Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Congratulations, America!


This post was written a couple days ago, but I didn't want to be dour and post it before. May as well now. Congratulations, America! You're a dumbass!

BTW, the only silver lining in this is that now Bush will have to deal with his own disasters. We owe it to ourselves to make him the lamest of lame duck presidents ever. Let's at least make sure that Dubya completely destroys the GOP while he's fucking up this country and other areas...(doesn't seem like a very good trade, does it?).

Now we hold not only Bush, but McCain, Giulianni and the rest of them responsible.

One of the great things about having vibrant internets is finding that there are so many smart, interesting people out there. Really. One was more used to the prevalence of knuckleheads before the advent of the internets (the inevitable 'fuck you' scrawled onto our civic bathroom wall), so I don't focus on all the stupidity - we knew about that already. It really is heartening that there are so many people who have something worthwhile to say, or to at least ask: 'non-professional' volunteers who report, ask and argue simply because they want to. But another benefit is finding a relatively obscure 'professional' you've never heard of, who's been writing for decades and is damned good. Thanks to the inner-netts you get to read them too. Thanks to reader Allmaya, I now know about Michael Ventura of the Austin Chronicle. I've read only a few back columns, but I get the impression that Allmaya is right: at his best, he's really excellent. In his latest, Welcome to the Situation, he 'outs' a truth that many of us - especially above a certain age - know in our hearts and bones:

The great days of the United States of America are over. Nothing will bring those days back. It's too late. The damage has been done. There is no possible political, military, or economic solution. The general prosperity of the Fifties and Sixties (as opposed to the one-sided prosperity of the Nineties) is irretrievable. The capacity of the U.S. to lead the world has been drained. The only question is how America will decline – gracefully, clumsily, or tragically?

I wouldn't put it quite so starkly as 'The great days of the United States of America are over'. Indeed, if we accede to Mr Ventura's council and 'grow up', we will surely have some great - in some ways, greater - days ahead. But you know what he means. Economic decline. Yes, great 'damage has been done', but it's even a little more obvious than that: no country can forever stay in the position of absolute economic dominance the US enjoyed after WW2. A decline from THAT was inevitable. As it happens, the administration of George W. Bush begs the issue of Decline, because they seem to want to just get it over with, smash it up, level down all at once - another meaning for the phrase 'race to the bottom'; what Mr Ventura calls a 'crash landing'. Will we ever know why human beings can have an inate attraction to decay, to death? I think Mr Bush's mystic political appeal is partially explained by this attraction. Something in our nature makes us intrigued in spite of ourselves. Ask Zarqawi.

Will we decline with our Constitution intact? Will our decline make us more tolerant and interesting, or meaner and more dulled? Britain declined drastically between 1914 and 1950, yet still produced great literature and a leader of the caliber of Winston Churchill. France declined just as badly, yet still had the cultural power to produce influential art and philosophy. Europe as a whole declined during the 20th century, but retained the intellectual vitality to reinvent itself for the 21st and become another kind of power. How will America decline? At this moment in history, that is the important question: How will America decline?

Indeed, that is the main question. Will we plan for the future? Will we leverage our current strengths (including our Constitution and other cultural treasures) so as to glide down as slowly as possible or will we just dive bomb?

Mr Ventura's column is well worth reading in its entirety. It's not cheerful reading, but, let's face it, sobriety can offer its own kind of deeper relief sometimes.

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