by Martin Murie
(Swans - January 28, 2008) Michael Doliner's two pieces in the last issue of Swans (#1 and #2) sure did hit the spike on the head. And Gilles d'Aymery's comments in his Blips #63 gave it an extra whack. I want to hammer it again.
Whether we are on the streets or invading power people's offices or recruiting offices isn't quite as important as getting our intellects turned to north by nor'east to see clearly the black clouds, the danger that is not arriving because it is here, we are in it, we are up the creek.
I just thought of something about Swans. Don't know how the name for the flock came up, don't have to know. Surveying the avian world, there are mute swans, whistling swans, and trumpeter swans. Well, this flock is sure as hell not mute, nor are we whistling the same old tunes. No, we trumpet. I'm sure we will keep boring into hidden causes and sounding the trumpets, as does Carol Christen Warner daring to revive the People, a phrase that long ago went out of fashion, a quaint and sentimental holdover from Gettysburg. Remember?
of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Bucking the tide, stepping out of line, being a loner is very difficult and uncomfortable. Knowing that others willingly undertake jeopardous tasks makes it easier to follow. I believe that most people are instinctively opposed to violence and war. They reluctantly go along once their government embarks on war because they are loyal patriotic citizens and they have been convinced by a masterful public relations campaign of lies and distortions that war has become necessary and inevitable.
Here again is an implicit confidence in the People, a confidence essential to enthusiasm and vigorous protests, very like the Marx Brothers kick-in-the-pants to pomposity and decorum as portrayed by Charles Marowitz. Willingness to stir the waters of complacency and sometimes to throw a big boulder into that pool is one of the secret weapons of protesters, then and now. Let's hear it for boulders!
I would push back the dates when the evils of which Carol speaks really began. There was the use of military force against US citizens during the putting down of the "whiskey rebellion" and Shay's rebellion, under the urging of Alexander Hamilton; there were the Alien and Sedition Acts (fear of revolutionary turns in France), and the 1920s raids ordered by Attorney General Palmer against radical immigrants, deporting many of them. These acts were followed by J. Edgar's reign that flowered in all its violence in the late forties and fifties of the last century. Can you imagine a mere Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation writing to major publishers ordering editors to not touch Howard Fast's latest novel, Spartacus? With help from friends, Fast self-published and it sold very well, eventually becoming a movie.
Let's not forget that people who did not go along with the Cold War in the nineteen-forties and fifties learned to be cautious when talking on the phone. We never forgot that the feds were out there hunting. And local cops too, the Red Squads. In spite of fear, see Gerard Donnelly Smith's piece, we managed to get signatures on antiwar petitions. Yes, there was a left wing/liberal antiwar movement back then. And let us not forget that media coverage of such efforts was minimal, often hostile and dismissive. Journalists were afraid too, of their editors and owners, of Joseph McCarthy and the House and Senate "investigating committees." Like today, but now the stakes are higher and the insanities so very obvious.
I would push the date for our imperial aspirations becoming fully fledged back to 1847-48 when then-president Polk used a feeble excuse (American bloodshed on American soil) as pretext to invade Mexico, his main goal being the addition of Mexican California to the splendid star-spangled march from Atlantic to Pacific -- and might as well take a lot of Mexico while we're about it, which we did, and then added the Gadsen Purchase to round it out. That war was terrible, a prelude to the "Civil War," a polite name for a horrific struggle between Slavocracy and burgeoning Capitalism. The Mexican invasion was a try-out of vastly improved artillery that could knock down walls previously impervious to such assaults. It is no accident that the St. Patrick Battalion, deserters from the Union Army, were formed into a Mexican artillery battalion. * In that war cannons took a heavy toll of human flesh, civilians and soldiers both, a prelude to the indiscriminate, clumsy, inexcusable slaughters of present times: Notice how complacently we accepted Shock and Awe in the first Gulf War.
To top it off, Doliner states,
Any attempt to end the war without ending the Empire is doomed to failure.
I realize that what I am asking is enormous, and many will suggest that I stick to the politically possible, but what we think of as politically possible is not good enough. In fact it is no good whatsoever. We need a radical turn.
We do desperately need to step back from Art of the Politically Possible; a cliché that has been used complacently and loftily to discourage ordinary citizens from taking seriously the voices of those who speak from the far edges of current opinion. So, here's to Art of the Politically Impossible: It's time for the truly radical turn, honest speech, and devoted action.
In Guido Monte's poem (Dante and Blake flavors), the angel dressed in garments stained by ashes and sand suggests humility as we enter the "forgotten way" to discover "the secrets of the unknown land."
Jan Baughman and Peter Byrne supply more irreverence and zany humor. We will need the full quiver: enthusiasm, truth-seeking probes, laughter, humility, a touch of mysticism, and faith in the People as we move into the new, bound-to-be-rough, year.
* A sketch of the invasion of Mexico, its context, desertion rates and the St. Pat Battalion can be found in James D.Cockcroft, Mexico's Hope. An Encounter With Politics And History. Monthly Review Press, 1998. (back)
[Ed. Martin Murie has a new Web site, Packrat Nest, where readers can find his books and other works. Please, visit it!]
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