Thursday, December 30, 2004

Mea Culpas at the Sunset of the American Century

deflated and confused
Welcome to Crawford. It is very much similar to Mexico without the Mexicans, when you come to grips with the comparison; just another pack of wild and corrupt public officials trying to rape the countryside. It is located in one of those land-that-time-forgot states - like Utah and Arkansas and Kentucky - that was originally established by fugitives, outlaws, degenerate gamblers, freakish white supremacists and wretched deviants who couldn't carve out a "civilized" existence in the former colonies because of criminal instincts or acquired diseases such as cholera, syphilis, scarlet fever, smallpox or a deranged sense of faith in the Lord Almighty.

The wild and turbulent plains were not just a place or an ideal of riches beyond the Mississippi River or past the crest of the Rocky Mountains or the grand Indian Wars slaughter in the hopes of cheap land and a never-ending supply of critters to extinguish in the name of American capitalism ... It took four generations of rednecks to realize that they had actually lost The Civil War and that the Confederate flag was highly offensive to some people. We apparently had purchased an enduring national unity at the cost of a federal income tax in 1861 for something like 3% on incomes above $800, and at the cost of $6.2 billion (US) through the issuance of bonds, while Lincoln - a Republican, mind you - was accused of unconstitutional federal taxation of personal incomes, corporate income, and inheritances, in addition to excises on manufactured goods, alcohol, and tobacco and the creation of the Internal Revenue Service in 1863.

It was not much longer, however, before a tidal wave of feeble-minded white trash hacks swarmed into the business of US Government and set up a manner of redistributing wealth that taxed everything from whale oil to whiskey to Winchesters to white slaves and prostitution and gambling and a needy Jesus and a boatload of non-existent gold mines just a stagecoach's passage through cannibalism and frontier debauchery.

A thriving economy rose from the ashes of the Civil War, done in large part through the federalized system - laws such as the Homestead Act of 1862, granting 160 acres of land virtually free to any citizen willing to occupy it for five years; and the National Bank Act of 1863, which created a national banking system and stabilized currency and reduced the confusing state bank note system; along with a host of other legislative efforts such as tariffs to protect Northern industries followed by the transcontinental railroad through federally chartered corporations receiving free public lands and generous loans. And with that, it was only a few days into the sunset for a new American Dream, not very far at all ...

Anyways ... it's a terribly long story, and any petty references to The Big Valley television series will erode this story to meaningless pulp. Now is not the time. Our task is to take a quick look at the heavy political traditions of these forgotten states. Some of our best congressional minds - and many of the worst - have materialized from the backwoods and rolling hills and open prairies and dark waters to become statesmen, principled citizens, senators, governors, supreme court justices and distinguished political leaders. The list ranges from John Marshall Harlan and John Thomas Scopes and Stanley Forman Reed to the immortal William Fulbright of Arkansas and the omnipotent Sam Rayburn of Texas.

These were real - and sometimes fire-breathing - giants of their day. They aspired to public service and fought the good fight, honorably. Voters went to the polls on Election Day to pull the lever for politicians like Fulbright and Rayburn and left the ballot booth stuffed with pride and even had a good word or two for their selection because they represented something larger than self-interest and took a monumental stand when righteousness was on their side. Sure there were party loyalties, and not everyone agreed in lock-step, but there was a majesty within the political process which made them formidable adversaries built on fairness, integrity and candor bringing respect from both sides of the aisle.

The 21st century process doesn't promote these same feelings today, and the hardcore constituency of Dubya and Cheney will never know the magic of Democracy in action - which is a terribly sad phenomenon, because it is a truly wonderful experience to get up early in the morning and march into your local polling place amongst friends and leave feeling proud of your decision at the moment of truth.

I've walked in that territory, Sparky, and the feeling's supreme when your conscience is clear. Even to this day, more than 30 years later, I still have friends in Massachusetts who feel vindicated for choosing Gerorge McGovern in 1972, instead of the terminal crook known as Richard Nixon ... The pathetic freaks who went with the majority that year have been bitch-slapped for eternity, while the only state to go for the challenger shares a sense of perverse glee for not having taken the bait. To them, it was a badge of honor to vote against Richard Nixon - and it will always be an honor to vote for a Democrat just to spite the GOP and everything it stands for. Say what you will about Massachusetts, but it is the birthplace of freedom, after all, and revolution and political discourse and excellent education is in the bloodstream. And that counts for something in my mind - good, bad or indifferent. Any politician who dumps on Massachusetts and what it represents is an imbecile of the highest order with no connection to anything American.

Now look at Dubya. He is a freak and a cheat and a miserable failure, and while not even working at it he has presided over the utter failure of the political process in a new century, having said that he was a compassionate conservative who wants to improve partisan relationships. He is a humorless stump of a being and has been a career incompetent at anything he has ever touched and will go down in history as having committed more crimes and treasonous behavior in and around the White House than Richard Nixon would have been convicted had he not resigned first ... Trickie Dick was a genetically engineered miscarriage of a preznut and so is Dubya. They both have come to personify what H.L. Mencken once described as "the art of running the circus from the monkey cage."

Of course, Dubya needs a lot of help. Even after the South Asian disasters of last week, he still thinks tsunamis are something you ask your attorney to do with Vietnamese immigrants seeking refugee status in America. Ho, ho, ha! A shot of oafish humor across the bow. Dubya wouldn't find amusement in it and neither would Dick Cheney, unless you had a wad of cash that you wanted to donate to the re-election petty cash fund. Both would give you that tough-guy, droopy-eyed stare while watching you drop the check on an aide, and wish you good luck at finding the polls on Election Day.

Stand up and face the music, Sparky. The single reason why most of us were motivated this time around was Dubya, and it was this way since he first used Jeb to spike the vote totals in Florida ... There was no other reason, just as there is no reason to be ashamed for the voting against him. The 48% of the electorate, if you believe 90% of what you see and more than half of what you hear, will find comfort in the notion that only one state (and, yes, the District of Columbia) in 1972 saw Nixon for what he was: a dangerous and borderline sociopath who spent his most of his adult life looking for alibis instead of an honest explanation, while trying to whisk under the rug the most divided and cancerous public display of faith-wrapped greed, under the guise of lame-brain rhetoric that has become the Sunset of the American Century - the tragic and inevitable collapse of an experiment once known as democracy brought down by low-rent preachers, treacherous lobbyists, corporate cronies and exurbian dope fiends with a never-ending prescription of ignorance. Dubya has no more faith in the future of the American Spirit than he does in the future of Prime Minister Allawi and a fractured Iraq, and in his soul he is beginning to wonder how much of this collapse will really be blamed on him, marking his stay in the Big House the worst since the days of Herbert Hoover. It is not strange these days to hear Congress speculate that events on the ground are not going well - either in the United States or Iraq, for that matter - and whether the preznut would be better off toning down his Middle East policy and starving the beast known as the federal budget.

The Democratic political machine has been openly wondering too. It was not some peculiar shift in policy or a matter of finding a national message that has caused the opposition to lay low while the Howard Dean's and Simon Rosenberg's are left sizing up the tatters they are sure to inherit ... Instead, there is an educated guess that the brewing shit-storm and the "blood-moon" in the sky are harbingers of a sickening new year, and whose highly compensated advisers believe it might be the smarter play to give the preznut enough rope and space to hang himself. Which may be the right strategy. Lyndon Johnson had the same idea in 1968, when he ducked the sucker punch that was his Vietnam policy and ran off like a wounded hyena.

Which brings back to mind an earlier point raised during the campaign, Dubya's appeal is time sensitive and highly tenuous. Winning the last election was a narrow escape for him, and he almost fell like his daddy ... so take it under advisement: Your rights as American citizens won't get you anything but a hard beat-down by this Administration. This gang of egregious crooks has no concept of mea culpa, because it feels it owes no explanation and views the idea of a free and open government as a major inconvenience. Martin Bormann would have felt at home with this crowd.

And I guess it was an old attorney friend of mine who once said that Dubya was a volatile mix of Richard Nixon and Rudolf Hess. Then again ... why goddamn it, Sparky. I think it was me who said it first.


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