Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Lessons of History

My aunt is about 80 years old, the widow of a preacher who was active in the church, doing the unsung and unpaid job of pastor's wife. She has been moderately liberal her entire life; she once got quite upset with me for saying that the United States has practiced imperialism.

The other night over dinner she asked, "Do you think we're like Germany in the 1930s?" Indeed, I think the comparison is apt. Although the specific demagogic ideology and outrageous actions of the current administration are obviously different from Nazi rhetoric and practices, the basic dramatic arc is the same. Here we have a gang of ruthless thugs conspiring to terminate republican institutions, seize unchallenged power, and set the nation on a course of mass violence in order to extend their power into the world and consolidate it eternally in what the Nazis called the Fatherland, and we are now instructed to call the Homeland. They purvey a mystical vision -- in the early case, sanctification of a racialized conception of German nationhood, today sanctification of radical individualism and corporate rapacity, allied with an atavistic, hallucinatory version of Old Testament theocracy -- to intoxicate the people and render truth and reason impotent.

And most important, we see only the most feeble resistance from elites, even those who would seem to stand to lose a great deal, even everything. A paradoxical combination of fear and incredulity that this is really happening seems to be at the heart of the liberal apathy. It is absolutely clear that the cabal that runs the country today is nothing more than a gang of murderous thieves and liars, yet we are having civil debates about whether or not the president of the United States does, as he claims, have absolute power, unaccountable to any law of the United States or international treaty, to imprison and torture anyone in the world, including U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil, without any possibility of review by any court or restriction by the Congress; to spy on citizens without any warrant or judicial review; to invade foreign lands; and in fact to ignore any law he chooses not to obey. The Democrats in the Senate have made it clear that they have no intention of meanginfully opposing the lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of a man who unabashedly believes that the president does indeed have all the powers of Caesar Augustus.

We read on page 19 of the nation's leading newspaper, in a two paragraph article, that an investigatory arm of Congress has concluded that the president broke the law, on the same day that a huge front page story tells us that a special counsel investigation, after a decade, has concluded that a former Commerce Secretary might have underreported his income but there isn't actually any evidence for it. The nation is systematically abandoning its public health, social welfare, scientific research and physical infrastructure; and mortgaging its future to foreigners, so that wealthy people won't have to pay taxes, and to pay for young americans to slaughter and be slaughtered in a remote land for reasons that no-one can explain. But the corporate media largely ignore these developments. To the extent they pay attention to the war in Iraq, they simply internalize lies about the objectives and intentions of the cabal.

Oh, and by the way -- like Hitler, George W. Bush has never been elected president. He holds the office by fraud. This minor detail, like his dissolute and criminal past, is not to be mentioned in respectable circles. The profession of journalism has adopted a new standard. The job of a reporter is to write down what powerful people say. It makes no difference whether the reporter happens to know it isn't true. It is inappropriate for reporters to independently verify facts, then tell us whether a powerful individual is lying; that would not be balanced. In fact, they don't even have to identify the liars. They can just take dictation from a cabinet secretary, presidential staffer or public relations flak, then report it as information from an anoynymous senior official. Its veracity is not the reporter's problem. So we have a de facto state controlled media. "Opposition" politicians may also be quoted at times, though far less extensively than potentates of the ruling party. But they are far too cowardly to say anything that might seem to impugn the motives, truthfulness, or sincere patriotism of their rulers. And, just as before, grossly exaggerated or fabricated threats to the nation and its way of life -- then communists and jews, today radical Islamists and secular humanists -- against whom only an all-powerful heroic leader can protect us.

I haven't even mentioned half of the disasters which loom on the present course. Surely many Germans must have foreseen the catastrophe that awaited their nation, but they resisted only feebly. Again, that paradoxical combination of fear and disbelief. If it isn't really happening, what are you so scared of? And if you are scared, then shouldn't you act?

Addendum: Shortly after I wrote this, new polling data came out showing the Resident's job approval rating at 36% (58% unfavorable). So now I'm more puzzled than ever. Exactly what in the delta quadrant of the galaxy are Joe Biden and Harry Reid afraid of? That the soon-to-be-indicted traitor Karl Rove will call them names?

1 comment:

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