Amazing — utterly amazing: No matter how many lessons are made available to us, we just never seem to learn, or even want to. And, like a bolt from nowhere, we’re always so shocked at the predicament, and the terrible prices our failing to have taken just a moment to think about what we were doing might cost.
By the most recently released poll of presidential historians and broad survey of Americans, President Dwight D. Eisenhower is regarded as one of the Top-10 best and most popular of our presidents.
Hmm. Kinda makes you wonder. In August of 1953, under Eisenhower’s authorization, Operation Ajax overthrew democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq of Iran, and installed Shah Reza Pahlavi. At our doing, the pro-Western Iranian experiment with democracy was abruptly beheaded, and in its place was installed a ruthless dictator as “absolute ruler.”
Yeah, he was a bastard, but he was our bastard. (It was all about oil, but that’s not the point; at least not the one I’m stressing here.) The populace was impoverished, and any whisper, or the suspicion of whispered protest was dealt with quickly, and harshly. SAVAK was the secret police arm that for the next decade and a half disappeared people in the middle of the night, tortured them, murdered them.
And while the Shah, with his extraordinarily exotic beauty of a wife on his arm, was being fêted at state galas by a string of smiling US presidents, average Iranians were being whisked from their homes and off the streets, never to be heard from again. Think about it: They’re still a little sore at us. I’m catatonically perplexed as to why. Have they no sense of humor?
Ike and the brothers Dulles regarded Cuba’s Batista somewhat the same way as they did Pahlavi. Only, relative to Batista, it wasn’t for oil. It was on behalf of United Fruit and the US sugar interests. Peasants could be beaten within an inch of their lives, and frequently 100% of their lives, at the first manifestation of reluctance to sweat day and night in the fields for next to nothing. And, if the American crime boss, Meyer Lansky, schemed to turn the island into a floating gambling casino-slash-brothel. “Hey! No problemo, eh.” I just don’t get it, why any element of the population would ever have supported a Fidel Castro. It just doesn’t make any sense: why’d they even ponder overthrowing such a strong friend of the US as Batista was. “Hey! Ain’t I always treated ya good? Didn’t I give ya time off from takin’ care a da customas, ta bury yer brotha Juanny, after he died a heat prostration in da fields?”
But that isn’t the point here either.
“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?” Nope, it ain’t Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. It’s a 1973 motorist who was trying to cut into one of the odd-even-day, mile-long gas lines. And the fellow to whom the inquiry was directed hollers back, “Yeah, you #!*#!!, but, you don’t get the hell to the back of the line, like everyone else, this magnum’s gonna finish this conversation.”
That was THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO! Thirty-five years ago everyone sang the same rock ‘n roll melody: “We gotta get out of this place (oil dependency), if it’s the last thing we ever do.” Well, seems to have in fact been the last thing we ever really gave serious thought to. The trauma that ushered in Japanese and German imports big time because Detroit wasn’t offering small stuff slipped to no big deal the day we no longer had to bear the inconveniences caused by gas shortages. Then our tune switched to, “Got anything bigger than a Hummer?”
“Re-mem-mem, re-mem-a-member, re-mem-mem, re-mem-a-member when, when, when” Ronald Reagan’s gov’mint got off the backs of Americans, Americans were caught napping when no one was looking? Of course I’m referring to the frivolities of Michael Milken and Charles Keating and how they ended up costing US taxpayers more than $200 billion to bail out the savings & loan industry, lest the financial system collapse and we be cast back to the stone cold days of the stone age, when it was every man and his shoulder-slung club for himself? Nah, of course none of us do. If we did, would we be where we are today?
And, with a tip of the hat to Georgie Dubya, it just gets more and more stupidier. C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, “Go ahead Tuskagoolaboolahoola Mississippi, you’re on the Republican line. What do you think about the stimulus package that President Obama just signed?”
“Uh, it’s all Clinton’s fault, his an’ Nancy Pelosi’s, an’ that Muslim we got fer a president: the mess we’re in. It’s God punishing us for allowing gays to get married an’ fer killin’ babies, an’ fer electin’ a Muslim to be president.”
“Sir, Barack Obama is a Christian, and he wasn’t even president when the economy began to collapse. Now, what do you think of the stimulus package he just signed?”
“Big spenders. It’s all lib’ral Democrats wanna do is spend, spend, spend. Cut taxes: only ways we gonna get outa this mess they got us into is to cut taxes.”
And we listen to what they — Republican lawmakers and Republican voters — have to say. We give them air time and time to bend our ears, as if they had no part in what has led us to where we are, as if “Maybe they’ve got a point there, ya know.”
And that is the point I’m trying to make. Déjà vu doesn’t have to be all over again. Yet, as it doesn’t, why do we continue on, continuing on, letting it?