Given the nation's tottering infrastructure, imperial overreach abroad and vandalized constitutional process by a lawless executive branch, what will it take to scare the general public, mainstream press and political classes into immediate action to bring about meaningful change? At this twilight hour of the American republic, there must come a paradigm shift of seismic proportions or else the republic will perish. I'm less than optimistic. Insomuch as, I suspect, that if, during a rare press conference, George W. Bush's face were to suddenly shed its skin, right on camera, live on national television, on all channels, broadcast and cable, to reveal the countenance of a Gila Monster — the elitist beltway punditry would begin to catalog the merits of his reptilian single-mindedness. Then proceed to an interview with an "expert" from a right-wing funded, zoological think tank, "The American Institute for the Advancement of Predatory Policy," who would assure us that: "...in an era when evil is as proliferate as flies around the stinking dumpster of the world, Americans will be kept safe by a lizard-faced leader who eats flies for breakfast." And the general public would only be concerned because the broadcast happened to preempt the finals of American Idol.
To survive as a republic, a great many American idols will have to topple, and not only those inane, fame-obsessed clowns and crooners sharp-elbowing each other on the Fox Network's televised exercises in Pop Stardom for Dummies. As far as idolatry goes, by far the most pervasive, ruinous, and in need of toppling is the position of unquestioning worship the US military holds in American life. One would think that after the Götterdämmerung of macho folly we've witnessed over the past half-decade that the country would have had its fill of self-proclaimed alpha male posturing and adolescent-minded, military hagiography.
The media is rife with right-wing fantasist nonsense about the "feminized" American male, when, in fact, the country has grown outright psychotic from testosterone-induced toxicity (TIT). In the 1960s, hippies were ridiculed for their naive assumptions that life on earth could be magically transformed into an egalitarian paradise of free love, good dope, waterbeds and Lava Lamps for all, if "the straights" could simply be induced to "raise their consciousness" by the engagement in and the utilization of the erotic acts, illicit substances and goofy, counterculture accouterment mentioned above. Accordingly, the current fantasy — that all US soldiers are good, righteous and brave, standing ever vigilant against all threats to the Homeland — could be regarded as a kind of Woodstock Militarism.
Thus, this puerile glorification of American servicemen and women is a view of human nature that is every bit as naive as the hash-pipe dreams of Sixties idealists involving peace, love and flower power — and one that can't be blamed on a communal use of L.S.D. Excuse me, but why should the military establishment and its foot soldiers hold a position of being beyond scrutiny or even reproach? The last I looked "our troops" were being used as mindless instruments of our country's imperialist aggression. Moreover, the perpetually pimp-slapped and habitually on-their-knees before Bush's macho-narcissistic bluster, congressional Democrats, who gained a legislative majority on the strength of the anti-war vote, are up to their lickspittle lips in the legalized mass murder being perpetrated in the name of our nation. It is time to see through and reject the right-wing propaganda and liberal paternalism of viewing the soldiers of the US military as victims ... Oh cry me a river of Iraqi blood ... When the truth is: We are a nation of people possessed of Bronze Age minds, who are armed with 21st Century weapons. Ergo, our soldiers are the delivery system of said weaponry.
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This is the reason the American military machine exists on such a massive scale: Our leaders wish to establish, by force, if necessary, global hegemony. Accordingly, what do platitudes such as, "I support the troops" translate to when those troops are engaged in an illegal and immoral occupation of a foreign land, invaded under false pretenses? Where is the line to be drawn between having empathy for an army comprised to a large degree of economic conscripts and giving tacit approval to the war crimes they commit? Since the enacting of the Nuremberg Laws, the claim of "I was only following orders" has been ruled an inadmissible defense. Shouldn't the plea of "I couldn't get a good job after high school, so I joined the military, was shipped off to Iraq, where I grew so scared, frustrated and angry, that, every once in a while, I lit-up a few Haji civilians, with my M16, turning them into twitching jellyfish" be regarded as equally inadmissible?
To bestow unquestioning and unilateral support for the soldiers of a ruthless empire's immoral invasion of a sovereign nation is a recipe for war crimes and atrocities. Soldiers represent a cross-section of a nation's population, evincing a mix of human traits and characteristics, some admirable and worthy of support and others reprehensible and deserving of condemnation and contempt. Accordingly, many soldiers are not heroes and all heroes need not be soldiers. Resistance and the refusal to fight immoral wars constitutes bravery as well.
This most recent version of the proto-fascist glorification of the military has its origins in the rightist revisionist history of the Vietnam War. Over the decades, the right has deftly and dishonestly framed the narrative and succeeded in foisting its mythos of unquestioning loyalty to all things military upon the history-bereft, reality-resistant American populace.
At its dark and deceitful heart, this is a fantasy that is as fact free as it is invidious. Accordingly, the public of the United States was bilked into believing conservative propaganda such as the preposterous urban legend involving hippies spitting on returning Vietnam vets. Yep, that sounds plausible: scrawny hippies, afflicted with pot-induced cotton mouth, expectorating on trained killers, just returned from the killing zones of Southeast Asia. If you believe that nonsense, I'll sell you, on Ebay, the Stairway To Heaven — the very one that inspired the Led Zeppelin song.
Almost every utterance on the subject by conservatives is either bullshit or an outright lie. The biggest of the Big Lies was and remains roughly as follows: The Vietnam War was lost, not during the battles and skirmishes fought in that country's emerald jungles and muddy rice paddies, but in the privileged confines of college campuses and in the sun-drenched enclaves of Hollywood liberals. To hear conservatives tell it, the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong guerillas were all but on their knees, beaten, on the verge of surrender, when Jane Fonda flew to their side, rallying their flagging spirits with the succor of her American troop-hating, commie-suckling sedition, hence rallying them on to final victory.
Next, under the influence of that cultural laughing gas known as Reaganism, Hollywood created a Vietnam mythos even more preposterous than the one chronicled above. Whereby, in the nineteen eighties, Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone refought the Vietnam War and won. In these epics of testosterone-poisoned kitsch, Norris and Stallone, freed of government restraint and hippie bad mojo, reaped revenge on the godless, yellow hordes, by deploying the terrible weaponry of their male pheromonal musk defoliates and hairstyling jell napalm. It would seem, from the POV of these movies, that the Vietnamese communists were brought to heel with prop automatic assault weapons and blow dryers. On the screen of suburban cineplexes, Asian extras, costumed as Vietnamese soldiers, fell before Norris' and Stallone's barrage of blanks like Hollywood Indians of old.
Once again, the world had been set right; those runty, upstart, Southeast Asian bastards had been put in their place. The United States was victorious. Of course, not in historical truth — but in the only place that mattered to us — in our Cold War fevered minds, a place where Americans believed that the "Evil Empire" plotted to invade our post-war, consumer paradise, because the commie hordes lusted to collectivize our Buicks, our blondes, our pool furniture and our lawn statuary. All in the same insane way, we hallucinate, at present, that "Islamo-Fascists" scheme to invade us and put Lindsey Lohan in a Burka.
In truth, the only place the people of Vietnam ever constituted a threat to the United States was within the toxic mindscapes of paranoid cold warriors. This death-enamored realm — where the most psychotic is king — is the place (and only place) where Iraq's weapons of mass destruction existed, and is where, at present, Iran's threat to the United States looms. Resultantly, we have erected this walled and fortified domain of delusion, this heavily armed Disneyland of militant ignorance, with all its attendant, noxious myths of the sacrifices of its noble warriors, for a less than noble reason and purpose. The purpose of this jingoistic blarney is to shield the general public from the ugly reality of how and why an empire's armies exist; because an empire's armies are mustered — not to protect the Homeland — but to secure plunder for its ruling elite and provide mollifying bribes for its hoi polloi.
By necessity, the fantasy must be large and all pervasive. Within it, a frightened citizenry must believe that all its potential leaders must embody the traits of a bona-fide, baptized in blood, warrior king. Ergo, the gun-caressing, bible-clutching, dog-baiting, "the-ruling-class-took-everything-leaving-me-with-nothing-but-my-masculine-pride" crowd is never going to accept the junior senator from the state of New York, currently vying for the throne — even if she has re-branded herself as Hillary W. Bush.
At this point, it is imperative that we let the world in on a dirty, little secret that many naive liberals have managed to lockout of their minds: (Bill) Clintonism was a continuation of Reaganism, sans the Grecian Formula and pomade. Furthermore, Bill Clinton was the diametric opposite of FDR, not in personal style — but in his administration's domestic policies and social priorities. While Roosevelt was accused of being a "traitor to his class," for betraying his aristocratic ilk, by the enacting of The New Deal, Bill Clinton, also, proved to be a traitor to his class, by betraying those who shared his laboring class beginnings, by means of his ruinous neo-liberal trade policies and his anything-for-the-boys-on-Wall-Street economics. As far as his relationship with the nation's military/industrial complex, Clinton, because he had avoided military service during the Vietnam War, had to prove he wasn't a patchouli-reeking peacenik by constantly kowtowing to the Pentagon establishment. Withal, the situation will be worse with Hillary, who, time and time again, will have to establish her macho credentials by bombing somebody, anybody, anytime and anywhere.
In this way, due to his charm, intelligence and his almost preternatural talent to feign empathy — Bill Clinton was more dangerous than George W. Bush — because Bush, at least, reveals to the world the true face of empire. Although, at present, most Americans are unwilling or unable to face our true face. Accordingly, the crack-brained narrative of the present moment goes: to be viable as commander-in-chief, Hillary must prove her toughness, preferably, in some he-man display of resolute stupidity. Since the flight-suit on the deck of an aircraft carrier gambit has been played-out, perhaps her handlers could set-up a photo-op involving the masculine iconography of the World Wrestling Federation. It should be arranged that she wrestle and then body slam two midget wrestlers portraying Dennis Kusinich and Ron Paul. Such an act of political stagecraft could prove to be Hillary Clinton's so-called "Sister Souljah moment."
Sarcasm, you say? Barely. Our collective mindset regarding the nation's pernicious militarism rises to about the level of thoughtful insight and searching introspection that is on display in the realm of professional wrestling. Furthermore, at least, the wrestlers themselves (and most of their audience) know the violence of the sport is staged. Unfortunately — while the political theatre of US politics is fake as well — in Iraq, the blood isn't.
Phil Rockstroh, a self-described auto-didactic, gasbag monologist, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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