By John Steppling
Two recent articles suggest some of the paradoxes of the current Presidential election:
Now, I will add a third, the very fine piece on the Nobel Peace (sic) Prize, by the always very fine Greg Elich:
The race issue has become considerably intensified of late due to the slugs coming out from beneath the rocks at McCain/Palin rallies and those coming on set at FOX News. The racial insecurity of folks like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity would be laughable if the audience for this stuff were not so large. Hannity has even tried to form Obama into a Manchurian Candidate — a narrative trope so bizarre that I honestly can’t come up with the right adjectives to describe it.
There have been a number of items circulating the internet of late, all of them discussing the irrational nature of the Republican campaign. The most telling, or revealing, in terms of race pointed out that if McCain was a Harvard Law graduate, cum laude, and it was Obama who finished near the bottom of his class at Annapolis, and if it was Obama who had dumped his first wife (after serial infidelity) to marry a pill head heiress, the coverage would be a lot different. Obama and Biden are both law school grads with Juris Doctor degrees and McCain was a war criminal and then POW. Palin did one semester in Hawaii and two at a community college in Idaho….and finally two at the U of Idaho and got a BA in the end, again from Idaho.
This is racism at work. It distorts in subtle ways and it infects almost all of daily life in the US. If Michelle Obama were the one with a drug abuse history, the media would have seized on this — with the usual coded rhetoric— to suggest how those damn black folks just have a tendency to addiction.
Now, what has this to do with the Nobel War Criminal Prize? Well, it’s about the unreality of western society today. The Finnish diplomat and former president is really just another puppet lackey for western hegemony and militarism. The tale of the Balkan conflict is, as I’ve said before, the most successful propaganda campaign in history. But then Kissinger got the prize, too, so one need not be surprised. That a good portion of white America (and black) think Milosevic a monster and Wes Clark a hero is testimony to the madness, amnesia and irrationality of today’s western culture. American exceptionalism is linked to American racism. Call Obama a Muslim or an Arab or even, by extension, a terrorist, and really, a good many people will accept this — a good many white Americans. Race is about insecurity — about the former slaves usurping the spot at the table reserved for the master. The psychic fissure at work in the US right now happens alongside a total economic meltdown….and this brings us to the Mike Davis piece.
There is no point is trying to guess just how deluded Obama is, or how much he can be educated, or how much he is just trying to say and do the right thing to get elected in this mental fun house that is the USA. But yes, he is hardly expressing anything like a rational or socialist agenda regarding foreign policy or the economy. I mean if I were to vote in terms of my interests I would vote for McKinney, also a black candidate, but one who has spoken the truth without adulteration. In a world that gives peace prizes, on a regular basis to war criminals, one cannot speak the truth. Joe Biden is one of the real bottom feeders in US government — an opportunistic wind bag and egotist with a relentless vaulting ambition. He is not a man, as Davis has written, to see the Grand Canyon. He can’t see past his preconceptions and self interest. Can Obama, asks Davis? I don’t know, but I do know that McCain and Palin have morphed into figures of a future fascism. Will Palin be back (assuming Obama wins)? Likely, if only in her own TV talk show.
Media bestows a certain legitimacy — otherwise a Hannity or an Ann Coulter would be laughed at as self parody. Racism is about fear, and so is fascism. They overlap and Palin’s quoting of devout fascist Westbrook Pelger is just more proof of this. The redneck fringe needs someone to blame, as house foreclosures add to an already dire economic picture. The hatred of Muslims (all of whom are murdering terrorists) is easily transferred to a black President with an odd name.
Will Obama end the occupation of Iraq? I don’t know. Can he create a Roosevelt-like work program? I don’t know. But as Davis says at the end of his article, if he doesn’t, the return of the repressed will be visited upon us in the coming years in the form of Christian fascists like Sarah Palin and her legion of disenfranchised and angry white people. The lumpen masses who will be, at that point, queuing up for food rations and medicine. Class consciousness has no traction in the US. People can’t identify their own interests. Those people screaming hatred at the McCain rallies are people who believe global warming doesn’t exist, and they believe hordes of Muslims want to take over NFL games and turn them into Koranic study meetings, and they believe Darwin is godless and that Empire is the reason those backward people can even tie their shoes. And they flock, when they can afford it, to the latest valentine to militarism that Hollywood is spewing out.
The cartoon craziness of Palin, its important to bear in mind, is not really different from the craziness of reporting on Iraq and its WMD, or the demonizing of Serbs and rewriting history as it pertains to Kosovo or Rwanda or the West Bank. Palin can be seen as a joke — and she is a joke on many levels — but Martti Ahtisaari is a joke too, as is Wes Clark and Dick Holbroke and Dick Cheney and Hank Paulson. The aggression of a depressed and insecure people who have been trained by mass media and marketing to fear even the term ‘class consciousness’ is simply waiting for a chance to hold guns pointed at domestic refugees. The Katrina fallout is proof of how easily this might happen. Blackwater on Main Street.
Beating up Sarah Palin is easy — not that she isn’t genuinely scary — but maybe its time to address the madness of Henry Kissinger still being a free man. There is a lot of irrationality out there, and most of it comes in a more palatable form than moose hunting Pentecostal nutters like Palin. Genuine leaders of purpose like Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro must be examined in a way other than Clear Channel would have it; and Putin and Lukashenko and Correa and Morales — and the kangaroo courts at The Hague and Arusha need to be called what they are. Time to question the less obvious madness, because only then can the most obvious catastrophe of a McCain/Palin program really be analyzed.
Senior Editor of Arts and Culture with Cyrano’s Journal Online, playwright, director, screenwriter and teacher, John Steppling was an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival and has had his plays produced in London, LA, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Poland. Steppling lives in Lodz with Norwegian director Gunnhild Skrodal, and teaches at the Polish National Film School. He co-edits with Guy Zimmerman Cyrano’s celebrated VOXPOP blog on theater, cinema & politics.