Saturday, November 06, 2004

coming upon the Bush

Lordy me, journalists are having visions. At least, they are in Bucks County, right out in its open fields, then going back to their desks and writing newspaper articles about them.

This specimen presents a very clear formulation of what broke through the placid surface of USian blandness the other day. Written by a columnist in Buck's County, Pa. by the name of J.D. Mullane (not a writer I'm familiar with, just one who popped out via googling), it's entitled "What Divides America":
The divide in America is between those who recognize when the wheel of history turns, and those who don't....
It's a fact that during times of upheaval, many people misread the times and become history's sorry reactionaries.'s a matter of being able to read, and we'll take this opportunity to bash liberals whose self-proclaimed insight has been proven by history to have been prattle, blah, bleh...

Then we get to it: What really divides us is what hits the columnist, providing him with a dramatic Eureka moment motif, except that instead of his discovering the calculus or a fundamental law of motion, it's a shattering realization:

I realized what really divides us last week when President Bush visited Ruth Wright's farm in Lower Makefield.

Bush spoke of the stakes for the world in the global war on Islamo-fascist terror.

He spoke of Afghanistan and how, for the first rime [sic] in its 5,000-year history, it had held democratic elections to choose a president, and the first voter was a 19-year-old woman.

"Freedom is on the march," Bush said. "The world is changing because of our deep belief in freedom. We believe everybody wants to be free. Freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world."

Mullane offers a rapid-fire series of Spielbergian reaction shots, then cuts to the guts:

We are in the midst of an epoch, facing a great evil that must be defeated at all costs. Bush knows it. So do the 51 percent of Americans who voted for him on Tuesday.

You either see it, or you don't.

And there it is, you see, standing stark naked before you and unabashed, the Truth. You don't see? Pity. You'll get none of your argument here, no logic, no candyass liberal premises linked via a tedious course of White Man's Civics Lessons to a rational conclusion, a la Kerry. Instead, there is the transforming power of a vision given as a gift to some, withheld from others. You know who you are.

As Lenny Bruce would say, dig: The moment in which we, as witnesses, "recognize when the wheel of history turns," is itself the next big historical event. We can skip Emerson, Thoreau, and the rest of the American Wankendentalists and jump the bones of hizzoner the late great Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel hisself, who paradigmed the story of history to turn upon that moment when its I/eye turns back upon itself, pulling obstetrically from the hat of linear time the lop-eared rabbit of Absolute Knowledge, in so doing acquiring that old time pharmacokarmacological buzz that comes with bumping up against the Infinite and, furthermore, howeversomeekly while at it, downloading the joyous jesusjuice necessary to straighten out and or delete the unrepentent badasses of god's scorched earth.

It's the vision of Abraham all over again:

Afterward, as I trudged across a lumpy, muddy cornfield, I heard a father implore his young son, "Never forget you saw President Bush."
We USians have been on this joyride ever since Thomas Jefferson invoked what he thought was a commonplace, a basis for incontrovertible, axiomatic first things: "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." There it is, the evidence, the argument, the conclusion, all in one compact flashtube of optimized three dimensional simulated self-evidentiary epipanic self-evidentiariness: Now you see it, BADA the world BOOM changes.

This is poetry, myth, in American motion. It soars above the hemming and hawing of hoary animatronic ghost-presidents like Kerry who can only martial lengthy discourses, rich in exempla, superbly cadenced, all leading up to pointing to Bush and saying, he is wrong, but discovering all these words are tinder, bursting into flame as they approach the Bush, feeding the Bush, giving the Bush a Hand yes as it throbs yes as it trembles yes as it explodes into a billion poigns of light, bringing bushels of searing scarring burning freedom to those who otherwise would be consumed by the Evil.

Eat or be eaten, there is no other choice, no middle ground:
“We’ve sat idly by long enough and said, ‘Well religion and politics don’t mix.’ Don’t you believe it. If we don’t have moral people in government then the only other people that can be in government are immoral. That’s the only way it goes. Either you have moral people in there or you have immoral people.” - Pat Robertson
Now the point of this somewhat uneven stroll alongside Mullane in the clover of Buck's County is not to ridicule him, his views or the constituency he so triumphally addresses. Rather, it's that his is not so different from many other perspectives in responding to the returns of Election Day 2004 as a profound shuddering schism breaking through the mascara of USian society. Everyone on both sides of this election is seeing it as an historic articulation, the moment when we discovered we are two nations.

But is it? Or are we experiencing in a shock of deja-vu-itude the recognition that we have been living a Tall Tale for a very long time, a story made all the more bogus by the synthetic Dan Ratheriness of its mediation? We are a rather neurotic place, a bundle of contested values and mutually destructive energies. We have been for a very long time, since, say, 1860, or, 1800, or, 1774, or... You would think we'd have managed by now to acknowledge some of these differences openly, but no-o. We've opted for thinking we are all getting along, because the news is, you know, so boring, so rammed and jammed into tidy little bites of lede/inverted pyramid/cut to Kathy in the street buttonholing an alleged sample of the General Population/I make a dull grimace and now, this...

when, "in fact," what's happening here is quite interesting, rife with tension, surfacing here much the way something surfaced on September 11, 2001 in lower Manhattan, and maybe in this case that's not such a bad thing, to cut the crap and begin to look around and see, perhaps not with the omnipotent visionary power of Mr. Mullane, but with something of the unsynthetic singularity of actual attention, who it might or might not just be whom we have been calling "we," and giving some thought to producing that pronoun less frequently in impolite political discourse.

Cause that's it: we've just been waaaaaaaay too polite. We need news anchors that will tear their shirts, spread dirt on their TV hair, cuss the cameramen, scratch their balls, smoke a joint or two, ogle the interns, and offer something like what it is, besides kissing the arse of power, that they have been up to, they, these individuals, in their encounters not with History, or if it has to be with History, then let it be History written and produced by Rabelais, Richard Pryor, and Lenny Bruce. Not History seeing its big bad self and putting on airs, but history writ small, crabbed, euphemism-free, tobacco-stained, bristling with nervous tics and bad skin.


Blogger Rich said...

Wow, Darwin and Robertson in virtually the same breath. Not sure where to begin with this, except to say that I'd be dishonest to claim that I followed it all.

It seems an unhealthy period of introspection and analysis has again overtaken the post election malaise. Why unhealthy? It appears to me more like rationalization than actual objectivity (what a surprise coming from a country that spawned both William Randolph Hearst and Joseph McCarthy, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln). There are any number of post-pundits spilling pearls about how the neo-cons convinced the evangelicals that Satan was calling for all the unborn to be slaughtered, or how the liberal intelligentsia overlooked the values of the common folk. In the end, it doesn’t seem to get us close to the issue.

With that, I’ll address your post: there are clearly limitations in the lack-of-substance of the challenger (heralded as nuance from his supporters). At the same time, I don’t think this gives license to the incumbent to claim a mandate behind a narrow victory. The balance of power has certainly shifted to the right, as evidenced by the current makeup of both the House and Senate. However, this hardly grants carte blanche. Just as much of the left was voting against Mr. Bush (rather than for John Kerry), all of the right, and enough of the center, was sufficiently unimpressed with his opposition.

While he is not likely to, Mr. Bush should realize that his re-election merely provides another opportunity to forward the agenda of the people. It is also incumbent upon him to recognize that morality is not the unique property of the religious, just as depravity is not limited to the great unwashed.

11/06/2004 11:20 PM  
Blogger The Happy Tutor said...

Having broken free of both resistance and reason, the Bush admin should indeed make history. A new Lincoln, undoing what Lincoln did. Making two nations out of one. Healing the wounds. Tom, you approach the altar first. See if he heals you. If so, I will sneak out the back door and light out for the country.

11/06/2004 11:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Rich: I and many will agree with your thoughts. I'm not sure if Bush & Co. are waiting to be given a mandate or granted carte blanche. Like they say -- they just got a whole new payload of capital, it's in the bank, and we're all going to get to see how they spend it. To target Social Security on day one above all the other matters on the presidential plate suggests a mode of vision that leaves us lesser mortals powerless, voiceless, blind in the tailwind.

11/07/2004 8:16 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Tutor: O ye of little faith:

But stronger still, in earth and air,
And in the sea, the man of pray'r;
And far beneath the tide;
And in the seat to faith assign'd,
Where ask is have, where seek is find,
Where knock is open wide. - Kit Smart

11/07/2004 8:41 AM  
Blogger Ray Davis said...

And what about the proposal to tax only people who work for a living, leaving all usurious income alone? All pretense has been dropped: government is being justified only as a prison-backed way to funnel money from the non-rich to the already rich. The United Company Store.

Yes, you either see it or you don't.

11/07/2004 11:16 AM  
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