I mean…I’m just exhausted at this point by American History. I want this book to end, which is to say, I want our country’s reality to transform. I recognize that I have a part to play in this “same old game,” to quote myself from a previous reflection, but I also want to turn away from it. I want to be Cipher in The Matrix, eating my steak and extolling the bliss of ignorance. So much for all my talk of love, right? Wrong! I still choose love! But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy the intellectual trail of tears that Zinn has created for his readers.
Let’s stop at a few spots along the trail, shall we? This chapter covers the Carter-Reagan-Bush Trinity, which showcased bipartisan status quo preservation. Basically, we have one party masquerading as two, or if you prefer, a plutocracy masquerading as democracy. What’s particularly debilitating about it all is how we’ve known the truth and haven’t been able to do anything about it. Alas, let’s keep it moving…
…neither party showed itself capable of going beyond that vision…bounded by the horizons of property and enterprise…They have accepted the economic virtues of capitalist culture as necessary qualities of man…That culture has been intensely nationalistic…
After a history of protesting and fighting for change, the American hoi polloi seemed to surrender to life’s infinite jest:
A citizenry disillusioned with politics and with what pretended to be intelligent discussions of politics turned its attention (or had its attention turned) to entertainment, to gossip, to ten thousand schemes of self-help.
How do you anesthetize enough people to keep business as usual? Entertain them! Let the television displace the pulpit so mass media becomes the new opiate of the masses. Increasingly isolated and divided as we are by our cultural tastes – cultivating what we think is independent personality – we quietly/gleefully consent to the political machine so long as we get to feel something. Give us our Netflix, and we won’t risk any great sacrifice. We cherish who we are as consumers.
And so our political leaders, regardless of who they are…
remained within the historic political boundaries of the American system, protecting corporate wealth and power, maintaining a huge military machine that drained the national wealth…
Oh who will dare howl now? When all we do is consume, how can we make any noise?
Carter and Trump are strangely similar…at least in terms of their “populist” appeals. In other words, this shit ain’t unique, folks.
whatever groups voted for a president, once elected “what counts then is his ability to mobilize support from the leaders of key institutions.”
“Key institutions.” Hm. The swamp? Oh yeah, that place from which Trump created his administration. Turns out that comes with the presidential territory.
“The available evidence is that Mr. Carter so far is opting for Wall Street’s confidence.”
Why so serious? Is American History not the funniest? Not yet? How about a little Noam Chomsky:
…they were “destroying the historical record and supplanting it with a more comfortable story…reducing ‘lessons’ of war to the socially neutral categories of error, ignorance, and cost.”
Remember George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language?” It’s not that we don’t learn from the past, it’s that we haven’t yet chosen to learn from the past. There’s still hope as long as we’re alive. (Right?)
From President Carter (which I wouldn’t mind saying in the future if it were Jay-Z):
Well, as you know, there are many things in life that are not fair, that wealthy people can afford and poor people cannot.
Never mind that the American system is designed to perpetuate this…reassurance?
This post is discursive, which betrays America’s completely coherent, cohesive, and consistent design and execution. What might change is the particular lie we tell to cover our persistent identity. We’ve always been concerned “for ‘the economy,’ which was a short-hand term for corporate profit.” Carter, Reagan, and Bush (i.e. all American presidents) created policies that supported this basic capitalist truth. What’s good for business is good for America; yeah, the America under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The environment’s collapsing? Laborers are suffering, physically and psychologically? Minorities are real human beings? Women want…what’s that? Respect and equality? Indians are still around?! Wait…one second…shit, turns out there’s some stuff happening abroad that we have to take care of. Ya know, for “national interest and security.” So we’ll table all that other stuff and be the good protectors of the world that we are first. Those people out there need us. We don’t want to let those people suffer now, do we? No, no, we don’t.
I mean, blame “welfare.” Those people, am I right? No, what? Welfare is definitely not a politically advantageous way of framing something as problematic that isn’t problematic at all. Listen, while you’re deconstructing language, those people are stealing your money. Yeah, I know. So much of your taxes are going to them and definitely not the military, which, by the way, we need to make stronger. I don’t think enough nations out there have heard the message that we mean business. And, like, do they know how tough and manly we are?
The 1980s were the triumph of upper America…the political ascendancy of the rich, and a glorification of capitalism, free markets, and finance.
Did the 1980s end yet? Judging by the success of stuff like Stranger Things, nope!
To admirers of free enterprise and laissez-faire, those people were poor who did not work and produce, and so had themselves to blame for their poverty.
Ah, wonderful. Good ole American Dreaming. Remember the show California Dreams! That was a real thing!
The whole Iran-contra affair became a perfect example of the double line of defense of the American Establishment. The first defense is to deny the truth. If exposed, the second defense is to investigate, but not too much; the press will publicize, but they will not get to the heart of the matter.
Stop! Stop! Moloch! Moloch! Take me back to California Dreams! Ahhhh…delicious. So terrible. So good.
Oh yeah, no, Reagan and Bush have plausible deniability, so, ya know…they’re totally cool. Let them be. In fact, make Bush the next president. Oh, and make sure you arrest people who speak truth. We can’t have that shit getting in the way of America. Anyway, I have to go set up our next display of military might. The world just doesn’t seem to get it. Can’t everyone else see how powerful we are? Ah well, I guess we’ll just keep proving it until they’re too dead to object.
What? No, we’re not terrorists. Weird.
Thus, foreign interventions presented to the public as ‘in the national interest’ were really undertaken for special interests, for which the American people were asked to sacrifice their sons and their tax dollars.
What, do you not support the troops you Nazi?! No, troops aren’t a proxy for profit. Just salute the flag, thank the troops, and praise God for being an American.
The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian peninsula.
Strange. I keep reciting “Ozymandias” to myself. Not sure why.