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Twenty Years From Now, You Will Lie To Your Children

By       Message David Michael Green       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Take a look at a video of George W. Bush speaking to the nation five or six years ago.

Like a pop single from 1962 (or 2002, for that matter), it didn't age very well.

It's astonishing that this transparently frightened man was the leader of the free world for eight years, and was given so much license to commit so much destruction.

But, then, nothing seems to define our era quite so much as license.

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We give ourselves license to incur fantastic levels of national debt, and hand the bill to the next generation.

We give ourselves license to invade other countries on the most patently bogus of pretexts, bringing disaster upon them and us.

Or at least some of us, that is, because we also give ourselves license to allow a tiny fraction of the population to carry the entire national security burden for all the rest of us.

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We give ourselves license to spend half again as much as any other country in the world on healthcare, only to be ranked 37th 'best' by the World Health Organization, just so we don't have to do the simple work of writing corporate predators out of the parasitic cash cow booty feeding troughs in which they're entrenched.

Meanwhile, a bullet is heading toward the heart of the body politic in the form of global warming, and we give ourselves license to pretend that the threat isn't even clearly defined, lest we should have to relinquish our precious Hummers.

The list goes on and on. I regret to say that history will not judge us, here and now, a serious people. Nor should it. I certainly don't either.

Indeed, even when we get serious, we don't. Barack Obama was supposed to be the antidote to the excesses and negligences of the Bush years. In fact, nearly a year of his term has now gone by and he has almost nothing to show for it. Which means that neither do we. When Saturday Night Live parodies you by having your character claim "jack" and "squat" as your administration's two greatest achievements -- well, that's never a good sign.

Nor does Obama appear to have a lot of intent at accomplishing much, either. At least anything that requires the ruffling of a feather or two -- which of course includes just about anything that matters. For any given question put before this president, it seems that his position can safely be estimated to fall square in the middle of the road, right there alongside Jim Hightower's proverbial yellow stripes and dead armadillos. In reality, though, that's actually an unfortunately generous estimate. Obama's politics, if you actually look at them -- rather than at most people's false impression of them -- turn out to be remarkably similar to George Bush's on everything from the fiscal stimulus to big corporate healthcare initiatives to escalating war policies to eroded civil liberties to unequal treatment for gays.

And yet this milquestoastiest of presidents generates the most outrageous volumes of the most egregious vitriol in our public discourse, as if he were wrecking the country through disastrous wars based on lies, unprecedented constitutional shredding, or massive fiscal hemorrhaging. Oh, wait -- that was the last guy. Never mind. Somehow those travesties didn't precipitate much noise from the cave-dwelling set -- unless you count deafness-inducing cheers of approval, or enough slurpy mass salivation to befuddle and alarm Dr. Pavlov.

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One of the most astonishing things about the right in America is the degree and frequency with which they turn out to be precisely the opposite of what they claim to be. It's quite Orwellian, actually, in a charming sort of war-equals-peace kinda way. They adore dressing up like they're the big military tough guys, but they all had to go to Woodstock or something during Vietnam. They like to lecture us incessantly about the virtues of their particular brand of sexual morality, and then it always turns out that they're the ones who love to dress up in leather and Vaseline and gang-bang packs of small furry rodents. They can't wait to pontificate on the virtues of itsy-bitsy, low taxing, low spending government, but then whenever they get their hands on the damn thing they drive up the national debt like Yahweh himself told them it was their personal holy crusader's mission to party hearty at the public's expense ("I command you to choose a hockey mom from amongst your number, and cause her to buildeth a bridge to nowhere!").

I could keep going forever, and it would actually be pretty entertaining, if only the real world effects weren't so bloody destructive. One of my favorites, though, I have to say, is the riff on responsibility. You know, as in, they're the ones who have it. Remember when the Bush crew came to power, literally saying "The grown-ups are back in charge"? I can think of a lot of things I would call George W. Bush, but "grown-up" is more or less last on my list, right there after "brave", "articulate", "compassionate" and "thoughtful". In any case, these guys always fancy themselves the mature, reliable, responsible stewards of American government. That's more than a little scary, isn't it -- to think that these are the nation's best and the brightest? To imagine that Bush and Cheney and Rove represent the crowning achievement of six or ten millennia of civilizational development, topping off millions of years of genetic refinement?

Wuuuuhhhh. That lurching twitch you just felt was a serious shudder going down your spine, your body's involuntary reaction to perceptions of sheer horror. But, meanwhile, did I mention that the real story of responsibility is slightly different than the regressive version?

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)

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