Saturday, April 01, 2006

back from the brink

I've been wondering what it might take to take this nation back from its current bout of acute psychosis.

People can become bipolar - they become manic; they become depressed. They swing like a pendulum from one state to the other. States too can become bipolar. For states though the manifestations are named differently. States swing between self-aggrandizing on one end to paranoid on the other.

I think that the manic/self-aggrandizement and depression/paranoia equate generally well enough to make "people bipolar" and "state bipolar" close analogs if not isomorphic.

Given that, it is clear to me that despite the chest thumping that the Bush administration and its willing executioners like to display exhibits depression. Now chest thumping and depression are not usually equated. Neither is chest thumping and paranoia I suppose. But consider that when one is in greatest fear, one can choose to run or one can chose to fight. If you feel you are dealing from weakness and you decide to fight the only tool you have is the bluff. Said another way, all you can do is thump your chest and hope your opponent is impressed enough to back down.

If one is deeply paranoid (and won't run) all one can do is chest-thumping. I obviously have a big definition of chest thumping here. Sending American troops into Iraq s a valid manifestation of chest-thumping. You see, chest thumping doesn't actually do anything significant. What it does is it attempts to make your adversary believe that you COULD do something significant. And that describes the Iraq invasion. It did not solve any particular problem. It only tried to demonstrate that we could do such a thing to our adversary if we wanted to.

I don't believe for a second that the neo-cons see it this way. I think that they thought they were solving a problem. Saddam had become a serious boogey-man for them, He kept them from sleep and stuff. But the real actor here is George Bush. What did he see? I am convinced that he saw it as chest thumping. We could show North Korea and Iran. And we could show Al Qaeda too. They would see how powerful we are (were) and decide that they better get with program.

He followed all that up with the incipient Constitutional crisis of illegal wiretaps, Constitutional crime, and neo-McCarthyism that is so bad we have no "-gate" name for it. We just call it "politics."

George Bush put this nation into a serious paranoia. Does he feel it as a personal paranoia? I don't know. That is not a necessary pre-condition I think for the nation to be in such a state. I don't think it is even necessary for his machine to believe it. Their job is by definition a machiavellian one. They must manipulate events to support the narrative they want to embed in the national consciousness.

So the question again, how to get the nation back from not only this state of paranoia but from its general psychosis? One can say that this nation has always been thusly psychotic. Our Manifest Destiny is manifest enough. Our adherence since the Civil War of a nearly-wahhabist strain of capitalism has always been at odds with the principals of our founding documents.

But before this Bush Administration we were able to find a rough equilibrium. It lasted from between the mid-fifties until September 11, 2001. And yes, I am including Nixon and Reagan in their. Through all that time the pendulum swung but it didn't move really all that far from its center. And really I don't believe that even McCarthy was that much of a Constitutional problem. For the proper bookend we would have to go back to FDR and his ramming through of his Depression-era programs and his subsequent Japanese internment order.

Somehow we survived that. Now the question is, how do we survive this?

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