I like to think of potholes as our little contribution to the war effort. The money we could have spent filling them is going to support our boys over in Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Czech Republic, Nigeria, Colombia, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, and all those other places where the War With No End In Our Lifetime Against Terrorism is being waged. Our streets might be a little bumpy, but they’re safe, by god, thanks to our brave men and women and contractors. And though I myself can’t lay down my life for my country, being a little long in the tooth and also a little too engaged in other activities, like Pres. W during Vietnam, I’m proud to offer the upkeep of our streets. And I don’t mind if Halliburton and Blackwater and Lockheed Martin directors and shareholders make a few bucks instead of the local paving contractors. The money’s got to go someplace, right?
As I have said, I’m glad I don’t live in the times of the Vandals and the Horde, but like I also said, at least in those days people called a spade a spade. Though I doubt that the spaded ones—the pillaged and the raped—took much consolation in knowing what to call it. These days, in this democratic system of ours, the bosses have to get the victims to consent to being pillaged. Or at least not object too loudly, though lately they seem to care less who squawks or how much.
How do they do it? Well for one thing, they don’t call things by their names. The war for hegemony, for instance, is called The War on Terror. Cutting school funding is called No Child Left Behind. The privatization of the national retirement system is called Social Security reform.
For another thing, the pillage isn’t direct. Bureaucracy and the Federal Reserve Bank have replaced the Mongols’ horses. Not a bad thing—the application of rules and regulations is surely better than brute force—but it’s also a good cover for theft.
And for another, the rape isn’t physical, except in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and over there that’s a war going on, after all, and anyway you know boys will be boys.
I don’t think most people are fooled when Fox News reports that ExxonMobil’s profit margin last year was lower than your corner grocery’s. But people must not be seeing beyond their initial skepticism. They can’t be putting the pieces together. Do they see the pieces? Do they even imagine there’s a picture to be seen? What happened to critical thinking in America? Certainly they’re not asking questions. Look—I’m an American; I can’t help comparing the Europeans I know, the Iranians, the Arab Middle-easterners—they ask questions. At least, they ask each other; some places, understood, you shut up before you get arrested. Here in America nobody asks.
(Though I do know a couple Americans who asked too often, or the wrong things, and ended up in jail here—my son, my daughter, my ex-wife, my dad. Okay, they did more than ask: They asked while standing with some other people on a sidewalk, or in a parking lot, or walking across a bridge. They thought there was something in the Constitution that gave them the right to assemble and the freedom to ask. Well, there is. But that part isn’t operative everywhere nowadays. Live and learn.)
You ask questions when you don’t understand something. One reason you may not understand is that something is being obfuscated. In that case, a question may make people notice that the truth isn’t being spoken, that there is dissimulation, lack of frankness, outright lie. Bosses don’t like questions and suppress them one way or another.
But generally, nobody asks. Why? Here’s a probably over-simplified suggestion: Americans believe in individualism and capitalism, and that each person can develop his talents, be the best she can be, be what you want to be, or, to boil it down to what really counts, get rich. Every two-bit Cadillac dealer in Middle America thinks he can get the franchise for the whole state and get rich—if the god damned regulators would get off the businessman’s back and give him a fighting chance. So to preserve his chance he votes against his day-to-day well-being. Give me riches or give me death!—well, give me crappy schools, but give me a shot at the lottery.
And for people capable of thinking past their own noses, the intellectuals in this country lead whatever debate there is along a narrow path. Questions are reasonable only if they remain within well-defined—though not necessarily overtly stated—bounds, and only reasonable questions are allowed. But this is well known. Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote a good book about it, Manufacturing Consent. We all know this.
This being an election year, the manufacturers are spinning away. Have you noticed? Have you noticed the false choices being offered? Democrat/Republican. Continued presence/endless war. Obama/McCain. Flip a coin—whichever side comes up, it’s still the same coin. What about off the coin? Why aren’t the media, even the so-called progressive media, reporting on Cynthia McKinney, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Lyndon LaRouche, Ralph Nader? I only ask. —And of course you’ve noticed. You’re Iranians. You grew up skeptical.
Actually maybe Americans do vote more for their real interests than it appears. Maybe the outcome of the last couple of presidential elections wasn’t what most voters had voted for. But that couldn’t happen here, where we all know elections are free and fair, and sons don’t inherit their fathers’ offices.
Sorry, everybody. I don’t mean to run down my favorite country, the place of my birth and tabernacle of my heart. Sometimes fantasy carries me off when I irresponsibly skip my meds. Or maybe it’s my subversive Iranian wife. I don’t know.
I just want to say that I’m proud to drive over potholes and thank you for joining me.
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