vendredi 10 octobre 2008

Others crossed the Umbridge to Nowhere before I

I am a little embarrassed about this post (Dolores Palin, Sarah Umbridge) because somehow I had no idea others (including, it seems, although I can't find any video online to prove it, besides his mentioning the name of Dolores Umbridge yesterday, Keith Olbermann) had also thought of the Umbridge/Palin parallel way back in the first week of September. Just Google "sarah palin dolores umbridge" and start reading. It's okay, though, because I am merely chronicling now for myself. You are welcome to read along.

As (you pick the adjective) as Sarah Palin is, it shocked me more that a political party thought she is a politically viable choice to advance their ticket to govern The United States of America.

It said to me how very, very far things have gone, and how very, very closely reality can resemble the invented world of stories because -- well-written or not, sophisticated or simple, for children or adults, literature or pulp for the grand public -- they tell the story of the human heart, and it's not always a Hallmark Valentine.

I thought if Palin sounds so very much like Dolores Umbridge, then who is John McCain. Voldemort was the easy answer, but it didn't fit because he is not the source, he is not the one they serve. He is a servant in the system of emptiness and evil. He is not a mastermind. He is the interesting character, in a way. His was a special brand of snake oil. Someone recently said that maybe his truest desire is to destroy, the Republican party by failing, to smash it to bits. If that is true, why? Did he or did he not serve it? Did he or did he not act as they did? Almost everything you can think of to say about his claims can be turned upside down and inside out when you do a little digging, from earmarks, to lobbyists to service. How much of John McCain was a projection of what John McCain wished and not what John McCain would, much less did. No, he's not Voldemort.

I reserved that for Rove. Rove has been acting in the Republican political establishment since his college days. I don't know Rove as a child. I don't know the inside of his heart and mind, but I do know that he was born politically in the midst of Watergate, from the inside the Nixon machine. I cam across the footage from the CBS Evening News that is in the middle of the page. Be patient. You will see him, not yet bloated. He is a subject for the biographers.

While Keith Olbermann is comparing Palin to Addie Polk, the 90-year-old who shot herself in the chest when they tried to evict her from her Akron home after her mortgage was foreclosed after 38 years, saying that both are caught up in something bigger than they are, over their heads,
"In much the same way we, America, in the corporate persona of Fannie Mae, have forgiven poor Addie Polk of Akron, Ohio, we, America, also need to forgive poor Sarah Palin of Wasilla, Alaska. They are both in situations that are beyond their ability to cope, they are both stuck in a crucible caused by forces they cannot comprehend, they are both unable to understand what they are doing."
He's right. We do not need so much to be afraid of telegenic, winkin', Golly-gee-whillikers Sarah Palin; there are tens of thousands of her out there. We need to face who put her there, who picked her out of a crowd of Sarah Palins and made her the TV face for their social and economic political agenda. The difficulty, it seems to me, is that in reality, there is not one villain, there is not one Voldemort with his helpers that the hero and his helpers can confront and eliminate. In fact, literature even seems to recognize that one story told is prelude to others to come. That is the way it is.

My early education taught me, inadvertently, I imagine now, to believe that the US having defeated the uber-villain, who did monstrous things through his rise to power in Germany, was the great hero. That evil vanquished was vanquished. That humans everywhere had to understand this as an aberration of the human spirit that could not happen again. I now believe that it is as universal and present as any part of good in humans, and that the Republicans have long understood this. They used it, and in channeling the visceral power of fear and control, rather than courage and cooperative action, they have brought it to America.

I read the other day that the original definition of fascism is a relationship between corporations and government, and that this was fascism as Mussolini practiced it, but that in 1968, the definition changed in the dictionaries.

Not having a good English dictionary at my disposal here (gift idea), I resort to Here is the definition the American Heritage Dictionary gives:

fas·cism (fāsh'ĭz'əm) n.

1. often Fascism
a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.

2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.

[Italian fascismo, from fascio, group, from Late Latin fascium, from Latin fascis, bundle.]

Word History: It is fitting that the name of an authoritarian political movement like Fascism, founded in 1919 by Benito Mussolini, should come from the name of a symbol of authority. The Italian name of the movement, fascismo, is derived from fascio, "bundle, (political) group," but also refers to the movement's emblem, the fasces, a bundle of rods bound around a projecting axe-head that was carried before an ancient Roman magistrate by an attendant as a symbol of authority and power. The name of Mussolini's group of revolutionaries was soon used for similar nationalistic movements in other countries that sought to gain power through violence and ruthlessness, such as National Socialism.

The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition, provides this discussion:


A system of government that flourished in Europe from the 1920s to the end of World War II. Germany under Adolf Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, and Spain under Franco were all fascist states. As a rule, fascist governments are dominated by a dictator, who usually possesses a magnetic personality, wears a showy uniform, and rallies his followers by mass parades; appeals to strident nationalism; and promotes suspicion or hatred of both foreigners and “impure” people within his own nation, such as the Jews in Germany. Although both communism and fascism are forms of totalitarianism, fascism does not demand state ownership of the means of production, nor is fascism committed to the achievement of economic equality. In theory, communism opposes the identification of government with a single charismatic leader (the “cult of personality”), which is the cornerstone of fascism. Whereas communists are considered left-wing, fascists are usually described as right-wing.
Note: Today, the term fascist is used loosely to refer to military dictatorships, as well as governments or individuals that profess racism and that act in an arbitrary, high-handed manner.

Note this last.

The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition makes reference to the historic associations of fascism with socioeconomic control -- the Unabridged version 1.1 makes it clearer in their definition:
(sometimes initial capital letter) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism -- suppression of opposition through censorship and controls, and a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism, but today, it is "loosely" understood as nothing more than "military dictatorships".
It strikes me that the neutering of the term fascism to make it a meme for something that appears impossible in US democracy has been a ruse of genius. Fascism has been unbundled for an American sensibility, the association with commerce, with social control -- that was what the Soviet Union did, not the United States government --, racism and nationalism stripped away from the bundle.

Our military, we say, fights wars for its people; it is great and good; its soldiers are just and honorable; our wars the more so. We made ourselves infallible in our eyes, and in those of an older generation of world citizens who still remember the USA for D-day and the liberation of Europe from fascism, but in the 60 years since, other eyes have opened on the fascism that has been nutured in the USA, as racists fumed against the advancement of colored people (I am thinking of the mission of the NAACP), as the controllers of the nation's great wealth on Wall Street and in the corporate boardrooms of the US sought political advantage to deregulate their businesses and allow them access to even more spectacular profits, handed in out in astronomical CEO salaries and year-end bonuses, safe from taxation in the off-shore accounts for which the US Tax Code provided with a nudge and a wink.

Power concentrated in the hands of ever fewer, ever more fearful of a population that would rage if it bothered to finally understand in what it had been complicit.

And not everyone agrees that the Jews did not "deserve" what "they got", nor that Muslims do not deserve the same. The right has been sure to keep those coals stirred. Sarah Palin's Christianity decries mine, and those of more ecumenical pastors and priests. Fundamentalist extremism carries many passports, including that of the United States of America.

It's possible to get too close to the evil, to spend too much time thinking about it. I had a nightmare. I dreamed that my hair salon was closed. In its place was an array of cubicles with low-walls, filled with banks of communications equipment, dials and screens. Everything was black and white. No one sat at those desks. The few people at the reception desk would say nothing. I felt panic. What had happened? Where had it gone? There were other women and men asking the same, but no one would answer. There was no face to tell us.

"But what a terrible thing, and Bonne Marché just across the street? What will happen?"

Don't ask it to make sense. It is a dream. It's our job to make sense of it. I am overdue for a hair cut and color, so of course I have that on the brain, but it is also expensive, a luxury. So is everything sold inside Bonne Marché. Creative people who drive Vespas covered with stickers from world cities and have fascinating tattoos, jewelry and points of view work inside, alongside people from just about every rung of society, from the shampoo boys and girls, to the receptionists, to the hipper stylists who work in that salon. It is a sort of luxury crossroads, and it was gone.

That's my fear talking in my dream. Luxury and individual expression -- the luxury of individual expression? -- gone, replaced by listening and recording equipment, while we are so powerless as to only discover that and feel shock.

Our world changed between appointments.

Look at the contortions through which our society has gone, from Civil Rights to Voting Rights and Women's Rights. Anger and fear were born of those movements on the part of those who felt threatened enough to kill its leaders. It is a cultural war. It isn't over. A half black, half white child of that time has come of age to ask to lead us as our president, and the majority of us desire this. We are ready. We asked for those changes in society, we supported them, some organized and fought for them. Others fought against them. While bills were signed into law by LBJ, the right prepared to fight the only way left to them, to confound and constrain those who would attempt to benefit by that rule of law.

They have worked around the law, in contempt of the law, and still, we haven't acted. We say, "Let us elect Senator Obama, and then there will be time to identify the criminals and punish them." What, put Bush and Cheney and Rove in jail? I doubt it.

They say, "Let us pass this emergency bail-out legislation to save our economy, and then there will be time for the hearings to identify the wrong-doers and punish them." What, put Wall Street, corporate America and Congress in jail? I don't see it.

What will get in the way of doing the right thing next? This economic crisis that was the child of the great Republican (mostly) power and money grab? You betcha'.

Our country is full Americans chanting "YOU ESS-AY!! YOU ESS-AY!!" -- at home and abroad -- and sporting their flag pins and bumper stickers.

The right is full of fascists yelling "Communists!" at the left during Palin rallies.

It never made sense, and it still doesn't now. Hitler first justified the murder of Jews for their communist, or leftist, anti-commerce ideas, or just another way of framing racist German social nationalism in her hour of post World War I humiliation to make it more palatable -- and yet the Jews were historically persecuted in Europe for their wealth and "sinfulness", stemming from their understanding and development of international finance, having been given that role by a Church that told its adherents that to profit from the exchange of money was sinful, and so, therefore, the Jews were sinners, whose wealth must be confiscated for the good of society. This is why it is frowned upon to focus on the making of money and talk about one's salary in certain upper circles, descended from the deposed aristocracy in Europe. They don't even realize why.

We're still fighting the same war.

But as these huge banks go down, their directors and CEOs asking for the salvation of the state to shore up the caving cliff of America's former economic might, undermined by their greed, their chosen political leaders' wars for a greater share of control of the world's oil, the whipping up of anti-Islamic sentiment to gain support from Christian fundamentalists so inclined to go their way, and American's passion for acquisition that has resulted in an unprecedented individual debt, what are the executives doing?

Why, they are whipping out their golden parachutes, and going to the spa.

You're asking the fox to watch over the hen house, my friends in Congress, unless you mean it when you promise hearings and punishments. They seek to make fools of those who still believe in Great Principles.

"What he lacked in experience, he's made up in fight."
from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Where, oh where, is Mr. Smith in America's hour of need? We stand for peace, we stand for social justice, we stand for the protection of sustainable capitalism and renewable energy, we stand with Obama, and they throw us Palin, the ruin of the global economy, and, if you listen to the whispers, perhaps the North American Union Army to quell post-election civil unrest in the event the Republicans declare victory and martial law.

And so it goes.

Ah, Kurt, ya died too soon.

I am going to rejoin my fellow supporters of democracy watching the Obama sign and out for freedom of expression for all of us.

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