The Silver-Lining of the Bush Years

The left far too often dwells on gloom and doom. We postulate about the failures of past movements, the crashing economy, the bloodshed in the Middle East, and the wholesale destruction of the environment.

Not to say all this is not occurring. The antiwar movement is on life-support; even the radical reincarnation of the Vietnam era’s Winter Soldier hearings weren’t enough to awaken the corporate press from its slumber. The economy is caught in a downward spiral. Hundreds of thousands have perished as a result of the US wars in the Middle East. Thousands of species on Earth face extinction as our polar ice caps melt and the climate warms beyond repair.

These are dire times indeed.

Even so I tend to cling to Ed Abbey’s admonition to be a part-time warrior, saving enough hours in the day to enjoy the offerings of this little blue planet while we still can. As my friend Jeffrey St. Clair puts it, “Be as radical as reality. Fight fiercely for what you feel passionate about, no matter how long the odds seem. But don’t fret so much about the meta-crises, such as global warming or ozone depletion. It’ll only weigh you down and drive you toward nihilistic despair.”

Desperation is no way to invigorate the soul, whether it’s your own or that of a movement. In fact while the last seven-and-a-half-years of George W. Bush may have seemed like an eternity of sorrow and misery, there may be a silver-lining to all that’s transpired.

No other president in modern history has done more to expose the dark side of US imperialism than Bush. The international community is not behind the Iraq war and doesn’t trust our half-baked intelligence toward Iran, making it even more difficult for us to get away with bombing the country in the future. US power, while not fully-deflated, is fast leaking hot air.

War is pretty unpopular across the US too. John McCain is the only candidate willing to call for an outright extension of the occupation of Iraq. And while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may covertly plan to lengthen our presence there, they dare not utter such nonsense out loud. Both are doing their best to position themselves as the antiwar candidate, hiding their military tactics away in the fine print of their policy briefs.

Old alliances are becoming obsolete. NATO has weakened and the US go-it-alone strategy has damaged the trend of US isolation in foreign hostilities. The US is unequivocally deemed a global menace. We have become, against Washington’s better wishes, a more humble nation. It’s a sure sign US dominance is on the skids.

So too is our economic prowess, as witnessed by the subprime mortgage collapse and decline of the dollar. The US banking system is in flux due in large part to the dismantling of Glass-Steagall under the reign of Bill Clinton’s economic henchman, Robert Rubin. Sure Bush’s Fed has overstepped its boundaries and attempted to “bailout” the credit sector, but hasn’t this whole debacle also exposed the fallacies of neoliberal ethos?

These events sure seem to me to be something the left ought to be encouraged by. It wasn’t even ten years ago that we took to the streets of Seattle to rally in opposition to the WTO and Clinton’s free-trade pathology. Now even his wife is attempting to distance herself from the failures of NAFTA. Not that she’s sincere, but at least the language is starting to change.

Many are also yapping away about the fate of the environment. Even McCain believes humans are impacting the global climate. While much of this is unadulterated green-washing, the tide is shifting. People are beginning to care about the planet they will be leaving their children and grand kids. Awareness is growing despite the campaign against it. The hike in gas prices, while hurting some financially in the interim, may in the long-run force us to rethink public transportation and our over-consumption of fossil fuels.

The reaches of US Empire are being destroyed quicker than you may realize, yet the left is still stuck neck-deep in a dark, humorless, perpetual cynicism. But why not look at the bright side of the mess we’re in instead? Your outlook depends solely on your vantage point. The bottom line is that we can either be dejected by the negative or inspired by the positive. Ultimately, it’s up to you.

Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published by AK Press in June 2008. Check out the Red State Rebels site. Read other articles by Joshua.

18 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hp said on March 25th, 2008 at 7:46am #

    Heck yes, think of the positives..
    Even I can come up with two or three.
    A great opportunity to learn new languages like Russian, Chinese and Hindi.
    It’ll be fun learning about new currency.
    Like the Euro, yuan, yen and ruble.
    Better fitness from all that bicycle riding, walking wood chopping and hauling water we’ll be doing.
    Sleeping out under the stars, bathing in the river, skinning rabbits, the good old fashioned out house. You know, the ones with the cute crescent moon and stars carved into the door.
    We’ll be so busy we won’t have time to hardly yap away about nuttin.
    See, I’m learnin already.

  2. bakersfieldbubble said on March 25th, 2008 at 8:48am #

    Thanks!

    We have much to be thankful for in this country. This reminds me to put down the sword (keyboard) and go outside and play catch with my child.

  3. joed said on March 25th, 2008 at 9:38am #

    “Real change is painful and takes sacrifice, and the only people willing to sacrifice are those who already have.”
    Quote from; Why So Blue?, by Sheila Velazquez / March 10th, 2008
    https://www.dissidentvoice.org/2008/03/why-so-blue
    this quote may be out of context here but it sure seems to apply.
    Mr. Frank, it is looking more and more like the people are going to have to take matter into their own hands if there is to be any sort of meaningful change in this god damned shitty country. so, you better just run along and play while the deal goes down.
    the system is all the way broken and if you think obama hillary mccain will fix it then you are as out of touch as your article suggests.
    kick-back my ass, get out in the fucking streets and shut this fucking country down. arrest the murderous thugs.
    now, unfortunately the people ain’t gonna’ do nuthin’. so you are probably correct in your advice to be a part-time warrior. fuck don’t even be a warrior be a killer-clown.

  4. Don Hawkins said on March 25th, 2008 at 9:57am #

    Hello Jim,
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080317.pdf

    Jim here is my question this report by James Hansen and 8 other people. Maybe you have already read this but I just did and is not this James Hansen person the man that our President didn’t want to talk about climate change because I guess he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Now I watch Fox News and have seen many people who think this climate change thing is a hoax like Fred Singer I think that is his name and James Inhofe seems like a likable fellow and I listen to Rush Limbaugh and he tells me it’s a big bunch of nothing. It’s hard to watch Fox News sometimes as if they have more than one person on they seem to try and cut one another off. Anyway my question is that I have a good deal on a house, the outer banks and I see this James Hansen person talks of sea level rise. What do you think should I buy it? Oh I almost forgot This just came out a few hours ago now I see why the President doesn’t like him, James Hansen.
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080324_Rampant.pdf

    Don

    I sent this to the Weather Channel last night and Fox News Hannity and Colmes. Joshua you are right you have to beat them with there own game.

  5. sk said on March 25th, 2008 at 1:38pm #

    FYI, an interesting article published four years ago on The Coming Elections and the Future of American Global Power.

  6. Jerry D. Rose said on March 25th, 2008 at 1:47pm #

    Josh, good thinking! I’ve finally started reading Naomi Klein’s Disaster Capitalism and already I’m learning something about social change as related to disaster. Her thesis is that Milton Friedman and his “Chicago school” were ready to take advantage of the “opportunities” for expanding the free market presented by such disasters as Iraq and New Orleans, because they had a blueprint of how to proceed to “shock and awe” responses, having developed them in academia and in neo-liberal think tanks. What this tells me is that dissidents or progressives can also use “disasters” like the Bush presidency as opportunities, as you suggest this very disaster has laid bare the pretenses of neo-liberalism and imperialism. It also tells me that we need much, much more think-tanking preparation for taking advantage of disaster opportunities to promote the changes we seek toward a humane society. There was a post-Katrina moment in which it was being said that the disaster and the governmental non-response that followed it laid bare the results of the neo-conservative “starve the beast” approach to public services when Katrina showed what we miss when we have to deal with a disaster and have nothing effective left to do it with. My question is why this moment didn’t extend in time toward, let’s say, a presidential campaign in which a “leading” candidate could advocate for, let’s say, a public works program on the scale of the New Deal response to depression disaster. Is it because progressive thought has not been buttressed by an equivalent of a “Chicago school” or an American Enterprise Institute? Bottom line, you can “take advantage” of disaster for your political ends, but you better be ready when disaster happens, and for that you may need a social movement and an institutional structure of planners planning for things before the opportunities arise.
    Well, gotta go to my step-grand daughter’ birthday party!

  7. D. R. Munro said on March 25th, 2008 at 2:54pm #

    Beach volleyball tournament this weekend! My place!

    BYOB!

    Oh, right. . .

  8. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 25th, 2008 at 4:10pm #

    Thanx for this article – an instant classic, JF. Better even than your Ron Paul.

  9. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 25th, 2008 at 4:35pm #

    I have a probably little-shared take on the left’s long-term ailment. It’s that the disappearance of the American Left after the middle 70’s was acceptable to the Lights of the Left mainly as a very human response to repression and infiltration — forget about whether the American public was ready for socialism or anything to the left of right field. And as the colossal nature of that misjudgement — regarding the broader left itself, not regarding the Black Panthers and Weatherpeople and other militant leftists — increasingly proved out over time subsequently, it became ever harder for the Lights to abandon it. Until now, with all the positive indicators JF speaks of regarding EVEN MIDDLE Americans, the left continues to manifest it’s now-perpetual crisis of confidence.

  10. Deadbeat said on March 25th, 2008 at 4:46pm #

    hp,

    Thanks for the laugh. It made me feel real good. Your remarks were most inspiring.

  11. corylus said on March 25th, 2008 at 4:58pm #

    Josh! Did you get into my Prozac again?!!

  12. Don Hawkins said on March 25th, 2008 at 6:04pm #

    Reality Check:
    WASHINGTON (March 25) – A chunk of Antarctic ice about seven times the size of Manhattan suddenly collapsed, putting an even greater portion of glacial ice at risk, scientists said Tuesday.
    Satellite images show the runaway disintegration of a 160-square-mile chunk in western Antarctica, which started Feb. 28. It was the edge of the Wilkins ice shelf and has been there for hundreds, maybe 1,500 years.

    This is the result of global warming, said British Antarctic Survey scientist David Vaughan.
    Vaughan had predicted the Wilkins shelf would collapse about 15 years from now.

    Scientists said they are not concerned about a rise in sea level from the latest event, but say it’s a sign of worsening global warming.

    Such occurrences are “more indicative of a tipping point or trigger in the climate system,” said Sarah Das, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
    Yes this happened today.

  13. hp said on March 25th, 2008 at 6:27pm #

    Deadbeat, you’re welcome. Always glad to help if I can. Nice to see someone has a sense of humor. After all, isn’t that a big part of being positive?

  14. Don Hawkins said on March 25th, 2008 at 6:33pm #

    Yes it is HP. Change is coming we have no choice in the matter.

  15. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 25th, 2008 at 6:43pm #

    *It’s that the waning support for the American Left after the middle 70’s was explicable to the Lights of the Left mainly as a very human response on the part of the public to repression and infiltration they witnessed “the Left” being subjected to — forget about whether the American public was ready for socialism or anything to the left of right field. And as the colossal nature of that misjudgement — their blindness regarding the unreadiness of the American public for the social programs of the Left — increasingly proved out over time subsequently, it hit the Lights of the Left where they needed to be most confident, in their analyses of the attitudes of American workers and the American public. And now, with all the positive indicators JF speaks of regarding even middle Americans, the Left continues to manifest crises of confidence.

  16. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 25th, 2008 at 7:06pm #

    Thanx for the Reality Check, Hawkins. JF wrote above: “Many are yapping away about the fate of the environment.” What an apparent counter to JF’s characterization of Greenies as “yapping”! Whether it’s indicative of a more pressing matter than ending the Iraq War, for example, or than the left getting less disunited by occasionally thinking positive, are other questions.

    Tue Mar 25, 2008 1:00 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON — A chunk of Antarctic ice about seven times the size of Manhattan suddenly collapsed, putting an even greater portion of glacial ice at risk, scientists said Tuesday.

    Satellite images show the runaway disintegration of a 160-square-mile chunk in western Antarctica, which started Feb. 28. It was the edge of the Wilkins ice shelf and has been there for hundreds, maybe 1,500 years.

  17. zhann said on March 26th, 2008 at 4:04pm #

    Although the comments are almost as entertaining as the original article, I am almost ashamed to say that Josh has managed to make me think of Bush and Smile at the same time … no small feat, I should add. I have always been labled an optimist and can find a silver lining in the darkest of clouds, but I couldn’t come up with anything quite so entertaining. Josh, thanks.

  18. Mike McNiven said on March 27th, 2008 at 12:45am #

    Thank you Mr.Frank! What you are pointing us to is what the scientific Left was calling the “thesis/anti-thesis” relationship. Yes, you are correct, we should value the significance of the end result of such a relationship!