Current Comedy, 10/05/10: Just Bully
Gordon Gecko is dying of cancer.
Have you seen the pics in the National Enquirer? The man is nothing but scared skin and bones. Greed is good he said, then bullied his way to the top only to bring the whole thing crashing down with him. Says money never sleeps? Well, it doesn't weep for the wicked either, even for those who think themselves winners, till we all fall down.
Greed is good? Why would anyone ever want to teach the idea that greed was good to a population which is supposed to live together? Why did we, the population in question, not question whether we wanted to believe it? How could we be taught to believe greed was good when it is the same thing as when that bully back in the first grade took your money and got away with it because he was so strong and he was so mean. Why have we been taught, as grown-ups to think of that guy as the good guy?
No matter how much i love my country, no matter how many colored lenses i look through to try and reread the past in a better light, no matter how hard i try to not cringe at the present, i still am left still having to say this: America is not a land of the free, it is a land of the slave, where the richest 74 make more than the poorest 19 million. A land not "of," "for," nor "by" the people, except as allowed by the plutocrats' corporate interests. As for the rest of us, bullied and worked and worried to death in chains we don't even see. America has always been a country where the bullies ran things for their own interests while the rest of us suffered for their whims. This is just another of those times where the rich have got the upper hand and are reaching for our throat.
And then we were told we were supposed to love it and honor its tradition of might making wrong sound righter in the after-fact, no matter how bloody the moment might be. We've been sold that it was OK to terrorize each other to get what we wanted; it was the right way to treat each other and the others of the world as long as you waved a flag to sanctify the whole process when you were done. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of the impact of Bullying in America. Taken as a whole, the role of the bully as a metaphor for America is a terrible topic to behold.
Over the last few weeks I have looked into the face of the topic of "Bullying in America" and it has beaten me down. Like the time last year when i watched Michael Moore's Capitalism twice in rapid succession and then was too depressed to write, much less laugh, for six weeks. As i contemplated how much power bullies actually have in our society, i became over-whelmed by the immensity of the problem and my probable lack of impact by wielding merely a couple of punch-lines and a few thousand words. Like climate change, and the plutocratic tyranny that runs our world like its marionette, this "battling the bullies" column is probably another case of too little, too late.
But here we go anyway--
Thanks to the recent Anti-bullying week media blitz, half the liberal media, and CNN in particular, throughout the whole month stayed semi-focused on another, slightly different, bullying story--a fresh twist on the continuing tale of the ever-running spate of homosexual teen suicides. Five in One Week and all with plenty of photos. The sad stories and glam photos were rolled out like a poor little black-clad emo parade to celebrate our indifference. Each story told a tale of bullying, of a struggling gay kid hounded to the point of choosing death to end the life of torture.
The favorite one for the media to glamorize was Tyler Clemente, a first semester freshman at Rutgers who literally died from the humiliation of getting outed live via the Internet while doing it with a man in his dorm room. Back in my day somebody might've passed a note, nowadays there's live streaming. Clemente later jumped off a bridge. Buddies promptly claim it was just a prank and they were just playing. That's what the bullies always say. Oh those crazy college kids. It was all just supposed to be in good fun, right?
Now it just so happens that the conjunction of all this gay-bashing is particularly unnerving at this particular time when the Right is ratcheting up its marketing of their own homophobia as a selling point. CNN's coverage of the apparent wave of teen suicides was a good chance for America to realize what teachers have been telling folks for years. It's true: our schools are so over-run by social issues we are at a point where it seems it is hard for almost anyone to learn almost anything except for a faulty bare basics of survival: shut up and keep out of the bullies ' way. The cult of bullying has not only weakened our schools, but is dominating our politics and destroying our economy, eating us from the inside with our very own greed.
Teachers may try to work against this social structure that dominates our kids' worlds; but we can only go so far because the same attitude we try to extinguish in them is the one that dominates their parents' world. But it is clear the teachers are not winning, and the longer the GOP control the discussion the less likely they are to be able to do so. why do they keep telling me greed is good? Why would anyone want to build a society that would operate this way?
Of course if one wants to be a bully, the current crisis must seem like a field day. Bullies like to keep their victims hungry and sick and ignorant and scared. And aren't those the four major points of the GOP agenda? End social services, abolish Obamacare, defund education, mass detentions for suspected aliens or terrorists and a theocracy for all. Wrap it up in ribbon and we'll call it the free market, though everyone i know is a slave to it.
Some say this election could make or break the future of our country right before our very eyes. Some say the Tea Party takeover could be a cover for a fascist coup. I am one of those people. Naomi Wolf was laughed at two years ago when she warned us about the upcoming End of America. But i wasn't among the laughing.
And as i see the news this month, it feels as if the pinscher is closing. So much of the current increasing bigotry and oppression is based on the rhetoric of racial politics, or sexual politics, or religious politics, or litigious politics; but it's all just excuses for those who wish to use force to feel free to do so. I mean, come on--everyone knows it's gay to call someone a faggot, duh. But folks do it anyway 'cuz it's so funny right? And if you don't think so, you must be queer.
Take the case of the "pretending to be the governor" of Arizona, Jan Brewer, who is hoping to get "re-elected" to that office. Have you've seen this train wreck some call a woman? They could use any five minutes of her debate footage as an IQ test. Forget about the whole "laughing at her over her 16 seconds of dead 'drunk, er, i mean, deer in the headlights' silence" thing. The times when she's speaking are way more incriminating. Just listen to any five minutes of Jan Brewer speaking. ANY five minutes. If some silly voter still find anything attractive about that woman--her words, her attitude, her ideas, or her looks, that person is probably not even intelligent enough to even be capable of the complicated series of tasks involved in completing the process of voting.
Jan Brewer who bumbled into office, mumbled and bungled her way through job of appearing to only suck a little; who the GOP hated till she got behind SB-1070 and now she's the little "Jan that can!" THAT Jan Brewer, the bully. Though she's not the worse of them, it says a lot about Arizona that Brewer is the odds on favorite. But what does she do when her opponent (Terry Goddard) begins to gain a little traction in the polls due to her own ineptitude at fear mongering and personal inability to speak English as if it were her own native language? Then she simply calls him gay. It's so typical and so tiring and so predictably GOP. It's all typical bully behavior. No wonder folks die and the society suffers.
But back to the news because the annual anti-bullying week this year was a news anomaly. Somehow five teen suicides of actual bullied-to-death homosexuals made it into the news in the same week. Understand there are thousands of teen suicides each year, so five in any given week is, in fact, a given. Five in one week? Five that they counted. The synergic media magic beauty part was that this particular week also happened to be the kick-off of National Bullying Prevention Month and, as if by magic, America suddenly, briefly, almost actually cared that kids are getting tormented to death. A growing epidemic finally got its fifteen minutes in a news cycle.
But only after it promised to be forgotten in time for the next news cycle. Though in the meantime, the stats are indeed staggering. Every day one hundred and eighty-six thousand bullied victims don't even go to school because of the harassment. Each year about 40% give up on school and thousands give up on everything entirely.
Yes, yes, i know, that is just a few more tears in the ever flowing stream. This is just that old "same as it ever was" epidemic tale of bullied victims who always were and still are pummeled relentlessly from sea to shining sea, despite the martyrdom of St. Matthew Shepard. Though nobody is willing to lay out a current and complete statistic, but the most common figures you can find say the teen suicide rate tripled from the 70s to the 90s, and has, since then, only continued to grow. Suicide has become the 4th most common cause of death in kids 10-14, the 3rd for 15-20 and 2nd most common for 20-25. About 12 out of every 100,000 teens will kill themselves and as many as twenty-five times that number will try.
Our children torment and tease each other every day in every way one can say "you're gay!" and still they get away with it. Nobody wants to be the baby who wimps out and couldn't handle a little "playfully" doled out misery. It is the one gift most kids prefer giving. And nobody is supposed to complain because hurting each other is so much fun. Meanwhile most adults look away because they are closet-bullies themselves. It's the one way the right's not afraid to come out of the closet. That is the society our children live in. And then we wonder why they do not learn?
Well, as their teacher, i can tell you your kids are learning plenty. They know how to "kill," "maim," and belittle their enemies and/or opponents in most major gaming media. They know how to turn a phrase till it cripples and when to relish the sight of pain in others. They know exactly which muscles to twitch when they fake lunge at each other to get that maximum scare effect, which buttons to push to best piss off the world.
And, where do the bully-kids learn it? From their Tea Party Lovin' parents, of course, who bully them around the house all night, so they can bully their fellow kids around the playground all day. Meanwhile they don't know where Poland is, why the water cycle matters, what a noun is or what a verb does. And neither do their parents. But both generations know how to push their way to get what they want, don't they? By bullying of course, it's the American Way. Babies raising babies and with nobody playing parent, no one learns why it's bad to be bad. Whether or not you agree that that's where we came from, it appears to be where we are headed.
Take my current favorite bullying exploit, told in many places, but most engagingly in Josh Holland's AlterNet article, "Ayn Rand Conservatism at Work -- Firefighters Let Family's House Burn Down Because Owner Didn't Pay $75 Fee." Wanna see what that whole "smaller government" thing Sarah Palin loves looks like? Here you go:
It's the case of a Mr. Gene Cranick of Obion County, Tennessee. The Republican run local government voted to keep taxes low by not operating the county-wide fire department. Firefighting is, you know, one of those basic kinds of government services most Americans say they see as the bare minimum of what they'd expect to get when they pay their taxes. Instead, in addition to country taxes residents in rural Obion County were required to pay a separate $75 fee for fire service.
Long and short of it, Cranick hadn't paid. The fire broke out in some barrels near his home, then crawled across the field as a brush fire, until it engulfed his home. Cranick watched his life be destroyed in slow motion. He tried to be a responsible citizen and went after the fire with his own resources, but his garden hose just couldn't handle it. It was a time when he needed his government. And they refused him.
The firefighters came and did nothing as they watched the fire leap from the barrels to his house, utterly destroying it and killing the household pets. Throughout that whole infernal process, and even before hand, while he was on the phone with 911, Cranick repeatedly tried to pay the fee. But the firefighters just stood by, though eventually they did bust out their hoses when the next neighbor over's property was threatened. He had paid the fee. They were good loyal Republican firemen, one and all, Tea Party pure.
The firemen knew that the pure beauty of the American "Free Market" system is that capitalism means the only reason to save another person from misery and devastation is if you are going to make some money. Cranick just had to learn the lesson is all, it was nothing personal, just following orders.
To stand idly by and watch a person's whole life be destroyed when it is in your power to stop it, to listen and not lift a finger while three dogs and a cats are burned to death right in front of you, this is the height of bullying. These are the people we've let put themselves in power.
And it is just one of a series of incidents, an epidemic of incidents of bullying across the board. Wall St.'s destruction of America is bullying. The battles over gay rights and abortion: basic bullying. Our foreign policy reduces down to US being the biggest meanest kid in the 5th grade over and over again.
Over and over again, the right-wing call for businesses to breathe free, free from the oppression of government's supposedly bullying regulations. Over and over the people looking out for our safety, our government, gets cast as a bully and we rally to condemn the bad old "gub'mint," then remove the cage we use to contain the wild beat we call the free market and every time we try this, it bites us in the ass. With the Treasury being Goldman- Sachs territory, and Wall Street and the insurance industry purchasing congressmen wholesale; everywhere you look bullies are shaping our commerce and every time you look, someone else is getting screwed.
And it's a vertical monopoly: Bullies Uber-Alles every time and everywhere. Our culture? Movies of violence or cruel comedy, television of barking political attack dogs and "reality TV" that banks on humiliation. Hate screamed rock and thugged up rap. The problem is, our society has evolved into a bully society, the intentional product of a bully brained government. This is in no way me trying to pretend this is some strictly recent aberration, or that America hasn't always been a bully.
Ask the Powhatan, the Algonquian, the Seminole, the Cherokee, the Navajo, the Chinese, the Irish, the Hindi, the Black. Ask Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, Korea. Sure, in foreign policy we have often been bullies and splendidly bastardly about it besides. Ask Mexico or ask the people of Guatemala what they think of the US right now that it's been revealed we once used their country as our own little secret real world STD experiment. And when we were too busy being bullies by ourselves, we trained others to do our bullying for us at the notorious School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. School of the Americas. What a wonderful sounding name for a place that offers classes in anesthesia-free knee cap removal and comparative genital electro-conductivity.
But until now America at least wanted to pretend we were above barbarity, that we were the good guys. Nowadays, it's just might makes right. At least in the recallable past, the government and pols, our business leaders and role models tried, at least to appear, to be in favor of protecting the weak from the brutish. Now they are all so bald-faced about it.
Take any day from last month's Democracy Now headlines and one can weave the tale of how the bullies shape our lives. 10/11 sounds good. You can trace the tales of the bullies from story to story: Now that it is coming out that, not only did our beloved financial institutions fraudulently raise housing prices so high everyone went broke, then bust, then they bilked us out of billions in bailouts; and then took homes away from four million families. Not only that. Now it turns out that too, that the mass foreclosures they have used to throw our citizens into the streets in pursuit of their corporate profits are also based on fraud. Foreclosures were robo-processed with rewards for the agents who could forge due process the fastest.
As of yet we don't know how many families were falsely thrown into the street, but instances have shown up in several states and all fifty are currently investigating. Meanwhile the head of Countrywide agrees to paying millions in fines for his misbehavior and joins the long list of banks and big businesses quietly agreeing to fines. Like we needed their permission to hold them accountable for screwing us after having been caught again, caught red-handed bullying the American public. And we have to let them do it because that's what keeps free enterprise free: the right of the rich to rape the poor.
These are the banks we were told were too precious to our country to risk collapse. These are the banks we loaned money to like a friend. Screwing us over all over again. Defrauding America at every single juncture in this sorry sequence of events. Several state governments have intervened and around the country, folks are calling for a national moratorium on foreclosures. But the federal government says, 'no, can't risk hurting our precious banks' precious bank profits.' Translation: because the banks are bullies and we don't want the bully to get mad. Wall Street's a bear when you piss off the bull.
Meanwhile another 95,000 lost their jobs. As the rich consolidate their capital, there is not enough left for paychecks it seems. And the list of bullies bloodying the public just goes on. Remember, these are just the stories from a single day.
Next up, NY gubernatorial candidate and bestiality fan, Carl Paladino, joined the right wing wannabe-governors' gay-basher band wagon with the aid of some Jewish religious leaders, who who wrote Paladino an anti-gay script, which not only read but has defended in separate interviews. Paladino might simply be throwing red meat to his red state fans; but the rabbis were declaring precious principles of their faith. Once again, the supposed god of love apparently hates fags. Odd that those Jewish religious leaders must've never heard that it was wrong to persecute people for being different.
Speaking of oppressions Paladino's rabbis might've heard of, how about that Ohio GOP congressional candidate Rich Iott, who out and out unmasks all pretenses of right wing pretensions about their intentions and simply dresses the part of a Nazi Waffen SS officer, the guys who operated the camps. His website recounts their exploits so lovingly it is hard to tell whether he's recruiting re-enactors or promoting their resurgence.
This is of course followed by a bit on the fact Israel is now demanding loyalty oaths as their next step towards a final solution for their Palestinian problem. Then two stories of US foreign follies of bully-dom with a Syrian man mistakenly imprisoned for seven years in Guantanamo Bay and the latest faux pas of one of our Latin American graduates of the School of the Americas, the aborted coup attempt in Ecuador.
Then was the story of Glenn Beck disciple, Byron Williams, who went out to shoot up the Tides Foundation to teach us all a lesson and ignite his revolution. Instead he just shot up the California State Police cars in his effort to rid the world of the bad guys. Way to train 'em, Glenn!
Stuck somewhere in the middle was this shocker of an item: "In what's been described as the world's biggest day of climate action, over 7,000 rallies and events were held Sunday in 188 Countries. The "10/10/10 Global Work Party" was organized by 350.org to urge people across the globe to do something in their city or community that will help deal with global warming." Which is the only time i ever heard about any of that. Why is this the only new source talking about an international event so massive it makes the idea of a Tea Party party, even one as lavish as Beck's big bash at the Lincoln Memorial, seem paltry?
Well, the truth is we won't hear about it in the mainstream because you aren't supposed to be interested. As an American news story that topic's officially DOA. Climate Change deniers have won the day on that one. American rich won't give up the profits and the rest of us intend to stay too damn comfortable to ever willingly give that up for the rest of the peasants around the world. They have to do what we say anyway. After all, we are the bully.
The last story of that night was about a dead John Lennon and some awards in his name on what would have been his 70th birthday, if he hadn't been shot down by a bully.
Of course, you can go through most any day and find stories of the bullies getting ever more brazen: Alaska reporter handcuffed by GOP candidates private guards who had to be rescued by the police. Rand Paul's boys stomp on MoveOn.org. And Stephen Broden, a GOP Congressional candidate in Texas, who says the GOP should just hold a violent revolution if they don't get what they want through election. On tape, in a sermon. That's right, this guy's a minister. If that guy is the example of the folks spreading the word, it's small wonder they know neither right from wrong, nor the true spirit of the god of love that they say that they love. Perhaps their god isn't meant to be man's friend but his shield.
Welcome to the Jungle. "Kill Teams" collecting fingers for trophies in Afghanistan, Wikileaks revealing our own recounting of torture and mass massacre in Iraq. America is no longer among the 20 least corrupt countries of the world in Transparency International's annual index. Now we're 22nd and the countries we've been destroying and/or mismanaging for the last couple of decades, Afghanistan and Iraq in particular, are among the absolute worst.
Or for me the story with the with the scariest bully face, the GOP candidate who most exemplifies what appears to be the new face of the GOP, former marine and admitted murderer, Ilario Pantano. While some will say Amy Goodman's good liberal authorship can spin some stories, you couldn't possibly distort the facts in this case to make them more hideous. They are bad enough as they are; and no one is disputing them.
"A Tea Party-backed congressional candidate in North Carolina is facing scrutiny for having killed two unarmed Iraqis while serving in Iraq. The candidate, Ilario Pantano, has said he has no regrets about fatally shooting the two at point blank range after detaining them near Fallujah in April 2004. Prosecutors later alleged that Pantano intended to make an example of the men by shooting them sixty times and hanging a sign over their corpses that read "No better friend, no worse enemy." Pantano did not deny hanging the sign or shooting the men repeatedly after stopping their vehicle at a checkpoint. He admitted to emptying one magazine of bullets into the Iraqis, then reloading and firing thirty more rounds. Despite his admission, the military cleared Pantano of wrongdoing in 2005. He's now in a tight race with Democrat Mike McIntyre in North Carolina's 7th Congressional District."
Did you catch that last line? Tight race? The people of North Carolina like this sort of thing? How is there hope for America when the people want to elect cold blooded killers to their Congress? And who are the people behind him?
Raw Story elaborates about the support Pantano has been able to get. "Pantano has been able to raise almost $1 million for his campaign. He has received endorsements from the Veterans In Defense Of Liberty, the North Carolina Chapter of Eagle Forum, far-right blogger Pamela Geller, and a number of other conservatives."
Is this where we're headed? Recently long time Fascism watcher Sara Robinson published her latest report on the ever-threatening "totalitarianism-creep" factor in the upcoming elections, "Fascist America: Is This Election the Next Turn?" and asked, are we there yet? Her result? Maybe.
Robinson recognizes the work of Robert Paxton as the authority in the field of studying the process a democracy goes through as one collapses and crumbles into fascism. As she often does, Robinson quotes him extensively. Paxton identifies, three final warning signs to awaken citizens to soberingly real possibility our country is sliding past the point of no return. which an emerging fascist regime has too much power to be stopped:
"1. Are [neo- or proto-fascisms] becoming rooted as parties that represent major interests and feelings and wield major influence on the political scene?
2. Is the economic or constitutional system in a state of blockage apparently insoluble by existing authorities?
3. Is a rapid political mobilization threatening to escape the control of traditional elites, to the point where they would be tempted to look for tough helpers in order to stay in charge?"
Yes, yes, yes in all three cases. We've let this virus grow inside us and now it's eating us whole. No matter which way the elections fall, we are all going to lose. If they land even the slighest advantage, then like they did with Clinton, like they did with Carter, the GOP will bully Obama to exhaustion and everyone will suffer while nothing gets fixed.
That's the best case scenario. If, somehow, the Dems retained some power, you can predict all kinds if retaliation. Bullies aren't good with being told no. As Sharron Angle notes they're ready to resort to "Second Amendment remedies." Are we about to devour ourselves?
Bye, bye, Gordon Gecko. Greed is good, war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. Thanks for the cancer, now we've all got it. We're all bullies. It's the American Way. And just like you, this might be our curtain call.
George Orwell once predicted the future would be a boot, smashing a human face. Forever. I fear the future is here--
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.