Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Amused to Death

Pete Stark had it all wrong, but only by one word. He should have said "delusion" rather than "amusement".

Even so, he's not incorrect, except perhaps politically so. Bush clearly is amused, or at least occupied, by the pageantry of the office, the stature and the ability to not only make decisions, but to finally thwart the second-guessers with a variety of pithy "fuck you"s to choose from. Nobody can tell him nothin', not Dad, not Jeb, not those smart-ass Yale profs.

Power corrupts--that's a bland nostrum hiding a more interesting truth. Why does power corrupt? Because it removes others from consideration. To whom does the President answer for his actions? History? God? Here, friends, I have a fine piece of swampland to sell you.

Bush, in his own inimitably incoherent manner, protests too much when it comes to his feigned disinterest in his legacy. His passive-aggressive attempts to slough off the judgments of history ring hollow with feeble hopes of eventual vindication. Look, it's pretty simple -- if he wanted to remain plain and humble, he woulda stayed at the fuckin' tumbleweed farm for the past seven years, instead of playing out his demons at everyone else's expense.

In the meantime, he plays various forms of dress-up to push a preferred point, uses troops as props with alarming regularity, and gives not a hint of acknowledgement to his 25% approval rating. Perhaps this week he will visit San Diego, a reliable military redoubt in supposedly heathen California, and with regimented spontaneity pluck a carefully selected, healthy middle-class Latino urchin from the luckless crowd of Qualcomm refugees. These are the more mindless parts of the job that he may not enjoy quite as much as the more pronounced exaltations of jingoism and unabashed fealty. But it's hard to top the pre-screened gang-snorkelings on How Great Thou Art in the various inbred backwaters, so he settles for what he gets.

And yeah, beyond the usual rote, tedious pronunciamentos about Iraqis findin' them some Freedomocracy™ they can call their own (so long as we can make a buck from it), it's not unrealistic to assume that Junior does derive some level of amusement from all this. As IOZ points out, this does not automatically mean that direct manifestations of obscene cruelty are being deliberately sought. That should be obvious, even to the gutless apparatchiks who forced Pete Stark's tearful auto-da-fé, because they're scared shitless that their upstart cracker contingent won't kick upstairs anymore. What part of "Fuck 'em" are we having trouble with here?

(Funny how whether in politics or popular culture, the climax of the narrative is always the spectacle of cringing, abject apology. People think they need some sense of "closure", even when it has nothing to do with them, even when it's not theirs to "close", even when they can't get past their own sense of smug entitlement to that which is not theirs in the first place.)

But it is the unreasonable person who fails to ask, or at least wonder, just what sort of person causes hundreds of thousands of people to die horribly, millions more to be internally displaced and made desperate, terrorized refugees in their own country (if they have not been fortunate enough to flee), our own country looted, profiteered, and scorned in the process, and just smirk like it's no fucking problem and there's no other way.

Continuing on with the dress-up events and the tough-love speechifying is how Junior keeps it all in the abstract, where by now it is no doubt irretrievably calloused over, only to be peeled away by future cases of Maker's Mark. But those hortatory exercises, enabled by the wretched spinelessness of what was once perceived as an "opposition" party, are about all that's left -- for him, for them, for us.

Really, what's left, when it comes to trying to convince people of what happens in dark places, while they scratch their bellies and watch NASCAR? Given our apparently limitless appetite for "reality" drivel, I'm tempted to suggest picking four of the busiest intersections in Baghdad, setting up cameras, and broadcasting every second of every day in a four-way split-screen format on a dedicated channel. Let everyone see it for themselves, unedited, unfiltered, unvarnished, just like these guys say they like their advice.

I'd suggest it, but the obvious fact is that people who watch reality shows actually want anything but reality; they simply want a carefully contrived veneer, with all the comfortable story arcs built into the narrative, appearing spontaneous. Four-way Baghdad Channel would not give an opportunity for the viewer to hoot, "Oh no they di'unt!" or some such street wisdom.

It certainly would not be "amusing", not even to the vicarious armchair cockpunchers who are so eager to take their A-game onward to Tehran. But it might, for once in this god-forsaken folly, help set at least some of the record straight. It might remind people that the primary rule of any war is that people die, and the people who don't die have their lives violently upturned, and that we are expressly forbidden from seeing any of that.

There's probably a reason for that.

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