With Victories Like These…

A dozen years or so ago I was complaining to my German friend, Marcus, about the dreadful loss of historic architecture in Portland and all across the country after WWII, and he said something that I found hilarious at the time but in retrospect, not so much. (Nazi accent) “After you destroyed our cities, you liked it so much you went home and destroyed your own.”  It was an eye-opening observation, and one I’d never previously considered.  Given the relentless propaganda about The Good War, I realized that even having studied history in college, I’d never given much thought to what the unlucky recipients of our carpet bombings or nuclear blasts thought about them, or us, all these years later.  We “won” back in 1945, and the clock stopped.

Like all imperial victors, we felt we could throw our weight around, and thus shape the societies of the losers.  Germany and Japan were enjoined from all but the tiniest military spending, and the Marshall Plan helped assure that Europe would redevelop peacefully, with a large and healthy public sector leading the way.  Unfortunately, such wisdom abroad led to stupidity at home, and we ended up not just with an insatiable military industrial complex, but the fabric of our past flattened by freeways, “urban renewal” that was anything but, and suburban sprawl that bled our cities even as it blighted our hinterlands.  Losers: 1, Winners: 0.

Skipping over a few ignominious defeats in between, eager chickenhawks will quickly point to that other war we supposedly won, the Cold War, and since just like in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, monuments to victorious St. Ronnie across America are as tiresomely repetitive as the scenery in a Fred Flintstone cartoon, there must be some truth to it, right?  Well, no.

In the popular imagination, a lot of the horrible things that we “knew” about the old Soviet Union, Evil Empire that it was, were actually true, but considering them today, I’m not feeling so victorious.  Remember how we used to make fun of “Russians” because they were beaten-down laborers who lacked both hope for the future and any voice in it, and they had bad teeth, cheap clothes on their lumpy bodies, and crummy cars, to boot?  Anyone been to a WalMart lately?  I rest my case.  We shuddered to think what it would be like to have a “press” that mindlessly parroted  government propaganda, no matter how patently false and self-serving, as though it were fact.  For the sake of brevity, I’ll only note the following:  Iran/Contra, Nicaragua, Grenada, Gulf War I, 2000 elections, Sept. 11, Afghanistan, Gulf War II, “enhanced interrogation,”  Occupy Wall Street, and well, you get the idea.  How, exactly, was the New York Times, Washington Post, or even 60 Minutes different from Pravda in any of these instances?  Classier advertisers?

Central to the whole notion of the Gipper’s “victory” in this case is the core idea that the reason for the Soviet Union’s demise was that Reagan’s exorbitant defense spending had forced them to starve their people to pay for armaments.  Given that Republicans just last week proposed mercilessly slashing programs for the poor to offset any cuts in “defense,”  I think we can call that one a loss.   We used to proudly call ourselves a Free Country, as compared to that scary place Sarah Palin still eyes nervously from her Arctic outpost.  And why not?  They lived under a militarized and bloodthirsty police state that cracked heads at the first sign of dissent, tossed dissidents into medieval torture chambers and prison camps, and monitored their subjects’ every move….  Oh, never mind.

Well, at least in America, we could do something with our lives if we wanted to, because unlike Russians, our economic futures weren’t dictated by an unaccountable elite in cahoots with government that systematically ripped everyone off for their own aggrandizement….  Okay, maybe not that, but we still get to vote, even if the candidates are as indistinguishable as the pigs were from the humans in”Animal Farm”…..    Uh, not so much, as the brown and/or poor are finding out in so many states.  And then there’s the entirely predictable and draining debacle Afghanistan, as though the point hadn’t finally sunken in, to finally show those dirty commies the what-for.

With “victories” like these, who really needs defeats?


  1. cocktailhag says:

    The comments were disabled until just a few moments ago, but it’s fixed now. Naturally, it was because I made a boo-boo.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I saw that. So much for the land of the free and home of the brave.

      • dirigo says:

        The fate of the Republic rests on the broad shoulders of Grover Norquist. No one can explain how this happened, but it has.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Those shoulders would be even broader, if not for that neck… But Huckleberry Graham rebelled, just today. What do you make of that? It’s not the “fever break” Obama so naively envisions, but it’s something.

          • dirigo says:

            I’m waiting for someone to explain how these elected hacks have, for well over twenty years, bowed and scraped before Norquist, who has never held office.

          • dirigo says:

            Refreshing my befogged memory, the outfit Norquist founded and runs – Americans for Tax Reform – was birthed in his bathtub at the request of St. Ronnie, around 1985.

            This is our history, and welcome to it.

          • cocktailhag says:

            According to a story I recently read, Norquist came up with his “pledge” idea when he was 12. I wished for a lot of things at that age, but they were more modest, and I got a paper route, rather than deciding to move to Washington. I guess I didn’t aim high enough.

          • dirigo says:

            It’s inspiring to watch obsessive self interest at work, especially when it ruins so many lives as it claims to be saving them.

            Why – stick with it long enough and you can tip a great nation right over like an apple cart, and the people affected won’t know how it happened. Exactly. But somehow they’ll be grateful, because it’ll be kind of a divine intervention. Right?

            It’s easy to explain, as long as you beeeleeeeevvv!

  2. mikeinportc says:

    Central to the whole notion of the Gipper’s “victory” in this case is the core idea that the reason for the Soviet Union’s demise was that Reagan’s exorbitant defense spending had forced them to starve their people to pay for armaments.

    While the essential premise is true , the claim that St. Ronnie had anything to do with it , isn’t. The spending (% of GDP) was the same during the Gipperdeluvian Epoch ( & that was the beginning of it. We’re still in it , IMHO) as it was before.

  3. dirigo says:

    Gosh! Jamie Dimon says he’s “feeling terrible” these days.