Sunday, September 11, 2011

Musings about ‘Merka on the eve of 9-11

From time to time I participate in discussions on various sites online which feature news stories of interest and allow for comments on the stories. I find the news provocative and the comments which follow even more provocative. And from time to time, I add my own. This morning was one of those times.

I hasten to add such sites are NOT the primary places I get my news, recognizing the serious danger of living in a hothouse of like-minded thinkers and narrowing my news sources via the internet accordingly. I see enough pathology of such approaches in the things folks like my father say periodically, parroting the Fox entertainment channel.

I make it an effort to read news from a wide range of sources ranging from the formerly respectable Wall Street Journal - now bastardized by tragedy stalker Rupert Murdoch - to the World Socialist News which presents a far left end of thinking routinely suppressed in American media. My primary news sources are the New York Times and LA Times nationally and the award winning St. Pete Times locally.

Transcending Differences?

This morning the Care2 news list ran a story entitled “Cantor: We Only Have To Pass The Parts We Like” which related House Speaker Eric Kantor’s response to President Obama’s proposed jobs bill. Kantor's comment - "What we’re here to do is try to transcend differences.." - drew this immediate response from me:

Wow, the only thing Mr. Kantor seems to have more of than an abundance of chutzpah is the ability to dissemble. The House Republicans he leads have been obstructionist from the day of the last election. Their goal has been to prevent the reelection of President Obama regardless the consequences of their actions. That they were unconcerned about such consequences was clear when they pushed the country to the brink of economic default and lost the confidence of the world in American economic responsibility in the process. The notion that he would seek to "transcend differences" is a very poor attempt at humor. 

I am praying the American people are going to turn folks like Eric Kantor out of office this next election and elect people who actually care about the country, not their own political power. But, in all honesty, the American people have shown reluctance to elect capable leaders, opting for Tea Partiers and the handmaidens of corporate interests. In a country with a long history of anti-intellectualism confused with populism, that bodes poorly for this next election and it bodes poorly for an America at a crossroads in her history.

The Reagan Devolution

Not surprisingly, this article also drew a number of comments, to two of which I responded. The first poster described himself as a far left independent but then went on to say "I think Reagan was a great President..." Here is my response:

And yet it is precisely the policies of the Reagan administration that have come to harvest in the current economic crisis. The results of deregulation are visible in the raping of the American public in areas from the failures of their banks to the foreclosures of their homes. The assault on the working poor and their mythological Cadillac driving welfare queens is seen in everything from the defunding of public schools to the worst rate for childhood mortality in the modern industrial world. And the heritage of Reagan's foreign policy is visible in the hostility of much of Latin America and the Islamic world to the United States, most notably Iran with whom Reagan cut a deal to hold our hostages in return for our agreement to arm them.

A president who tells the American people that "government is the problem" has set in motion the toxic hyperindividualism that comes to harvest in Tea Partiers and the corporate rape of America. To love Ronald Reagan, one has to engage in a hell of a lot of selective amnesia.

Pimping the Working Class Male

Then there was the Republican partisan who offered the following: "They couldn't even pass things they LIKED when they had ALL the power, but no balls to use it!" My response:

I love the way Republicans so readily stoop to pimping the masculinity and the social prejudices of the working class. But it's depressing as hell to see so many of the working class buying into it. They'll vote for people who no more have their interests in mind than a rhino in heat. And then they want to complain and form Tea Parties when the politicians they've elected do exactly what the Democrats said they were going to do - screw the working and middle classes.

What's ironic in all this is that the same folks allow themselves to be manipulated by Republican constructions of elites who don't respect the working class. But, seriously, what's to respect about this behavior? I once had a friend in high school who got so agitated with his girlfriend while intoxicated off the charts that he pulled a gun out and shot off his own penis. So, how much sympathy is due this fellow when he arrives at the ER? And how much respect?

It’s All About Them

Yet another Republican partisan posed this seemingly self-evident query: "And why should they pass the parts they don't like?" The smoke has about cleared from my response to that comment:

Hmmm. Let's see. Maybe because many people in America are suffering from the results of the mess they created? Maybe because our country is faltering in its relations with the rest of the world? Maybe because it is their duty as members of Congress to actually consider the interests of the country and not their own political interests?

In short, maybe it's just not all about them, contrary to the consumerist mantra that we've all swallowed without thinking?

Will the designated adult in the American political system please identify themselves now? The children are ready for their naps.

The Dueling Fundamentalisms of Post-Modernity

Finally, a friend had sent me a link to a very provocative article on Common Dreams entitled "Ten Years, Ten Lessons." It comes from a writer named David Krieger, head of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which discussed the lessons the US might have learned over the past ten years of war and decline. In the essay, Krieger states the following:

"The U.S. is not hated for its freedom, as President George W. Bush opined, but for its policies in supporting dictatorial and repressive regimes, particularly in the Middle East." Here is my response:

While that is certainly true, it is but one part of the entire picture.

Fundamentalist Islam is a direct response to another fundamentalism rarely recognized by those of us in the west: free market fundamentalism imposed through the functioning of globalism. This is a religion which reduces everything and everyone to the bottom line. It is a religion whose values are by definition commodifiable in which human beings inevitably serve as means to those ends. It is a religion whose orthodoxy is quick to respond to any heretical questioning of the self-evident values of unbridled capitalism.

The reason the US has been willing to support violent, often totalitarian rightist regimes is because they protect US business interests. The military and diplomatic resources become means to those ends in the process. While the US has been willing to tolerate right wing authoritarianism in places ranging from Iran to El Salvador to the Philippines, we have opposed any democratic, people-driven regimes. Fascism always accomodates capitalism while socialism inevitably regulates and restricts it. In a free market fundamentalist orthodox state, that's the equivalent of heresy which must be rooted out.

There is a reason that "In God We Trust" appears on the dollar bill. Ultimately, that is the only god we actually do trust.


In a conversation over supper with a couple of friends last night at a Taiwanese restaurant, we were discussing Mark Twain, a writer my friend and I both love. I described him as “irascible,” a term I find both charming in its pugnacious sense while recognizing the tendency of such persons to rub many people the wrong way, particularly those who aren’t terribly prone to recognize the irony Twain frequently employed.

Certainly Twan was such an individual with his Huckleberry Finn a stand-in for American racists of his time and his seemingly crazed messenger from God a stand-in critic of American expansionism and slavery in The War Prayer. Before I could even finish my description, my friend observed “Of course, that’s how our husbands would describe us.” As I read this entry, I suppose, as is often true, he’s on target.

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.

Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes.