"The sun ain’t yellow, it’s chicken." Bob Dylan, "Tombstone Blues"
This is a rant. I can take the Clinton narcissistic death march and the supporting smug and condescending language of surrender to money, ignorance, bigotry and revisionist history no longer.
The rant begins where most of my occasionally halfway cogent thoughts do: with a fat man on a bike (me). In early February, on one of my daily bike commutes home on a cold, rainy Portland evening in the dusk, while sitting at a stop light beside a long line of single-occupant cars fouling the air and blithely burning the reason for wars in the Middle East, I heard a sweet and wonderful sound.
My ears finally focused on Bob Dylan belting out "Subterranean Homesick Blues," cranking loudly from a car stereo. As my head turned left, my mind anticipated a bearded hippie with his pony-tailed partner wearing un-dyed hemp overshirts in an old VW van. But you probably know what my eyes saw: a sleek brand new black Lexus coupe driven by a neatly trimmed and shaved gray-haired man in a dark, pin-striped suit and burgundy tie. Alone. Looking grim. Rockin’ out to Dylan. I am guessing the only lyric he identifies with anymore is the final one: "the pump don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handle"
Flash forward to Lanny Davis on West Virginia primary night on CNN, and let me tell you how these two are brothers and sum up everything that matters, including why this former republican (little "r") democracy is so screwed up. Davis of the Dylan generation said derisively (no transcript, so the quote may be a little off) "Barack Obama has done a marvelous job of putting together the old McGovern coalition of young, [African American, I think] and college educated, wealthy liberals that I joined in the ‘60s" (laughing slightly and dismissively at his former naivete). He then repeated that Democrats lost with that coalition in the 70s and 80s, and won in the 90s by finally getting Reagan Democrats back into the party. Here in 2008, he said Democrats can only win by again appealing to white working class voters, implying clearly that this meant not also appealing out loud to minority, young, educated and affluent liberals.
One of the things that has driven me the maddest these Bush years is the determination to reargue the 60s, turning a decade of monumental and positive change into one huge self-indulgent mistake that we have spent 40 years trying to recover from. Even more hair-pulling is the re-fighting of the Viet Nam war, morphing an imperial hubristic and unmitigated disaster into a heroes’ journey of patriotic glory sabotaged by anti-American smelly doped-up hippies and their commie political enablers.
Now the Lexus pin-striped dude in the car destroying mother earth and Democrat Lanny Davis by his words, are also telling us we were wrong in the 60s and have been wrong ever since; we should have never tried to change anything; we should have just played the same old establishment game, but played to win, because that is all that really matters in business, in politics, in life. Forget virtue, courage, principles, the common good. Play the game to win, ignore any rules or ethics that impede your will to power, or get the hell out of the way of good patriots just trying to live the American dream.
Forget that the hippies were right, as a wildly popular post on Common Dreams (from the San Francisco Chronicle) noted about a year ago. Forget that we were right on the Viet Nam war (and now Iraq), on protecting the environment, on organic foods, on energy conservation, on equality for minorities and women and now gays and lesbians, on the dangers of unfettered capitalism, on labor unions and fair wages and working conditions and workers sharing in the wealth they create, on social welfare and education and health care for all.
Forget that those powerful forces of change brought legal equality to minorities and women, ended a war, obtained the world’s first comprehensive environmental protections, and forced the removal of a corrupt president. Forget that holding to our principles is what accomplished these monumental and eventually nearly world-wide changes.
Remember only, says Davis, that we lost a Presidential election by holding to beliefs we ALL KNEW THEN AND KNOW WITH EVEN MORE CERTAINTY TODAY WERE ABSOLUTELY, INCONTROVERTIBLY RIGHT AND STILL ARE. Seek only to obtain the votes of those who opposed us then and who would turn us back today, who beat us with their work helmets for exercising our lawful rights to assemble while the police watched, even though then and now, we are the ones who really have their economic interests at heart. Seek solely to win, even if winning means abandoning fundamental goals and principles that are the only hope for this nation and species to survive. (OK, I think we should and must work to include working class white people in the coalition and work our butts off to help them; they are our brothers and sisters too. But I am deeply offended by the idea that we must stifle our true principles for fear of alienating a small portion who are bigoted, or very conservative or just not knowledgeable enough (as opposed to smart enough) to recognize they are being duped by Republicans.)
Thing is, Davis, the Clinton types and the Lexus dude know deep down the liberal movement in the Sixties is the reason they are not living in a legally segregated, pesticide laden, stinking, choking, poisoned wasteland. You can tell they know because Davis abashedly confessed to joining the movement and the Lexus dude salves his frayed soul with Dylan on the way home from another empty day of money changing, and I guarantee you they both recycle.
This makes it all worse. They recognize the success and value of the changes wrought, but they denigrate the coalition that forged them as naive and foolish to think they are relevant to the polity. The Clinton folks are basically saying, thanks for working so hard save our asses (and for the music), but you lost an election, so f*** off and die. We have other things to do and other people to use for our personal gain.
More specifically, say Davis and the Clintons, we must now do whatever it takes to satisfy the less educated, older, lower income, blue collar workers of the Appalachian spine in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. They hold the key to winning the Presidential election.
How the f*** did that happen and where the hell will it take us?
How is 1930s American the key to the 2008 election? How did we allow Presidential elections in the fourth largest nation in the world with the most diverse population ever come down to three states (Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania) EVERY SINGLE TIME, and two of those come down to one small common area and the socially conservative, poorly informed, horribly exploited and therefore angry and resentful white people who live there, and, finally, this election, degenerate all the way back to racism, pure and simple: "good white folk who have to work for a livin’ won’t vote for him ‘cuz he’s black?"
I’ll tell you how and you are not going to like it. We were seduced by mammon. Led astray from our spiritual and humanistic core by the easy comforts of office work, suburban homes, gadgets of convenience, passive entertainment, fast food and driving our own car anywhere we want anytime we want.