People tell me how wrong I am in my opinions concerning important public issues. Some of this instruction I receive by reading essays and interviews, and a good deal is delivered to me personally by acquaintances or co-workers, much of it rendered in an exasperated or condescending voice. That I remain recalcitrant may simply be evidence of my perverse nature and the inability of even good pedagogy to reach and save every soul. I may be crazy. Or I may be right.
Let me tell you that I voted for George McGovern. And I have more than once voted for Ralph Nader. And I have "thrown away" my vote once or twice on Green Party candidates. On the spectrum of American political thought and alliance I was for some years a liberal, believing or hoping that good ideas and good intentions could, through activism and education and the application of law and franchise, improve the lot of persons of modest means, reduce conflict between societies and inequalities within them, and reduce or reverse our abuses of the natural world. That was, to be sure, the person I was many years ago.
I have not abandoned these principles; I probably hold them more firmly now at sixty than I did even at twenty. But I no longer imagine any candidate or party allowed to function in this society will promote legislation, regulation or taxation to materially effect these goals. This is the vein into which so many wish to inject the corrective elixirs of hope and faith.
Conservatives, reactionaries, corporatists and warmongers don't argue with me. They laugh at me and my peaceable vegetarian life, but do not imagine I am correctable; I amuse but do not irritate them. They have their beliefs in the rightness of power and money and the God-given right of the white man to take and to use. I do not read their sacred texts and attend their services, so they do not much think about me. I seem, rather, to be at odds with liberals because we start from a very similar station but climb aboard far different trains when we take our feelings out into the world.
George W. Bush, President G. W. Bush, was and is an idiot. A shallow, stupid man of crude appetites when younger, his life would have been of no consequence had not the Republican party chosen him as the public face of the Cheney government. I doubt he has to this day any coherent idea of how he found himself in the White House or who made the decisions while he lived there. He was, in the words of Mr. Bob Dylan, "only a pawn in their game." You know it and I know it as we say here in the woods of Maine. And liberals and Democrats know it. Members of the print and broadcast press know it. Bloggers are well aware of this. Hell, Republicans even have an obvious degree of contempt for the sad little creature who was the putative president for two terms recently ended. They do still love and fear Dick Cheney though. And war. And greed.
Because Al Gore rolled over and played dead and did not misbehave or act out or fight for himself and his country, the Supreme Court short-circuited the system and gave us George Bush, his stupidity, his wars, his coddling of the rich and his courting of crazies in the far fringes of Christian American Medieval backwardness.
Then, because John Kerry was an inept fool who ran a campaign that largely ran away from everything honorable he had once done and believed in, we were blessed with a second term of Richard B. Cheney and his wooden-headed puppet.
Throughout those eight long, dark years, whenever I complained about what our poor nation had become and was doing, I was advised to vote Democratic, early and often, and to contribute money to that party and its candidates. Only a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president, I was told, could reverse the terrible damage.
It came then to pass that we received those tools. The Democratic president and Congress, and after some finagling even the sixty-seat majority in the Senate. I was advised to watch for the great change to come rolling over us like a flood; we would soon be awash in progressivism. Our boys would come home from foreign wars, we would close our illegal prison camps, abandon torture and rendition. The rich would again be taxed, environmental abuses rolled back, people put ahead of corporations. We would get universal health care. Some of this would happen immediately upon Barack Obama taking office. Much would be in place in a magical, marvelous "first hundred days." What great changes a year would bring.
I don't have to tell you there is great and crushing disappointment among those who most fervently supported candidate Obama and his campaign for Change We Can Believe In. "I don't want any more Clintons," one man told me often last year. (He did not need to tell me he wanted no more Reagans, no Romneys, no Giulianis.)
We are still wasting money and lives in Iraq. We are wasting money and lives in Afghanistan at the highest rate since we blundered into that misunderstood (and, yes, "misunderestimated) country eight years ago. We keep in wire cages and steel and stone cells persons we picked up years ago; we do not try them nor do we release them. Some we send still to places where men do to other men those things both Bush and Obama have said we do not do. Our wars are not ended, they are escalated.
This new government is generous to bankers. The worst sort of bankers. Crooks. Thieves. You've read the tales, each more lurid than the other, of the wild ride Wall Street has enjoyed at your expense. Your taxes go to clean up their mess. They continue to reward themselves with bonuses. Nobody goes to jail.
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Where is our new energy policy? Foundered on the fantasy of "clean coal", I fear, with mountaintop removal accelerating the devastation in Appalachia and the mile-long coal trains still snaking out of Wyoming daily, hourly.
And here we are about to receive a piece of crap that will be called health care reform but will instead be a gift to the very insurance companies, their managers and their investors, who have given us the worst system in the modern world. You may well be required to buy their bad product (as Republican Mitt Romney required of Massachusetts) and fined or taxed for failure to do so. Perhaps you'll be allowed to join with your neighbors and form a happy group to buy a bad plan together. What you will not get is anything even vaguely similar to a progressive, fair, publicly-financed system such as the rest of the civilized nations enjoy.
What you can be sure you'll get is the assurance that we have "passed a plan" because that's all that this president formerly known as the candidate of change is now promising-we will get a plan this year. It will be satisfactory to the insurance companies. It will further enrich them. Thousands will continue to suffer and die because this Congress and this Democratic president have made deals with and taken millions of dollars from the corporations that have brought us to our wretched present sickness.
And so it goes. And every so often the triangulation and dealing and selling-out is concealed by the cloak of hope and promise and we are treated to another allegedly inspiring speech, often using the same inane chant we heard so often last fall: "I'm fired up! I'm ready to go! Fired up! Ready to go!" (Great and sustained applause follows.) We were desperate for a leader; we got a motivational speaker.
There is disappointment and there is disgust and there is anger. You can read well-reasoned, articulate essays every day that detail the hooks the war industry and the investment bankers and the coal and nuclear industries have so firmly set in the body of this administration, this Democratic majority administration. You can have, and I have certainly had, long conversations with intelligent, honest, decent persons who are as disturbed by the policy similarities between Bush and Obama as you are
But don't say it out loud. Don't predict that what we see is what we get. Don't look from man to pig and pig to man and pronounce them much the same. Or do it if you like, and think it if you do, but don't be bold and say that the Democrats are not much better for us than the Republicans.
Your betters will remind you that Dick Cheney was a worse human being than Joe Biden. They will tell you that Obama is smart. He is playing a careful game. He is more progressive than his actions. He's only able to get what the Senate will allow him. He means well. He would like to do the right thing. He's fired up and he's ready to go. He's inspiring. He's not George Bush.
When we elect a selectman who proves himself inadequate, unsuitable or ill-intentioned, we say so. We complain. We tell him he misled us. We make his year in office unpleasant. We do not make excuses for him. But in that case we see only the individual, the man or the woman. We are not bound into any notions that this or that party will take us in a different direction than another. We seem to hear and see and understand better when we are not encumbered by faith, by the religion of party.
So I am neither amused nor amazed that the candidate of hope and change is doing the same dirty deals with the same merchants of death and greed as his predecessor. They are both creations of the two-party system. Whether they are ignorant dupes or are happily complicit, Republican or Democrat, white or black, may not, when the bolts are tightened and the valves adjusted and the contributions tallied and the collusion concluded, make a great deal of difference in how thoroughly you and I and the uninsured and the unadvantaged and the troops in Taliban territory and the villagers in the several countries where our taxes are turned into terror from above are screwed.
And you tell me, over and over and over again....
Mr. Cooper works hard and gets by. But he does not have health insurance. He cannot afford it. Therefore he does not often seek doctoring. Mandating his purchase of the deficient, dishonest products of the industry will not induce him to do so; it will likely just further piss him off and cause him to generate more unwholesome, unhelpful essays such as this. Before he leaves this author wishes to tell you that he is one resident of the state of Maine who is not impressed with the work of Senator Olympia Snowe, political bed-partner of Senator Max Baucus. Just so you know.