Thursday, January 15, 2009

Farewell Redress

"Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying." -- Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

"They got the guns, but we got the numbers." -- The Doors

[Graphic via Vanity Fair.]

Perhaps you have heard about Oscar Grant, the New Year's partier who was shot -- while zip-tied and face-down on a Bart platform -- by a transit cop, touching off a series of riots in Oakland. As you might expect, these "riots" had initiated as peaceful protests, and even in the early overestimations of their severity, don't remotely approach real riots in the past.

As the Grant case has been covered in detail by the Bay Area media right from the start, I've paid pretty close attention to the whole story, and it sure as hell appears that, at the very least, both the transit cop and BART exacerbated the situation by acting in bad faith. BART confiscated one witness' video of the shooting at the scene, apparently thinking it had the only copy, until another video was leaked to a news station, thus foiling what would almost certainly have turned into an attempt at institutional opacity. Meanwhile, the cop resigned rather than talk to internal affairs. For the past seven or so years, we have immersed the country in the rank waters of how innocent people have nothing to hide -- well, there ya go.

Columnist Jon Carroll, who lives in Oakland, puts all this in perspective, while rightly contrasting the causes and severity of riots in other countries. It's simple for us sensible people to agree that trashing nail salons and such is a rash response to a sad situation, but it's also unfortunately true that sometimes that is what it takes for officials to take at least one appendage from the vicinity of their exposed asses and actually do their jobs.

All of which brings me to Captain Fuckup and his inevitable attempt to whitewash his miserable reign of error. I don't even want to think about how much time, how many words I've expended in various fora and blogs over the past ten(!) years, since this clown foisted himself on an unsuspecting nation. I assume most rational people have long tempered their assessments and opinions of him lest they attract the Secret Service. Such is the catastrophic damage Bush and his claque of merry bastards have wrought upon the nation and the world; such is his and their arrogant refusal even to acknowledge the fundamentals of it all, much less own what they've done.

Bare minimum, the man does not deserve another good day, or another good night's sleep for the rest of his life. Ancient curses were always more creative; may he and his be cursed with awareness and misfortune for the next ten generations, something along that line. Or, you know, a comical set of tragic mishaps involving daisy cutters and willy pete. Some people are incredibly lucky that karma does not exist, at least for them.

Bush didn't merely fiddle while the world burned; fiddling, after all, requires opposable thumbs, some measurable level of actual dexterity. This was simply an endless bumble, an incoherent, artless monkeyfuck of a tenure. And he's proud of it, every damned bit of it, a sociopathic level of indifference.

And why not? He and Cheney probably did just fine throughout all this. Did they lose a loved one in the wars they started, in the hurricane they ignored? Have their stock portfolios plunged the way everyone else's did; do you really think their pension funds took nearly as much of a haircut as yours has? Of course not. They, and the corrupt rentier faux-capitalists who purchase access to them, made out just fine, selling short on the margin, letting someone else carry the costs, in finance and in life.

And people just want to "move on", whatever the hell that means. We're not moving on from shit, bunky -- Iraq is stabilizing to the extent that Iran can co-opt it; Afghanistan is ugly and likely to get much uglier; the economy is a series of storms and rising waters, not lifting all boats so much as surrounding most houses. But at least the thieves got their no-questions-asked golden parachutes.

And no one riots about any of those things, they just trudge on, perhaps wishfully thinking that "things" will be "different" "now", without bothering to define those terms consistently. I can't imagine too many people, outside of hardcore political wonks, will actually watch Fredo's little goodbye speech; I certainly don't have any stomach for the emetic properties of such a thing. Nobody with half a brain has given a shit about anything he's had to say for years now. But one would think it'd be game for more open and impassioned repudiation somewhere along the line.

Not that they'd sit up and take notice, much less care. They don't unless they're compelled to, and no one's really compelling them.


Marius said...

I'm afraid we're tempted to take the easy way out here, Heywood. Viz., blame a handful of bad apples, just like Rummy mendaciously did.

More people than just Shrub and his lackeys in the media were involved in this shit. I'd say it was a little over half the electorate, at least until Katrina. All of them wanted -- secretly, at least -- Bush to do what he did, because, in their heart of hearts, they think it's OK to do that. The rage over 9/11, some Westerners' natural dislike of sand people, the righteous indignation at Saddam's and the Taleban's inhuman shenanigans, combined with the general oblivion of what it means to live in a republic -- all of these combined into a potent mix that allowed Bush to get away with pretty much anything, because, frankly, a lot of people are not bothered by that. Had he been victorious in his nasty enterprises, they'd have hailed him as a victor, even if a whole team of investigative reporters had uncovered unspeakable abuses. But because he fucked it up, even though they passively endorsed it all along, they're gonna turn him into the sole scapegoat for this clusterfuck. It's the same fucked-up psychological dynamic we saw with Nixon -- the tacit endorsement until you fail badly, and then they all blame you, and you alone; but there won't be any actual repercussions, no. They'll just want to "move on," that is, repress everything and refuse to learn any lessons, lamely wishing it won't happen again in the future -- just like a battered wife who wants to 'move on' from the last black eye she got, instead of calling the cops on the motherfucker.

This ain't a true republic anymore.* People have lost their appetite for living in genuine freedom. It's now a consumerist oligarchy. Those have freedoms, too. Primarily, the freedom to shop; and the right to say what you want, as long as you don't say too much.

* A lot of us forget that Iran and North Korea also describe themselves as republics. You can always have the outer trappings of one -- the semblance of elections, a travesty of deliberative politics, and a puppet law-making body -- it's not hard to fake republican government. True republics are those in which the citizenry take their political liberties seriously, and protect them jealously from all abuses. I believe the United States used to be one such society, before the Cold War.

Heywood J. said...

Perhaps losing that freedom to shop, that luxury of using one's house as an ATM, could change a few minds, but clearly not enough. It's amazing how quickly people seem to fall from grasping opportunism to utter desperation, both being states of mind rather than financial permanence. There is a real manic-depressive streak to how this society comports itself in the aggregate.

The folks who are writing their unreadable letters to Santa Claus and readying for the hajj to Washington to bear witness to the investiture, are in for a shock. Obama will obviously be light-years more competent and articulate than Bush, but he is already in the process of disempowering the fundamental change he swore up and down he'd bring, well before he actually takes office. The use of taxpayer monies to temporarily (in theory) sovietize financial entities, with literally no tangible benefit redounding to said taxpayers in the foreseeable future, should be a pretty fair hint of what's to come.

The system of public subsidy/private profit continues apace, as do the too-big-to-fail corporatist homilies, whose cure for people who didn't default on their bills and didn't live like assholes is to bailout those who did, on either side of them. And we're going to create 4 million or so jobs in the unsustainable sector of exurban infrastructure repair? Sure, just like everybody got retrained and shit after NAFTA sent their manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

As you say, an enormous chunk of the electorate is also to blame here, for hearing what they want to hear. Even post-Katrina, even with the polls lingering around 30% or lower for much of the past three years, after all that's been done to the country and the world, 47% of these yahoos still thought it'd be a good idea to vote with their gall than their brains.

The thing is, all of us, whether we paid attention or not, are being held accountable for the short-sightedness of this administration and its moron electoral bloc. It's time people at the top were held equally (or at all) accountable.

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