Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cruelest month, 2010

Earth Day was a real earthapalooza this year, wasn' it? We always celebrate by cleaning up a vacant lot or replacing some light bulbs, something to make us feel good. This year, though, Earth showed what she brings to the party. The volcano in Iceland was a spectacular but symbolic gesture -- a lot of people couldn't fly, but nobody was killed, even in Iceland. Airlines lost money, but they do that anyway. There was amazing video for the stranded travelers to enjoy on their portable media gadgets, and informative pieces about what volcanic ash does to jet engines. Then, as the excitement was dying down, Earth took off the gloves. A drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, and an unstoppable flow of oil began to pour into the water. At this hour, it pours on. By now, it has probably reached the shrimp beds and the bird sanctuary on the coast, and by tomorrow, Lake Pontchartrain. Kill, baby, kill! I'll bet President McCain is feeling pretty silly about authorizing offshore drilling all up and down the Atlantic...what? Who won? You're kidding.

For comic relief, Arizona has passed a law that requires police to stop people who "look foreign." The new law was inspired by the 1987 film Born In East L.A., written, directed by and starring Cheech Marin. He plays a man who gets caught up in an immigration raid on a factory, thrown on a bus, and driven to Tijuana. Then he can't go home because he doesn't have the documents to prove he was "born in East L.A.," since few Americans walk around with passports and birth certificates. I hope the Arizona legislature doesn't have 1984 in its Netflix queue.

Meanwhile, Virginia is nearing the end of Confederate Treason Month. (Their new Republican governor says "Confederate History Month," and I say the hell with it.) Many of our present problems stem from the tenderness America has always shown to traitors of the far right. We have imprisoned and executed people for spying for the Soviet Union and even for Israel, which is virtually the fifty-first state. We have ruined countless careers and even ended some lives for the crime of political incorrectness, i.e., opposing fascism before Pearl Harbor or after midnight on VE Day. But not one of the thousands of men who fought to destroy this country was executed in 1865.* On the contrary: we erected statues, named colleges and even military installations after them. Worse, we let them and their descendents control the historical narrative of their "rebellion" and reassert their control of the Confederate states through hideous violence. If it prosper, none dare call it treason.

This is not the case elsewhere. When Charles II returned to England to take up the monarchy, he got busy punishing everyone who cut off his father's head. He even had Oliver Cromwell disinterred and strung up. Cromwell's chief propagandist, John Milton, would have joined him on the gallows but for the intervention of Andrew Marvell and others. Harsh? Well, there hasn't been a civil war in England since the seventeenth century. Or a "Businessmen's Plot," or illiterates in silly hats assaulting members of Parliament. Think of that when your hear Teabigots proposing to "take back the country" by force, to demonstrate their love of democracy. They're not being ironic.

*I am not forgetting the poor sap who was executed for running the infamous Andersonville prison camp. There is probably a park named for Henry Wirtz in Winder, Georgia, which is named for his commanding general. With a statue.



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