Bigot on Wednesday, Churchgoer on Sunday

Sen. John McCain likes to depict the bigots in his party as fringe elements, a few “bad apples.” It’s become less obvious that this is so considering how widespread the nasty attacks have become.

The state of political discourse: from leaders — Rep. Westmoreland (R-GA) openly calling Obama “uppity” — to laymen (see above) the Republicans seem to feel very free to fan the flames of prejudice.
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America’s Political Cannibalism

Today’s Nader Newsletter gave prominence to a column by Chris Hedges entitled “America’s Political Cannibalism,” mostly because of this paragraph:

This is a defining moment in American history. The next few weeks and months will see us stabilize and weather this crisis or descend into a terrifying dystopia. I place no hope in Obama or the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is a pathetic example of liberal, bourgeois impotence, hypocrisy and complacency. It has been bought off. I will vote, if only as a form of protest against our corporate state and an homage to [Karl] Polanyi’s brilliance, for Ralph Nader.

The whole thing is worth reading, including the comments. One “Eric J-D” seems to nail it:

My concern about Hedges is that his so-called “radicalization”–if that is what he is currently experiencing–looks a whole lot more like dystopian, nihilistic despair than a truly radical diagnosis of and engagement with the situation obtaining in the present. The former tends to greatly overestimate a number of things: 1) the present “weakness” of the capitalist system, even in moments of systemic crisis; 2) the extent to which the mass-imposition of a neo-fascist order is possible; and 3) the revolutionary possibilities of the present moment.

As someone occasionally guilty of doing all three, I concur. Also, several commenters rightly point out that the greater Karl (Marx) anticipated Polanyi’s comments by nearly a century (dehumanization, man-as-commodity, etc). 

Mostly though, I think Hedges is right. Voting for Nader is probably the right thing to do. But look at it this way: voting for Nader and deliberately not voting are both symbolic gestures, whereas voting for Obama is an effectual gesture. Both symbolic gestures are largely ignored (in the case of conscientious non-voting, ignored simply because it’s indistinguishable from apathetic non-voting). I’m voting for Obama based on this principle: an effectual gesture, even one less than ideal, ought to be preferred over a purely symbolic gesture.

Crisis of Confidence

Listen to what this crazy nutjob has to say:

…In a nation [America] that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose…

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path… that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

Suffice to say, we ignored this yokel and chose the path of self-indulgence. We bought into Faustian economics and the seductive myth of MORE. The above speaker, one Jimmy Carter, went on to ask us Americans to re-think the need for more, more, more. This speech is from July 15, 1979. Carter’s ass was soon soundly kicked by an ex-actor who told us that our unsustainable lifestyles were sustainable after all, that boundless prosperity was our God-given right, that this so-called city on a hill of ours had a moral obligation to spread the shining ideal of consumption. He who dies with the most toys wins.

I began re-thinking consumerism over three years ago. I’m still addicted. I’m still addicted to consumptive habits that console and comfort (currently, coffee). I think one of the things I loved most about hitchhiking was the freedom to stop being such a savage consumer. As Marcuse might say, perhaps “economic freedom” is freedom from the economy — from the grind of “turbo capitalism.” From the mistaken belief that owning things and consuming things will satisfy my longing for meaning.


On an almost entirely separate note: go read “Sorry, Dad, I’m Voting for Obama” by Christopher Buckley, son of the late William F. Buckley. It’s a very well-written piece with a compelling case.
TGIF.

The Fall of America, Inc

What I’m reading:

  • The Fall of America, Inc“Along with some of Wall Street’s most storied firms, a certain vision of capitalism has collapsed. How we restore faith in our brand.” Written by, of all people, the infamous Francis Fukuyama.
  • The End of Arrogance: America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role
  • Make-Believe Maverick by Tim Dickinson – “A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty.”
  • By the way, amidst all the talk of Bill Ayers make sure you watch the great Weather Underground documentary from six years ago. Speaking of bad associations, the Obama/Biden camp has created Keating Economics featuring a good 13-minute mini-documentary on McCain’s involvement with the Keating Five.

    And lastly:

    Also, Emo Obama comes courtesy of Ryan Futrell.

    “Creating is living doubly.”

    In “The Push to ‘Otherize’ Obama” Nicholas D. Kristof has a throwaway paragraph that’s better than the whole rest of the piece:

    Just imagine for a moment if it were the black candidate in this election, rather than the white candidate, who was born in Central America, was an indifferent churchgoer, had graduated near the bottom of his university class, had dumped his first wife, had regularly displayed an explosive and profane temper, and had referred to the Pakistani-Iraqi border…

    Be sure to also read Bill Saporito’s “How We Became the United States of France”, if not for the content then at least for the brilliant writing. Personally, I have no qualms with admitting my admiration of the French. I just finished reading The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus, one of France’s finest writers. The blurb on the back of my copy calls Camus “aphoristic,” by which I think they simply meant that he’s eminently quotable. A few of my favorites: (more…)

    Truth is Outrageous and Offensive

    For all of 2007, the big three network newscasts devoted 1,157 minutes for the war in Iraq. Halfway through 2008, they’ve offered up a meager 181 minutes. Instead, the mainstream media inflates generic non-issues into The Most Pressing News Story of the Week. The latest hullabaloo is over one sentence by Gen. Wesley Clark, during an interview with Bob Schieffer:”Well I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”To which ol’ Bob startles and blurts out: “Really?!” (more…)

    My week

    It’s March! I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me. Want to know how my week went? Ok cool.

    On Monday Laura & I saw Barack Obama at WSU:

    He is a good man and he’ll be president in 11 months.

    On Tuesday Dennis sent me this photo:
    How does this glorify God?
    This was posted in the Student Center on an Air Force ROTC ad. Neither of us know who stuck the note there, but it made my day.

    On Wednesday I watched Once:

    I fell in love with Marketa Irglova.On Thursday my friends and I showed The Corporation on campus:

    Over 35 students showed up and I think they found it eye-opening.On Friday I watched Taxi to the Dark Side:

    If there’s a physical lake of fire for everlasting torment, then Bush will surely be there. I would love to show this film on campus too, but this school isn’t ready. We will be showing No End in Sight in mid-March though.

    My Cedars article this week was fairly mediocre, made worse by haphazard editing that was beyond my control that left it fairly incoherent & disjointed. I may post more of my writing here at a later time since the truth is, somebody’s opened the spigot and the Cedars bucket can’t keep up.