Soap-box/Sermon

While I have the rare energy, some random observations?

Blame it all on Wall Street or Government regulators or on the criminal gang that ran our government for the last 8 years– up until about 3 weeks ago? The marauding Bush monster may have had its various heads chopped off, but a great deal of the huge, toxic body remains—embedded deep in the roots of the vast government bureaucracy, the court system, the very philosophical and cultural assumptions and mechanisms of America.
The great tidal wave of corruption, greed, violence, imperious arrogance and contempt of everything decent can?t just sweep over a country and when its gone, leave that country clean as a whistle, ready to sprout clean new flowers?
Such a tsunami of everything petty and vicious and insensate in human beings leaves nothing but a dripping, devastated ruin?i.e., the current financial plight of our country; reflected in the empty houses, closed government offices, depleted food banks, endless unemployment insurance lines and sick hospitals and schools?

Yes, you could blame it all on the congressional oversight (now there?s a perfect word) committees, government regulators; the Bush administration, and the Wall Streeters? but we, and by we, I mean the larger American population and culture, are not hapless, innocent victims?mugged by criminals or run over by an out-of-control car? The bad actors at the top stood much too often on the ignorant and even willing shoulders of the American public?

Did Bush and Geithner, Paulson and Madoff, Cheney and Rove, Robert Rubin and all the rest, just stick a gun in faces and hold us up for our hard-earned money? Partially, yes?but a lot of Americans went out of their way to empty their own wallets, with not a bad guy in sight.

We have charged, spent, and consumed like a pack of ravening, insensate carnivores?Our warehouses, stores, houses and apartments are piled to the ceiling with shit and no one mysteriously dumped it there. It was feverishly acquired by a couple of hundred million people who are now holding their noses and wondering where the smell is coming from and why they don?t have any money to pay someone to clean up the mess.

?At this point, I?ll turn down the volume a little, because I?m raising my blood pressure and disturbing my sensitive stomach? But the point is, obviously, that, though we were headed in that direction for a while, America is still not a dictatorship where we were all forced at gunpoint to overspend and give control of our government to thieves and fools. Sure we were duped and rolled over and people betrayed our trust, but a great deal of our difficulties have to chalked up to our own lack of vigilance?

Of course, OF COURSE its hard just to live?just to get by in our own difficult daily lives?For that reason we elect people who are paid to protect our interests?to ?oversee? the criminals who are always with us?to appoint people to regulate the systems that so easily can get out of control. We have to earn our livings and take care of ourselves and our families?just stay one step ahead of mortality.
Staying sane and safe and sometimes just getting by is a full-time job so pay most of our taxes and we elect our mayors and governors and legislators? and pay the cops and the firefighters and sanitation workers to keep us safe and healthy.
Same goes for the Federal Government?The executive branch, the courts, the congress?the armed Forces and the myriad agencies that are supposed to keep us from safe from the endless negligence and abuses of the civil flesh is heir to.

But a lot of Americans forgot that the system requires us to be ever watchful, not to just elect people and let them run everything without checking to see if they?re doing their jobs?
Its easy when the malefactors are so patently, clearly aggressive and deserve to be pushed back against? Bush, Cheney and Co. made it simple to see who the bad guys were?but we trusted too much in our Congress to do their jobs?to protect us against one branch of government when it metastasized? We trusted too much and they proved, if not venal themselves, hopelessly inadequate to the task of watching out for our rights as citizens..

From now on we have to watch them all very closely?take nothing for granted?not just cast our votes and turn our backs on our ?leaders.? And this includes Mr. Obama.
Just as one instance?. What has possessed this man?almost on a daily basis?to appoint to the highest positions of governmental power (especially financial power), some of the VERY SAME people who were responsible for the disasters we are facing now?
Mr. Obama has already taken some wonderful steps to get our system back into democratic balance, but he?s also been very disappointing in many of his most important appointments to high office. And his positions on rendition, government secrecy and allowing banks to still act without real control are extremely disappointing?in some cases not differing much from the previous administration! Not to mention his possibly disastrous policy of committing tens of thousands of more troops to Afghanistan?our possible next Vietnam.

I?m glad Mr. Obama is president?there was only one choice, obviously? But he needs to be less cautious, less trusting of the advice of people who got us into this money mess to begin with. And he needs to be less compromising toward Republicans in Congress who haven?t the slightest intention of helping him, or the country, or even their own constituents, pull out of the deep hole we?re in.
One of the President?s great virtues is his forgiving and cooperative nature, but there is a time and place for everything?Now is not the time for so much reaching a hand across the aisle. When a dog keeps trying to bit your hand off, you need to stop petting it and keep moving. Even saintliness can lead to harm?if it doesn?t take the reality of people and place into account.

Let the Republicans filibluster. Let them jump up and down and yell till they?re hoarse?give childish sound-bite interviews on cable television? They will only succeed in making themselves look more worthless and ridiculous then they are now.
These empty, self-aggrandizing opportunists only want one thing?to stay in power and keep getting elected by their sadly ignorant constituents. They are betting all they have left (and that?s not much) that Mr. Obama will fail and that they will pick up the electoral pieces after he does. They don?t care if even people in their own states and districts have no houses or jobs or medical care.
The lifeboat is out in a stormy sea and they refuse to pull together toward the safety of shore. They are a dead weight and need to be ignored, or maybe tossed overboard?not pampered and reasoned with while the boat is swamped and sinks beneath the waves?

And, finally, Mr. Obama needs to remember that he was elected by people who want to reverse the crimes and poisoned precedents of the Bush gang. To that end, he really needs to, for the sake of healing, seek out and prosecute the people who almost destroyed our constitution. He needs to get his attorney general to investigate Rove and Cheney and Bush and prove in court how they lied and stole and twisted our laws completely out-of-shape. If he doesn?t prosecute these people, he will be setting a precedent; its alright for the leaders of our government to destroy it from inside?the worst that will happen to them is that they will get to pout on their estates or luxury hotel rooms in Dubai.
Its as old as literature, religion and psychology: When you are lost in a dark wood in the middle of your life, you have to descend to the bottom circles of hell to see what has gone wrong, then make your way back up the light?
And in all these things, there has to be a guide. In this case, Mr. Obama is our chosen guide? But he can?t lead us out of this wilderness without first cleaning the civic body of illness and parasites.

To end with a small, but related s
ide-trip?

So our entire society is dysfunctional?as if it were lying on a gurney in a hospital emergency room with all our organs almost collapsed. We need a complete review and a complete repair of our entire system?while taking a few serious emergency steps (The Stimulus bill?pale as it is) to keep us on life support while we try to rebuild the body and soul of our country.

Among the many things terribly misshapen in American life?that have caused this current sad state of affairs is the culture of celebrity?the Star System.
From Alex Rodriguez to Obama (yes, you have to include him, despite his great assets. After all, you have to admit it was his star quality that helped get him elected); from Sarah Palin to Oprah…and all the Wall Street bonus babies in-between?
All of this addiction to empty achievement and hollow values is powered by the tens of millions of people who buy ridiculous magazines about what movie stars buy on shopping sprees, and who watch TV shows where ?news? anchors scream at guests during two minute interviews on major issues?or stare at shows where people eat worms or kill each other to win money or swap wives or whatever the fuck they?re doing this week).
Everything that happens in this country seems to be laid on top of a deep bed of mindless acquisitiveness and superficial striving; being the best at all costs… Last Survivor, Top Model, Best Chef, Best Politician, Sexiest, Strongest, Meanest, Richest?any humanly redeeming content on the way to the top being merely incidental?even considered an impediment to success. ?Nice guys finish last? has become the national motto.
If you’re not on the red carpet, you’re in the gutter?there is no in-between anymore.

It was telling what happened in the Super bowl. An astounding, game-winning catch was made in the end-zone (sorry, I forgot the player’s name)? When, later, they asked for his reaction, he said?to paraphrase him:? I always wanted to be a super-star and now I am…” His team winning came 2nd or 3rd in his list of achievements for the day…

I know, I know? I’m beginning to sound like what I very well may be?an old fart reminiscing about the good old days when there were “real” values… Maybe I’m a conservative Republican at heart.
But here’s a question for you. Has any society or culture ever gone in reverse?returned to place where certain accepted norms and values worked better for the whole and not for some small group of stronger, faster, richer, flashier people?
America, with most of the rest of the world hooked on to it like a stuck barnacle, is on the Decrease, as the I Ching would probably point out…

Maybe, like they say in twelve-step programs (and I know this to be true in my own life) you have to hit bottom before you can start to live a clean life again.
We were crazy in the Twenties, and then crashed in the Thirties. Ultimately, it took ten years of immense suffering, semi-socialism (which is fine with me) and, unfortunately, a world war, to get us out of that place…
So we are heading toward a terrible bottom?and we can only pray that we don?t get destroyed when we hit the ground?that there is enough energy and enough resources left to restore the heart and mind and body of America?

As a last observation?
I see now, and it was entirely predictable, that the army is recruiting very heavily?immigrants, and shortly, no doubt, a whole lot of unemployed people…
Just a short glimpse at history will show us that in this behavior we are following in the boot steps of Rome and Nazi Germany.
We might soon have an armed service that is 2 or 3 times the size it is now?and its already too large.
The question is, what will we use if for?
I hope its to build alternative energy plants, fix schools and highways and dams; clean up toxic waste dumps and abandoned parts of American cities?and not used to invade and occupy the rest of the world.
We have a choice here?not to be Rome, not to be Germany in the Thirties and Forties?

All comments are welcome?
mikefeder@nyc.rr.com

– Mike Feder (New York City – February 15, 2009)

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