“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Monday, June 19, 2006

the American crisis

Dear President Bush,

In 1776, at a time when American forces were being pushed back by the British, Tom Paine took up his pen and wrote a series of letters to various British officials, and even to the people of England. These letters were published as a pamphlet entitled, The American Crisis. While Paine likely did not believe that his letters would actually persuade their addressees to cease and desist from the various depredations that he deplored, his letters gave them a moral chance.

In fact, the commander of the British forces in America, Lord Howe, might well have read the letters Paine addressed to him. After all, Paine was a wildly popular author, and Howe might have felt it was his duty to read a writer whose words would have an immediate effect on the morale of the population he had come to subdue.

Times have, of course, changed. In 2002, you often hinted that you did not even read newspapers. The image of you, barely able to pull yourself away from ESPN 1 to watch some paen to your genius on Fox News, was calculated to anger your enemies. The enemies at that point had, admittedly, dwindled. Here it is important to note – it is always important to note - that you were not really elected as president. You lost the popular vote. You were nevertheless elevated to your office in one of the most singular acts of corruption in U.S. history – since the Supreme Court, however low it has fallen at times, had never before played the role ward boss. If the U.S. were another country – say, Iran, or the Ukraine – the machinations that brought a man of your feeble abilities and family connections to power would have caused the U.S. state department to issue some tut-tuttery about the whole thing. However, solely because the U.S. was attacked on 9/11, you became popular. The rallying round effect erased the shameful memory of your criminal ascent. In addition, the knowledge that your disinterest in newspapers extended to disinterest in memos advising you of imminent Al Qaeda attack was not, in 2002, in the sphere of public knowledge.

What is one to make of the boast of ignorance by a man who is evidently willing to commit any infamy to become president? There is something bullying about the ignorance, something that hints at the kind of hoodlum who actually takes pride in some outrageous act of brutality. But, on balance, I don’t think that you are a hoodlum. Rather, yours is a character in which grudges have long been stored up and ossified. The contradiction between your failure to ever achieve anything by yourself, your reliance on a network of cronies, and the code of the self made man that is your public ideology, is too gross for you to completely ignore. Instead, a man of your type immediately decides that his failures are due to a cabal. In your set, that cabal is usually represented as some vague but powerful one composed of East Coast liberal elites. Without thinking much about it, you have obviously accept this idea. So to shock them by playing the Texas ignoramus proved irresistibly tempting to a man who, evidently, spent his happiest days as the class clown at the private school he went to long ago.

The short era in which playing the Clown Prince reaped applause is now over, however, and you are back to admitting to the habit of reading newspapers. This is progress of a sort – vaunting your ignorance as an electoral ploy is not a thing that even your most fanatic followers can stomach any longer. Even though they can stomach quite a bit.

With the myth of your functional illiteracy exploded, my conceit, that I am writing a letter to a man who might actually read it – however dim the chance – acquires a little more verisimilitude. My idea, then, is to occasionally pen letters to you about Iran, Iraq, your foreign policy, your environmental policy, your economic policy, etc. – and show you the error of your ways. Since your errors are so multitudinous and so fundamental, this task will require a little work. Like Paine, however, I believe that at the very center of the person is a flickering but permanent moment of liberty. By demonstrating, irrefutably, that you have set this nation on the path to ignoble defeat in Iraq; that you are acting the madman with regard to reality in the Middle East, in China, in Europe, and in Latin America; that you have multiplied and augmented the environmental crises that are now upon us; that you have oppressed the poor and the working class; that the money that you have poured into the pockets of the wealthy in the attempt to shift the balance of opportunities in this country, so that the descendents of the poor will always be poor, the descendents of the middle class will be burdened with such intolerable debts that they sink into poverty, and the descendents of the wealthy, like you yourself, will be free to tread across the bodies of their innumerable victims without any fear of retaliation, is blood money and fairy money – money that will be revenged, and money that will vanish; all of these things will, if you receive them into your heart, perhaps change you at the last minute into a tolerable human being and a president who, from being a laughing stock, becomes a leader upon whom we can look back with gratitude. There are those who say that you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, especially if the sow has been hardened in her vices, stewed in her crib, for the whole of her life. But this is too hard on sows, I think, and it might even be too hard on you.

This is what Paine wrote to Howe:

“TO argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of
reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in
contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring
to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of
feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man
will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival
and a bear your master.”

And, a paragraph later:

“…it would be a pity to pass you from the world in state, and consign you to magnificent oblivion among the tombs, without telling the future beholder why. Judas is as much known as John, yet history ascribes their fame to very different actions.”

Paine is harsh, but then, he was also confident that fate had not bound him up entirely with the fate of Lord Howe. Unfortunately, your actions do have an effect on my fate. For that reason, I lean towards the generous notion that your ignorance is not so ingrained as to make all my scrubbing vain, but that it can be rubbed away with enough friction.

Yours truly,
Limited Inc.

PS -- My next letter may touch on this Washington Post article about Iran, and more specifically, your almost infallible ability to get things wrong, screw things up, and generally leave a ring of scum about the most mundane matters of government. Did you and your cronies actually believe you were going to make the Iranian government fall with a flick of your magic military hand? We must work on that vanity. While you are evidently a slothful man, and not the brightest bulb in the bunch, I don't really think these are the keys to your gross incompetence. No, it is your vanity that is your and, alas, our undoing.


new york pervert said...

roger--you probably know all this, but I was quite amazed. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/19/AR2006061901090.html

All the top functionnaires have their own unique superstructure fat shapelessnesses.

roger said...

Ah, Mr. NYP -- what's 850 billion dollars among friends?
Thanks for pointing that article out. This is simply an amazing administration. The Snopes are in the saddle and they ride mankind.

roger said...

PS -looking over my letter, I notice I got the gender of the sow wrong. I'm silently going to edit that out, but I did think that it was a funny mistake to make in a letter in which I berate another man for his dimness.

Such are the results of pride, as my puritanical ancestors might have pointed out.