Saturday, 22 March 2008

Village Idiot

When George Bush appears on television these days, it’s almost embarrassing how fast the commentators switch over to something more substantial, like the woman who got killed by the 70-pound flying fish.

His sunny comments about big, strong America’s wonderful economy are going to start to sound pretty off-key as the suffering spreads. I’m wondering when the human-interest stories on the news are going to reflect the contrast between reality and Bush’s private world.

His autism has always been apparent in dealing with Iraq, but our loyal news media have cooperated in keeping that debacle in the realm of fantasy and the far-away, except for the dead and wounded soldiers who are somewhat harder to obscure.

But even that has become routine. Since criticism of war-making has been so successfully shunted off into the margins, it’s really only the troops themselves who now can effectively raise the issue of their own purposeless physical destruction. It’s a shame we can’t help out there, but it’s the result of forbidding criticism of the war as equivalent to disloyalty to the troops.

That closed mindset reminds me of the supporters of the military dictatorship under which I lived for several years. There’s something about the atmosphere created by the impunity of authoritarianism that turns average citizens into thought-police. Dinner-table conversations tend to be of the I-talk-you-listen variety, sustained by the ambient sensation that dissenting too loudly can have unpleasant consequences.

That’s the spirit Bush and the neocons brought to the post-9/11 environment. They didn’t simply settle for declaring war on all foreign enemies (despite not knowing Shiites from Sunnis from Baluchi tribeswomen). They also declared war on us. They wanted to strike out at their enemies, and those enemies very quickly included anyone not standing at attention during Fox News.

That all worked for a time and with some people, but I don’t think it’ll fly nearly as well when as those folks slowly sink into the slough of unpayable Visa balances and mortgage delinquencies. Then the us-versus-them rhetoric may not be quite so easy to swallow especially if one is moved to ask, Who’s us?

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