A Word To My Readers
Since last week’s presidential election, so very many of you have written asking, demanding, threatening, that you might inspire one of my intemperate rants, in this your prolonged hour of need. To you dear readers I say this. I am humbled. I appreciate your interest in my scribblings more than you can know. Yet I’ve let you down. I apologize first and sincerely to those who’ve heard their own voice through mine, and whom I’ve failed with my recent silence. I must apologize as well to those of you who disdain of my every syllable, yet read on only that you may offer your outraged, but too-often philosophically bankrupt retort. To you my dear detractors I stand indebted. Your empty words powerfully validate the truth I strive for in my own. For this I thank you.
Lord knows I’ve tried to put word to paper many times since Election Day. But punching the keyboard with a clenched fist has yielded little of coherent value, so I’ve refrained from writing and turned instead to friends, the many distractions of Southern California, and just enough drink to dull whatever senses refused to capitulate.
But today dawns anew. Like Bush, I’ve stopped drinking. But done so secure in the knowledge that life in my blue state is well worth the post-election nausea so prevalent in this and other tolerant parts of America. Also like Bush, I’ve driven my friends away and wasted my financial reserves on nothing of substance. So there’s little left to do but write. From my window, dawn’s early light bathes the Hollywood Hills. Once more I hear the word-processor’s siren call. Sitting at my desk, I reach first, not for the cup of morning coffee steaming to my right, nor do I touch the battered keyboard before me. Instead the somehow-empty Jack Daniels bottle beside it has my attention. I retrieve one of my wife’s long candles from the desk drawer and stick it into the bottle’s open neck. I light that candle and promise myself that I will complete an essay before it burns out.
Whatever proceeds herewith is the result of that unholy union of man and machine and candle. I promise you an angry reflection on a kind of paradise lost. But I promise nothing more. Whatever the following turns out to be, I am sure of this. It will appeal neither to the complacent nor to any other form of jackass who was party to, or is willing to silently tolerate the tyranny-of-the-majority our countrymen have wrought upon our founders’ magnificent dream for America and the aspirations of the world at large.
I will begin by harking back to what seems a long time ago in an America far far away. We may thus evaluate our strange president’s performance and our countrymen’s equally strange response to four years of it, but I’ll do so with an objective if not righteous rage. The simpletons may have won their "moral" victory on Tuesday, but they will fare no better than we when its implications become evident even to them.
Since I always give my essays a title, and launch them with a quote, this time I’ve decided to borrow both opening title and quote from the same source, the brilliant American novelist John Kennedy Toole. With apologies to you, too, Mr. Toole, here goes.
"Our first step will be to elect one of their number to a very high office – the presidency."-- John Kennedy Toole.
-A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES-
Pretend it’s 2001 again. George W. Bush has lost the election and been inaugurated as President of the United States. Rational thought is dealt a mighty blow.
To Bush it matters but little. He believes he is a president selected by God, not man, thus justifying his invalid electoral victory to himself and any other credulous morons predisposed toward his worldview. Except for that vicarious quirk, and except for spending more time on vacation than any American president before him, and except for completely ignoring his reviled predecessor’s warnings that the greatest threat to national security was that embodied by a Saudi Arabian named Osama bin Laden, Bush’s first seven months in office prove as unexceptional as the man himself.
Then, on March 13th as if to validate his ever-more-apparent detachment from reality, the new president responds to questions from White House reporters by characterizing that same Osama bin Laden as someone "I truly am not concerned about." Truly? How frequently this ventriloquist’s dummy of a president and his handlers would use that word in the ensuing three years. How rarely would they truly practice its attributes. Shortly after this revealing insight, Mr. President Bush boarded a plane for Crawford, TX and more vacation. God’s work it seemed was manifest in his self-appointed vicar as contiguous irresponsible rural leisure. Bush sought the presidency it seems, so he could escape the cares of the world… an early sign of the irrationality to come.
On September 11th of that same year, another misguided man of destiny, an Egyptian whose Saudi Arabian passport named as Mohamed Atta boarded a plane for a very different purpose than that of blissful malingering. This jerk, too, believed he was on a mission from God as his plane departed Portland, Maine bound for Boston. But his would prove a far more demanding god than that which guided Mr. Bush’s actions – or more accurately, Bush’s inactions up to that point. For Atta’s otherwise routine pre-dawn odyssey would begin a series of events destined to alter history and expose Americans as the confused, quick to frighten, simple-minded reactionaries most of our countrymen are. It would also lead to an indiscriminate, meaningless, unparalleled, and continuing slaughter of innocents by those quick to blame any god they choose but the demon-god within themselves.
Later on that fateful morning, Atta and his Saudi Arabian traveling companion Abdulaziz Alomari would join three other whackos aboard yet another plane, American Airlines Flight #11.
Notwithstanding these five men, American flight #11’s passenger manifest was rife with the names of Americans. Nearly all, we would learn, called Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and California home.
At 7:59 a.m. Flight #11 takes off from Boston ostensibly bound for Los Angeles. Unknown to any but five of its occupants it is the flagship of an invading armada the likes of which the world has never seen. The armada’s supreme commander – though not aboard - is also a Saudi. His name then, now, and when it was offered for Bush’s arrogant disregard by William Jefferson Clinton eight months earlier, is Osama bin Laden.
From somewhere half a world and two millennia distant, bin Laden has dispatched 19 of his faithful to do his terrible bidding on this day. He has dispatched them to die that they may kill several more. Of them all, only one name, that of Mohamed Atta, will be remembered. Mohamed Atta, riding his doomed flagship, is the armada’s admiral. And though the intervening years have proven ours a society that obediently forgets whatever we’re told to forget by our uncritically accepted leaders, Atta’s name, and that of his still at large supreme commander will be burned into our memories… forever branded on our psyches by the events of that horrific morning. The horrors will be kept top of mind among most of our countrymen by a constant reinforcement, a deliberate screed, spewing from a heretic’s pulpit in order that his own idols may control the childlike minds of so many in post-September-11th America, those millions unwilling to think for themselves.
A few minutes later, at 8:14 a.m. of that nightmarish September morn, United Airlines Flight #175 takes of from Boston’s Logan Airport bound for San Francisco. As with American Flight #11 the majority of its passengers are Americans. Most call the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, or California home. But along with these Americans, the doomed flight carries passengers from the states of Oregon and Washington. It carries, too, its own contingent of Arabian pirates.
A few minutes later still, at 8:20 a.m., American Airlines Flight #77 takes off from Washington Dulles Airport in Maryland. Like United #11, it is bound for Los Angeles, California. Like United #11 it will never reach its destination. Most of its passengers are Americans. The majority are from Washington, D.C; Baltimore, Maryland; Arlington and Fairfax, Virginia, and Los Angeles, California. It too carries the murderous seeds of its own destruction.
At 8:42 a.m. United Airlines Flight #93 departs Liberty Airport in Newark, New Jersey bound for San Francisco, California. Four more nameless men ride the aircraft, along with her legitimate passengers. As with all four flights, most of United 93’s passengers are Americans. The overwhelming majority of those aboard the plane are people from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California.
At 8:13a.m. American Airlines Flight #11 is hijacked by Mohamed Atta and his men.
Call them pirates, terrorists, murderers, lunatics, call them whatever you care to call them. But do not call them Iraqis. For that is not what they are. Every man is either Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, or Jordanian. None are Iraqi. None.
Ignorant of all but the most fundamental aerodynamic principles, Atta accelerates the jet to 460 knots and descends to the deck. Speeding through the mantle of thick surface air, this machine, a thing more at home at the edge of space than near the ground, is abused.
Driven outside its low altitude performance envelope, the big jet’s wings and fuselage are heated by friction and stressed toward structural failure. Yet the overbuilt American machine holds. It stays together long enough for its hijackers to crash the speeding jet into the north tower of the buildings known as The World Trade Center in New York City. The crash instantly kills the hijackers and all 86 innocents aboard. It is 8:47a.m.
In the long-ago words of historian Page Smith, A New Age Now Begins.
At 9:03a.m. the growing chorus of human screams rising from Manhattan island is joined momentarily by a somehow familiar, somehow more terrible solitary mechanical scream from above. It is that of United #175 hurtling toward the World Trade Center’s south tower. The screaming culminates in a sound once described by the greatest of all aviation authors, Antoine Du St. Exupery as that unmistakable "vulgar horse-bark." United #175 has crashed headlong into the south tower killing all 65 aboard.
It strikes lower than did the first identical airplane strike the other identical tower. Its force sublimates those in its path and traps countless more above the flaming breach. This point of impact also places more of the building’s weight, more of its floors, above the rapidly heating and twisted iron truss work that supports the ironically airplane-like, monocoque structure of the uniquely-designed building.
At 9:30 a.m. George W. Bush makes a statement from the Emma Booker elementary school in Florida. The free-world’s new leader says, "We will chase down those folks who committed this act." Not exactly FDR’s Day Of Infamy statement, and by no means Winston Churchill’s inspirational Never So Few, but it would have to sustain us for the remainder of that morning when our country was attacked. For after his homey, and ultimately false promise, and with no evidence yet that either he or any federal government facilities were targeted, the new president simply disappears.
At 9:38a.m. American Airlines Flight #77 dives into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. killing all 64 aboard and 125 in the building. Disbelief yields to panic. Apparently "those folks" were not deterred by the cowboy’s rhetoric.
Back in L.A. my phone rings. My sister-in-law, frantic, tells me her son John with whom I’d spent the previous five days, my only nephew is in the South Tower. He works there. I’d forgotten. My wife awakens to the phone: "Who’s calling at this hour." We had returned home to California the previous day. John had dropped us at Newark Airport. I tell my anxious wife it’s her sister on the phone. I need tell her nothing more. She’s already looking at the TV screen. It’s 6:59 a.m. in Los Angeles, 9:59 a.m. in New York. I know that because, with my wife standing beside me, and her sister’s voice suddenly screaming from the phone, the south tower of the World Trade Center collapses before our eyes. Anxiety, disbelief, confusion, all of it suddenly yields to nausea.
At 10:10 a.m. United Airlines Flight #93 slams into a field in Pennsylvania killing all 44 aboard.
At 10:28 a.m. the World Trade Center’s north tower collapses to the ground.
When it’s over 2645 more people will die in the doomed towers raising the death toll to a staggering 3016 not counting the 19 hijackers.
For the next several hours we hear much from New York, much from Washington, much from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California. It becomes clear that our nation has been attacked. But the messages come from newscasters, from Army generals, from anxious relatives waiting in Los Angeles and San Francisco for flights that never arrive. Finally we hear from the government. The Mayor of New York City has taken charge. Yet we hear nothing from our nation’s president. Who were the "folks" that attacked us? Where is Bush?
We do not know it yet, but George W. Bush is running for cover. He is taking orders from whomever is willing to give them. And there are plenty willing to give them. He is following. He is not leading. He is not FDR. He is not Winny. He is only W. And W is aWol again. He runs first to Louisiana. He runs then to a bunker under Nebraska. The nation be damned, Bush’s handlers are protecting their golden goose. Their dream of a new Pearl Harbor has just come true, and W is their willing key to wealth and power never before imagined. He will be kept safe in the red belly of America. He will be kept safe that he may return to loot his own people and use our money to kill more innocents still, more women, more children. More and more and more, and how many more we do not know even to this very bloody day.
Nine hours later. Nine hours later! Nine hours later George W. Bush emerges from his hole in Nebraska and returns to Washington.
Four days later still, he visits New York City. Four days! He stands upon the smoking heap of dead flesh and bone, and from this pulpit in Hell he lies to us all, and somehow, somehow he is a hero! Deserter, drunk, DUI, cokehead, liar, stock swindler, executioner, absentee president, hero. Not exactly the road most heroes follow, but of all these allegations - each and every one of them based upon more evidence than is "hero" - it is hero and hero alone that sticks.
America’s prolonged national descent into psychotic stupidity began with that single improbable conclusion: George W. Bush is our hero.
He promises New York City $20 billion for recovery. He never delivers on the promise.1 He does come across with $13 billion, but only after cutting the city’s existing federal subsidy for police and firefighters. Police and Firefighters! New Yorkers will remember this lie as he gives $200 billion to Halliburton, and Bechtel, and WorldCom, and Enron, and Brown & Root, and weapons companies owned by his father’s Carlisle Group. Another $500 billion evaporates without explanation other than blaming it on a recession he pins on Bill Clinton. The madman’s policies plunge the nation into its deepest deficit and debt ever while he grants the top 2% of earners - people like me, thank you - a tax cut we do not need. And all the while New York City waits for its billions that will never come. In the final tally, New York is allocated less per capita than Wyoming for homeland security, and all the while the actual recovery and security estimates for the city alone as the world’s number one terrorist target climb to a staggering $65 billion.
Instead of help, Bush gives New York what his handlers tell him its people really want: maniacal retaliation against innocent people who happen to dress like and look like the terrorists who attacked New York on September 11th.
Executing a plan formulated to its last detail, and left on his desk by the reviled Clinton Administration, Bush orders an attack on Afghanistan – a place most Americans cannot point to on a map.2 In a short period our soldiers rout out the selected enemy: the Taliban, a group of screwballs that the president’s own father created in order to harass the Russians so his pals might build a pipeline across the country. Like most Bush family plans – such as bankrolling Adolph Hitler - it failed. But it did leave the Taliban in charge of Afghanistan, and left Osama bin Laden a friendly place to stay while his family bankrolled Dubya’s failed businesses in Texas.
After drenching Afghanistan in American blood and treasure, the second Bush Administration installs a puppet regime there, leaves the place in a worse shambles than before the attack, and abandons it to the Taliban again. Afghanistan quickly becomes the world’s largest source of brown heroine and blue burkhas.
His work now finished there, and with his daddy’s pipeline plans back on both Enron’s and Halliburton’s to-do lists, Bush looks beyond Afghanistan.3 Somehow, what he sees is Iraq. He sees Iraq despite that not a shred of evidence links that country, its people, or its secular Bathist government to the Islamic fundamentalist of al Qaida or the Taliban.
But, so what? Did Hitler need an excuse to invade Poland? Did Vlad Tepes (Dracula) ask permission before impaling all those Turks? C’mon. Get real. Might makes right. Bush, after all, has better weapons than anybody. And, Iraq has more oil under it than all the kielbasa presses in Warsaw. So let’s rock! We’re America!
So far we’ve spent $200,000,000.00 in Iraq, and done nothing but alienate the world and kill about 35,000 innocent people, mostly women and children. Attacking Iraq in retribution for 9/11 (or whatever the Bush faithful are being offered as this week’s excuse) is the logical equivalent of invading Mexico to get even for Pearl Harbor. But Bush did just that. And, thanks to 59 million American fools who believe whatever he and his media stooges tell them, Bush can now continue to do more of just that on our nickel and the blood of our young.
Need more persuading. Okay. On September 17, 2003 George W. Bush conceded that an investigation unparalled in our history concluded that no link whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of 9/11 ever existed. But Bush also said he personally believed that there was such a link. He gave no basis for his conclusion. Two days later a survey published by the Dallas Morning News found that 82% of Americans still believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in helping Osama bin Laden attack the U.S. on September 11th. That is a higher percentage than before the investigation. Nuff said.
Enough said about September 11th. Enough said about foreign policy. What has Bush accomplished domestically?
Bush inherited a $260 billion dollar surplus when he took office from the reviled Bill Clinton. That could have become a trillion dollar surplus next year. It would have paid for Social Security forever and still grown. As such, it could have paid for many things forever. It could have given us an irreversible lead in blastocystic stem cell research that would have gifted this country in wellness and treasure beyond a sultan’s wildest dreams. Instead, thanks to Bush, we are left with a $7 trillion dollar debt, and an insane $500 billion annual deficit that will balloon the debt out of reach by the time Bush retires his office, thus completing the collapse of our economy and our children’s hopes for a life equal in quality to our own. Where will we get the money to pay this annual bill? We won’t. It will be left to our children to deal with. Where will our children get this money? Their government will be forced to empty America’s banks, forcing interest rates through the roof again. 14% 15% More? Their government will attempt to sell bonds that foreign investors will look at very differently than they did when we could pay our bills. 16% 17% More? Our children’s government will be forced to borrow trillions from economically solvent countries like China which, fat with the manufacturing it’s inherited from the Midwest, will be happy to lend us money. They’re our new best friends aren’t they? 18% 19% More? Or will we simply conquer the entire Middle East over the next four years, country by country, oil field by oil field, until we’ve plundered and killed and pumped enough to pay our own impossible bills? This is the only viable alternative left us under Bush. Isn’t this the guy they touted as The Businessman President?
On the domestic topic of Social Security, Bush wants to partially "privatize" it. Yippee! The prospect has Wall Street understandably orgasmic. Just think, trillions of previously untouchable public dollars would flood into their hands straight from the paychecks of naïve investors. Bush’s last articulated plan would divert $1.1 trillion into private funds over the next decade. This makes the economists on cable TV, and anyone else who doesn’t know anything about money, very happy. But neither Bush nor his advisors have mentioned that Social Security is not an annuity. When money is deducted from your pay for Social Security, the government is not investing it for your retirement. Your deductions are funding those already retired, just as your children will fund yours during their working years. Just as their children will fund theirs. That’s how it works. It’s the deal we’ve made and fulfilled for our parents just as they fulfilled it for theirs. Again, Social Security is not an annuity as the Bush Administration would have you believe. It is a tax and benefits system. Simply stated, that means that if our fiscally responsible government gives... I mean, invests about a one-sixth share (their last stated plan) of today’s Social Security revenue in Wall Street schemes, today’s and tomorrow’s retirees will get none of it and it will destroy the surplus being built to fund the baby boomer generation which begins retiring in three years. Unless about half of us boomers die before reaching 65, the system collapses. As it stands now, and with no explanation of details forthcoming, there will be a 30 year reduction or complete interruption of benefits until the system proposed by Bush catches up with the current trust fund and refills the coffers. That is incomprehensibly evil. It is fraud promulgated against the most vulnerable among us. It is akin to a shark eating its parents, its children, and ultimately itself. But it is Bush policy. It also leaves us but two conclusions. Bush either does not understand the system, or he’s a crook. Which of those traits do 59 million Americans find so attractive in a president?
Words fail me.
On the environmental front this administration is permitting their backers to foul our own nests as though we were so many gorillas. Our children will die younger with every breath they take of the poison our ignorance and greed is allowing to be pumped into our finite air and water. Just like the depleted oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, there is just so much air and water on the planet. When it’s gone we cannot make any more. We are warming the oceans and the mantle of atmosphere at a rate never before risked. If Antarctica’s Ross Ice shelf, which has already cracked from temperature rise, breaks away it will be unstoppable even by Bruce Willis. It will drift ever northward and melt, flooding our coastal cities, cooling the mid-Atlantic flow, and putting the now prevailing theories of sudden climate change – step-function climate change - to the most terrible empirical test imaginable. Why is this being allowed to happen?
Simple. It is Bush policy.
The states most substantively affected by the events of 9/11, last week voted for John Kerry.4 That’s because they’ve endured four years of being double-crossed by Bush and his henchmen while simultaneously being used as an excuse to plunder and kill at their whim. Of the 2966 Americans killed on September 11th, 2840 came from states that went for John Kerry on Tuesday. Another 45 came from red state precincts that went blue. They were the victims who got promises and little else. They’ve learned about Bush the hard way. Most of the country was not involved in 9/11 beyond being frightened and exploited out of their collective wits by its memory. Now its middle-America’s turn to be double-crossed by the gaggle of criminals to whom their voters have returned our staggering nation.
While their parents cringe in terror, the red states’ children are already being ground up on the war machine’s gears out of all proportion to the blues. For what? This is a war from which only Bush’s cronies can profit. Yet how many more of the rural and impoverished young will these Americans sacrifice on their altar of heresy, false patriotism, naiveté, and fear? An incredible 31 young soldiers died this weekend alone in the taking of Falluja. Why did we take Falluja? Why are we still killing Iraqi civilians? Is Osama in Falluja? Is he in Iraq? Is Osama bin Laden hiding in Iraq and secretly gathering gangs of homosexual Muslims, marrying them, and teaching them to crash planes filled with fetuses into American trailer parks? That’s gotta be it. What else fits?
There’s nothing funny about our abdication of reason and moral courage. Nothing.
How many more red state workers will lose manufacturing jobs thanks to their president’s $79 billion in new annual tax breaks for his corporate buddies who take their factories out of the South and Midwest so they can open better ones in slave-labor countries. Bush has given his backers hundreds of billions in incentives already – hundreds of billions - to take jobs to places like American Samoa. Places where Bush’s corporate backers can use slave labor, but affix "Made In USA" labels to their junk before selling it to the same poor rubes in red state Wal Marts whose jobs they’ve taken away. Maybe – like their already double-crossed blue state predecessors - they’ll learn this in the next four years. Then again, maybe they won’t.
Our country was attacked, and attacked on Bush’s watch. No one can deny that. We were attacked by a madman who claimed that he will destroy America the way he destroyed Russia: economically through unwinnable wars. He is succeeding. But he is not succeeding alone. He has an ally. An enemy stronger than any our nation has ever faced. It is the enemy within ourselves. The destruction of our economic equity is but one American capitulation to fear. It is tragic, but survivable. The destruction of our values is not. The bobble-heads of TV news tell us that on Tuesday our countrymen voted their values. For once the bobble-heads are correct. Our nation’s voters rejected the values of courage, intellect, reason, personal freedom, and unity. These are American values. Marriage, religion, and issues of sexuality derive from personal values. They are not a president’s business, nor should they be a voter’s. America was founded to tolerate personal values. Instead we’ve capitulated to fear, to ignorance, to greed, to hatred, to suppression, to aggression and to wanton destruction. Nothing could be less American.
The credulous product of five decades of therapied neuroses and media-fed propaganda, our countrymen have become as a herd of cattle, uncritical in their thinking, easily stampeded by little more than their own stupidity, ignorance, and terror. America, and most of her people have presented and endorsed a nation wide behavior that remains nothing less than a profound disgrace to what we once were as a people, and will never be again in the eyes of the rest of humankind. Such behavior by our countrymen and those of their avaricious, manipulative, and patently dishonest leaders have subjected the remainder of us to the wrath, disdain, disrespect and laughter of an ever-more-rational, civilized, secular, educated, and anti-American world, this island, Earth.
It is said that insects, some of the dumbest critters afoot, get smarter when they swarm. All their tiny brains work together and they behave as one. They reason and endeavor collectively to thwart any threats to their future survival. It’s known as Aggregate or Societal Intellect. It is a trait apparently lacking in humans… at least among American humans. We swarmed last week. About 110 million of us swarmed to the ballot boxes. We swarmed like never before and decided our society’s future survival. We did so collectively. We did not get smarter. We dumbed down. We dumbed way down.
Dom Stasi, an engineer, is Chief Technology Officer for an international media network. A pilot, Air Force veteran, and former member of the Project Apollo technical team, he is also a widely published science and technology writer. A father of two, Mr. Stasi lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 38 years.