I've been captivated by Ken Burns' The War this week and it struck me how awesome America used to be.
The prevailing attitude of the ladies and gentlemen featured in Burns' film, and by proxy all Americans of that era, was that if we had to fight a war, we had better do it right. Clearly and with little dissent, we had to fight that war, and without fail, Americans rallied together to do it really damn well.
People from every corner of the nation selflessly pooled their resources for the great cause of World War II, and I'm not sure about this one, but I don't think President Roosevelt ever once asked the country to sacrifice by going to the mall. And I'm pretty sure he didn't outsource the construction of tanks, Flying Fortresses, Hellcats and Thunderbolts to Mexico and China. That's a hell of a thing by today's standards, isn't it?
We've fallen so far from what we used to be, even as recently as thirty years ago when the comparatively liberal president Richard Nixon opened a dialogue with Red China, whilst Mao supplied arms to North Vietnam. One day long ago, it was okay to wish for an end to a war, without being accused of hating the soldiers who were fighting it. It was once a given that socialized public education, police, fire departments, roads, parks, national defense and the constitutionally mandated General Welfare & Domestic Tranquility were simply a part of the American way of life and would always be there.
And when our nation had to go to war, we would be there for her.
Conversely, when we crumble to the pressure of our reactionary and authoritarian elements, we get Japanese internment camps, the rise of the military industrial complex, and men turned away from service due to the color of their skin. Some of our greatest failures have been conceived when our irrationality, fear and lust for power overrule our traditional American ideals -- even during our finest hours as a nation.
And now, 50 years later, in our lives and times, we get President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
The Bush Years have been a monumental, cataclysmic failure on most fronts due to its inattention to what has, historically, made American great. The president and his thinning ranks of fawn-eyed Hannities don't understand this yet. They don't understand it mostly because they're too ignorant -- blinded by sloganeering -- to the very basic reality that Bush Republican style government, in practice, is about as successful and practical as a paper condom. It always has been.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when they compare the Bush Wars to World War II. It's a desperate notion, one that seeks to conflate our current president with greatness he doesn't deserve and an historical legacy he will never achieve. It's also meant to inflate our current "enemies" to Hitler status, and thus proving the case for war.
The comparison is pure horseshit. (Say nothing of the fact that it elevates Bin Laden or the late Saddam or the present Ahmadinejad to a level of villainy they also don't deserve. It's like saying a doofus villain like Solomon Grundy is the next Lex Luthor. I'm sure they appreciate being granted superpowers enough to take over the world, though.)
If it's so fucking important to stay in Iraq, and if it's so fucking important to invade Iran -- and if it's so fucking important to wiretap your phones and read your mail, and to shit all over your constitutional rights and the Geneva Conventions -- and all of it is part of a larger World War II style conflict, then why aren't the Bushies taking their metaphors seriously by demanding the sacrifices of World War II?
Did President Roosevelt cut taxes or ask veterans to pay higher deductibles? Did President Roosevelt outsource the army by hiring no-bid corporate mercenaries?
From the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the surrender of Japan, automobile manufacturers stopped making cars in lieu of manufacturing hardware for the war effort. Can you imagine, among all of the scrap metal drives -- the rationing of everything from gasoline to frying pan fat -- if Roosevelt had allowed SUV drivers to receive tax breaks in which sheer vehicular tonnage was rewarded at the peril of even one American G.I.?
If the quintessential symbol of the American character in World War II was Rosie The Riveter, the poster for the Bush Wars has to be that of an SUV driver receiving a tax break while sucking down enough Saudi oil to drive to a mall where he's expected to buy lead-tainted crapola manufactured overseas -- a yellow ribbon hypocrite magnet dangling just above his exhaust pipe and several inches from a fading W04 sticker. The caption: "The Bush Patriot Says: 'I'm On It, Mr. President!'"
The Bushies can't possibly take their own World War II metaphor seriously because they don't truly believe in the comparison.
They know, as you and I do, that these wars have little to do with stopping a new Hitler. If we peel back the layers -- if you look at what truly drives little childish men like Hannity and Cheney and Kristol, you'll find that it has little to do with liberating nations from an occupying Nazi force and ending a brutal holocaust. Beneath the pasty white surface of a typical Bush Republican you'll find greed, fear, ignorance, anger and a basic lack of understanding of America's place on the world stage. They're traits that drive nations into unnecessary wars. They're also traits that often breed cowardice.
To wit... Those of you demanding a war in Iran, I have one question for you. And no, I'm not going to employ the tired military service argument, but I must ask you this: what is the very minimum you're doing right now to prepare for your war? Are you refusing to support further tax cuts or pumping less "Islamofascist" oil into your SUV tank?
You're probably not doing anything because all you're expected to do is to say that you support the troops (what does that mean in practice?). And as long as you don't oppose the president as he dismantles the Constitution in favor of a corporate police state, then you've contributed to your president's war effort. That's the Bush Republican way. Oh, and to shop. You have go to Disneyland and buy shit you don't need at the mall (what the fuck is a Webkinz?).
How will the Ken Burns of the future portray the Bush Wars? I imagine that a large part of a future documentary about these times will detail what Rick Perlstein sublimely referred to this week as the destruction of America's character.
Whoever the future Ken Burns might be (hopefully, it'll be Ken Burns), he or she will have to dig deep into the destruction of our national character and detail the stories of torture and secret detention facilities; outsourced corporate thugs murdering foreign civilians; government scare tactics without substance -- it'll be a documentary in part about your non-military friends and family who supported this president's war but who sacrificed nothing in its execution.
So here we are in late 2007. The president believes that history will vindicate his efforts to destroy the American character and to bring about the ascendancy of neo-conservatism. After all, he fancies himself the new McKinley -- or is it George Washington? Is he Lincoln this week or Truman? Is he still fighting the Vietnam War or is it World War II? Korea or the Civil War? Goddamn him and his marble-mouthed horseshit. That's exactly why it has to be up to you and me to write the history -- the truth -- now. It won't be a proud endeavor because there has been little to be proud of, but we have to make sure that future Americans know exactly what happened in the Bush Years and in the Bush Wars.
The pendulum keeps swinging further to the right and seldom in our generation has it swung all the way back. When a president can look you in the eye and say he's going to veto healthcare for children, and his people are fine with that; and when the same sales pitch for Iraq is being employed for Iran -- and it's working, what else can you say about that fucking pendulum?
© 2007 Huffington Post