Friday, January 25, 2008

They, the people

The terrible violence in Kenya continues, with more than seven hundred people dead over an election widely perceived as stolen. And bad as it is, I can't help admiring people who are that passionate about democracy. If Americans cared half so much -- if the half of Americans who vote cared half so much -- the Scalia conspirators would have hesitated to overrule us in 2000 and appoint the Cheney-Bush junta.

As America enters, at least theoretically, the final year of its Thousand Year Reich, it should be preparing for a day of judgment. Like Berliners in the ruins of their city, we should be stumbling about in the moral rubble left by this degenerate regime, not the first to employ murder and kidnapping but the first to elevate them proudly and publicly to the level of statecraft, along with torture, perjury, borderline treason (revealing the identity of a CIA undercover) , the making of war on an unoffending country, and a level of domestic spying unimagined outside North Korea. Everything from FEMA to the Supreme Court, from the Coast Guard to the public school system, has been corrupted and undermined, cheated and politicized and left in the hands of the unworthy and the incompetent. Americans have lost their homes, their jobs, their access to decent medical care, their futures and their lives in appalling numbers. Nothing has been done to slow the advance of potentially catastrophic climate change. The dissemination of information -- news -- is controlled by fewer people than in the days when King George III ruled this country. The scapegoating of immigrants is being encouraged as a distraction and an escape valve for the rage of the working class, as if impoverished Mexicans were "outsourcing" their jobs. Racism is enjoying a renaissance, the rights of women and gay people are under concerted attack, and all the battles of the "war on terror" never seem to amount to victory. And what moves the Democratically-controlled Congress to action? A couple of bad days for Wall Street.

Not one of the people incessantly running for president shows any signs of having the stature and the strength to address this disaster. No one polling above one or two percent has demanded the return of habeas corpus and Constitutional government, or flatly proposed to remove all US troops from Iraq as fast as planes can be loaded, or said that it's time to join the civilized countries in establishing a system of national health insurance. Instead, they tell us about their "faith," or their families, or their vague beautiful dreams. I believe Americans want to hear some anger, some outrage consistent with the way we see this country and the world. All we get is both branches of the Capital Party ringing changes on "Happy Days Are Here Again, Or Will Be If I'm Elected." We can do without the convoluted specifics of, say, the John Edwards health plan, which sounds like the Archbishop explaining why Henry V has a claim to the French crown. We want to hear somebody say, "We've lost out way. We apologize to the world. We're going to fix this mess and punish the responsible parties." Not bloody likely.

The people of Kenya, and before that Ukraine, are new to democracy. It's like a shiny toy and they don't want it to get tarnished or broken, or taken away. American democracy is old, old. And as somebody says in an Edward Bond play, "How can you fight for freedom when you think you have it?"