Wednesday, November 05, 2008
So Barack Obama is on his way to the White House, at the same time my friend E.B. is on his way to Afghanistan.
They told him to take his gun, extra ammo, and his flack jacket. E.B., not Obama.
"E.B.," I wrote, "what the hell are you doing in Afghanistan?"
One of my father's favorite journalistic terms was "Afghanistanism." Pop was a conscientious and very professional journalist who, when I asked him what he meant by that strange word, explained that it referred to publications and reporters who emphasize the faraway, the obscure, and the strangely foreign, as opposed to local, common, and culturally familiar concerns.
It's not for nothing that the Empire of the Pentagon has chosen to fight its last pointless, unwinnable, profoundly stupid, and, in terms of blood and treasure, ruinously expensive war in the last place on earth.
I'm hopeful that Obama will prove as good as his word and end the Iraq disaster. But at the same time he's promising, if I understand him correctly, to ramp up the war in Afghanistan. And at this point, I need somebody to explain to me, one more time, what exactly it is we're doing in Afghanistan, a mountainous country full of Islamic hillbillies, opium growers, family feuds, and women forced to walk around dressed in tents. I think it has something to do with tracking down one or two bad guys.
Afghanistan remains the last place on earth. Barack needs to change his mind and get us out of there, and the American public, I think, is ready to cut its losses and leave, even if our corporate ruling class isn't.
There was a statistically small but seismically significant shift in public sentiment discernible in the results of last night's election. The American ruling class -- the top one percent of wage earners who hold both 40 percent or so of the nation's total wealth and, until now, an iron grip on its political processes -- suddenly finds itself on unstable ground. Their wealth is evaporating along with the value of mortgage "derivatives" sold for trillions and now shown to be worthless, and their bear hug on the body politic is suddenly grown shaky in the face of broad-spectrum democracy.
From 1980, the year of the advent of Reagan, until now, they've controlled the political process mainly by two means: first, by corrupting Congress and turning it into a huge patronage-and-payoffs plantation, thus buying the legislation they wanted, and secondly, by using the corporate-owned electronic media (television, in our case) as an instrument of mass brainwashing, a technique indispensable to all big-business-backed fascist regimes from the 1920's onwards.
The trained dogs and ponies of Congress are still in their places at the trough, but the brainwashing has suddenly ceased having the desired effect. It seems an economic crisis such as the current one produces populations with dirty brains, and no amount of corporate-sponsored washing avails to clean them.
Obama has a delicate balancing act ahead of him. The power of the American capitalist ruling class is marginally diminished by the outcome of the elections, but they're still the Queen among pieces left on the board. However, that vague, unfocused, and ill-defined entity, "the people," has suddenly asserted itself as an independent and oppositional counterweight to the desires and influence of the ruling class, and Obama will have to take It, or Them, or maybe I should say Us into account in fabricating his upcoming decisions about the economy and debt, war and peace, and the myriad of other policy categories which are now on the table in front of him, awaiting retooling.