“Announcement: The oppression will continue until morale improves.”
If you recall those heady, sweat-soaked months after 9/11, when America couldn’t decide if it was a rabid pit-bull with a belly full of rage, or an overly abused Harbor Seal in need of round-the-clock maximum-security protection, the mantra was: “If you don’t travel, the terrorists win.”
“If you don’t watch football, the terrorists win.”
“If you don’t go out and spend money at the malls for Christmas, the terrorists win.”
And so, we did all those things.
But a funny thing has happened. Despite our unchecked gluttony and relentless observation of the color-coded Terror Threat Level: the terrorists won. America still stands and we can still kick most other country’s asses with “shock and awe” and twenty-four hour embedded media coverage. But the things that Americans value have been napalmed: freedom, safety, and personal wealth. While the mega-rich are not much worse off than they were in 2001, most everyone else on these shores sees a very different America. Many are looking at life through shit-colored glasses, at one level of their existence or another.
Going to a US airport is like going through the Brandenburg Gate in 1965. Bills like the Patriot Act introduce the very real specter of Gestapo-like law enforcement; and if you watched the November raid on Occupy in Los Angeles, it was tempting to wonder where the Brownshirts were. America now detains it’s suspected enemies in double-secret camps. And civil rights have been under constant and violent rectal assault ever since the power-mad swine were able to convince the public that “we were at war” and that America is now a “battleground.”
Speaking of which … hey, shitheads, Khe Sanh was a battleground. So was Guadalcanal, Omaha Beach, and Belleau Wood. What we got here in 2011 is not a battleground. You want to talk about a country that actually is a battleground from border-to-border, try looking at Afghanistan. They’ve been at war since 1978. And I don’t think Washington, DC looks quite as fucked up as downtown Kabul.
Yes, all this was done for our protection. They preyed on our innate reactionary nature – the very nature that usually brings out the best in Americans, which gets us to fight for the underdog and the oppressed. They preyed on that to throw battery acid in the face of Freedom and erode our civil rights. To gain more control. More power. More money.
They also used it to play the Victim Card and sent tens of thousands of jobs overseas. The economy was so messed up in the post-9/11 world, what choice did the good-hearted multinational corporations have? They had a responsibility to their shareholders! Ho ho, they’re the “job creators,” they must be protected. But that massive outsourcing was the beginning of the end. Now there are fewer people with jobs, so, fewer people paying taxes. But the national debt keeps going up, and the corporations have their lobbyists so far up Washington’s ass that most members of Congress should be carrying colostomy bags in their briefcases. So you can bet that the tax shortfall won’t be paid by GE or Exxon. You get what you pay for, and all sales are final. The nut will have to be paid by what’s left of the middle class. The percentage that still have jobs and homes. For now. “No Taxation Without Representation!” … how droll.
By “they” of course I mean “us.” Or at least that slim percentage of “us” that runs everything. The people who have bought Congress and the media. The people whose corporations get multi-billion-dollar tax rebates for sending jobs overseas. The people who think nothing of foreclosing on people’s homes, much less making them homeless. The people who actually make the rules.
And following those rules ensures nothing in this country anymore. One mistake, one mishap, and the banks own your ass for good, one way or another. That “better life” quickly turns into 21st century serfdom. Credit Rating Uber Alles. It’s a crock and we all know it. Even the people doing well know it’s a crock, somewhere deep in their reptilian brains. That part of the brain thats hardwired and keeps a man from sticking his dick in a Cuisinart. Yes, the game is rigged. You’re either a “player” or a “pawn.” And if your reaction to Occupy is “get a job,” then you aren’t a “player” either. The only jobs the real players only care about the ones they need filled, and screw everyone and everything else. Human suffering has no cash value, save for maybe boosting the ratings on the 24-hour news channel they own.
Which brings us to Occupy.
This gritty little movement is the only force on these shores which is trying to undo the damage that the last decade of fear and greed have wrought. What the terrorists opened the door to. While Occupy’s message may appear fuzzy at times, there are a few principles which are razor sharp: Economic equality. The rights of man over the mission statements of corporations. True representative democracy. Accountability.
And if those things sound vaguely familiar, it’s only because they are encapsulated in the documents that the Founding Fathers scribbled out 230 or so years ago. “We hold these truths to be self-evident” is the 1776 way of saying “No shit, Sherlock” and it didn’t go over well with King George. He sent Red Coats and Hessians; the current oligarchy sends riot police, DHS, and private security squads. Same shit, different century. At least KG3 ran a global empire pretty efficiently, the current administration just declared pizza to be a vegetable.
Occupy is not saying that America sucks. It’s values are completely pro-American, if you go by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It’s simply saying that the mechanics of how this country runs need to be knocked back to where they belong. Back to where they started, and where they were intended to go. If George Washington came back to life and spent a day with Congress, and a day with Occupy, which group do you think he’d end up hanging out with? Exactly.
Getting behind a movement led by a shaggy bunch of high-thinkers, military vets, and wild-eyed enthusiasts is a scary thing. Especially in an Age of Fear. It was tough back in the 1770’s too. Ben Franklin is held in high esteem now, but back then, when this country was finding it’s way, he was probably just “that weird guy with the kites.” The Boston Tea Party was kind of the 18th century precursor to Occupy. All it really did was inconvenience the Brits. But their tyrannical reaction led to the First Continental Congress – and ultimately the Revolutionary War.
Occupy is bringing things to light, the pigs can’t hide in the tunnel quite so easily anymore. Even their control over the media is slipping. Brigades of live-streaming citizen journalists have rendered CNN and their ilk virtually obsolete in a little more than sixty days. Screw “The Situation Room”; and screw “Fair & Balanced” as well. This is Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” on a global scale with instant-on delivery and no filter. Jam that Cat-5 cable right into the cerebellum and let the Hive Mind flood in and wash the Dumb away. Pixels don’t have any politics; they can’t tell truth from lies; they only know data. I am part of a generation who grew up with the Vietnam Nam War and “Kent State” and the gangrenous visage of Nixon The Doomed piped into our living rooms. Seeing the truth didn’t do us any harm, short of shattering a few illusions. So I’m pretty sure that what the Occupy video streams show won’t do any irreparable synaptic damage.
Back to terrorism.
Let’s be real about this subject. Terrorism has been a fact of life ever since the concept of an “empire” existed, and probably before. No doubt some disgruntled caveman somewhere along the way took a piss in a rival tribe’s watering hole. When the Thirteen Colonies decided that they’d had enough of being the property of The Crown, they responded in a way which, to the British, was considered “terrorism.” The Colonials didn’t fight fair. But it is the way a society responds to terrorism that is a reflection of it’s moral strength; it’s ability to withstand attacks on it’s people and it’s values and not surrender those values to the threat. So far, we haven’t been doing too well at that. And, sadly, most of the harm has been done by the people residing in the capitol.
For America to regain it’s true greatness – not so much power, but Greatness – the principles upon which it was founded must be restored from where ever the Department of Homeland Security stashed them. Probably in the same bunker where Dick Cheney used to hide out, getting pressurized blood transfusions and watching razor-beaked Cockatoos fight to the death and scream, in Arabic, for his amusement. We must refresh the rights and the opportunities which drew people to this country for over two hundred years. We were that distant speck of light on the horizon which offered safety and the chance for a better life. Now that speck is more of a mirage. The American Dream has been reduced to “Money Porn”.
Occupy’s message is really just that. Get back to what we stand for as Americans. As citizens of the earth. As the guardians and caretakers of liberty. Can there be a better way to tell those who despise our freedom, expansiveness, and basic humanity that they’ve lost and always will lose? That no matter what they think of us, or how barbarically they behave, they can’t take away or disrupt what this country has always stood for and fought for. That they cannot turn us into a police state, or a nation ruled by – and through – fear and uncertainty. Is that not defeating the true essence of terrorism?
Is there a higher chance of a terrorist attack if we let our guard down a little? Sure. But is a marginal increase in safety worth what it is costing us as a people? I don’t want to be blown up by some nut-case with exploding shoes any more than the next guy. But people die and that’s life – people die from cancer every day and we’re used to it – tens of thousands die from alcohol every year and we’re used to it. And I remain confident that the U.S. Armed Forces will tear whatever terrorists do manage to attack American soil enough new assholes that when the wind kicks up you’ll hear the “1812 Overture” whistling through their scattered remains.
Besides, when was the last time you heard a Presidential candidate speak up for the civil rights of Americans in a way that sounded even slightly convincing? They’re plenty gung-ho about how other countries behave, but other than vapid references to the “Founding Fathers” in campaign speeches, there isn’t much commitment shown for how our own citizens are treated by “our” government. Elections are all about “us against them,” so the last thing you want to bring up is the rights of “them.” Expecting someone in the White House to lead us back to Greatness is about as likely as JFK rising from the dead.
And if the Powers That Be manage to stifle Occupy, then, my friends, we are all well and truly fucked. Al-Qaeda’s victory will be complete. Forget your rights, forget a level playing field, forget about going to an airport and not seeing SWAT on station and frisking anyone with a deep tan, and forget about retiring … ever. The terrorist plot to destroy America as an oasis of freedom and hope will have succeeded. And we will be left to roam a blighted wasteland of blinding despair and cringing, diarrhetic fear for the next forty years.
(Cartoons by Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe)