“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
--Proverbs, 16: 18-19
George Bush pere spoke of a “kinder, gentler nation” and “a thousand points of light.” (Speechwriter Peggy Noonan built her fatuous career based on those eight words.) Bush pere lured Saddam Hussein into the wolftrap of Kuwait. (Ambassador, April Glaspie, had assured him that the U.S. did not involve itself in disputes between Arab neighbors.) After taking out most of the Iraqi draftees in a “turkey shoot” that killed about 100,000 fleeing the hellish roads from Kuwait, the kinder, gentler Bush-1 imposed sanctions that “I-feel-your-pain” Clinton continued. His Secretary of State Madeline Albright decided that half a million Iraqi children’s deaths were “worth it.” Clinton handed the mendacity ball to Bush file who declared Jesus was his favorite philosopher. During his campaign against media-stiffed Al Gore, Bush-2 declared his desire for a humbler U.S. foreign policy. Soon after the election, humble-pie Bush was stomping over the Kyoto protocols, denying global warming, and making it clear that his was the Jesus of the Church militant, not the turn-the-other-cheek-love-thy-enemy guy.
Why are we surprised that Bush of the Bullhorn stood on the ruins of the World Trade Center and rallied the troops? “I hear you,” he told those cheering for blood and revenge, “and those who did this will hear you.”
2100 American deaths later, over 100,000 Iraqi and Afghani deaths later, and the right-wing pundits are still applauding W’s “leadership” on that sad day. And the rest of us wonder, How come he wasn’t his usual tongue-tied self then? When he had to speak about Katrina’s aftermath, he delivered a factory foreman’s speech about numbers and supplies. Of course, he had better speech writers for 9/11. And plenty of time to prepare. Speaking about aid for Katrina’s victims, flanked by his father and Clinton-the-fallen, W. seemed nervous and chastened. Had his father yelled at him? One imagines the scene:
“You gotta say something about this, Georgie. This is Big!”
“People are talking.”
“Uh … Yeah ... ?”
“So, you don’t want people calling you a wimp, like they did to me.”
“You gotta come out and say something consoling.”
“But isn’t there something I can take a swipe at? I’m a whole lot better swiping.”
“You can say something about the looters.”
“But hold it down. We don’t want people using that word too much—aiming their arrows at Washington.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“I’m not Neil, you know.”
“Don’t start that up again. Focus, Georgie, focus!”
“You always liked Jeb best.”
“Look, you can do this. You did it after 9/11.”
“Yeah. With the bullhorn … I had lots of time to prepare. Pearle and Wolfue and Uncle Dick told me it was coming.”
“Hold it down, will ya?”
“We’re in the oval office, Pop.”
“So was Nixon. Just pipe down.”
“That’s capital ‘S’, son.”
That Bush has been wearing his deer-in-the-headlights expression about Katrina, makes me think he really was caught off-guard this time, and gives a little more credence to those wild conspiracy theories -- you know, about Bin Laden being a CIA asset, and all those neocons from Bush-1 just itching to start another round with Saddam under Bush-2. W. was well-prepared after 9/11; he just had to follow the script: rally the troops; go to UN; lie; degrade the French; shock and awe; lie again and again and again.
No one in the Bush-2 administration prepared for Katrina because they simply couldn’t be bothered. It wasn’t in the script, not part of the plan.
This Administration has failed America and America has failed itself and the world. America the Beautiful didn’t fail, and America the People didn’t fail. America the Empire has failed because its guardians, its heads of State, its movers and shakers, its elite have demonstrated their utter contempt for the people who serve them. The Blacks on the lowest rungs of this society can wade in shit-water up to their necks for all those on the top of the ladder care about them. The Blacks can sling hamburgers for five bucks an hour, they can eat junk food and die prematurely, and the elite leadership of America will go on driving their SUV’s and Hummers right through the shit water. The Blacks can go to the Super Dome, just as they’re instructed to do, and they can descend into the Inferno for all the top-of-the-ladder guys care, because in Pat Robertson’s/Jerry Falwell’s/George Bush’s heaven there are no Blacks anyway.
The American Empire failed its people and American predatory capitalism has failed. We could not fight a war based on mendacity in the Middle East, and protect the Empire at home. The word for these times, the basic metaphor, is implosion: the WTC towers imploded and the two-foot thick flood walls that held back the vast lake and the sea imploded, and the levees sank. And soon the Empire’s vast tentacles will begin to contract, salted with the wounds of defeat. And the troops will come home.
Vis consili expers mole ruit sua, Horace wrote about another empire two thousand years ago. “Brute force, bereft of wisdom, falls to ruins of its own weight.” And he continued:
Vim temperatam di quoque provehunt in maius; idem odere vires omne nefas animo moventes.
Rome’s most popular poet put the matter squarely: “Power tempered with wisdom, even the gods make greater. But might that in its soul is bent on all impiety, they hate.”
Bereft of wisdom, we’ve thrown our weight around the world like giants blind to the damage we’ve wrought. Because we could not see the Iraqis swimming in the hell we made of the Tigris and Euphrates, we are condemned to watch our own citizens in the swill of the Gulf coast. We shall implode just as the Soviet Union imploded after Chernobyl and their failed war in Afghanistan. Every institution will be shaken; our psychic landscapes altered forever. We’ve accepted the impieties of our Robertsons, Falwells, Bushes, Pearles and Wolfowitzes, spurned our homeland and its citizens, sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.
The Empire of lies and hubris will implode, but the Republic, tempered by wisdom, will remain vibrant in our minds and prayers. New Orleans will come back. It has made its place in the human heart and it is timeless and universal. It may not come back in the same place and in the same way, but the People will reclaim their music. The People will cry the deep, bitter tears of the Blues of experience and they will give us back what the predatory, insolent and impious fools have taken away from us all: our wisdom and humanity.
Gary Steven Corseri’s dramas have been published, and broadcast over PBS-Atlanta; his articles, stories and poems have appeared at DissidentVoice, CounterPunch, CommonDreams, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Redbook, Sky and elsewhere. He has taught in public schools and prisons in the U.S., and at universities in the U.S. and Japan. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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