A few days ago, my friend John sent me a copy of piece by Lee Iacocca, ex head of G.M., that was meant, I guess, to promote his new book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? (I guess the answer to that is, “Long time passing”—especially if you judge by our current crop in Washington, PB—Post Bubya, or is that Dubya?)
The strangest, most unsettling thing about the current situation in American life is how unsurprising it is. I mean, Bill Clinton was a surprise. Here was a man who came from nothing, out of nowhere, was incredibly smart (the word “brilliant” is not wasted on him), capable, and against huge odds (many of which came from himself, but I can understand that, having come from nothing myself) was elected president, then re-elected, and, then surprisingly, left office, although still popular, in public disgrace. The surprise was that for someone so gifted he flubbed so badly—and was pathetically weak when he should have been stronger.
However, Dubya is no surprise. He is about as much of a surprise as Hitler, who telegraphed every filthy intention. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a head full of pork rinds, George W. Bush could not, as we say in the South, run for dogcatcher, without a whole football team of backstage of handlers, phony Christian mouthpieces, schoolyard-bully wannabees like Cheney, Rumsfelt, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, Gonzales, etc. The only surprise in the last six years has been the lack of the genuine embarrassment he has caused.
But reading Iacocca’s rant, and it is very much a rant, brought out in me this response:
Thanks for sending me this. The best thing I can say about this is that it’s, well, “amusing.” Iacocca hasn’t figured out what’s going on. He’s just traveling around it. Bush’s election and then re-election weren’t flukes; they were beautifully planned and executed—he is, frankly, the side show that keeps us amused because the real show is too devastating: basically that most Americans can no longer afford to live here without an amount of work and anxiety that is so numbing they’ll do anything—turn to religion, pop-celeb-worship idiocy, etc.—to avoid facing it. That the top .01% of the population, not the top 1%, now owns 47% of the stock market. That a staggering 87% of the American people, by a recent NY Times/CBS poll, believe in the Virgin Birth, and a similar number likewise disbelieve in the Theory of Evolution. That we are absolutely addicted to technology, and every piece of it, including this email, takes away some part of our privacy, but that is unimportant, because in a corporate-run society, any attempt at privacy is completely suspect and will destroy anyone who holds on to it. So, we have this side show going on of Bush, this war, gay marriage, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, MTV News, etc. while the real show is ignored.
What I find harded to understand is that so few people are seeing any of this. That does not mean that no one is, just few of us. The late John Kenneth Galbraith did; Gore Vidal does; and maybe occasionally some writers for The New York Times. But we are so busy now dealing with the “weirdness” of America, even while a business-as-usual war is going on that the evidence right in front of us is lost. America is becoming a Third World country. Glut, waste, and overweight-through-poverty have become the norm. We now have a two-tier system for everything, and the space between the tiers gets wider and wider.
It makes me understand why we have so many lost kids who, like the Lost Boys in Peter Pan never want to grow up. What are they growing up to? The saddest thing, and maybe Dubya’s most revolting legacy is that stupidity has become “cool.” The deadend street becomes the only street to play on, and any feeling other than numbness exploding into rage and anger is out of the question. In fact, most kids cannot even find the words to put it into a question. So we now have violent kids who are ennacting wartime crimes, here, in this country. I guess that has become the ultimate video game made real.