July 22, 2012

The Nauseating Grief of Diseased America

Some years ago, I saw a man in profound emotional distress. The sobs which wracked his body had caused him to collapse to the ground, so weak did they make him. Every few minutes, he emitted a howl of pain, a sound so piercing and unnerving that I hope never to hear its like again. People passed the man in the street. A few of them would pause for a moment, looking awkwardly in his general direction, as if they thought that perhaps they should offer aid in some manner. Then they all walked on. The man remained on the ground, helpless in his immense pain.

After approaching him very slowly, taking care not to move too quickly or unexpectedly, I gently took him in my arms. "I'm here," I kept repeating. "I'll help you in any way I can. I'm here." I held him for many long minutes, softly murmuring the phrases over and over. He eventually began to breathe somewhat more normally. "I'll help you if I can. Please tell me what I can do."

"It's just..." He offered the words so tentatively that I could barely hear them. "It's just...?" I quietly asked. After a few more minutes had passed, he managed to tell me what had upset him so deeply.

A bus had been taking a class of 30 children from a local elementary school, together with three teachers, on a school outing. The bus had veered off a mountain road -- no one had been able to determine why exactly -- and plunged into a ravine. Everyone on board was killed. I had heard the story, of course; everyone had.

"It's just so terrible," the man said. "So, so terrible. All those lives ended so needlessly. All those families torn apart, some of them never to recover. So many possibilities for happiness and joy ended." He was slowly gathering his strength again. "It's monstrous," he said with great emphasis. "How is it possible that such monstrous things can happen?"

I consoled him as best I could, but I took care not to offer empty words of comfort. I told him I recognized that nothing could ever make such events acceptable, that many of the wounds caused by the tragedy would never heal. He seemed grateful that I didn't try to deny or avoid the horror of what had happened.

We talked for several more minutes. Finally, I had to tell him that I needed to go on to a meeting I was expected to attend; I couldn't miss it. But I gave him my card, and I wrote my personal cell phone number on the back, telling him to call me if he wanted to talk about this further, or about anything else at all. As we were parting, I asked him his name, and he told me. I paused for a moment, and looked at him more carefully. Yes, it was the face that went with the name I had been reading about. I somehow managed to mask my realization -- although there was a moment that gave me a bad fright, when I thought he had noticed the change in me that I hoped I had disguised, but it mercifully passed -- and we offered our final goodbyes. I turned away and began walking down the street.

Fortunately, a police car was parked at the corner. I took a deep breath and slowly turned around just enough so that I could glance behind me: the man was slowly walking in the opposite direction. I walked over to the police car and told the officers the name of the man I had just been talking to, and pointed him out to them. They caught him a few minutes later; he was arrested without incident, and without any attendant violence. Later that day, I explained to the police how it was that the man had told me his name. I never made it to the meeting; given the circumstances, everyone understood why.

The man I had talked to and consoled -- the man so overcome with grief that he had been rendered utterly helpless -- was a serial killer who had been sought by law enforcement for over five years. They were certain he was responsible for at least 40 deaths, although the actual number was undoubtedly higher. They were never certain they identified all his victims; he refused to help them in that effort. But he did explain how he chose his victims: he knew, he stated very simply, that the people he killed were bad. How did he know? What was his standard for judgment? He never answered those questions; he seemed to assume the answers should be as self-evident to others as they were to him. But his own victims included children -- yet he regarded them as guilty in the same manner as the adults he killed. And all the people he had killed were completely ordinary. They were no better, and no worse, than you, or me, or tens of millions of other people. His victims weren't famous or prominent in any way, not before he murdered them.

I keep remembering the man as I first met him: collapsed on the ground, sobbing in pain that seemed entirely genuine. Perhaps it was genuine in some way I cannot grasp. He considered the victims of the bus crash to be innocent, as opposed to those he murdered, whom he regarded as guilty beyond all doubt. I came to realize that the mind has an infinite capacity for rationalization and compartmentalization. He apparently recognized no connection whatsoever between the victims of the bus crash and the victims of his crimes. Grief was the appropriate reaction to the bus tragedy, in his view; for his own victims, he never expressed any regret or pity, in even the smallest degree.

But I wonder now. I wonder if I will ever believe someone who tells me he feels immense grief for a tragedy that has befallen another human being. How many cruelties has he himself delivered or excused, cruelties that were undeserved and needless? Does he feel grief about them? I wonder if I will ever trust anyone again. For it seems to me that most people have splintered their minds and their consciences in the same way the killer had. Most people have chosen to shatter their souls so completely that they can never be made whole again. Can such people ever be believed about a matter of great moment?


That is fiction. The awful tragedy in Colorado is not. I do not wonder about the terrible, life-altering grief felt by those individuals immediately affected by these ghastly events: the families and friends of those who were killed and injured, as well as those who were trapped in the theater during those terrifying and endless minutes, together with those who live in Aurora.

But I do wonder about the national paroxysm of grief, the generalized scream of pain offered by every politician and public official from president to trash collector, the public lamentation and wailing, the sickening enthusiasm shown by political tribalists from every point in the spectrum for scoring disgustingly cheap points off the blood-spattered corpses of the victims. Yet that isn't honest of me: I don't wonder about such public displays at all. I view them with deep loathing and contempt. I consider them, without exception, to be the symptoms of irretrievably damaged, narcissistic psychologies. Those who engage in such public displays and political positioning are vile and despicable in a manner that is close to impossible to capture in words. I emphasize again that I am speaking here not of those immediately affected by this tragedy, but of those people who have no direct connection of any kind to the victims and their families.

Out of a multitude of facts that I could offer to explain my judgment, I offer this, from an article in the Asian Tribune about civilian deaths in drone strikes ordered by the United States:
CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan 2004 – 2012

Total US strikes: 321

Obama strikes: 269

Total reported killed: 2,429 - 3,097

Civilians reported killed: 479 – 811

Children reported killed: 174

Total reported injured: 1,169-1,281

US Covert Action in Yemen 2002 – 2012

Total US strikes : 41 - 128

Total US drone strikes: 31 - 67

Total reported killed: 294 - 651

Civilians reported killed: 55 - 105

Children reported killed: 24

US Covert Action in Somalia 2007 – 2012

Total US strikes: 10 - 21

Total US drone strikes: 3 - 9

Total reported killed: 58 - 169

Civilians reported killed: 11 - 57

Children reported killed: 1 - 3

We know that these figures are far from complete, just as we know that the numbers of innocent human beings murdered by the United States government are far, far higher, even if we restrict ourselves to murders in recent years. This is true not only because the U.S. government carries out operations in more than 75 countries around the world. Do not forget the genocide in Iraq.

I say, "Do not forget..." -- but the truth is far worse. The U.S. government -- and most Americans -- have never recognized the genocide at all.

Consider the staggering number of murders of innocent human beings committed by the United States government -- and ask yourselves how many Auroras those murders represent. I have tried to make calculations of this kind before: using conservative estimates of the deaths in Iraq, the murders in that country alone represent a 9/11 every day for five years. An equivalent number of Auroras would be much higher.

Listen for the public lamentations about even a small fraction of these deaths. Listen as carefully as you can. What do you hear? Why, nothing at all. These murders of entirely innocent human beings don't matter at all to most Americans. They most certainly don't matter to anyone in the U.S. government.

Can anything be worse than this loathsome silence? Perhaps one thing can be: the assertion by President Obama, and by the U.S. government, that he and they have the "right" to murder anyone at all anywhere in the world, for any reason they choose -- and that they need never disclose any details of their murders, including the fact that they have ordered them. This is the assertion of absolute, unanswerable power. It is the same claim made by every slaughtering monster in history.

This monstrous crime, what is in fact an ongoing, systematic series of monstrous crimes, is greeted by near universal silence in America. The U.S. government orders an unending series of Auroras: it ordered an Aurora last week, it will order an Aurora this week, it will order an Aurora next week. Almost no one cares. Almost no one even notices.

With these facts fixed firmly in our minds, consider these words spoken by Obama after the events in Colorado:
Now, even as we learn how this happened and who's responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil is senseless. It's beyond reason. But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living. The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.

And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.
Keeping in mind the murders regularly committed by the U.S. government, and the murders of innocent human beings regularly ordered by Obama himself, we must recognize that these remarks are the equivalent of the expressions of grief offered by the serial killer in my fictional exercise. These are the remarks of a man who has suffered an irreparable break with reality, a man who who has rendered himself unable to connect obviously related facts. If Obama genuinely meant these comments -- if he understood how these remarks apply with far greater force to him ("we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this") -- his realization of the monster he has allowed himself to become would reduce him to gibbering incoherence for the remainder of his life. In varying degrees, the same is true of any individual who remains in the national government at this point.

More generally, this is American culture today. Like the killer in my story, many Americans hurl themselves with fundamentally false, deeply disturbed enthusiasm into public demonstrations of grief over the needless deaths of some human beings -- those human beings they see as being much like themselves, when the deaths happen in what could be their own neighborhood. As for all the murders committed by their government with a systematic dedication as insane as that of any serial killer: silence.

But every murder committed by the United States government, every murder ordered by Obama, represents a tragedy exactly like Aurora to someone. But it is not someone most Americans happen to know or recognize -- even if only to recognize the person as a fellow human being -- and it is therefore as if it never occurred.

So I wonder. I wonder if I will ever trust anyone again.


Five years ago, after the Virginia Tech murders, I wrote about many of the issues raised by these recent events in: "The United States as Cho Seung-Hui: How the State Sanctifies Murder." Tragically, that earlier discussion has lost none of its relevance. I therefore commend it to your attention, perhaps especially with regard to the excerpts from Albert Jay Nock's Our Enemy, the State.

July 06, 2012

On Second Thought, It Is All Nader's Fault

One of the more pathetically transparent and easily refuted lies told by committed Democratic tribalists is that the outcome of the 2000 election was all Ralph Nader's fault. The more idiotic Democratic partisans will proclaim that, if only that rotten Ralph hadn't selfishly and stupidly siphoned votes from the messianic Albert of Gore, Saint Al would have ascended to the White House on gossamer wings, the U.S. never would have gone to war in Iraq, American dependence on oil would have been swept away by the windmills of our minds, we would have rediscovered and recommitted ourselves to "true" American values (which have nothing to do with anything the U.S. has actually done, mind you, but are to be found in the record of the fantasy United States brewed in the shallower pools of the stagnant minds of these professional delusionists), the world would have been born anew -- and every single one of us would have our own adorable puppy dog along with a fucking rainbow.


I've made the arguments set forth in the linked article many times myself over the years, too many times over too many years. I'm not going to make them any longer.

For all I know, Nader himself may well believe he's the reason Gore lost. Why do I say that? Because Nader believes several massive boatloads of unmitigated shit.

I am not going to be the only person who must spend half an hour cleaning vomit from his keyboard. So please accompany me on this brief tour of the tortured byways of what passes for Nader's mind. He begins thusly:
If the Democrats in Congress were all drinking water from the same faucet, there might be a clue to their chronic fear of the craven and cruel corporatist Republicans who dominate them.

But they don’t, so we have to ask why their fear, defeatism, and cowering behavior continues in the face of the outrageous GOP actions as the November election approaches.
Keep in mind that the purpose of Nader's column is to "save" the Democrats from what he perceives as self-immolation. One might wonder why he believes such a desultory group of gutless, fear-ridden maggots can be "saved" at all. The only reason that he offers is that they still call themselves "Democrats." How marvelously subtle and unexpected.

Nader's next paragraph might erroneously lead you to believe that he intends to get to the real problem:
The explanations go back some years. The Democrats have long receded from the Harry Truman days of “give ‘em hell, Harry”. But their political castration occurred in the late seventies when the Democrats were persuaded by one of their own, Congressman Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), to start aggressively bidding for corporate campaign cash.
Ah, so perhaps the Democrats began to pursue an agenda that was notably friendly to corporate interests? But Nader immediately abandons this line of inquiry, to return to the reliable theme of irredeemably loathsome Republicans who "torture" Democrats. No wonder the poor Democrats are dominated by fear and weakness: they're "tortured daily"!

And then we read a paragraph that reduced me to open-mouthed astonishment. Nader intends the following as an indictment of "the unpopular agendas pitched by these Wall Street puppets" -- by which he means "Republican leaders." This is the paragraph:
One would think that politicians who side with big corporations would be politically vulnerable for endangering both America and the American people. These corrupt politicians promote corporate tax loopholes and side with insurance and drug companies on costly health care proposals. They defend the corporate polluters on their unsafe workplaces, dirty air, water and contaminated food, push for more deficit spending in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, neglect Main Street based public works-repair-America-jobs programs, support high-interest student loans, cover for oil industry greed at the pump, and are hell-bent on taking the federal cops off the corporate crime beats.
There is one slight problem with this analysis: it perfectly describes the Democrats' program. The abominable -- and now constitutional! -- health "care" bill was championed not by Boehner or Cantor, but by Barack Obama. The wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and on and on are prosecuted by the Obama administration. The same is true of every item in Nader's list.

Moreover, the program of systematic assassination by secret decree is not the invention of George W. Bush, but of Barack Obama. As I have noted many times before, this program represents the assertion of absolute power. Absolute power has been claimed and is fervently supported by Democrats. For any semi-decent human being, this should kill the Democratic Party until such time as it renounces the murder program fully and repeatedly, and then acts over a period of years to demonstrate that its renunciation is genuine.

I consider it impossible that Nader just happens to miss these points. I am forced to conclude that either he is now willing to lie across the board, including on every matter of the gravest significance, or he has become the victim of his chosen self-delusions to a degree that renders his brain non-functional in any meaningful sense. See my recent post on self-made stupidity and blindness for more on the latter point.

The column is remarkably and childishly confused. Strewn among the formulaic denunciations of "extremist" Republicans is this admission: "Unfortunately, on military and foreign policy there isn’t much of a difference [between the parties]. So the bright line will have to be on domestic issues."

But a few paragraphs later, Nader writes:
There are plenty of bright-line issues for the Democrats. Get tough on Wall Street and corporate crime, protect pensions, end the wars, tax the corporate and wealthy tax-escapees, launch community-based public works programs, provide full Medicare for all, expand health and safety programs, to name a few.
Given his own admission, why in the world does Nader include "end the wars" on this list? But it is equally delusional to believe the Democrats will adopt any of the programs he identifies. To the contrary: the Democrats have provided voluminous evidence demonstrating that they feverishly oppose all such programs.

In brief, and as I have also said many times before, the Democrats act as they do because they are pursuing the programs and goals they want to pursue. The evidence is all around us, in the mangled, bleeding bodies of countless victims abroad, and in the increasingly desperate lives of more and more Americans at home. All a person has to do is open his eyes and look at it.

This is precisely what Nader and all those who have similar beliefs refuse to do. Once again, from five goddamn years ago:
[The explanation] is very simple, and it goes to the progressives' central articles of religious faith: The Democrats aren't really like this, not in their heart of hearts. The Democrats don't actually favor a repressive, authoritarian state. The Democrats are good, and they want liberty and peace for everyone, everywhere, for eternity, hallelujah and amen.

People who continue to believe this have evicted themselves from serious political debate, and they have willingly made themselves slaves to their enthusiastically embraced self-delusions. They confess a comprehensive ignorance of history, a stunning inability to understand the political developments of the last century, and a desire to place the story they have chosen, primarily because it flatters their own false sense of vanity and self-worth, above every relevant fact.
So you know what I think, Ralph? Not only do I now think it's your fault that Gore lost the 2000 election, I think that every terrible thing that has happened in the last half century is your fault!

I also know that it's your fault I can't lose 20 pounds. You bastard.

From now on, when idiot Democrats blame you for what are manifestly their own failures, you can defend yourself if you choose to. Good luck with that. You'll need it.