From the days of President Richard Nixon we bring you this infamous line (out of context): “If the president does it, that means that it’s not illegal…” Surreal? Not exactly.
And now? Now, after nearly 43 eventful years, we have a Republican Establishment wanting to shut down the government unless a sitting president chooses NOT to fund a law that the U.S. Congress voted to pass and to fund, and which, to its bitter chagrin, President Barack Obama signed back in 2010.
This, you see, is surreal and this is why the best practice of democracy hinges more upon the good character of its politicians than it does on the majority rules/the minority drools scenario. The latter is an abstraction. “The Yeas have it” can mean anything from “the most ambitious have intimidated the weak-minded” to “the most zealous for the cause of the most vulnerable have been muted again.” And, over and over again, like the samsara-cycle, the House and the Senate reincarnate and reward ambition. A vote is no longer a moral judgment on behalf of one’s constituents. It’s a exercise in gamesmanship and the worst kind coercion; and it’s a little bit like what happens to Piggy, as he holds the conch in The Lord of the Flies.
You might then ask, Is there a good or a legitimate kind of coercion?
And behold! There is!
If, or I should say, when, the government agencies shut down, heap righteous shame upon those who have refused to think beyond the parameters of their own peculiar ideology. That is, cast them into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and their stars fade into oblivion.
We can do this, of course, by allowing them them to go, and not by celebrating in the end zone for too long. Having steeped in the reckless mindlessness of the Tea Party, even pre-schoolers will recognize that some are not playing nicely. And it will be time to renovate and seal the cracks of the Heritage Foundation (and in the skull of Jim DeMint, who resigned from the accountability of public office only to lobby for the elitist monkey-suits in the barrel).
Shame on you, DeMint, for suggesting that the Affordable Health Care Act had not been vetted by the electorate… as if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan had not done their utmost to declare their plans to “Repeal and Replace Obamacare!” For months, prior to the most recent presidential election, that’s all we heard. The spin made us loopy. And yet, in the still point of that whirling rinse, we thought. After going round and round and round again, we thought. And surprise!
Mr. Obama and his administration won our appreciation! And our business for another four years! The people, after thinking and feeling the pain of rising hospital costs, made the informed decision. We wanted this law, and we wanted the United States Congress to honor their funding commitments to this law!
When all is said and done, Surreal, I submit, is probably too good a word for the dynamics afoot on Capital Hill. And I wouldn’t want to smear the names of Salvador Dali or Freda Kahlo. I wouldn’t want to lump in Andre Breton and Penelope Rosemont with the catastrophe that is House Speaker, John Boehner. Surrealism, at least, has an angle on the truth that can subvert the status quo. The art and the poetry of the surrealists have great integrity…
What’s happening among the Republicans, by contrast, isn’t so much surreal as it is bound to breed flies. House flies, as it were. And as those flies feast upon the festering rhetoric of shit-eating grinners like Cruz, the next Richard Nixon is less than a decade away. And no, he won’t be holding the conch. He’ll be the one, leveraging the boulder above our heads!
Why do we think of politics as so important? Could it be that the only real importance it has corresponds to the sincerity we have in caring for one another?
Some argue perhaps that governments don’t care and are not intended to care. Governments are inherently evil and their quagmire of committee hearings and such ought to be severely cut back. Rick Perry wants to eliminate how many departments of the Executive Branch — three (3)? And yet he can’t remember the third? I have that strange feeling that conservatism has thrown out the fetus with the Abortion debate… In other words, capitalist theory plus the good ol’ boys network equals oligarchy. And this “sum” pays less in taxes than the average middle-class citizen because it knows better how to create jobs. And jobs are the best way to improve the quality of life, which involves living in your own home, with your own three-car garage and a swimming pool. And to protect that quality of life, real Americans have a right to bear arms… I’m sorry — to buy into this scheme is madness.
Look at the head of Gabrielle Giffords resting on the shoulder of Barack O’bama. For all of the faults and failures associated with this administrations efforts to act in a non-partisan way — for all the independents who have been disappointed with “Hope & Change” — for all the accusations of this president being aloof and professorial — take another peak at this genuinely beautiful moment.
We could use a few more.
And if we get them, the politics of punditry may give way to the politics which purges the institutions of its cynicism and despair.
Motions from the Floor.
Will the Gentleman Yield His Scruples?
Will the Gentlewoman Kindly Have Her Head Examined?
Will the Super-Committee of Congress Kiss the Collective Ass of All Super-Sized Customers of these United States?
Color me incredulous, but I don’t see how this Debt-Ceiling agreement does anything that hasn’t been done before it. Namely, it perpetuates the partisan nature of debate. It muddies the headwaters from which all clear deliberations might emanate. And, in so many disingenuous ways, the recently passed resolution of Congress opens the door to oligarchic dogmatics ad infinitum.
Michele Glazer, in Metonymic Sonnet, hints at the rhetorical flourishes which are surely coming down the pike:
To the chairman having his way in the chair with the minutes.
To the motion he makes to suspend them.
To a hole in the sky
wide enough to see through.
Let’s sew this up, says the chairman.
To the matter at hand
and the handle he has on it. To the hand he has in it.
And to the secretary, writing it down, taking the minutes.
The chair sits.
His face flushes like a sun gathering color before the sky’s won over and the dark takes hold.
Then moistens. The chair loosens his tie.
To the consummate still life:
the conference table and the water glasses sweating
and the coat tossed over the back of the chair.
The issue, it seems to me, has nothing to do with the principled speeches with which politicians ply their trade. Nor is it with the glad-handing, back-room maneuvering that undoubtedly happens all the time. The issue festers amid the non-reflective use of language. Linguistics. I once heard a lawyer employ the phrase, “communicate to prevail” — which implies an agenda that actually fails to communicate entirely. But the irony is — this very failure then passes for “dialogue.” Authentic conversation may happen among society’s losers, but among the winners an entire universe is manufactured in which they no longer consider their own weaknesses and blind spots.
[“next to of course god america i]
“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gory
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beauty-
flu than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
Cummings, you see, does not abide abstractions. He flouts the big ideas that often keep the powerful in power. He once said, “Think twice before you think.”
And perhaps that’s the only way we have to combat the propaganda that’s soon to be spun on the 24 hour news cycle. We have the poetic and pre-cognitive ways of encountering other people and other things. We have at our disposal the syntax that refuses the sales pitch, the serious play of syllables and the hope that someone will hear even if our grammar ain’t perfect.