Friday, January 25, 2008

The sound of silence

It’s hard for me to imagine an intelligent person of conscience not being dismayed by the spectacle of the current race for President. However, my expectations concerning what folks will or will not put up with have been continually challenged during the last seven years. Be that as it may, the disgrace of electoral politics is never more evident than in a time of real crisis such as now.

It’s obvious, first of all, that television news is nothing more than a sham, intellectually and morally bankrupt beyond calculation. To watch the news on TV is to be sucked into a dizzying vortex of unreality. The immaculately coiffed fools who “anchor” the news and present us with their opinions seem to think that there is nothing more vital for us to know than who is ahead or behind, what strategies the candidates are employing to get ahead or avoid falling behind, and what is going to happen next ahead- or behind-wise. That anything could possibly be at stake other than the status of an insider’s scorecard seems not to have entered what passes for their minds. The idea that any of this is entertaining—given, after all, that the entertainment divisions have absorbed the news departments into their bloated, celebrity-obsessed maws—is in itself ludicrous. To understand what the candidates actually stand for in any detail is impossible. The talking heads will continue to jabber over the snippets of footage of candidate’s speeches, telling us again about the many variation of “ahead” or “behind,” etc., and the candidates have long ago bought into this themselves, saying very little if anything outside of the most generalized bits of inspirational rhetoric.

Let us turn to the candidates, then, and try to hear them outside of the TV prism. What I hear most of all is the sound of silence. The depredations committed by the current White House occupant are rarely mentioned. The horrifying carnage wreaked on the people of Iraq is never acknowledged. The war is treated like some sort of embarrassing domestic problem that we have to tiptoe around for fear of upsetting right-wing nutjobs. The fact that the Cheney-Bush administration has sought to draw us into the sinkhole of their perversions with torture, illegal detentions, and illegal spying on American citizens, provokes no outrage whatsoever, in fact barely a mention unless it’s to applaud the degradation of our souls as Romney, Huckabee, and Guiliani have done, or utter mild reproofs like McCain (who nevertheless supports the criminal occupation with regular bleatings of “We’re winning!” and “The surge is working!”). The corruption that is laying waste to our society, from the Justice Department to FEMA to the Abramoff and Plame affairs to countless others, including the sacking of the U.S. Treasury by licensed military contractors, is met with complete and total silence. Corruption does not even register as an issue.

Silence, many of you may know, equals complicity. There is a hell of a lot of complicity going around.

It’s hard to conceive of a more ghoulish group of pandering hate-filled liars than the Republican candidates, who seem to be competing to see who can be a bigger fascist. To elect any one of them to the White House would sound the death knell for any hopes of improvement. The press dutifully reports on their candidacies because, after all, they’re the Republican candidates. Outside of a Washington cocktail party, one can’t escape the conviction that a fair election should trounce any one of these bozos into the dirt and deliver a landslide to the Democrats. But a greater silence envelops this conviction—the poisonous stench of rigged elections. Karl Rove, one of the most revolting American political figures to ever crawl out from under a rock, has left an odious legacy, to the Republicans and thereby to all of us who suffer their antics. Their way to victory is to suppress the vote by any means available. They’ve done it, they continue to do it, and they’ll try their best to do it again—yet virtually no one in the mainstream talks about it.

The Democratic candidates inspire more complicated feelings: disappointment, impatience, frustration, betrayal. What kind of hell are we in that the opposition party spends so little time opposing the manifest corruption and criminality of the White House and its enablers? No one in the field possesses even the minor virtue of eloquence—the ability to step outside the cliché-ridden political discourse and speak truth directly and powerfully, with an appreciation of the crisis we are in, and the courage and decency to appeal to our better natures. Servile fear inhibits the candidates, fear of losing the confidence of their corporate sponsors, fear of rocking the boat.

I watched Obama’s speeches after Iowa and New Hampshire. The pundits gushed over his rhetoric. What I heard was a stringing together of inspirational phrases without point or substance. The word “change” became a mantra that is supposed to unite us, but I fail to see the meaning of change without an overt declaration of what exactly the mess is that we want to change, and why. It is impossible to predict from his rhetoric how Obama would actually govern. It’s a given that he would be a vast improvement over Bush—any non-fascist with a mind and a heart would be—but I wonder how much the imperative of the national security state would dictate his actions, or if he would ever have the nerve to challenge the Wall Street-Pentagon axis.

Clinton is establishment through-and-through. The DLC and other centrist Democrats who feed at the corporate trough and try to out-conservative the conservatives are backing her, just as they backed her husband. President Clinton did nothing for progressives—his impersonation of a “liberal” is due entirely to the actions of his Republican enemies and not to his own actions as President. If you like globalization, old-style imperialism, and losing both houses of Congress to the Republicans, than with Hillary Clinton you’ll get more of the same. I’m sorry, but the fact that she’s a woman is not enough. Margaret Thatcher was also a woman.

Edwards is not so much out of the mainstream of establishment thinking as the media or the Republicans would have you believe. The same doubts surround his eventual governance as Obama’s. For what it’s worth, though (which isn’t much), I plan to vote for him in my state’s primary. Why? Because he’s the only one talking about inequality. And as long as huge economic inequality is encouraged by the political elites, favoring a tiny master class over the rest of us, all other reforms will be stopped dead in the water. I have no illusions—Edwards’ stand against gay marriage pisses me off mightily. But at the present time, he’s the one viable candidate that scares the corporate puppet masters, and that’s enough to get my vote, at least for now.

It is absolutely imperative that the Republicans lose the White House. The probable effect on the Supreme Court of another Republican president, to mention only one factor, is enough to force me to vote for whomever wins the Democratic nomination. We rightly deride the “lesser of two evils” as a corrupting electoral yardstick, but the War of Terror being waged on us (and if you think you’re not the target of this war, you’re either a fascist or a fool) makes the choices utterly stark. We can elect a more conventional establishment President who is still part of the corporate system, or we can slide further into the outrageous crime and despotism that already threatens to engulf us beyond reprieve.

What hopes I have (abashed as I am to even admit any remaining hopes for our political life) rest on an increasingly outraged citizenry. For the first time in my memory, the majority of the people are showing themselves as smarter and more compassionate than their so-called leaders. That needs to be sustained and increased. Ultimately, the White House needs to become less powerful. We need to stop being fascinated by Presidential elections, and the media-induced aura of unconditional respect for whomever is President needs to be dissipated. Representative government requires a re-thinking of the Executive branch—no more kings, emperors or righteous “deciders,” but just servants of the people. This mindless, fascistic “commander in chief” mentality needs to be cut down to human size if we are to survive as humans.


Mauigirl said...

Chris - as always, a thoughtful, excellent post. I agree with all of what you say - even though I am supporting Obama I am not convinced that any of these candidates will fix what's wrong. Your skewering of our media is right on target - I think it is the biggest problem we have today. Oh no, wait, the biggest problem is the candidates themselves who play into it. Or maybe it's a vicious cycle. At any rate, you sum it up very well and we can only hope the American public is not stupid enough to elect another Republican to continue the downward spiral our country has fallen into.

Jen Clark said...

I don't know the name of the person that started Jonestown, and I can't figure out where they put the names of the author of each individual post, but that site is how I was referred to you. My writing was compared to yours (and they were sure to mention that was a compliment). I see why. You seem to be writing with my brain. You are immediately being put on my blogroll and I look forward to reading your posts.

Nice to meet you. Great blog!

Chris Dashiell said...

Thanks, Jen. The feeling is mutual. And thanks as always to mauigirl.