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Friday, September 07, 2012

"Fool Me... You Can't Get Fooled Again."

fool, n- 1. a silly or stupid person; a person who lacks judgment or sense.
2. a professional jester, formerly kept by a person of royal or noble rank for amusement: the court fool.
3. a person who has been tricked or deceived into appearing or acting silly or stupid: to make a fool of someone.
4. an ardent enthusiast who cannot resist an opportunity to indulge an enthusiasm (usually preceded by a present participle): He's just a dancing fool.
5. a weak-minded or idiotic person.
- Dictionary.com

When we hear the word "fool" or "fooled", a lot of the pejorative visual connotation and literal etymology has long since been bleached out of it. We all know what the definition of the word "fool" or "fooled" is but rarely if ever do we think of the actual definition of the word in visual terms. It's one thing to acknowledge being tricked or deceived but another thing entirely to be compared to a professional idiot in an outlandish costume and used for the transient amusement of a ruling elite. Just because it's no longer ever literally true, it doesn't mean the definition should change because, while court jesters have been evolved into something else entirely or rendered obsolete, it doesn't mean We the People don't continue serving the same function as useful idiots and to literally be made fools of by today's ruling elite.

I've made several attempts to explicate what exactly got me into the thankless "mug's game" of political blogging in late January of 2005. More than once I'd dutifully tipped my tinfoil hat to my elder and better, Michael Moore and his 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 911, still IMHO the best political documentary ever made. That was the start of my personal political polarization, if not outright radicalization.

Still, my exponentially-growing political awareness took about six months to actually erupt into words in a dedicated forum. I was already deeply distrustful and openly hostile toward the Bush administration ever since 2002 and then I realized after watching Moore's movie that Bush wasn't even the president and we were living in an unacknowledged state of tightly controlled anarchy. So what happened between seeing Moore's movie on July 4th 2004 and the election later that year?

Well, with the obvious exception of Bush stealing the White House yet again with the help of J. Kenneth Blackwell, Karl Rove and the usual piano wire-gripping suspects, nothing much. Sure, I was outraged Kerry didn't win but that wasn't what sent me racing to my keyboard every day less than three months later.

Because it wasn't so much what happened between summer and fall of 2004 that had radicalized me for good but what had happened between election day 2000 and September 11th 2001.

I may have said in earlier accounts that shame is what motivates me to this day, shame I'll never live down no matter how many truths I uncover and rail about. Even though I didn't vote for Bush (or anyone) in 2000 and although I told my significant other as Bush was taking the oath of office from Rehnquist, "This cannot end well," I was glad the man was at the helm after September 11th.

In a sense, I'd adopted John Wayne's mindset after the 1960 election when he said of John F. Kennedy, "I didn't vote for him but he's my president and I hope he does a good job." I supported the man and became part of the 90 or 91% of those who'd inexplicably given approval to the man presiding over the most catastrophic fuckup since Pearl Harbor. I never imagined myself ever allying myself with the 9 or 10 per cent who took him to task for that and other things.

And like all of us, I recall exactly where I was on 9/11 when I first got wind of the WTC being hit. I was in the shipping area of Chase Walton Elastomers, splitting my time between Quality Control and the production floor when the shipping supervisor Stacy informed us from her desk. By this time, it had been ascertained that a highjacked 767 had slammed into the northeast face of the North Tower. Ergo, long before we got wind of the 2nd impact, we all already knew this was not an accident.

Outside on the loading dock minutes later, I muttered the name "Bin Laden. Fucking bin Laden." We'd all assumed it was him because it wasn't all that long ago when another rookie president had a bomb go off in that same building on his watch. There was no doubt about it. It was al Qaeda. So, what would Bush do?

Well, the press pretty politely excused Bush for freezing in that little plastic chair for seven minutes after getting the word about the South Tower from Chief of Staff Andy Card just as they'd excused his being shuttled around the country like a piece of lost luggage. Besides, until we had a president again, we had Mayor Rudy, a lame duck politician who seemed to take charge and was just as justifiably horrified as the rest of us, a man who was running toward the wreckage and devastation when everyone else was running away from it.

By the time we saw Bush again, he was standing on top of a pile of rubble, an image that would characterize the rest of his agenda both foreign and domestic, leaning on a fireman and sucking on a bullhorn, milking those nearly 3000 deaths for every last drop of political leverage and he got it in the form of a 90+% approval rating and, literally, a blank check from Congress, the Justice Dept. and the American people to do whatever needed to be done to counter this threat. It's pretty safe to say that in those first hyper-emotional days, we weren't looking for justice. It was all about vengeance. I know. I had blood in my eye over this. We all did. We were united, we were all Americans and for one brief shining moment, we were the pity of the planet earth and had the full support of all but a few Arab nations.

George W. Bush was a shitty statesman but a master politician and politics can be called the art of exploiting weaknesses, at turning disaster into opportunity. Preemptively channeling Rahm Emanuel, the Bush administration, whether or not they pulled off 9/11 either directly or indirectly, refused to waste this catastrophe. Before Afghanistan or the American public knew what had hit it, we were in Afghanistan and, while we weren't letting bin Laden escape Tora Bora, we were taking on a previously little-known regional radical faction called the Taliban (henceforth known as Bush's former business partners).

It took Michael Moore and a handful of intrepid researchers to tie together all the rancid strands tying the bin Ladens to the Bushes and all the dirty tricks Camp Bush had pulled to steal the election in Florida. But before all that came to light, we did as Americans and all people are supposed to do: We rallied around our leader during a time of national catastrophe.

Christopher Hitchens and other liberals suddenly were on the Bush bandwagon, cheering us on even as we were about to invade Iraq. Those of us who'd opposed the war were simply ignored or, if we were listened to at all, we were dismissed and hounded into silence on charges of being unAmerican, as traitors or worse. "Are you with us or against us?"

Yeah, I cheered on that second clusterfuck, too. I thought, "How on earth could Secretary of State Colin Powell be wrong about any of these things?" as he presented a seemingly rock-solid case against Saddam Hussein to the UN Security Council in February 2003? He's a top-ranking administration official, our top diplomat, a former 4 star general! It honestly never occurred to me that that Sec Def Rumsfeld wasn't used to make this presentation because he had no credibility and the Bush junta was willing to sacrifice Powell's own credibility for the sake of waging a war engineered to ultimately do three things: Bloat war profiteers, oil cartels and to keep us in a perpetual state of fear.

In other words, we weren't cynical enough, not by a mile.

And, your point is...?

My point is this: By this time, political blogs were barely coming into vogue and those that were around got daily hit counts in multiples of dozens, not the hundreds of thousands the A listers get today. For about a year before I actually got into the swim in an obscure little blog called "Yep, Another Goddamned Blog", I considered starting one up. The stories coming out about Bush, the increasing prominence of blogs, the jingoism and my own private doubts provided the seedbed for a health crop of shame for ever having supported that idiotic little sociopath.

It was ashamed of myself, the shame of being a middle-aged man who could be so effortlessly fooled after greeting the Bush administration with jeering skepticism. I played my part, I became the 90% and supported my president even though I did not vote for him. The fact that someone, even a Republican, would ever exploit that for purely political purposes was absolutely unthinkable.

When I finally woke up, when I saw how fast Iraq and Afghanistan was going south, I voted for Kerry, the first time I'd ever cast a vote. Then I realized that in again doing the right thing, in voting instead of complaining, I was deceived and it didn't really matter what we wanted. Bush wanted to get re-elected and nothing, not even the voice of the people and the electoral college, was going to get in his way.

After enduring that moron and his countless evils for eight years, we finally saw a ray of hope (and change) in a little-known midwestern Senator named Barack Obama. Just a few years before he threw his hat in the ring in 2007, he was a completely unknown state legislator who happened to give a kickass speech in 2002 about why we shouldn't go to war with Iraq. He delivered another kickass speech at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston (Yes, the same one that featured snipers and "freedom cages", the next-best thing to posse comitatus.).

By this time, however, I was, if anything, even more jaded and cynical about politics and politicians than most humans typically are. Three and a half to four years of covering Bush and the Republican Party's lies and filthy tricks made me thin-skinned, hypervigilant and my ears pricked up for any klaxxon alarms set off by either side.

McCain and Palin were easy enough to spot for most of us but apparently Obama fooled 69,000,000+ people into voting for him (myself included) because we either got sucked into the "hope and change" mantra/bumper sticker or were so scared shitless at the prospect of a McCain/Palin presidency that we voted for the cool, smart, articulate guy. The Democrat. The one who was supposed to bring about "hope and change."

Then, as I'd predicted four years ago, the hope and change began when he retained professional seat warmer Robert Gates as Sec Def. The hope and change continued when he nominated then retained Ben Bernanke as the Fed Chairman. The hope and change continued when we kept Gitmo open (Granted, the GOP in Congress cut funding to that end but it can't be said Barry's been too broken up about that.).

The hope and change continued when Goldman Sachs executives and lobbyists of all stripes began infesting the White House like silverfish when multimillionaires and billionaires continued getting tax breaks while the poor got poorer. The hope and change continued when Obama and his flak Bob Gibbs began embarrassing and criticizing the liberal base (or the "professional left") that got him elected when they rightly called him on his broken campaign promises.

The hope and change continued when Iraq did, when Afghanistan did (which Obama ramped up without giving us any clearly defined exit strategy or reason why), when millions of American jobs continued getting offshored by corporations still enjoying massive tax breaks given to them to keep jobs in America. The hope and change continued when vulture funds still made right wing sociopaths billions while bankrupting Third World countries. The hope and change continued with the undermining of unions, with Social Security and Medicare getting offered up for the chopping block, when the jobless rate continued to spiral upwards as jobs continued getting bled offshore.

The hope and change continued with the continued implementation of the Graham-Leach-Bliley bill that essentially put the kibosh on Glass-Steagal and let traditional banks fiddle fuck around with investment banking that nearly dragged down the global economy. The hope and change continued when oil companies like BP brought about the petroleum industry's equivalent of Chernobyl and Obama and his Interior Secretary continued giving them cover and letting them drill, baby, drill offshore while letting them fail to file environmental impact reports and other pesky pieces of paperwork. The hope and change continued when we remained the only nation to not sign on to the Kyoto protocol nor articulate a single solid strategy for tackling climate change or global warming.

The hope and change continued when the right wing Congress got everything they wanted, were allowed to kill whatever they wanted in the name of loyal opposition and virtually without criticism. The hope and change continued when Obama essentially surrendered to al Qaeda and admitted we couldn't stop them if they wanted to seek reprisal for us releasing the torture photos and videos he'd promised to release while on the campaign trial.

The hope and change continued when he allowed the Bush junta to get off scot-free and to not even investigate war crimes allegations let alone actually prosecute them, even to the point of interfering with Spain's judicial system when they were prepared to do just that. The hope and change continued when Obama continued shaving the Constitution while adopting this, "If the president does it, it isn't illegal" tone.

The hope and change continued and even started on the campaign trail when Obama appeared in a video-conference call to AIPAC and essentially outLiebermaned Lieberman by assuring them Iran was a nuclear threat. The hope and change continued (still on the campaign trail) when Obama voted for retroactive immunity for telecom companies that had illegally spied on their own customers for the benefit of the paranoid government.

And yet, despite all this hope and change, I still got the impression that there wasn't something quite right, that this wasn't so much hope and change as it was a hamfisted attempt to simply maintain the status quo. I've been unemployed for virtually the entire Obama administration because outsourced jobs means fewer jobs here, raising competition for the few remaining jobs to unprecedented levels so that now college grads with sheepskins are competing with people like me for fast food jobs.

I've been once again saddled with a health care law with an individual mandate without any real public option and face comeuppance at the hands of the tax code if I'm "noncompliant" and cannot qualify for any hardship dispensation. I still see Wall Street getting richer and almost literally floating on a sea of two trillion dollars while the poor and middle class get poorer and poorer.

And don't even get me started on the real changes, such as assassination of US citizens and protesting near a federal building now a federal felony.

So if I seem to be a little off-kilter and uncompromising in the face of all this hope and change, please first understand what motivated me to begin with. I didn't get into political blogging just to take down Republicans and conservatives. When I see injustice, greed, elitism and other manners of evil, regardless of which side of the aisle they come, I will scream about it.

But I will say this if you think I'm being unnecessarily harsh on our president: We've come to expect this from Republicans. However, despite my jaded outlook in general, it's really galling to see this coming from so-called Democrats like Obama.

I will not be able to wash myself of the guilt of being fooled during Bush-Cheney any more than Lady MacBeth could the blood from her hands. If I were to fool myself into thinking that Obama and a second term for him is the panacea to all our ills, as he more than suggested last night, I would be going back to a more naive and stupider time of my life. If I were to suddenly pretend to forget (as have many of us) about all the "hope and change" and all its attendant evils to which I've played witness these past four years, I'd be back to before I started and I will not do that.

You can continue pretending as if you're living on the outskirts of Camelot. I will not and refuse to be fooled as I was a decade ago.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Ecclesiastes 1:18
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
Mark Twain Quote: It Is Easier To Fool People Than To Convince People That They Have Been Fooled."

the allied liberating commander of the Dachau concentration camp found that the citizens of the town of Dachau were in complete denial, despite the evidence, of what was happening just up the road.
he assembled every man, woman and child and marched them slowly thru the camp.
everybody needs a Dachau moment.
while i am on a parallel path and empathize completely (welcome aboard it's a sinking ship with no hope of landfall...i've been here about 30 years)it is an elite few who actually get to this point.
that may be the saddest thing about my life
blessings ...mike