Swans Commentary » swans.com May 9, 2005  



"Un-American" Questions


by Richard Macintosh




"The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity."
—André Gide


(Swans - May 9, 2005)   An acquaintance of mine, Republican to the core, recently took offense at my purchase of prescription drugs in Canada. "You're undermining the system," he said. "It's unfair for our pharmaceutical companies to invest time and money in developing new drugs and then not be able to get the profit due them for reinvestment." He, of course, is in favor of US laws that would block importation and re-importation of prescription drugs. I countered: "God forbid that the elderly might find a way to finance their dwindling health care." There was little to talk about after that. He believes that people like me are "Un-American." I think he is hypocritical and selfish. So be it.

I have some questions.

Question: Why is acceptable for General Electric and other large corporations such as Microsoft and Motorola to move production to Mexico, China, and India, while an American citizen is considered "un-American" if he or she purchases prescription drugs in Canada? Is there a contradiction here? Answer: "Some people are more equal than others."

Question: Why is there a so-called "free market" for the corporate elite, but not for us "proles?" Answer: There is no such thing as a free market.

Question: Why is it good to invest and buy things from communist China, but bad to buy things from communist Cuba? Answer: Because the big money is using inexpensive labor in China. (Can one spell "profits?") Cuba is a "bad" example to other Latin American countries, because their system is working. Additionally, there are many Cuban expatriates who vote in Florida.

Question: If socialized medicine is bad, why is a socialized military good? I mean, why is it bad for countries like France and Canada to spend some of their collective wealth on public healthcare while at the same time it is good for the United States of America to outspend the entire world in military hardware? Answer: Because that's where the money is. Do you really think that companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop, and Boeing would be able to operate without a government safety net or "sweet deals? Can you spell "Halliburton?"

Question: Why isn't there a free market in military hardware? Answer: Because you're not in on the scam, dummy. Do you think you can just go down to your local Abrams tank dealer and buy a tank for the morning commute? (1) One has to be one of America's satraps in order to have access to such things. You know, guys like Saddam Hussein, or maybe Manuel Noriega. Useful idiots don't qualify. Your job is to vote.

Question: If the so-called "free market" is "good," why is it necessary to back it up with the most powerful military in the world? Don't good things stand on their own merit without the threat of violence? Who would think otherwise? Answer: the paranoid.

Question: Why is it that our current administration does not include anyone who actually fought in a war? (2) Could it be because one can get killed in a war? Answer: Duh.

Question: Why is it that our current administration primarily includes those who have close ties to corporations that will profit greatly from wars? Answer: Hello!

Allow me to suggest four possibilities:

National boundaries are blurred when it is convenient for the corporate elite, and strengthened when they are not. For example, money quickly circles the world in huge corporate transactions, but private American citizens are allowed to bring back only four hundred dollars' (US) worth of goods when they re-enter the country.

Second: "Patriotism" is used to hide the fact that wars are fought for reasons other than those proclaimed. For example, propaganda and sloganeering: "United We Stand!" "Operation Iraqi Freedom!" "Support our troops!" I mean, how many ribbon magnets can you fit on the back of your SUV?

Third: "Red herrings" are used to divert the populace from what is actually going on in the world. For example, the Michael Jackson child molestation trial, or some other inanity such as whether Britney Spears is pregnant or not. If those things aren't enough, you can read about a bill proposed in the Alabama state legislature that would ban books and plays by gay authors. (3)

Fourth: the use of lies and propaganda to cover all of this up. For example, Vice President Cheney has repeated over and over again, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that Iraq was involved in the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Regarding such blatant hypocrisy and lies, Hannah Arendt had the following to say:

"Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it." (4)

Sadly, this sounds all too familiar.

In a 2002 meeting with journalist and author Ron Suskind, a Bush senior adviser justified current administrative policy validating Arendt's point.

"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." (5)

And what does the president think about this? He doesn't think about it at all. Instead, he believes in the power of confidence. "At a time when constituents are uneasy and enemies are probing for weaknesses, he clearly feels that unflinching confidence has an almost mystical power. It can all but create reality." (6)

So, in today's Washington, it doesn't matter whether or not it is hypocritical for corporations to act in a way contrary to how individuals are supposed to act. It doesn't matter that our leaders have not experienced the combat they call a patriotic duty. The law continues to support money and power at the expense of the individual citizen. (Surprise! Surprise!) Those who point out the hypocrisy are merely scribes, studying the works of their masters. And, as Press Secretary Ari Fleischer once warned: "You'd better watch what you say."

Eighty-seven years ago, IWW organizer, Eugene V. Debs, had a prescient admonition:

"Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder.... the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish their corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace....They are continually talking about their patriotic duty. It is not their but your patriotic duty that they are concerned about. There is a decided difference. Their patriotic duty never takes them to the firing line or chucks them into the trenches." (7)

Perhaps some things never change.

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1.  A seductive idea, actually.  (back)

2.  Donald Rumsfeld was a navy flight instructor. The president served a disputed tenure as a fighter pilot for the Texas Air National Guard. However, neither Rumsfeld nor Bush experienced combat (other than, perhaps, in a local bar).  (back)

3.  Strassman, Mark. "Alabama Bill Targets Gay Authors," CBS News, April 27, 2005.  (back)

4.  Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism, Harcourt Brace and Company, New York, 1973, p. 350. Arendt, a German Jew, fled Germany in time to avoid the Holocaust. She wrote a number of books including The Origins of Totalitarianism and The Life of the Mind.  (back)

5.  Suskind, Ron, "Without a Doubt," The New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004, p. 51.  (back)

6.  Ibid., p. 64.  (back)

7.  Debs, Eugene Victor. Anti-War Speech, June 16, 1918. Debs ran for President on the Socialist ticket five times. He was arrested for sedition and sentenced to Atlanta Federal Prison in 1918. He was pardoned by President Warren G. Harding in 1921.  (back)


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This Edition's Internal Links

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Letters to the Editor

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Published May 9, 2005