What a Long Strange Trip

 

Reporting from CHNN's Park Avenue Headquarters, Little Beirut

Reporting from CHNN's Park Avenue Headquarters, Little Beirut

As one gets older, chunks of time once thought epochal become mere blips; one may start out to say, “But I just…” and then suddenly realizing, add, “well, ten years ago.”  Oops.  Yesterday that definitely wasn’t, it only seemed like it.  Without clear markers, as we settle into middle age we see, and generally embrace, a sameness that is as comforting as it is deceptive, dulling our senses to the rapid advance of time unless its continuity is shattered by momentous events: deaths, births, marriages, divorces, children growing up so quickly.  Or, in this case, our world being turned upside down by an openly extremist political movement run amok.

 

It seems like only yesterday I was quaffing beers with a Hippie friend of mine, who told me that voting for Nader over Gore was the only way to “send a message” that our political system was broken.  Strikingly, the only real reason I felt that it was imperative for we liberals to make sure George Bush wasn’t elected, an argument that won the day with the Hippie, was that the makeup of the Supreme Court was at stake; I naively assumed that Gore and Bush would both be centrists in most respects, and that the social goals of Bush’s fundamentalist “base” was about the only thing we had to worry about.  That and deficits again.  What a difference ten years makes.

Had I thought, for even a moment, that ten years later, we would be mired in two unwinnable wars, witnessing the simultaneous collapse of our media, banking system, automobile industry, and any remaining appearance of the US as a nation of laws, while talking about torture’s usefulness despite its unpleasantness, well, that conversation would have gone a bit differently, to say the least.  The warning signs, however, came early, even after the disturbing coup-like ascension to power; dropping out of Kyoto, then the International Criminal Court, bizarre assertions of power and secrecy; all of this and more fell like rain in the early days, but why?  Something new was happening, but it wasn’t clear what it was at the time, until Sept. 11.  That day itself, and the bizarre behavior of the administration, especially Bush, has been scrubbed of its strangeness by history already but I remember at the time, glued to the television, that all I could think was that something else was afoot that everyone was pretending not to see.  Well, we soon found out.  Within days, Attorney General Ashcroft was talking about jailing journalists, Ari Fleischer was telling Americans to “watch what they say,” and a curiously instant Patriot act materialized, fully formed, out of nowhere.  Sheesh.  I’d been worrying about a black-robed bible-thumper or two.

I was in Seattle when Bush gave the infamous “Axis of Evil” speech, and my friends and I there were a roomful of dropped jaws as Bush announced that we were permanently at war, basically with a growing chunk of the world, and the media seemed to think that was perfectly normal, and maybe even good for ratings, for an American President to say something so frankly Hitlerian, which is the only thing to call it.  I kept waiting for the backlash that never came, joining enormous war protests that landed like trees in an empty forest as one doomed war gave way to a bigger, even more doomed one, while otherwise sensible people listened to Wolfowitz saying the war would pay for itself, Kristol saying there weren’t any religious tensions in Iraq, and Rumsfeld saying of the imminent war’s duration, “I doubt six months.”  Six years ago.  What a decade it was shaping up to be.

Worse, the crazier and stupider the policies enacted routinely and with no debate, the more likely we were told that they were none of our business anyway, and were inevitable, so shut up and go shopping.  The media led this chorus, putative watchdogs become lapdogs; more contemptuous of dissent than the rogue government itself, and sometime around the time that Bush managed to win reelection, I was utterly bewildered….  Had it only been five years?  A sinister, near-cinematic scenario had unfolded which, in my worst nightmares, I never could have imagined.  The night after the election, I threw in a familiar REM CD, and cranked it up, only to be interrupted by the telephone.  It was my Mom, asking what I was doing.  I told her I was drinking and listening to REM.  ”It’s the End of the World as We Know It?”   she asked.  ”Yes.  How’d you know?”  was my laughing answer.  And it really was.  At this point, why not laugh?

The financial collapse, torture scandal, exploding deficits, Katrina, Lewis Libby being freed, warrantless wiretapping, Nancy Pelosi taking impeachment “off the table,” it didn’t matter anymore. Outrages became commonplce with dizzying rapidity, and even keeping up seemed redundant, almost.  The worst decade the world had ever known was underway, and decades, perhaps centuries, later it would be remembered as such, I had no more doubt.  Sometimes decades just pass you by.  As has become abundantly clear, this last one never will.

15 Comments

  1. heru-ur says:

    Welcome to Rome, my son.

    I ended up needing to study and learn American History thoroughly. I had no choice in the matter really, at that time. What I was faced with was pure evil. I know that sounds over the top, but it is true. We have done all this before.

    Hag, it is not just the people involved but rather it is the system itself. You may feel much better about yourself by dreaming that we would not have become involved in land wars in the middle east if the Republicans had always remained a minority party and the sainted Democrats had always been in charge. It is a great fantasy to enjoy as one gets high.

    The Democrats love war also: they just use a different ad agency to sell them.

    As long as the United States is the large and powerful entity that it is today, we have no chance. Our only chance lies in the breakup of the 50 states into smaller, weaker units. Trust me; you really don’t need the best and the brightest in DC to set building code for your city. Your local people can do it.

  2. cocktailhag says:

    I have no particular love of Democrats; nor do I think they’re much less militarist than Republicans. But the unique horrors of the Bush years are particular to the right-wing brand of chest-thumping, xenophobic, and authoritarian crusading that animates the base of his party.

  3. The Heel says:

    Good morning Tart,
    I had to smile, once again, because said Hippie friend of yours is sleeping in our guest room as we speak :)

    I also remember that discussion in the days and logic dictated that avoiding Bush is more important than “sending a message”. I have since come to change my opinion on the subject and I wish that more Naders would emerge. Maybe sometimes one will steal from the conservative side (Perot) and sometimes one will tap into the liberal pool.

    You probably have read Krugman’s comment in the Times this morning

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/opinion/13krugman.html

    He has a scary point in saying that even Dem’s with a popular president and a solid majority in the houses are not doing what needs to be done. When will it be done, for Pete’s sake? Do we have to wait for the second coming of the Lord…?

    While Krugman talks about the economy and the environment, I am sure we could quickly list a whole more topics where the Dems are morally obligated to reverse course or take action (did that wire tapping carte blanche ever get revised?)

    I guess what I am trying to say is that some atrocities have a particular repooplican smell but in a bigger picture, it still doesn’t matter who is in charge.
    Trust me, in a century, we will not be remembered for being the poor victims of illegal wire tappings or for the generation that tortured some Habibis – we will be remember as the idiots that didn’t act stopping the climate change when there would still have been a chance to do so…..

    • cocktailhag says:

      You’re probably right about that. But after all, there’s some “agenda” that might be threatened if we do anything about: you name it. What said agenda is remains a mystery. But the repudiation of the Republicans electorally has done nothing to change the course of the country, that’s certain.

  4. retzilian says:

    Your description of how you felt after the 2004 election is so familiar. I didn’t go home and play REM (although, I sure know that song and it is absolutely true, it was the end of the world as we knew it), but I sunk into complete despondency, burst into tears at the drop of a hat (no, I was not pregnant, haha), and it wasn’t until the conviction of the murderer whose trial I was following occured mid-November that I snapped out of my nearly paralyzing malaise.

    But, I’m heartened by your reaction to the election, because that feeling was shared by millions of people all over this country, and we still have a common energy, passion and idealism that can alter the world just as that election seemed to alter our universe at the time. There is a power here that we need to channel. I think things are happening chiefly because of this shared focus. I’m willing to believe that for awhile.

    • cocktailhag says:

      If you read UT this morning, you’d find that more and more difficult to believe. (I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt that way in 2004…. the neighborhood I was working in had 99-1 Kerry signs)

      • retzilian says:

        The story about Goldman and the chronology of the Biggest Con of the Millennium (So Far) doesn’t surprise me, doesn’t upset me, doesn’t even faze me, because I expected it. I saw this one coming since September.

        To me, the human rights abuses, the civil rights abuses, the pending poh-leece state is much more ominous and infuriating than a bunch of thieves stealing each others’ money. They didn’t steal any of my money, because I’m too poor to pay any taxes and the only money the fed gets from me is a couple hundred a year in surcharges.

        So, I got pleny o’ nuttin’.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Well, it isn’t really the money, but rather the principle of the thing. We’re already being told the many things we can’t afford, having blown all the money on wars and bailouts. A trillion here, a trillion there, and all.
          I guess that Democrats, having embraced war, torture, signing statements, indefinite detention et al, have decided to loot the treasury, too, just like Republicans. I bet Dick Cheney is smiling his crooked smile about now.
          Having seen it coming doesn’t make it any better, but the rude surprise of the Constitutional outrages is a cake that didn’t need to be iced with kleptocracy, too.
          But it was.

          • retzilian says:

            Actually, it makes me want to vomit, but I can’t do a damn thing about it. I have to focus on finding gainful employment in the worst job market of my lifetime in a city where jobs have been diminishing for a decade.

          • cocktailhag says:

            I don’t envy you, but I can certainly sympathize. The design side of my business has completely dried up. Although I don’t miss all the time spent at the Bureau of Development Services, I certainly miss the money. Now I’m back to laying tile and painting, like I’ve always done, and meetings on weekends to nail down every (small) project. Easy come, easy go, I guess.
            At least I no longer worry about my rent being raised again; empty, brand-new buildings everywhere ought to prevent that.

  5. Cocktailhag, you need a cocktailhug. If you hadn’t stuck that picture in up at the top, I might have begun to worry about you.

    It has been a nasty decade. I might disagree with you about its being the worst — think Vandals (real ones) at the gates of Rome, or Hiroshima, or the demise of the Kulaks — but that’s kinda beside the point. We’re around for this one, which inevitably makes it more personal.

    It could be worse. It was 117 degrees in Phoenix yesterday, the real and the metaphorical hells conjoined, as it were. Even up here, I’ve rarely ventured outdoors this week without two parasols — one for me, a la Scarlett O’hara — and the other for my drink.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Yes, I was exaggerating for emphasis as usual…. worst ever is a pretty high standard but it does come close, especially since it’s continuing, under new management. (guess it was pretty prescient to start this blog, after the election….)
      Try not to turn into beef jerky out there, WT, or a human clinker brick. It’s cool and cloudy here, and even rained quite a bit yesterday. (that lovely green park does come at some cost…)

    • rmp says:

      Great discussion even though the topic is hard to stomach. But you guys just don’t understand the important work that our congress critters do on our behalf to help us with monumental challenges we face especially when trying to fix so many broken systems at the same time.

      Brownback And Landrieu Introduce Bill To Ban Mermaids (also centaurs and Jersey devils)
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/13/brownback-and-landrieu-in_n_230762.html

      • cocktailhag says:

        That weird obsession has always left me speechless… I don’t speak wingnut-ese, so maybe I lose something in the translation. Randi Rhodes endlessly played a clip of Bush talking about “human animal hybrids,” and all I could think of was that chimps and humans don’t make a nice mix.
        New post up…

  6. nice, very good post