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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

If 2006 Was 2009

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

"White collar conservative flashing down the street
Pointin' his plastic finger at me.
They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die
But I'm gonna wave my freak flag high... HIGH!
" - Jimi Hendrix, "If 6 Was 9."

One week ago, noted French academic Bernard Chazelle asked in Rue89, "Obama and Capitalism: Whither the American Left?" The article, originally written in French and ably translated by Truthout's Leslie Thatcher, while it may smell of cognac and Gaullois cigarettes stereotypical of liberal intellectuals nonetheless asks a very good question and reveals its author to be very conversant on trends, facts and the current players in our national discourse.

This brief 1000 word article neither promises nor delivers an all-inclusive answer but instead offers up facts and raises questions that make the thinking percentage of our population (that is, liberals and fair-minded independents) realize that Overton's Window is still very much at play.

It's unclear whether or not Mssr. Chazelle even knows of Joe Overton's window but it doesn't matter. Speaking with the subjectivity that geographical and ideological remove affords, Chazelle puts his finger squarely where we are on the political organizational chart. And it's firmly to the right of center.

While offering only a partial picture of the causes for the death of liberalism and one that hardly touches on race (an excellent companion piece would be E. J. Dionne's, "When Liberalism's Moment Ended", which offers a much fuller racial/social explanation that explicates where we now are and why), Chazelle traces this rightward drift even in supposedly liberal times to the beginning of Clinton's administration.

Without mentioning DADT, NAFTA, DOMA or the other, less-publicized evils of the Clinton years, Chazelle charts our right of center drift all the way down to the nascent Obama administration. It's easy to make an associative leap and to see that, far from electing a fiery liberal, all we've done is elect another Bill Clinton, a real first black president.

In his article, Chazelle mentions the age-old dichotomy of industrialized civilizations since early Victorian England: Should citizenship be made conditional? This is a question that had reared its ugly head, he reminds us, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and, to listen to right wing blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz and countless Republican lawmakers, the answer was a resounding Yes. If you're not wealthy enough to remain where you are in the Free Market capitalism Petri dish that we'd made of New Orleans, get the fuck out. If you don't have the money for a car, insurance, registration or gas, you deserved to drown. Stop whining that your own government won't save you and yours in a timely fashion.

Of course, the humanistic and liberal answer to the question as to whether or not citizenship should come with conditions is, Only with proof and conviction of criminal behavior. If you're convicted of a felony, you forfeit your right to vote, to bear arms and your right to move among free society.

Otherwise, the perks of citizenship may not be legally conditional but socially we're told a different story. We live in one of the few industrialized free nations on earth in which it is literally a crime and even a sin to be indigent. Those convicted of petty crimes are either ordered to pay fines or spend time in jail. The homeless are arrested for vagrancy. Municipal legal systems are forced to deal with the fallout of indigence and homelessness because government by and large would love nothing more than to wash its hands of it. If there are lobbyists for the indigent and homeless, it's a given they don't have money in sufficient quantities to flash in front of lawmakers to get their attention.

Chazelle's article does little if anything to dispel the growing unease now settling over the progressive grassroots that perhaps 2006 was no different from 2009. Our government is not only keeping its own secrets, it's also protecting the secrets and proof of evil from the previous administration. We're spending $800 billion a year on defense. Wall Street is still being rewarded for its greed and excesses, we're still renditioning prisoners to torture palaces, there's still a NAFTA, DADT and DOMA still in place, Infragard is still not only in business but signing up new recruits every day and that's only the start of what hasn't changed or even been addressed since the Bush years.

The only thing we've done is put a friendlier, shinier and happier face on torture, rendition, extralegal detentions and corporate tomfoolery. Obama even has his own army of brownshirted goons both in the government and in the blogosphere who bristle at the slightest suggestion that Obama may not be living up to his promises of lower taxes for the poor and middle class, transparency, universal health care and a whole haversack of populist campaign slogans.

We have in my own lifetime roundly and soundly rejected Democrats for not giving us results when we wanted them. We kicked Carter out of office after just four years because of Iran. We kicked them out of Congress from 1994 on because we were deluded enough to think that perhaps the Republicans had the solution.

And one suspects that even with the horrendous, Western Front-style decimation of the Republican Party in the '06 midterms and the '09 general election that the American electorate is momentarily dissatisfied with the GOP for failing them on a personal basis, because they have a loved one serving a fourth tour of duty in Iraq or their personal finances and investments are tanking under Republican initiatives.

Yet for decades, we Americans have yet to be able to wean ourselves away from a racist, race-baiting, greedy, homophobic self-absorbed party that holds most of its constituency and democracy itself in undisguised contempt despite being failed by conservatives and especially neocons for decades.

Jimi Hendrix's song from 1967, "If 6 Was 9", offers a bleak message of non-involvement. Even if the mountains fall in the sea, don't bother me. It ain't me. "Got my own world to live through / And I ain't gonna copy you." No one's asking anyone to copy anyone else but to nonetheless get involved enough to make well-thought out decisions. Because in a democracy, what we do or don't do affects everyone else. Your own world is the same world as mine and ours.

It's easy to see where and how we've drifted to the right of center and why Socialism and liberalism wide-brushed as Socialism is a four letter word on both sides of the Great Divide. What is impossible to understand is Why?
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Blogger Barry said...
Interesting Newsweek cover. I'd already begun to think of Obama as kind of a Cheney II in many ways (although less enlightened on gay rights, of course.)

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Its a given that liberals never recognize any progress unless it is absolutely total and all-encompassing, exactly like conservatives who see every minor smidgen of progress as a threat to complete destruction of the universe as a whole. Maybe something can be done about it, but I sincerely doubt it. We love our extremism because it allows us to hate everyone else's.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blogger Robb said...

Being an informed citizen requires hard work, you can't become well-informed from tv news, and being an informed citizen requires more critical analysis skill than most voters possess.