by LEIGH POMEROY, from VoxVerax.com
I'm a few years shy of 60, and I'm trying to remember if there were ever a time in my life when our country was going so wrong in so many ways.
Let's see, there was the '64 election when Barry Goldwater threatened to use the bomb if elected. Fortunately, that was quashed by an intelligent electorate.
Then there was the briar patch of the Vietnam War, into which we were merrily led by optimistic deceits. (Sound familiar?) That took a while to extract ourselves from, but we did finally, wearing out one President in the process and causing another crooked one to resign shortly thereafter.
Then there were the Reagan years of high interest rates and Iran-Contra scandals behind the smiling façade of an accomplished actor cum Alzheimer's sufferer.
We survived all these, which has brought us to this point in 2006 to which all the above seem only like preludes -- movie trailers, as it were, to the George W. Bush version of Scary Movie: The Final Chapter.
In 2006 we now have it all:
* The nuclear threat, à la Goldwater. Proposed nuclear-tipped bunker-busting bombs to be rained upon the populace of Iran. Hell, we've already been using so-called "depleted" uranium (DU) weapons in Iraq since the first Gulf War. (And don't let anybody fool you. The stuff is dangerous. What the U.S. military is saying about DU -- and we know the military is downplaying its dangers -- can be found in this FAQ from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.)
* A deadly and expensive war half a world away, à la Johnson. Though this war is less deadly than Vietnam, its costs will eventually be more significant, anywhere from one to two trillion dollars. And while we know that nearly 2,400 U.S. servicemen and women have been killed and another 17,000-plus wounded, we have no idea of the number of Iraqi casualties, which by all estimates are at least ten times that number. Further, its consequences are measured worldwide, from climbing oil prices to the loss of U.S. prestige and trust.
* Corruption and deceit, à la Nixon. Abramoff, DeLay, Cunningham, Ney, Safavian -- and that's just a handful of the ones in and around government so far. Then there's Kenny-boy Lay and his buddies at Enron, instrumental in fueling with gobs of cash George W. Bush's rise to power, not to mention the countless others caught and uncaught who have provided the financial fuel for propelling the Republican mafia to its iron-fisted rule over the U.S. government. By today's standards, Nixon and company were pikers.
* Refusing to obey the law, à la Reagan. Iran-Contra made breaking the law with overseas deals a political rather than legal issue. The Bush II presidency has brought this practice to new levels with Guantanamo Bay and CIA flights to eastern European prisons. And yet, no doubt to one-up his famous predecessor, he's imported his law-breaking stateside. Spying on American citizens without a proper court order -- that's happening right now in the good ol' USA.
For many America observers, this is just the tip of the iceburg. In his latest book, American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips points out three challenges to the American Empire: the rapidly approaching end of the oil economy, the growing influence of religion on politics, and the dangerous levels of public and private debt. He is not alone in his warnings, as other writers from across the political spectrum have listed each of these as potential empire-ending tipping points.
Add to the above the threat of global warming and other environmental challenges brought on by a growing population and standard of living worldwide, mix it up with a still healthy supply of nuclear weapons on nearly every continent, and we certainly have all the ingredients to end not only the American era but the hegemony of the homo sapiens experience on this planet, not to mention a good portion of the rest of its inhabitants.
I wonder if George W. Bush has ever read T. S. Eliot. I would assume his wife has, being a librarian. I doubt that he's ever seen Scary Movie I, II, III or IV, not that that's a requirement for being President. But T. S. Eliot should be, and not just once or twice in some college literature course, but periodically, at least every year, perhaps every other month, perhaps sandwiched in between some intelligence briefing and the Bible or Sports Illustrated.
Would having a well-read President make a difference? I would hope so. But that's not the only qualification. (Hitler was a voracious reader.) What I'd like, I think, is a President who has some concept of history, especially of his own country and how it was founded; a President who knows what death and injury are, who has experienced personal tragedy; a President who knows what it's like to be poor, to not have enough to eat, to not be able to know the water you drink is clean; a President who's had a child die in his arms from preventable causes.
Is this too much to ask?
For George W. Bush I'm sure it is. He's too far invested in what has brought him to where he is. Can we blame him? No, for blaming George Bush is like blaming a girl for being born in the slums of Bangladesh and becoming a prostitute; he is a product of his environment.
posted by Vox Verax at 9:17 AM 0 comments links to this post