Thursday, September 11, 2014

Up in the sky!

Holy harmonic convergence!

Tim Burton's Batman was in the bargain theaters by this time 25 years ago, and we've got a 2-for-1 show unfolding for California governor now.

(Fun fact: The governor now, Jerry Brown, was the governor before George "Duke Man" Deukmejian a quarter-century ago. Hey, it's hard to develop new storylines in the comics business!)

Deukmejian was fun: Fun to caricature, fun to lampoon. He was the law-and-order chief. His reign seemed so quaint, though it was not so long ago. As governor he vetoed a bill, passed by both houses of the Legislature, that would have banned discrimination against gays and lesbians.

As a lawmaker, he authored California's capital punishment laws, now sitting in limbo since a District Court judge ruled it cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution because death row inmates must wait so long for sentences to be carried out. Deukmejian's working now to shorten that wait time and skoosh the law under the constitutional seal of approval.

Lots of fun suffering among California's citizens as Deukmejian vowed no new taxes to help anybody — except maybe those who would profit a bit more.

Now the battle is between elder statesman Brown and Republican Neel Kashkari, trying to be — and somehow not to be — a younger version of windmill-tilting Brown.

This is one of my favorite cartoons.


In other news, a first: I'm re-running my vigil post of Sept. 11, 2011, since today is the 13th anniversary. It's also my late father-in-law's birthday, unfortunately overshadowed by the falling World Trade Center towers these many years.

In what's becoming a grim tradition in our nation's politics, each president must now pass an intractable war to the to his/her successor. President Obama received Afghanistan, and now gives to the next president the fang-end of a war against a country without borders, held together with a merciless ideology.

The U.S. will wage air strikes against the Islamic State, but no ground troops, President Obama said yesterday. Not while he's president anyway, I suppose.

The House GOP sought former Vice President Dick Cheney's advice on what to do about the coming war. Of course it did: Ask the guy who engineered getting the United States into a blundering and wasteful war into Iraq and Afghanistan, how to blunder and waste some more with the resources of a nation fatigued by waste and blunder.

I wonder what was asked:
  • Dick, how may we, too, profit from this war?
  • Dick, how can we make more major mistakes, but then somehow never be held accountable for them and, even better, show up on the board of directors at a defense contractor after our term of office is up?
  • Dick, do you think the Islamic State has hold of the thousands of weapons that went missing during the Iraq war? What's that you say? You don't care! Well then, we don't either!
  • Dick, what about billions unaccounted for? It went where? Oh, mum's the word.
I wonder what Dick told them:
  •  Don't worry, boys, no matter who loses — we still win!
Herewith, a truncation of my post from September 2011, 10 years after the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an attempt on the White House:
On 9/11
No superlatives can ever contain the horror and shock and sadness and disbelief of Sept. 11, 2001 — though we all will try in many and varied ways as the tenth anniversary approaches this weekend.

In the news media, the effort has already begun in earnest. News anchors introduce the myriad angles on the anniversary, their chins pointed slightly lower to their chests, their eyebrows arranged just so, conveying a calculated look of somber observation.

But we never truly grieved that impossible horror, never got a chance, even though the innumerable tributes under way say that we did. The Bush administration, helped by the mainstream media's lack of backbone, co-opted that day as a symbol to make us afraid of one another.

Our leaders used it to incite two protracted, misguided and ruinous wars we still wage against dubious enemies, begun on the basis of outright lies. Instead of having nothing to fear but fear itself, we have accepted the offer of fear by itself, which at first did frighten us but now has dulled and callused us, enabling the puppet masters of big oil, banking and military industry to profit mightily in our torpor.

Mission accomplished.

All the while, we still send women and men into the teeth of these wars — and will still, for years — yet barely receive them when they return damaged or dead, and the nation has fragmented.

The redemption and healing that should have followed those terrible events have been tainted by what followed instead. I can't consume any of the 9/11 remembrances and never-before-heard audiotapes, can't stop for a moment to regard that day for its own sake, without immediately linking it to the bloody horror of Iraq and Afghanistan. They are WTF? funhouse-mirror countermeasures in search of phantom WMDs. It's impossible to mourn because it's impossible not to be angry — at this absurd sequence of events, at myself for succumbing to indifference and impotence.

Those people who fell from the World Trade Center towers to their doom — such nightmarish visions! — might as well have disappeared into the desert sands around Fallujah, for all that we got to consider their horror and loss, to themselves, their families, their employers, their communities. They became fodder for what I still believe is George W. Bush's intent to salvage the legacy of his father.

Since 9/11/2001, we have become Lord of the Flies, reduced to our baser selves. Psychiatrist Justin Frank of Washington, D.C. holds a similar view, that we have become babies, viewing the world in black and white and Us versus Them.

Opposition to our nation's response — to war, to torture, to degradation, to community-endorsed hatred of Muslims, even to this strange semantic casting of ourselves as The Homeland — means being unpatriotic.

And patriots, as we know through the doublespeaky Patriot Act, willingly give up many of our freedoms in exchange for what we want to think is our comfort and safety. Air traveler with a Middle Eastern kinda name? Sure, haul him away without benefit of a doubt, just so long as I can stop feeling the fear you keep waving in front of me.

You can trace all of this to obvious outcomes, such as a divided, uncompromising Congress, and to the accepted notion now that compromise is bad (when in fact compromise is the nature of action in a representative government).

You can trace it to our economic crisis, to jobs lost at a bewildering rate, to the banks that took our money to stay in business despite being criminally bad at it, to us no longer having the money to teach our children well or keep our bridges up and pay people to do all of that.

Hand in glove, you can trace it to the artless propaganda that divides us. I'm not so naive as to believe propaganda hasn't always bedeviled us, but it used to be sophisticated. Now it's an open wound. Even before an idea rises into public view, haters of that idea create words to kill it and replace it with new ideas that make us afraid.

Propagandists repeat that simple anti-idea ad infinitum until the idea wilts in its dense shadow. So we have "Obamacare," "death panels," and the anti-ideas that President Obama is a "socialist" with designs to ruin this country, that he is Muslim (with the presumption that this is a bad thing), that he is not a citizen, that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, and on and on. Just shouted and bellowed over and over again, without regard to merit, until the shouts and bellows become the new normal.

Tell lies often enough, and they become the truth. 

If not for the path down the rabbit hole that we took after 9/11, we wouldn't have the Tea Party, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Fox News. Hey, you say, those are all right-leaning people and entities! Don't you like right-wingers? Love 'em, actually. We should be a people of diverse ideas working toward the pursuit of happiness. I hate that they exist solely because of the artless propaganda that the fallout from 9/11 made fashionable.

It has begotten the abysmal meanness in which our governments still deny and delay needed medical care to those who suffered from environmental toxins as they rescued the people from the World Trade Center collapse.

I'm looking for signs — glimmers — that we still may truly heal from 9/11/2001. When will the time come that all divisions cease, and our tragedy against ourselves and the world dim in memory.


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