God, The Ghost Of Richard Nixon,
And The Demons Of Election 2004

by Phil Rockstroh

October 18, 2004   


(Swans - October 18, 2004)   George W. Bush stole the presidency and he should not be allowed to keep it. He and his gang of right-wing bullyboys beat up the electoral process and took it outright. One should never allow a bully to prosper from his brutality.

Yes, there is an argument to be made that both of the two major political parties are privy to the legal larceny that passes for the present political/economic system. And it is a compelling and accurate one at that.

But that does not change the fact that George W. Bush is due a serious smack down. He's been working -- "working hard," as he would say -- for it to take place his entire life -- and it is, in fact, the only thing he's ever worked hard at -- and it is the only thing he has ever truly deserved. And, I believe, his losing the coming election would serve that purpose nicely.

I'm not saying I believe that the Democrats should be allowed to prosper either...for they're far from blameless. Far too often they've proven themselves to be gutless, vain, and hypocritical -- but, at least, the worst of them, in their worst moments, don't hold the belief -- as a great number of Republicans do -- that God has ordained them to rule...and that any sin they commit -- from lying, slandering, and stealing, to bombing the innocent -- is an act of righteousness that serves the greater glory of God.

Granted, in my time, I've been annoyed by a fair share of self-satisfied liberals -- but I've never met one who has told me that God had ordained it that he be served from a bottomless cup of the finest latte or that his reflective fecklessness was due to the fact that he had been anointed by the Almighty to be neutered in a divine act of cosmic castration.

If George W. Bush is returned to office, a fair share of his fundamentalist followers will take his victory to signify that they have been given a green light from God to continue to attempt to implement a right wing Christian theocracy here in the United States and wage further holy crusades abroad.

Not that, in the case of a victory by John Kerry, they'll cease the insanity and rise up into the realm of reason, but they will have suffered a setback to their designs on power. I'm sure they will blame the loss on a plot by Satan, or the machinations of the Antichrist, or the prevalence of calico cats spotted near polling places -- but that sort of thing is always amusing to listen to -- when -- that is -- WHEN -- they're out of power.

Of course, during the term of the Kerry presidency, I augur I will find myself annoyed, depressed, and incensed by his actions and policies, but those responses would come as a relief in contrast to the feelings of dread and revulsion evoked within me being witness to the Potemkin presidency of George W. Bush, wherein a corrupt cabal of corporatist criminals, neo-con artists, and public relation and media mountebanks have created a spurious, pernicious narrative of national emergency and endless war that serves to camouflage their craven will to power, as well as to conceal the fact that their "resolute" and "straight-shooting" "wartime president" is, in reality, a garden-variety sociopath who goes into meltdown mode whenever he finds himself in an uncontrolled and unscripted situation.

Not that having a sick bastard as president has ever particularly troubled the public at large. In fact, often it's a political plus. As was the case with Richard Nixon, a man whose pathologies merely mirrored those of the American middle class. He embodied theirs fears, hatreds, envies, and resentments. He was reelected in a landslide victory in 1972 because he knew that Americans hated those spoiled brat, college campus radicals and uppity blacks that they saw every night on the evening news more than they loved their own freedom.

Nixon knew the concept of freedom was (and remains) too vague for many of us. Where exactly can freedom be located? But, in contrast, just go down to any shopping mall and you'll find envy; just visit any suburban subdivision and you'll find fear; and just set yourself down on a barstool at your local neighborhood bar and you'll find hatred and resentment.

Nixon knew from the depths of his black spleen to the tips of his twitching nerve endings the pathological side of the American character and how the dark side of the American psyche could be exploited for political gain.

Lest you ask, why this digression into a revelry regarding the life and times of Richard Nixon? It is because: If there is any presiding spirit possessing the current zeitgeist it is the gray ghost of Dick Nixon.

Though Nixon's legacy looms large before us, we Americans have never fully faced up to the sad and creepy fact.

This is the reason Martha Stewart is in prison and the Halliburton pirates are at large and remain free to plunder Iraq with impunity: We can stand (if fact, revel in) a periodic, symbolic sacrifice of the successful -- especially if the offering is a snotty, perfectionist bitch who makes everyone feel slovenly if not outright less-than -- but don't go and reveal to us the true extent of the criminal acts that sustain the empire.

We had to tell ourselves Watergate and Vietnam were aberrations (and we still do) -- that Nixon's resignation from office in August of 1974 purged the demons from the national psyche and cleansed us all. Though we told ourselves, "...That was that...Let's move on...Our long national nightmare is over" -- we Americans were (and remain) desperate to believe such comforting delusions. Otherwise, we would be forced to come to the realization that we were implicated in the crime; otherwise, a million Vietnamese corpses would have risen accusingly in our dreams -- as tens of thousands of Iraqi dead would haunt our sleep tonight.

Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney -- these ruthless men are all Nixon's progeny. They all got away scott free. In fact, they prospered in the cynical post-Watergate era and they continue to perpetrate their crimes right up to the present time -- because we, collectively, as a nation, have been unwilling to face up to the ugly reality of the true extent of the corruption at the core of this foundering republic -- and that the decay did not begin nor end with Watergate and Vietnam -- but began at our nation's inception when the aristocratic classes decided that their property rights (the most brutish and telling example being the ownership of slaves as personal property) trumped and superseded all other rights.

The effects of that decision are at the root of our present crisis regarding the loss of so many of our basic civil liberties -- because it made it inevitable, as time passed, that nearly all of the nation's public space and community property would be owned and dominated by the powerful.

If the vast majority of property is private and commercial, including the so-called public airwaves, just where is a liberty, such as free speech, supposed to be exercised? The parking lot of a Stop-n-Go, the food court at the mall, the plumbing supply section of The Home Depot?

Oh yes, of course, one can always shake one's fist in protest within the confines of a "free speech zone." And if you believe that constitutes liberty -- you probably believe a McMansion is a home, a Happy Meal is a nutritious repast for your kids, the members of the Christian right are humble servants of the Lord, Wayne Newton is the consummate entertainer of his generation, and the thought of George W. Bush prancing around costumed in flight suit causes terrorist to cower in their caves.

Which provides another reason why I find myself in the ABB camp -- the embarrassment factor. Let's face it people, John Kerry might be tainted (perhaps irreparably so) by having spent a couple of decades of his life as a Washington insider -- but, at the very least, if he is elected president, we will no longer have to cringe witnessing anymore of Bush's faux cowboy drawling, bandy rooster strutting, and all the other pathetic affectations displayed by the preening macho narcissist twit.

Actually, it's worse than embarrassing -- far worse. Embarrassment is what one feels for a loud dinner guest dribbling soup on his tacky necktie -- but not for a callow product of privilege and power such as Bush whose vanities and insecurities have been the progenitor of so much suffering, pain and death.

Here my embarrassment develops into full-blown outrage -- and my heart cries out for justice. I'm not naïve: I realize the crimes of the powerful very often go unpunished. Nixon might have suffered a public disgrace and humiliating fall -- but Henry Kissinger still sits atop the world luxuriating upon the corpses of the millions of dead his scheming claimed from Southeast Asia to South America.

Though Bush, likewise, will never face the war crimes tribunal he deserves -- I believe that denying him reelection is the least we can do to punish him. If we were to do so -- it would enrage and humiliate him.

In addition, it would provide us with the treat of a Nixonian farewell wave-from-the-ramp-of-a-helicopter moment. And we could use a lift such as that, right about now.

And it might be within our power to bring this about.

It's the very least we can do.

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Published October 18, 2004
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