American Samizdat

Wednesday, February 25, 2009. *
I was a very young boy when Dwight Eisenhower ran for president. I wore an "I Like Ike" button. I liked Ike 'cuz he had a great button. My dad voted for Adlai. Ike was my hero 'til everybody started talking about how much golf he was playing while the Russkies were kicking our ass all over the planet . . .

I was thirteen when John Kennedy came up to bat. He was just about everybody's hero, 'specially if you were an Irish Catholic Bostonian like I was. It was several decades before I found out the truth about his presidency and I finally threw him in the old hero hamper . . .

It will always disturb me that Ronald Reagan is a hero for so many Americans, except as a deification of American selfishness. To credit the man with "bringing down" the Soviet Union and all but destroying international communism is disingenuous at best. The USSR collapsed of its own weight of corruption and imperial overstretch, complete with its own Vietnam-like Afghanistan quagmire, just as the US and its empire are imploding now, the result of the ideology and policies of the Reagan years.

I will not take the time here to delineate those US Presidents who have been elevated to the status of hero. We all know who they are. It should be noted, however, that good historical practice can often insert critical insight and controversy into the myths upon which the stature of heroism is built. In my mind, for example, the fact that Lincoln was a racist who intended that freed African slaves be returned to Africa punctures the myth of his deification.

Presidential heroes are indeed the product of the melding of reality and mythology. In ancient Greece, the term "hero" applied to mortals who, through exceptional deeds, were elevated to the panoply of the gods as "demigods".

Every revolution and every empire needs its gods, I suppose. It's a great marketing technique, selling ideology to domestic citizens and foreign adversaries: Bolivar, Attaturk, Castro, Churchill, William the Conquerer. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and, of all people, Teddy Roosevelt radiate their deity from visages carved into the side of a mountain. Washington himself is memorialized by a giant phallic pyramid piercing the sky from the Potomac swamp. Man become symbol. But aren't these myths usually made in retrospect? Aren't demigods the embodiment, even sanctification, of ideals and actions to be emulated by the good citizens who worship them?

It seems to me that the myth of Barack Hussein Obama has already been made up. It is almost as if the man had to be made before the demigod. It certainly wasn't difficult. George (AnybodyBut) Bush provided a ready-made foundation. Any Democratic candidate could probably have beaten whoever he endorsed (or whoever endorsed him and his policies) by just showing up, so it was just a matter of whether it would be Obama or Hillbillary who successfully wooed the King/Queenmakers (and their coffers).

The Clintons had a problem: their myth was already made and not all of it was flattering. Obama didn't really have to run against them, because many of the Clinton courtiers defected early to Obama. All he had to do was stand still and his own myth was knitted together by his handlers and even more so by politically impoverished voter-serfs ascribing their own ideals to him, regardless of whether he really held them or not. By the time the DNC rolled around, the bronze sculpture of a new superhero had already been cast and finally the election saw z bright marble bust on an iron pedestal. Unfortunately, the bust is hollow . . .

In many ways, November 2008 may have been the peak of the Obama presidency. The myth is fairly transparent and cannot last long. The man himself probably realizes that the stovepipe crown he's been given isn't really big enough to hold the gigantic magic rabbit he'll have to produce to pull off what's in the script.

The bubble of "Hope" and "Change" is burst already. One is not possible without the other. and we are still waiting for change that will not come, unless it's for the worse. Noam "The Gadfly" Chomsky has this to say . . .
As for current policies, I think Obama looks more aggressive and violent than Bush. The first acts under his administration were attacks on Afghanistan and in Pakistan, both of which killed many civilians, building up support for the Taliban. He wants to extend the military side of the war. There is an Afghan peace movement, which is calling for a reduction or an end of terror. President Karzai has pleaded with the United States not to carry out attacks that will hit civilians and, in fact, has demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces, American forces, but that's just totally disregarded and the opportunities for a peaceful settlement are just ignored.
Back a year or so ago, when Obama was still truly a dark horse, many commentators, most notably Black Agenda Report (and I) warned that the man and the myth were not of the same substance. Unable to vote for a lie, I didn't vote (in my state, my candidate, McKinney, wasn't on the ballot). I don't regret my abstinence. In fact, it's already starting to look like a wise choice.

I must admit that the best candidate in the available field did win, but that doesn't say much about the choices. The point really is whether President Obama can produce the superheroics required to pull our fat out of the fire. Demigod or demagogue, I think not. Frankly, that's not really why he was hired. He's being paid to keep us calm and hopeful while the fat sizzles down to crispy critter size.

The Village Voice has it right:
It's 2009. You're laid off, furloughed, foreclosed on, or you know someone who is. You wonder where you'll fit into the grim new semi-socialistic post-post-industrial economy colloquially known as "this mess."

You're astonished and possibly ashamed that mutant financial instruments dreamed up in your great country have spawned worldwide misery. You can't comprehend, much less trim, the amount of bailout money parachuting into the laps of incompetents, hoarders, and miscreants. It's been a tough century so far: 9/11, Iraq, and now this. At least we have a bright new president. He'll give you a job painting a bridge. You may need it to keep body and soul together.

The basic story line so far is that we are all to blame, including homeowners who bit off more than they could chew, lenders who wrote absurd adjustable-rate mortgages, and greedy investment bankers.

Credit derivatives also figure heavily in the plot. Apologists say that these became so complicated that even Wall Street couldn't understand them and that they created "an unacceptable level of risk." Then these blowhards tell us that the bailout will pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the credit arteries and save the patient, which is the world's financial system. It will take time—maybe a year or so—but if everyone hangs in there, we'll be all right. No structural damage has been done, and all's well that ends well.

Sorry, but that's drivel. In fact, what we are living through is the worst financial scandal in history. It dwarfs 1929, Ponzi's scheme, Teapot Dome, the South Sea Bubble, tulip bulbs, you name it. Bernie Madoff? He's peanuts . . .
The article, a six-screen in-depth economic analysis, points out that the seeds of economic self-destruction didn't begin with Bush. It also makes clear that the new president is surrounded in his lofty, smog-stained ether with the aging lesser gods who planted the seeds of this jungle in the first place. The players and prayers are the same. Change strikes out.

Meanwhile, the gods are hedging their bets . . .
U.S. Army To Buy $6 Million Of Riot Equipment

Stokes fears that troops will be used to quell civil insurrection in wake of economic crisis

Steve Watson
Tuesday, Feb 24th, 2009

The U.S. Army is to invest $6 million in riot equipment, a fact that has furthered fears that troops will be used inside the U.S. in order to quell any civil unrest resulting from the ongoing economic crisis.

The U.S. Army Contracting Agency, based at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has a post on the Federal Business Opportunities website, requesting the equipment and has received several notices of interest from potential vendors.

The request titled “84–RIOT EQUIPMENT” outlines the need for hard polyethylene Shin and Chest Guards, shock absorbing Forearm Protectors, Interior leg brace supports as well as knee and ankle protectors.

The ACA asks that the equipment be able to “safely withstand a substantial blow… from non-ballistic weapons or flying debris” . . .

I'll be blunt: I think (and even expect) that Obama will be The Last Hero. Because myths and heroics are what've put us here. What we've got is broken and can't be fixed. That's a good thing, I think, because now we can build something better than we had.

So take off the cape, Mr President. We're the heroes, not you.

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(opening image is "Pouting", a photograph by rockingjude, who writes here and tweets here)
posted by Unknown at 4:57 PM
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