by Deck Deckert
(Swans - October 24, 2005) It is the best of times; it is the worst of times.
President George W. Bush is the worst president in my long lifetime, and probably the worst in American history -- I'll leave the latter to the historians.
A list of his sins of commission and omission would fill an encyclopedia -- mass murder in the shape of an immoral war, an embrace of torture, delusions of empire, financial meltdown, massive corruption, misfeasance and malfeasance, the attempted trashing of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, environmental destruction, and lies, lies, lies.
What have we come to?
If we had elected him, it could perhaps be said that we got what we deserve. But, of course, we didn't elect him. The last two presidential elections were stolen -- if not literally, though I believe they were, then in practice in the form of massive manipulation of minority voters, particularly in Florida in the 2000 election. And because the Democrats were too befuddled and cowardly to raise a fuss and the corporate media was cravenly silent, all future elections are in doubt.
Yet elected or not, Bush is not the nation -- his values are not our values. But then the value of our leaders never are.
Bush is just the latest in a long line of presidents who don't serve our interests, but serve instead the interests of corporations and the other portions of the ruling elite. He may be the worst, but he is hardly unique.
The corporatization of America, which has been going on for decades, is nearly complete. Corporations own the government, pay little or no taxes, get massive government handouts, and almost totally control our access to information. Their lobbyists have immediate and frequent access to the president, congressmen and senators, sit in on congressional committee sessions, and generally make the rules that are supposed to govern them.
Corporations control not only the federal government but state governments as well. States frequently brag that they are good places for business. By that they generally mean that taxes are low, unions are powerless, wages and benefits are poor, workplace safety and environmental regulations are weak. In other words, what is good for corporations is bad for workers -- and everyone else. But while Bush has aggressively pushed the corporation agenda, he is not the first to do so. Clinton, for example, was nearly as bad.
Bush's values are those of an aging ignorant spoiled playboy -- primarily hedonism. The values of his puppet-masters are far more ominous -- greed, a love of power, and the arrogant assumption that they have a manifest destiny to rule the world.
The values of the American people are the values of people almost everywhere. Forget the national stereotypes -- not all British have stiff upper lips, not all Canadians are polite, not all Scotsmen are penny pinchers, not all American tourists are arrogant, loud and boisterous.
Most Americans live quiet lives, centered on family, church and friends. They perhaps embrace individualism more than most of the world's people, are a bit more convinced that their country is the greatest, and are more concerned with acquiring material goods. They pay lip service to the idea of equality, however little they may practice it. They are generally optimistic. They don't condone torture, murder of innocents, or invasion of nations that don't threaten them.
But, contrary to their own beliefs, they are easily led. Unscrupulous leaders, and a compliant media, can easily convince them that they are in grave danger, and the solution is yet another war.
So is this the worst of times?
People think there was a golden age in which there was peace, all Americans were prosperous, and everyone was happy. When was this?
Was it when the country was founded by the slaughter of millions of Native Americans and the stealing of their land?
Was it when rich plantation owners owned slaves?
Was it when country was engaged in a vicious civil war that killed 600,000 to 700,000 people?
Or the post-Civil War period when freed slaves were brought back under control by lynchings and segregation?
Was it during the Depression, when millions were hungry and out of work?
Was it during World War II, when more than 50 million people died, including 500,000 Americans?
Or how about in the post-World War II period, a time of optimism and prosperity -- unless of course you were poor and black, or fighting in Korea?
Was it during the civil rights revolution, a time of joyous reaffirmation of our ideals, and the murder of civil rights workers? Was it during the concurrent Vietnam war protests in which millions marched in the streets, followed by the assassination of national leaders?
Perhaps this is the best of times?
All right, perhaps not. But it is a time of great potential, if we do not despair. The stranglehold of the corporate media is under attack on the Internet by blogs and other sources of news. The ugliness and corruption of the radical right of the Republican Party is now exposed for all to see and some of the worst offenders may get their comeuppance in court. A few Democrats are finally beginning to develop some backbone. Some states and cities are beginning to rebel against some of the worst assaults on the bill of rights; others are working to protect our voting rights.
The best of times? No, it's just life.