September 26, 2008
When the Soviet Union collapsed, it seemed for 20 minutes or so that America might revert from being a crusade back into a country. For 50 years, we’d served as the arsenal of democracy, its moneybags, its poolhall bouncer. With the cave-in of Communism—accomplished through means miraculous, by unarmed Polish dockworkers, without a war—it appeared we might catch a break. Our cities would no longer sit in the bullseye of nuclear missiles; our budget need not leak down the rathole of high-tech weaponry. We could bring the boys home and settle down to solve a few domestic problems—like unusable, dangerous public schools; a health care system that screwed the middle class and the working poor; chaotic, unguarded borders; whole cities full of semi-literate, fatherless youths. You know, the small stuff. But now we’d get to sweat it.
We even came up with a cute little name for the money we’d save on thermonuclear city-busters and $2.3 billion submarines. (Just bringing it up makes me feel all wooly and nostalgic, like finding a Betamax tape of one of Tom Hanks’ early movies—you know, before he played that AIDS martyr in Philadelphia, and became the Personification of All That is Good and Decent in America. Back when he used to be funny.)
We called our mad money “The Peace Dividend.” Remember that? It’s a idea that lasted as long as Nirvana’s recording career—and ended just as abruptly. But it sure was pretty to think about. Like a clan of Beverly Hillbillies, Clinton Democrats tussled with Dole Republicans down by the chicken coop over how we would spend all that dern money. Should we build up the Social Security “trust fund,” or pay down the national debt? The sky was the limit. I think some chivalrous Southern senator proposed buying each American girl her very own pony….
It’s all so… funny, now, as we stand on the brink of a 1929-style Depression, and “choose” with a gun to our heads to spend some $700 billion to bail out the investor class; as we’re mired in occupations of two Islamic countries and threatening war with a third; as we arm to refight the Cold War against invisible Communists; as we taunt the Russians with missile bases in their backyard; and fill up NATO with unstable, trigger-happy microstates, protected by our nuclear umbrella.
Meanwhile, we’ve broken the budget micromanaging local schools, trying by hook or cooked books to ensure that all our kids score above average. Republican schemes to buy the Viagra vote have blown out Medicare, and guaranteed its bankruptcy in our lifetime. At least 1 million illegal immigrants cross our borders every year—and if Al Qaeda hasn’t up and swum the Rio Grande it’s because they don’t like our hummus. Our factories are sneaking across the border into China, while hundreds of thousands of high school dropouts come here legally every year to take the jobs we no longer create.
When I think of America’s future, I crave the opacity of dope.
Surveying the pile of rubble and pools of sewage produced in these eight years, I am left almost speechless. What possible combination of ideology and incompetence could have ruined such a great country so quickly?
I won’t call it liberalism, since it was implemented by “conservatives.” I could fall back on my paleo talking points and blame the neocons… but that’s like sitting way up in the cheap seats at Fenway Park, arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. Or haunting the L.A. bleachers wearing a faded “Brooklyn Dodgers” jersey, hoping someone will notice.
Conservatism isn’t an abstract ideology, which we can distill to molar purity, and use as an acid test to judge what conservative people think, and conservative institutions do. Alas, we can’t import a better brand from Europe and unpack it like a cheese. Conservatism in a given time and place cannot exceed the actions taken in self-defense by the saner classes and virtue-loving citizens to protect the way of life and the land they love. And what those classes and citizens in America have overwhelmingly chosen can be summed up in one unlovely letter: W. (As in “WTF.”)
Conservatives in America no longer really exist—or at least no breeding pairs remain in the wild. If some of us live behind glass in labs and zoos, that’s of some interest to ecologists, but it doesn’t fill our niche. The pests we used to consume and keep in check now all run riot, and they’ve eaten our country’s seed corn. To a kernel.
We can’t label the campaign of national ruin accomplished by Bush and his pet Democrats either conservative or liberal. To call it “neoconservative” stretches that term till it loses meaning. We might as well say that it’s “fascist.” Libertarians will mutter darkly that this is the fruit of “statism”… which sets this State apart from most other historical States exactly how? It’s fair to call America’s governing, bipartisan coalition the “Welfare/Warfare” party—except that it doesn’t explain anything. The Democrats in 1941 were a welfare/warfare party, and they proved pretty good at it. They won the war, and their welfare programs worked, at least for a while.
No, there’s something strange going on. Something kinky.
With my laymen’s knowledge of political science and abnormal psychology, I’ve come up with the answer. The ruling ideology in America isn’t liberalism. It sure isn’t conservatism. In fact, it’s sadomasochism.
Like frat boys who found to their surprise they enjoyed their brutal hazing, Americans have taken for our battle cry, “Thank you sir—may I have another?” We’ve decided to prove how tough our country is, how infallible and invulnerable, by employing elites who are expert in the art of national torture. Critics who cited the risky nature of our kink we dismissed as defeatists, puritans, prudes.
We have found our dominatrixes in the form of leggy, castrating blondes like the leathery Anne Coulter, or dowdy schoolmarms like Hillary who are simply fantastic with a paddle. (Remember when Coulter “endorsed” Sen. Clinton over McCain, because the former was “better on torture”?) We’ve embraced that creepy postmodern fetish, “financial domination,” and are begging the barons of Wall Street to blackmail and bankrupt us. It’s no accident that our soldiers at Abu Gharib began to manufacture that sort of porn; out there on the front lines, they knew far better than Kid Rock just Why We Fight.
And I’m fine with all of this. I’m happy to follow Mencken, who said that “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” The problem is that they’re not getting it hard enough. There’s something a trifle vanilla about the programs touted by our Sadomasochist parties.
To get our nation more quickly through its addiction—the sooner we “hit bottom” the sooner we can start rehab—I’d like to offer some concrete steps that will accelerate the process. These policies could be adopted by either party. (In fact, I’m a little afraid to mention them, since they very well might be; reality dogs the steps of parody nowadays, nipping at its heels.) So I propose, to the men and the women who hold the whips:
Defense: It’s not enough to provoke at once a billion Moslems and 141 million nuclear-armed Russians. We should also resurrect the anti-China rhetoric popular among neoconservatives up through Sept. 10, 2001, and renew our gestures of contempt for the countries of “Old Europe.” As a rule, we should antagonize any nation strong enough to harm us, or rich enough to help us. We’ll fawn on and flatter nations such as Georgia and Kosovo. Given them rock-solid guarantees that we’ll fight on their side against much larger neighbors. We can call this “standing up for American values.” (Although, of course, we’ll really be kneeling.)
Public service: Both parties have done a good job of providing for public service those most likely to stampede; while Democrats feed us a steady supply of ethnic and Marxist cranks, Republicans trawl through the D-list of America’s loser frats. We can count on a Democratic president standing at no more than one remove from a 1960s terrorist—and a rock-ribbed Republican handing critical jobs to his sister’s bridge-partner’s autistic cousin. But we must go further, and follow our kink wherever it leads us. We should staff the State Department with monolingual fundamentalists who have already packed their bags in case of Rapture. George Bush entrusted our emergency planning to a gent from the International Arabian Horse Association? I’ll do him one better: Let’s hire people from the American Miniature Horse Association. Spread them evenly throughout the Pentagon.
Housing: It’s quite impressive to see that we’ll soon be dunning taxpayers to the tune of $700 billion;reimbursing Chinese investors for money that golden-parachute C.E.O.s of U.S. banks lent out so unemployed folks could buy houses they couldn’t afford. And it warms my heart to know what a large role affirmative action played in spending this staggering sum. But we could do more. If Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae are out of money, we should tap into Sallie Mae—and redirect the money currently wasted on helping middle and working class kids go to college to worthier goals… like buying a Navy helicopter for every psychiatric inpatient in America. Just for starters….
Diplomacy: It is time to break the headlock maintained by the Israel lobby on U.S. diplomacy. It’s true that Israel is hated (rightly or wrongly) by roughly 1/5 of the world’s population, and builds provocative settlements to appease a tiny, powerful minority. But Israelis aren’t short-sighted enough to serve as a suitable U.S. ally. A large plurality there favors negotiations to found a Palestinian state. This will not do. America must find a genuinely sociopathic foreign partner, with whom it shares no values or vital interests—then make that country’s priorities its own. Then we’ll really feel the pain. May I suggest Myanmar, Zimbabwe, or North Korea?
Immigration: While it’s all fine and dandy to import 2 million or so mostly uneducated foreigners into our country every year, this isn’t enough. There are whole swathes of Nashua, New Hampshire, (just for instance) where English is spoken openly. We need to double or even quadruple our immigration numbers. In fact, we should pass the constitutional amendment proposed by The Wall Street Journal: “There shall be open borders.” (I bet this would be the very last Constitutional amendment ever adopted.) If that proves to be a “hard limit,” we can at least improve on our current laws—which rightly admit people based on chance and nepotism. We’ll expand the global raffle of U.S. citizenship from 50,000 per year to 500,000, or even 5,000,000—while keeping the “diversity lottery” focused tightly on poor countries rife with terrorism. We can go beyond offering visas to adult siblings and grown-up children of recent immigrants, and give out green cards to cousins, nephews, and nieces—until in the end our family reunification program includes “ex-girlfriends,” “my amigos from the circus,” and “guys who owe my brother money.”
Taxation: We should carry on and make more consistent the Bush administration policy of collecting revenues only from those who show up five days a week and work on the books. Large-scale investors, currency speculators, foreign-based U.S. government contractors, and multinational corporations must be protected—as must black market nannies, golf caddies, private security guards and other providers of critical services.
Diversity: It’s completely “kink-friendly” to keep on offering affirmative action preferences to recent immigrants—even amnestied illegals—over every white American man, including veterans. The history texts we use in schools (even those that aren’t imported straight from Mexico) do a fine job of grinding the DWEMs’ pale faces in the dust. So does that fact that white men are the only group in America exempt from anti-discrimination laws. I’ve thought about this long and hard, but I can’t think how to make our policies in this area any more servile. Going further would seem like…edgeplay. But I’m open to suggestions from professionals. Mistress Hillary—any ideas?