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Chez Denny's; Visions of Civil war... In America

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Message Jayne Stahl
You may have heard the president's press conference yesterday in which he said that as long as he is at the helm, there will be no withdrawal from Iraq. arguing that he's concerned about a civil war if we send the troops home. At last, there is something upon which this president and I agree. I, too, am concerned about the real prospect of civil war, only in this country. The great divide between the haves and the have nots has swelled since Mr. Bush took office to Katrina proportions, and the result may well prove to be at least as catastrophic.

The economic policies of this administration have widened the gap between rich and poor, with the rich getting fatter, and the poor leaner. And, if economic disenfranchisement is allowed to continue, we may yet see a civil war, in the form of class struggle, in these United States, as well as our own homegrown insurgency. So, while Bush, Cheney, and the oil baron cartel are out conducting their "bogey man" campaign on terror, you and I are left to foot the bill, and the future can only go to the highest bidder.

I can speak from personal experience as I'm spending my summer vacation looking for decent, and affordable, housing in Los Angeles, only to find that Don Quixote would have much better luck. The insane cost of living, in our largest cities, has rendered mobility, both literally and figuratively, a pastime only of the elite, and affluent. Those who have to work for a living had better find a place, and stay put, or find themselves in the horrific position of competing for run down, ranshackled spaces at Rodeo Drive prices.

Courtesy of the Bush years, first time home buyers are priced out of the market, and are forced into renting apartments. Thanks to the pumping iron war mongering of the past 5 years, the price of crude oil has impacted the cost of everything from produce to prescription drugs. We can no longer afford to send our kids to college. We can no longer afford to save for a retirement which grows less and less certain by the minute.

So, this is how I'm spending my summer vacation, thinking about the civil war, in this country, which is all but inevitable if these economic policies are enabled, and accelerated, by a tuned-out populace. I sit under a combined "Best Western" and "Denny's" sign, in the San Fernando Valley, as lavish green light bathes a swimming pool. I munch on packaged ham as the mother of all pick-up trucks, with the word "Halliburton" inscribed on its belly, pulls out of the driveway buoyed eagerly by an American flag, and head for the lobby to find some paper when the driver, a guy named Joe, about 40 who weighs about 250 pounds, quietly fondles the flag on his lapel, and solemnly recites the names of his Halliburton brothers for whom he waits to join him at the hotel. His inflection is careful, and deliberate, as if he were reading off the names of war dead.

Outside, in the hotel parking lot, there is a Lincoln town car snoozing in the handicapped zone next to a vintage Mustang circa 1988. The Halliburton truck shoots by, and is quickly followed by one marked "Jews for Jesus" which looks like it might have been a Pizza Hut delivery truck in its past life. One can only wonder whose side Jesus would be on, and whether He would buy any of the spam these guys are trying to pass off as righteousness.

Our government's declaration of war on "terror" was really a declaration of war on the American Dream, and nothing more than a transparent camouflage for an assault on the middle class. This was no mere assault, mind you, but assault with a deadly weapon, the weapon being nothing less than sabotage of the electoral process. That said, make no mistake, no government has ever dichotomized, and alienated, its people by divesting them of their civil liberties, economic opportunity, their piece of the pie, and survived.

Never before, since we left the old country, has America seen a ruling class so intent on pursuing the politics of privilege, and ensuring, one way or another, a return to an economic caste system which our founding fathers thought they were leaving behind when they sailed off on the Mayflower. Moreover, one is hard pressed to recall a more egregious climate of religious intolerance, on our shores, since the days of Salem Bay.

So,I return to my room, turn on the TV, watch a Lexus commercial as the Denny's menu falls to the floor. I think about the Lincoln town car sound asleep in the parking lot, its driver in his Calvin khakis, and the Ford Explorer next to it wearing an American flag like a proud tattoo. I think about the concept of equal opportunity, which rapidly approaches extinction, thanks to the antediluvian mindset of those who hold the purse strings. I think about what Marcuse, and others, have said about how a revolution, or class struggle, could never happen in this country because, quite simply, unless it was a made-for-TV movie first. I think about Mexico, and how the Mexican people bravely challenge their stolen election, and how we, land of the free, home of the brave, sit quietly by, on cruise control, while the upper 1% of our country run off with ours. \n\n ",1]

Yes, one can only hope that those most cynical among us aren't right, and "Class War," the DVD, isn't coming soon to a living room near you. In Paddy Chayefsky's words, I hope we decide "we're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore," that even if the American Dream is in tatters on Iraqi battlefields, in a cave in Pakistan, or in a demolished trailer home outside New Orleans, we will show up on Election Day, and let the whole world know we run best at higher octane despite the ambitions of those who profit from obscene rise in crude oil, and that, while we may eat at Denny's, the doors of the Ritz remain open to all of us.

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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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