and progressives correctly and severely criticize the Republicans for believing in such miracles with regard to Iraq, yet when it comes to their chosen savior on the domestic front, they themselves now sound like the worst kind of fundamentalist. Their capacity for critical thinking and analysis has vanished entirely, and they are capable of believing anything. Such people are exceptionally dangerous, especially to all the rest of us; I will be exploring some of the more particular dangers involved later in this series.

Even if we assume that Obama genuinely wishes to alter our political system, the critical point is unchanged: one individual cannot do it. It is folly to believe otherwise. More bluntly: it is deeply, profoundly stupid. And the truth is very different from this idiotic fantasy: Obama is the perfect embodiment of the system as it now exists. He will challenge it on no issue of importance. To the contrary, he will advance the goals of the ruling class and ensure that the powerful are fully protected. He will lie to you about all of this, as he already has on numerous occasions -- but as I have noted, many Americans, including many liberals and progressives, are enthusiastically willing to believe anything.

I have written about Obama's full embrace of American exceptionalism in several essays: among others, see "Songs of Death," "Obama's Whitewash," and "Messiahs Just Aren't What They Used to Be." On that subject and on these general themes, I draw your attention to two new articles.

Margaret Kimberley writes about, "The End of Truth":
Black people are and always have been the largest group of truth tellers in the United States. Our history proves that the country's most beloved mythologies are shams. Our every day lives tell us that racism persists, and that our political leaders lie constantly. We were always very difficult to fool, that is until Barack Obama ran for president.

Our commitment to truthfulness has been tested and found to be severely lacking, all in the name of seeing a black president. Obama's campaign has been filled with a laundry list of lies. Obama burst onto the national scene after his speech at 2004 Democratic convention. In that speech he famously said that "There is no black America." His statements during his presidential campaign have since gone from bad to worse.

First there was no black America, bad enough, then he acknowledged our existence but claimed we have no problems because "we are 90% of the way towards equality." Then there was double talking, slippery, plausibly deniable praise of Ronald Reagan. Then the unambiguous praise "my foreign policy will be in some ways like Ronald Reagan's."


Now Barack Obama will be the object of unconditional love from black America. His pledge to leave Iraq is full of loopholes, and will not result in an end to the occupation. His language is less bellicose than Hillary Clinton "we'll obliterate them" on Iran, but he has said that "all options are on the table." If those options include killing thousands of people, what will black America say? Will we play our traditional role of speaking truth to the powerful or will we excuse mass murder because the head murderer looks like us?

The omens don't look good. While Wright is generally supported, black opinion makers have urged him to shut up because they fear that the truth will damage Obama's chance to win.


It will be a sad day when black people stop telling the truth, all in an effort to elevate one ambitious man to his dream job. If Obama's support in the black community is any indication, most black people will end their historic progressive politics and applaud this country's criminal activity just because the head criminal looks like them.
You should read Kimberley's column in its entirety.

You should also read a two-part article by Pam Martens: Part I, and Part II. Please note that this is no kind of "hit job," for Martens tells us at the very end of the second part:
I personally admire Senator Obama. I want to believe Senator Obama is not a party to the scheme. But corporate interests have had plenty of time to do their vetting. Democracy demands no less of we, the people.
Martens' argument is a complex, detailed one, and I recommend setting some time aside so that you can more fully appreciate it. Here are just a few highlights. From Part I, "Obama's Money Cartel":
Wall Street, known variously as a barren wasteland for diversity or the last plantation in America, has defied courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for decades in its failure to hire blacks as stockbrokers. Now it's marshalling its money machine to elect a black man to the highest office in the land. Why isn't the press curious about this?


The first clue to an entrenched white male bastion seeking a black male occupant in the oval office (having placed only five blacks in the U.S. Senate in the last two centuries) appeared in February on a chart at the Center for Responsive Politics website. It was a list of the 20 top contributors to the Barack Obama campaign, and it looked like one of those comprehension tests where you match up things that go together and eliminate those that don't. Of the 20 top contributors, I eliminated six that didn't compute. I was now looking at a sight only slightly less frightening to democracy than a Diebold voting machine. It was a Wall Street cartel of financial firms, their registered lobbyists, and go-to law firms that have a death grip on our federal government.

Why is the "yes, we can" candidate in bed with this cartel? How can "we", the people, make change if Obama's money backers block our ability to be heard?

Seven of the Obama campaign's top 14 donors consisted of officers and employees of the same Wall Street firms charged time and again with looting the public and newly implicated in originating and/or bundling fraudulently made mortgages.


The Center for Responsive Politics website allows one to pull up the filings made by lobbyists, registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 with the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and secretary of the U.S. Senate. These top five contributors to the Obama campaign have filed as registered lobbyists: Sidley Austin LLP; Skadden, Arps, et al; Jenner & Block; Kirkland & Ellis; Wilmerhale, aka Wilmer Cutler Pickering.

Is it possible that Senator Obama does not know that corporate law firms are also frequently registered lobbyists? Or is he making a distinction that because these funds are coming from the employees of these firms, he's not really taking money directly from registered lobbyists? That thesis seems disingenuous when many of these individual donors own these law firms as equity partners or shareholders and share in the profits generated from lobbying.

Far from keeping his distance from lobbyists, Senator Obama and his campaign seems to be brainstorming with them.


So, how should we react when we learn that the top contributors to the Obama campaign are the very Wall Street firms whose shady mortgage lenders buried the elderly and the poor and minority under predatory loans? How should we react when we learn that on the big donor list is Citigroup, whose former employee at CitiFinancial testified to the Federal Trade Commission that it was was standard practice to target people based on race and educational level, with the sales force winning bonuses called "Rocopoly Money" (like a sick board game), after "blitz" nights of soliciting loans by phone? How should we react when we learn that these very same firms, arm in arm with their corporate lawyers and registered lobbyists, have weakened our ability to fight back with the class-action vehicle?

Should there be any doubt left as to who owns our government? The very same cast of characters making the Obama hit parade of campaign loot are the clever creators of the industry solutions to the wave of foreclosures gripping this nation's poor and middle class, effectively putting the solution in the hands of the robbers. The names of these programs (that have failed to make a dent in the problem) have the same vacuous ring: Hope Now; Project Lifeline.
From Part II, "The Obama Bubble Agenda":
The Obama phenomenon has been likened to that of cults, celebrity groupies and Messiah worshipers. But what we're actually witnessing is ObamaMania (as in tulip mania), the third and final bubble orchestrated and financed by the wonderful Wall Street folks who brought us the first two: the Nasdaq/tech bubble and a subprime-mortgage-in-every-pot bubble.

To understand why Wall Street desperately needs this final bubble, we need to first review how the first two bubbles were orchestrated and why.


That brings us to today's bubble. We are being asked to accept on its face the notion that after more than two centuries of entrenched racism in this country, which saw only five black members of the U.S. Senate, it's all being eradicated with some rousing stump speeches.

We are asked to believe that those kindly white executives at all the biggest Wall Street firms, which rank in the top 20 donors to the Obama presidential campaign, after failing to achieve more than 3.5 per cent black stockbrokers over 30 years, now want a black populist president because they crave a level playing field for the American people.

The number one industry supporting the Obama presidential bid, by the start of February, -- the crucial time in primary season -- according to the widely respected, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, was "lawyers/law firms" (most on Wall Street's payroll), giving a total of $11,246,596.


Senator Obama's premise and credibility of not taking money from federal lobbyists hangs on a carefully crafted distinction: he is taking money, lots of it, from owners and employees of firms registered as federal lobbyists but not the actual individual lobbyists.

But is that dealing honestly with the American people?


Those critical thinkers over at the Black Agenda Report for the Journal of African American Political Thought and Action have zeroed in on the making of the Obama bubble:
"The 2008 Obama presidential run may be the most slickly orchestrated marketing machine in memory. That's not a good thing. Marketing is not even distantly related to democracy or civic empowerment. Marketing is about creating emotional, even irrational bonds between your product and your target audience."
And slick it is. According to the Obama campaign's financial filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and aggregated at the Center for Responsive Politics, the Obama campaign has spent over $52 million on media, strategy consultants, image building, marketing research and telemarketing.


The Wall Street plan for the Obama-bubble presidency is that of the cleanup crew for the housing bubble: sweep all the corruption and losses, would-be indictments, perp walks and prosecutions under the rug and get on with an unprecedented taxpayer bailout of Wall Street. (The corporate law firms have piled on to funding the plan because most were up to their eyeballs in writing prospectuses or providing legal opinions for what has turned out to be bogus AAA securities. Lawsuits naming the Wall Street firms will, no doubt, shortly begin adding the law firms that rendered the legal guidance to issue the securities.) Who better to sell this agenda to the millions of duped mortgage holders and foreclosed homeowners in minority communities across America than our first, beloved, black president of hope and change?

Why do Wall Street and the corporate law firms think they will find a President Obama to be accommodating? As the Black Agenda Report notes, "Evidently, the giant insurance companies, the airlines, oil companies, Wall Street, military contractors and others had closely examined and vetted Barack Obama and found him pleasing."
Yet this is the man who is "changing the very nature of politics."

Far too many Americans will believe anything, regardless of its absurdity, if it accords with their preexisting illusions and their preferred view of themselves. We exist on lies, lies and more lies.

The killing of truth and hope continues unimpeded.

May 06, 2008

Mr. Potter, You're Fired!

Honest to gods:
LAND 'O LAKES, Fla. -- A substitute teacher in Pasco County has lost his job after being accused of wizardry.

Teacher Jim Piculas does a magic trick where a toothpick disappears and then reappears.

Piculas recently did the 30-second trick in front of a classroom at Rushe Middle School in Land 'O Lakes. Piculas said he then got a call from the supervisor of teachers, saying he'd been accused of wizardry.

"I get a call the middle of the day from head of supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, 'Jim, we have a huge issue, you can't take any more assignments you need to come in right away,'" he said.

Piculas said he did not know of any other accusations that would have led to the action. The teacher said he is concerned that the incident may prevent him from getting future jobs.
If I had a lot of money, I'd hire Mr. Piculas and ask him to make Florida disappear. We might thus be spared much grief over the next half year.

I found this story via John Derbyshire, who is, in certain respects, fabulous on the subjects of creationism, ID and Ben Stein's latest exercise in thought- and civilization-destruction. Truly, on those issues, Derbyshire is fabulous. (As you might expect, you need to work fairly hard to set a goodly amount of typical conservative, right-wing crap apart from the points on which Derbyshire is correct.)

Deal with it, John. You are sometimes, in some respects, fabulous, you sweetheart.

Not to worry, Derb. All of us anarcho-leftist gays have your back. All 20 of us. We are small, intimate group. And seriously: We have your back.

Sweet dreams.

P.S. Perhaps, Derb, you know another of the subjects we keep track of from time to time, one Ralph Peters? See "There Is No Substitute for Firm, Hard and Deep Insertion." If you happen to, ah, join up with him, please tell him we have his back, too.

Nighty-night, boys.

P.P.S. Following my own links back, I found this: "Conundrum." I'd forgotten all about that post. Funny stuff. I believe I do have my moments from time to time. :>))

May 04, 2008

Choosing Sides (I): "Why America May Go to Hell," and Feeling Young Again

I am profoundly in Jeremiah Wright's debt. He has reinvigorated my spirit, strengthened certain dwindling resources of mine, and made me feel young again.

It is often noted that many people become more conservative as they age. The opposite is true in my case. Over the last three or four years in particular, I have become more and more radical. I once described my political beliefs as libertarian in nature -- although, I hasten to add and I think the record will show, my libertarianism was of the genuine and serious variety, as opposed to the utterly phony libertarianism that will be found in today's culture, and especially among many bloggers. I opposed the very dangerous authoritarianism of the Bush administration from the time I began blogging in September 2002, and I opposed the invasion of Iraq before it began. I always recognized that the corporatist-authoritarian state at home and an aggressively and violently interventionist foreign policy are inextricably linked, that they are but the two faces of the same coin. But as my political-cultural critique has hopefully deepened, my political views altered. I now describe myself as a leftist-anarchist: the leftist part of the description designates the cultural-economic-historical-political perspective I try to employ, while the anarchist label indicates that I view the State as the primary problem. As I have said (and I will have more to say about this at some point), I view anarchism as useful in theory only at this point, although the theory is of immense importance. Until and unless a critical number of individuals alter the primary motives that move most people (the desire for power and control, and the demand for obedience, being chief among them), any state of affairs approximating anarchism will lead only to more chaos and death. If humanity manages to evolve through several more stages, which assumes we don't kill ourselves in huge numbers in the meantime (a fragile hope, indeed), then peaceful anarchism might have a chance.

I will be 60 tomorrow. Most of my readers are probably considerably younger than I am. I'm sorry to tell you that some of the standard cliches about aging are true. I have absolutely no idea how the hell I arrived at the age of 60. It seems only yesterday that I was a teenager who skipped school, and finally dropped out of high school altogether (twice!), so that I could go to the Metropolitan Opera five or six times a week. Subsequently, I acceded to the demands of convention, took the high school equivalency exam, got a B.A. from NYU and still later, in my thirties, got a law degree. In the course of my life, I studied intensively to become a concert pianist, and then an opera singer. I was an actor for the better part of a decade. I've worked in the film industry, and as a civil litigator. About ten years ago, through a complicated and terribly painful series of events, I said to hell with all of it. Today, my life is much as it was when I was a teenager who loved opera more than anything in the world: I've dropped out of "the system" almost completely. I have as little to do with the State as possible. I ask for nothing from the State, and I can only hope the State will demand nothing from me. Of course, the State can choose to demand everything from me whenever it wishes, and I will be close to helpless before its onslaught. Yes, freedom is a wonderful thing. I wish we had it. (If the State were to demand everything from me, there is almost nothing they would get since I have almost nothing, except for my life. Although I well understand that my life is of less than no interest to the State, it remains of some certain value to me, even now.)

Physically, I feel very, very old. Given current medical technology, it's very likely I would not have to feel so old at 60, except that my poverty means I can't avail myself of any of that technology. So my rotten health means that I feel more like 130. Yet it feels churlish to me to complain too much about the wreck that passes for my body. It also seems like only yesterday that I moved from New York to Los Angeles. But I moved here exactly 30 years ago, in 1978. I've lived half my life in Los Angeles. I didn't come out as a gay man until after I moved to L.A. (Some of that geographical and psychological journey is described here, in an essay from 2003, written when I was about to turn 55.) In the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s, I made many friends and acquaintances in the gay community. Most of my friends from that time are dead now. They began dying around 1984, and they didn't stop dying regularly and in large numbers for a decade. I felt like a very old man while I was still in my thirties, as did all my friends. We expect to see our friends start to die when we arrive at, well, 60 or so. We don't expect it several decades earlier. This is my second time at this rodeo. Once would have been enough.

I do my best to ignore my health altogether. On some days, I can't, because I feel too lousy. But it's pointless to dwell on it, so I try to set it aside. And here's the interesting, and wonderful, thing: psychologically, I feel much younger than I did 30 years ago. I think I know more, and I think I understand much more. Even though I can control next to nothing in my physical existence, I feel very much in control psychologically and intellectually. That's a great gift, one for which I am deeply grateful.

But many of the subjects that I discuss here are exceedingly grim. Sometimes, it gets to be far more than I can bear, so I need to leave it alone for a while. But then, something completely unexpected turns up. A Jeremiah Wright appears on the scene. He causes me to feel more radicalized than ever, and I feel young again. Reverend Wright has performed an invaluable service, for those able to recognize and appreciate it. He has spoken a number of truths of critical importance -- see here and here for some background on that. And he has also caused a number of people to reveal themselves as significant frauds. I refer, of course, to many liberals and progressives, especially white liberals and progressives. When the moment of testing arrived, many liberals and progressives denounced Wright in terms that are indistinguishable from those employed by writers at National Review, or people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. You would think it might trouble these self-proclaimed liberals and progressives that they find themselves in such company, but it doesn't. This is useful information. Thanks, Reverend.

(I must note that this phenomenon is hardly restricted to white liberals and progressives, and I'm not referring only to awful conservative-"libertarian" blacks of the Larry Elder variety. Bob Herbert is often wonderful on subjects such as our inhumane prison system and torture, but take a look at Bob Herbert on Wright. "[T]he histrionics of a loony preacher from the South Side of Chicago." "The idea that [Wright's] nonsense may shape the outcome of this election is both tragic and absurd." Herbert has been an op-ed columnist at The New York Times since 1993. The Times is one of the leading voices of the existing power structure. That power structure is, from a cultural and historical perspective, an affluent, immensely privileged, white power structure. It not only propagandizes for the U.S. government and cheerleads the U.S.'s wars of aggression; it also seeks to enforce the permissible terms of debate, terms that are suffocatingly and immorally constricted. With regard to this controversy, Herbert has chosen sides -- and he has not chosen the side of truth and justice.)

I have briefly mentioned the ways in which the views and actions of Martin Luther King have been sanitized, defanged, neutralized and made "acceptable" to mainstream American opinion. In that connection, you should read this interview with Jonathan Walton. This excerpt will give you a start:
Let's talk about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Martin Luther King. Some of Wright's critics have contrasted his approach to that of King, who they portray as using reconciliation rather than confrontation. Is that an accurate portrayal of King? Is that an accurate portrayal of Wright?

No to both. It's a mythic portrayal of King, a nostalgic portrayal of King -- because King was accused and vilified for being controversial, actually more controversial than Jeremiah Wright.

Didn't King become more radical in the course of his career, in the period leading up to his assassination?

It was largely because of the fact that he moved from civil rights to human rights. One of King's famous quotes after desegregation laws had been passed was that he began to find out that it mattered little if African-Americans -- he said Negroes, of course -- have the right to eat at the counter if they don't have a dollar to spend at the lunch counter.

In response to my question before, you said that portraying King as having a message of reconciliation and Wright having a message of confrontation or subversion was not accurate. You've explained how King's approach wasn't purely about reconciliation.

It was about reconciliation. But just because it was about reconciliation doesn't mean that he wasn't confrontational. King believed in nonviolent, direct confrontation. And thus when we come marching through the town, we are trying to expose inequality and expose violence. And if you practice nonviolent confrontation, you morally shame your opponent toward moral suasion. And when you shame them toward moral suasion, it's not to defeat your opponent, but to reunite with your opponent. You're trying to make them ashamed of themselves, so they will turn from their wicked ways. These are all Gospel principles.

Essentially you're saying Wright uses that same approach.

Wright ain't necessarily King. Wright sees himself in that tradition. King was very much in the tradition of the African-American jeremiad. And that is where he would call out the sins of the nation so the nation would live up to its ideals and its promises. That's how King saw himself. But that's not how people looked at King. On April 4, 1967, King stood in front of the Riverside Church and said that if America does not change its ways, America, if you continue to be so prideful, God will tear down this nation, and rise up another nation that doesn't even know my name.

It was his "God damn America" moment, except there wasn't YouTube.

It was his God damn America moment. And the Sunday after King was assassinated, do you know what King was scheduled to preach that Sunday morning? His sermon title was "Why America May Go to Hell."
It is only one of the many calumnies heaped on Wright's head that the mythical, non-existent King is used to condemn him. There is no question that, if King were to reappear among us and speak as he did in the last few years of his life, he would be vilified and loathed in terms at least as harsh as those now directed at Wright. This is to not even mention what some of these same liberals and progressives might say about certain of the views of radicals such as Thomas Jefferson. As I often note these days, we are drowning in lies. Yet it is still no small wonder that this entire conversation about Wright, King, et al. proceeds in the almost complete absence of a discussion of what Wright has actually said, just as no one seems to remember what King actually said.

Among the more dishonest and ignorant reactions to Wright's comments are the reactions to his statements concerning AIDS. Consider this further excerpt from the Salon interview:
What about his statement about -- and he repeated it again on Monday -- about the U.S. government putting the AIDS virus in the African-American community?

Some may regard that as a trope for known, unjust practices, unjust medical practices against people of color.

Such as in Tuskegee?

Such as the Tuskegee experiments. Or America's complicity in Agent Orange. Or the American government's longtime denial of Gulf War syndrome. So that kind of becomes a rhetorical trope which is a heuristic shorthand for all of that -- for a failed healthcare system in America and failure to do anything about it. And while people may viscerally disagree with Rev. Wright's claim there, and while it may be clearly undocumented and unfounded, you're also talking about a man who had an HIV/AIDS outreach ministry to African-Americans, as well as gays and lesbians, in the 1980s, when the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, wouldn't even say the word in public.
Please note that Reverend Wright "had an HIV/AIDS outreach ministry to African-Americans, as well as gays and lesbians, in the 1980s." While my own experience means this carries special significance for me, this is a staggeringly great and unusual achievement, one deserving of the deepest admiration from every decent human being.

I've discussed some of the historical background that helps to explain Wright's AIDS commentary. Let's discuss it a bit more, and try to break through the wall of comfortable denial erected by almost all Americans, including many liberals and progressives. From Margaret Kimberley:
The name Josef Mengele is so infamous that it needs no introduction. Mengele was the German doctor who performed medical experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp. An American doctor, James Marion Sims was equally monstrous, but his name is less well known.

Sims was a doctor who routinely performed unnecessary and sadistic surgeries on slaves in Alabama. He opened the skulls of babies and performed gynecological surgeries on women. They were forced to endure unimaginable treatments, all without the ether that had by then become available as an anesthetic. Of course, being enslaved people, they had no choice in any decisions that Sims made about their bodies or their lives.

Sims allegedly sought to treat vaginal fistulas caused by complications of child birth. One woman underwent this treatment, without anesthesia, 30 times. He obviously didn't cure her of anything.

Because Sims' victims were black Americans their stories remained largely untold. They were not the first or the last black Americans to be subjected to what can only be called torture in the name of scientific investigation. Sims is called "the father of gynecology" and eventually became president of the American Medical Association. He has been immortalized in a monument that still stands in New York's Central Park.


A newly published book Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, is a comprehensive chronicle of surgeries performed without anesthesia, the notorious Tuskegee experiments that prevented 400 men from being treated for syphilis over a 40 year period, and forced sterilizations.

Harriet Washington, the author of Medical Apartheid, has performed an invaluable service. White Americans love to point fingers at Germans who won't apologize for Hitler, or Japanese who claim that the rape of Nanking didn't take place. There is little interest in acknowledging, much less apologizing for atrocities that took place on American soil.

History tells us that torture and murder are considered acceptable if the perpetrators are white and the victims aren't. The population of American Indians was decimated from an estimated 15 million before European occupation to 200,000 in 1890. Simply put, they were murdered. They were shot and scalped and infected with disease. Millions of Africans taken into slavery in Africa perished before reaching the western hemisphere where they faced the prospect of being the property of Dr. Sims and his ilk.

The litany of atrocities documented in Medical Apartheid shocks the soul and the senses. Yet it must be pointed out that those atrocities are all logical results of the white supremacy that was manifested in chattel slavery, and the terror that followed it. There isn't a better candidate for torture than a person who isn't really considered a person.

It is indeed valuable that some of the most racist crimes committed in this country have finally been exposed. But it will be of little use if this history is dismissed as vestiges of another time instead of revealing an ideology that has never disappeared from the American consciousness. The use of black Americans as guinea pigs didn't end with the slavery era and wasn't confined to the South.
From a Washington Post review of Medical Apartheid featured at Amazon:
A fresh account of the Tuskegee study, including new information about the internal politics of the panel charged by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare with investigating it in 1972, lies at the center of Harriet A. Washington's courageous and poignant book. The balance of Medical Apartheid reveals, with arresting detail, that this scandal was neither the first chapter nor the last in the exploitation of black subjects in U.S. medical research. Tuskegee was, in the author's words, "the longest and most infamous -- but hardly the worst -- experimental abuse of African Americans. It has been eclipsed in both numbers and egregiousness by other abusive medical studies."

Although medical experimentation with human subjects has historically involved vulnerable groups, including children, the poor and the institutionalized, Washington enumerates how black Americans have disproportionately borne the burden of the most invasive, inhumane and perilous medical investigations, from the era of slavery to the present day. (This burden has become global in the last few decades.) In 1855, John "Fed" Brown, an escaped slave, recalled that the doctor to whom he was indentured produced painful blisters on his body in order to observe "how deep my black skin went." This study had no therapeutic value. Rather, fascination with the outward appearance of African Americans, whose differences from whites were thought to be more than skin deep, was a significant impulse driving such medical trials.


The infringement of black Americans' rights to their own bodies in the name of medical science continued throughout the 20th century. In 1945, Ebb Cade, an African American trucker being treated for injuries received in an accident in Tennessee, was surreptitiously placed without his consent into a radiation experiment sponsored by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Black Floridians were deliberately exposed to swarms of mosquitoes carrying yellow fever and other diseases in experiments conducted by the Army and the CIA in the early 1950s. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, black inmates at Philadelphia's Holmesburg Prison were used as research subjects by a University of Pennsylvania dermatologist testing pharmaceuticals and personal hygiene products; some of these subjects report pain and disfiguration even now. During the 1960s and '70s, black boys were subjected to sometimes paralyzing neurosurgery by a University of Mississippi researcher who believed brain pathology to be the root of the children's supposed hyperactive behavior. In the 1990s, African American youths in New York were injected with Fenfluramine -- half of the deadly, discontinued weight loss drug Fen-Phen -- by Columbia researchers investigating a hypothesis about the genetic origins of violence.


Given the history presented in Medical Apartheid, it is no surprise that some African Americans continue to regard the medical system with apprehension, despite more stringent safeguards enacted by the federal government in the 1970s. Washington attributes this outlook, which she calls iatrophobia, to the seeds of distrust sown in black communities by the Tuskegee scandal and a history of lesser-known mistreatment.

Washington, a visiting fellow at Chicago's DePaul University, intends that Medical Apartheid serve a socially therapeutic -- if not cathartic -- function. Laying bare these atrocities, her logic goes, will foster healing and frank but necessary conversation. Clearing the air may encourage a better informed African American public to participate in clinical trials.

Despite the author's best intentions, the scale and persistence of the "dark history" she delineates may well preclude such a development. Precisely because Washington's account of racially stratified medical exploitation is so gripping, it may be difficult for the public to muster enthusiasm to enter clinical trials, no matter their cultural background. And with the experimental research burden shifting from Americans of African descent to Africa itself (which Washington calls a "continent of subjects"), Asia, and Latin America, where some cavalier researchers are seeking more plentiful and pliant subjects, readers may be more convinced than ever of the durability of the medical color line.
Get Harriet Washington's book, and read it. Try to understand this history and its significance, and then consider again this part of Chris Floyd's commentary:
First, what Obama called "such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS." After citing some books on the subject, Wright said:
I read different things. As I said to my members, if you haven't read things, then you can't -- based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything. In fact, in fact, in fact, one of the -- one of the responses to what Saddam Hussein had in terms of biological warfare was a non- question, because all we had to do was check the sales records. We sold him those biological weapons that he was using against his own people.

So any time a government can put together biological warfare to kill people, and then get angry when those people use what we sold them, yes, I believe we are capable.
I personally don't believe that the U.S. government concocted the AIDs virus; but the notion that a government which conducted murderous medical experiments on black men for decades, and sold chemical weaponry to a brutal dictator (and, by providing military intelligence, helped him use them against the Iranians), and also launched a war of aggression in Iraq that has killed at least million innocent people might also be capable of creating and unleashing a deadly disease is certainly not implausible.
Yet all conservatives, and many more liberals and progressives than one might have thought or hoped, refuse to acknowledge this history. They do not want to understand the context in which Jeremiah Wright made his remarks. They are not interested in the full truth, or anything close to it. It's too upsetting. It might make people angry.

Well, fuck, yeah. If you're not profoundly upset and angry when you contemplate history and facts of this kind, you might as well be dead. You're certainly dead intellectually, and by your own choice.

But I'm not dead, not by a long shot. I may feel like hell physically, but I feel more alive psychologically and intellectually than I have in a long time. I am filled with delirious joy by certain aspects of our world, and I am deeply, terribly angry and enraged at others.

And I feel young again. Thank you, Reverend Wright. You're the best birthday present I could have asked for.

May 03, 2008

The Nightmare Made Real: Torture, Murder and Endless Horror Institutionalized and Normalized -- by Democrats

I didn't want to write this post. It gives me no pleasure of any kind finally to have to make certain judgments, and to recognize that it is almost impossible that there will ever be any reason to revise or amend them. I have been very harsh in my evaluation of the Democrats and those who ceaselessly work for Democratic electoral victory -- as two examples: here, before the 2006 elections, and here, just the other day. Nonetheless, I still had clung to an exceedingly slim thread of hope -- a hope that at least a few of the Democrats and/or their supporters would choose to act on behalf of the sanctity of human life, of civilization, of the most basic sense of decency. That hope is now gone, probably forever.

You desperately need to understand this: the next President of the United States, no matter who it is, will enter office knowing that he or she can systematically and regularly authorize torture, order mass murder, direct the United States military to engage in one campaign of criminal conquest and genocide after another, oversee uncountable acts of inhumanity and barbarity -- and he or she will never be challenged or called to account in any manner whatsoever. It may have taken the Bush administration two terms to bring us to the point where such evils are committed and even boasted about in broad daylight, while almost no one even notices -- but this will be where the next President starts.

And for this monstrous, unforgivable fact, you can thank the Democrats and those who whore themselves for the Democrats' success in our disgustingly meaningless elections.

My thoughts on this issue coalesced as I read Chris Floyd's recent essay. Floyd writes:
We've examined various aspects of America's Torture State many times at this site (most recently here), but in his latest column, Ted Rall pulls it all together and provides a succinct and powerful bill of indictment (excerpts below), drawing the only conclusion that anyone not corrupted or cowed into servility can possibly draw: George W. Bush and his chief advisers should be arrested and tried on charges of torture and murder.

Anyone who actually believed in democracy and the rule of law -- anyone who actually believed that the constitutional republic of the United States was worth preserving and strengthening -- anyone who had even a vestigial sense of morality or the most flickering commitment to the idea of justice -- would already be calling for the prosecution of Bush and his minions for these capital crimes. This goes double for anyone in public life, holding public office, with a national platform to speak from, and institutional tools at their disposal for investigating these crimes.

So where are these voices in the citadel of power calling for justice to be done? They are silent. In both houses of Congress, in both major parties, they are silent. On the campaign trail, preening before the public as wise and virtuous leaders worthy to lead a nation, they are silent.

It is clear -- clear beyond all doubt or dispute -- that our public officials do not believe in democracy and law. They don't want to preserve the constitutional republic. They have no sense of morality or the slightest commitment to justice. If they did, they would already be taking action, standing up, leading the nation out of this blood-drenched cesspit.
Floyd notes that none of those who will be our next President believes "in law, or justice, or the republic." Not Hillary Clinton or John McCain, and certainly not Barack Obama, who is "changing the very nature of politics" -- but who believes "impeachment should be reserved for 'exceptional circumstances.' And outright violations of United States law against torture and murder are not, in Obama's eyes, exceptional circumstances." Anyone who continues to believe that Obama is notably, uniquely "idealistic" and "different" in some fundamental way from all politicians who have come before is viciously, dangerously, nauseatingly self-deluded.

In "The Barren, Deadly Wasteland that Is Now Our Life," I wrote:
[T]he Democrats say that they now oppose the invasion and occupation of Iraq. But they consistently and adamantly refuse to recognize the criminal nature of what the U.S. has done. At worst, they will say that the invasion of Iraq was a monumental "blunder," and that the invasion and occupation have been executed "incompetently." They cannot and will not say that we have committed a crime of historic proportions. According to the Democrats, if we had committed the crime efficiently, all would be well. In addition, despite all their pathetic mewling that they can't, they just can't end the criminal occupation of Iraq, the Democrats could do exactly that within months. They won't -- while they continue to insist that this "blunder" is profoundly damaging our country. In a similar manner, the Democrats say they oppose an authoritarian executive branch, and that they oppose the incipient dictatorship at home. Despite these protestations, they permitted the Military Commissions Act to pass -- and they have provided no indication whatsoever that they propose to repeal it. The Democrats helped pass the FISA bill several months ago -- an act that significantly increases the government's surveillance powers. At every opportunity, the Democrats either fail to mount any serious opposition or they actively support the further means to a more oppressive government. (In fact, and as I have explained in detail - see "Blinded by the Story" and "Cui Bono?" -- the Republicans and Democrats do not disagree about fundamentals; they both work toward worldwide American hegemony in foreign policy, and toward a corporatist-authoritarian state at home.)

So which is worse? Those who support evil, but insist they believe it is good? Or those who support evil while claiming, at least some of the time, that they actually know it is evil? I didn't write that post in the form I originally planned for only one reason: given the nature of the evil involved -- the complete destruction of liberty domestically and an unending series of murderous, ungraspably destructive wars abroad -- I consider distinctions of this kind ultimately to be morally insignificant to the point of invisibility. The only fact that matters is that Republicans and Democrats -- two or three honorable exceptions aside -- all act to destroy liberty and to further criminal war abroad. But in a psychological sense, I probably would have to say the Democrats (and certain of their apologists) are worse: to say you recognize evil to any extent at all, yet to fail to oppose it or, which is still more reprehensible, to act for its furtherance, consigns one to the lowest rung of Hell.
You may now remove the "probably" from the last sentence of that excerpt. There is no question in my mind that the Democrats and their whore apologists -- including their supporters and apologists among the progressive bloggers -- are worse, and much more sickening. To repeatedly and loudly insist that you view certain policies and behaviors as evil, while you simultaneously do nothing of any significance to oppose them or slow them down or, still worse, act to further them, requires a lethal, murderous dishonesty that should be deeply sickening to any semi-decent human being.

Others sometimes note (as I do, too, usually with much bitter regret) that my record of predictions is amazingly accurate, not that this fact matters a damn to anyone. I now provide you with a few further predictions. Let us assume that the Democrats win the White House and also establish significant majorities in both houses of Congress. I tell you now that we will still be in Iraq in five years, and even ten (and more); I tell you that it is almost certain the next President will order an attack on Iran, if Bush does not before he leaves office; I tell you that the Military Commissions Act will not be repealed, which means that the basic blueprint for a dictatorship -- one which employs torture as a legitimized instrument of the state -- will remain the law of the land. For several years, and many times a day now during campaign season, the Democrats and their supporters tell everyone who will listen that they are different from the evil Republicans -- that the Democrats will end the occupation of Iraq -- that the Democrats will restore the rule of law and the blessed innocence of our constitutional republic (which assumes that such innocence ever existed, which it emphatically did not). All of it is a series of monstrous lies. With regard to the most fundamental policies, the Democrats will change absolutely nothing. Indeed, most Democrats support all these policies to varying degrees.

Ted Rall writes:
George W. Bush has publicly confessed that he ordered torture, thus violating the Convention Against Torture. He, Cheney, Rumseld, Rice and the other Principals must therefore be arrested and, unlike the thousands of detainees kidnapped by the U.S. since 9/11, arraigned and placed on trial.

Because the torture ordered by Bush and his cabinet directly resulted in death, they must additionally be charged with several counts of murder. Fifteen U.S. soldiers have been charged with the murders of two detainees at the U.S. airbase at Bagram, Afghanistan in 2002. They were following orders issued by their Commander-in-Chief and his Principals.


If George W. Bush were an ordinary citizen, there can be little doubt that he would face a long prison sentence for the scores of acts of torture he authorized both specifically and generally. Four of the seven white hillbillies charged with the kidnap-torture of a black woman in Logan County, West Virginia are now in jail for at least the next ten years.

If Bush weren't president, he would face murder charges. The maximum sentence in a federal murder case is death.

If Bush and his co-conspirators are not above the law, if the United States remains a nation where all citizens are equal, they must be arrested and indicted. But by whom?


[L]eaving the presidency in the hands of an self-admitted torture killer is unacceptable. Congress could ask a U.S. Marshal to arrest Bush as part of impeachment charges. But the ultimate outcome — removing him from office a few months before the end of his term — seems woefully inadequate given the nature of the charges. In any case, Democrats have already said that impeachment is "off the table."

Bush could be extradited to one of the countries where the torture and murders were committed — such as Afghanistan or Cuba. But he could claim immunity as a head of state.

There is, however, a person who could begin holding Bush and the others accountable for their crimes.

She is Cathy L. Lanier, the 39-year-old chief of D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department. Chief Lanier, take note: you have probable cause to arrest a self-confessed serial torturer and mass murderer within the borders of the District of Columbia. He resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Go get him.
It is the judgment of the Democrats -- and it is the judgment of Barack Obama -- that none of these acts merit impeachment. None of these acts is "exceptional." Thus, the next President will take office knowing that he or she can repeatedly commit and order torture, murder and genocide, proclaim those acts before the world, and nothing at all will happen to him. He will never be called to account. The next President will take office knowing that he is not just above the law, but entirely outside it: the law has nothing whatsoever to do with him. For this, you can thank the Democrats and their refusal to act in any manner against these criminals.

Because most people still do not understand what I was talking about, I repeat once more the "dare" that I discussed in, "Cui Bono? -- and Bush's Monstrous, Deadly Dare":
It is true that the style of the Bush administration is notably crude and aggressive. But if genuine, widespread opposition to the administration's policies had existed, Bush would never have been able to enact his program in the first place -- and the Democratic Congress would not ratify and sanctify his crimes, as they have done and continue to do. When one appreciates the historic continuity which gave rise to this abominable administration and without which this administration would not have been possible, and when one considers the particular style in which Bush, Cheney and the rest present their program, it is as if they are saying -- both to the nominal "opposition" party and to all Americans:
We're doing what this government has done for over a hundred years. We start wars of aggression to establish American dominance around the world. We began that policy in the 1890s, and we've never stopped. Sometimes we do it through covert operations, and by toppling regimes that won't do as we demand. Sometimes we simply invade and bomb them.

And we've used torture as a standard means of warfare for decades. We just used to hide it better, and we had better PR about how we weren't "really like that." Some of you even said you wanted torture to be brought out "into the open." So we did that.

Beginning with Woodrow Wilson and even before that, the ruling class has wanted a powerful police state here at home. We never kept it a secret, but we made it go down more easily with flowery talk and nice phrases.

We decided to do away with all the camouflage. We recognized what the actual aims had been all along and we agreed with them, so we decided to bring it all out into the open. We didn't want to waste time with all those nice speeches that make people feel better about themselves. Oh, sure, we still do that to some extent. We have to, because you're not willing to face the truth about what we've been doing around the world for 60 years and more, and what we do today.

But we stripped away a lot of the delusions. We knew no one would stop us -- because this is what you've wanted all along, and it's what you want now. You like making the rest of the world do what we tell them. You enjoy it. And whenever you have the slightest excuse for it, real or imagined, wide scale murder doesn't bother you in the least.

You like it. It's what you want. If it isn't, why don't you stop us? You could, you know. If enough of you made your objections known in ways that mattered, we'd have to stop. We're not worried, because we know you won't.

But go ahead. Try to stop us. Try to stop this war and the wars to come, and the mass slaughter, and the growing authoritarianism. Aren't you going to at least try? Aren't you?

Go ahead. We dare you.
In "The Barren, Deadly Wasteland Further Considered, and the New Normal," I wrote about this dare:
The Bush administration has announced to the world, and to all Americans, that this is what the United States now stands for: a vicious determination to dominate the world, criminal, genocidal wars of aggression, torture, and an increasingly brutal and brutalizing authoritarian state at home. That is what we stand for.

And who says otherwise? The Democrats could -- and the most forceful means of doing so, the only method that is appropriate to this historic moment, the method that is absolutely required if we are to turn away from this catastrophic, murderous course, is impeachment. That is the one method the Democrats will categorically, absolutely not utilize -- because the Democrats are a crucial, inextricable part of the identical authoritarian-corporatist system that has led us to these horrors. They have all worked toward this end over many decades, Democrats and Republicans alike, and now the horrors manifest themselves explicitly, without apology, even with the sickening boastfulness of the mass murderer who is proud of what he has done, and who vehemently believes he is right.

So the dare goes unanswered. These horrors are what the United States now stands for.
Saying that they believe them to be necessary and even good, the Republicans commit endless horrors day after day, and year after year. The Democrats and their abjectly awful supporters constantly proclaim their moral superiority and their condemnation of these same horrors. Yet they do nothing to stop them; in many instances, they actively abet them and widen their scope.

It is unspeakably evil to inflict a long, excruciatingly painful death on any human being, and particularly on one who has done nothing to deserve punishment. But how much more evil is it to tell the person who suffers unbearable agony that there is a way out, that he has a choice, that he can still escape, that he can still live, that his pain will be relieved -- when you know that all of it is a lie, and when you will make certain that he suffers for a still longer period of time, and that he will suffer in ways he has never dreamt of? Yet this is what the Democrats and their inhuman supporters do repeatedly, blood-drenched day after murderous day. In our political system today, you have only this choice: you may support monsters who tell you they are monsters in advance, or you may support monsters who insist they are not monsters and are opposed to everything the monsters do and represent -- while they act just as the monsters do. The first will torture you until you lose your mind, and then they will murder you -- as they told you they would. The second will torture you until you lose your mind, and then they will murder you -- and until your last moment of consciousness, they will demand that you thank them for giving you a "choice."

They are all monsters, but the second kind of monster adds another layer of immense dishonesty -- and an unspeakable degree of sadism.

And still, most Americans who vote will vote for one of the monsters. Most Americans will do nothing to stop this evil. In various ways, most Americans support it.

Why? In God's name, why do you do it?