Thursday, June 17, 2010

I Say We Will Have No More Saluting

                             Hamlet declared that we will have  no more marriage,  while I....   

     I woke in the night, in ready-made anger, generated by a television news image left over from the earlier evening, an image of a bunch of nameless, faceless subalterns of government in suits, saluting in every direction along with a squalid squad of hapless, Pentagonic generals, of which there seems to be an endless supply to send out into the field, foreign and domestic, to fail relentlessly to do what they were charged to do.
     All that damned saluting, especially by those guys in business suits! Decorum is all shot to hell. Even in the darkest days of World War II, the Navy found time to teach us boots military decorum. We learned that only personnel in uniform saluted or were saluted. Out of doors, an officer, only if covered (wearing a hat), was to be saluted. Nor did one ever salute a civilian, for God’s sake. And I say, by extension, that those civilian operatives should keep their hands in their pockets if they can’t learn to stand properly at attention.
     These are the times that try men’s souls: wasn't that the way Tom Paine put it long ago? And isn’t it so now?
     Here we are with the most promising Presidency of our era crashing on the rocks of the worst batch of bad luck in memory-- and all to the gleeful spite of the worst of people in the body politic.
     Just think: a great and enlightened nation held helpless and hostage to the global empire of BP and its multiple oily billions. If in doubt, reread “Beowulf” about monsters in our depths. Think about those who would presume to do our thinking for us-- and sink us.
     I had thought that we were all set for something new in the affairs of men and women. I have been arguing that we are into a New Period in the history of American fly fishing and made my argument out of signs that I thought I saw of more humane intellectual, political, social, and economic forces rising around us. Now all that appears to be going down the drain, the more fool I.
     The bankers and would-be bankers have ruined everything. The American genius for business turns villainous. The stubborn darkness of the recession has given rise to political factionalism, in which the shrillest and ugliest strike out from the dark caves of ignorance, fear, and hate, and care for nothing beyond the accumulation and protection of private wealth-- guarding their golden hoard. Above all else, in the dynamics of human consciousness, they lust for the rawest sort of power and hate taxes most of all.
     They cry the Constitution as their authority for an America of the dark ages. This mindless shouting of The Constitution depends on their insistent ignorance of the document itself, the conditions of its origin, and its continued growth over our history.
     Taxes! Here I am, an eighty-five year old, retired school teacher, a veteran, now a scribbler of blogs. And I live in luxury! I am hard-pressed to think of a single thing that I treasure, enjoy, and am grateful for that does not eventually root itself from taxation. Taxation is the cost of our privilege and our luxury. Bring it on! say I.
     We should worry ourselves sick about American education. What do we make of ourselves as a nation, alone in the family of nations, where the operative principle of life, evolution , is held in doubt, more often in out-right rejection by so many.
     The religious right, hand in hand with poverty, stands in the way of proper education in the United States of America. Think how a state like Texas, in the body of its legislature, can determine what nonsense and error children are required to be taught. Think of how these legislators pander and pimp for their primitive religious literalisms of race, class, sex, and gender. Only in America!
    And those guys go on saluting, saluting, and ever more saluting. I wish the President would stop it. (At least there was comic relief when Bush saluted)
     What, after all, does a salute signify if not acceptance? And what should we be accepting today? BP? Bankers? Religionists? Tea Partiers? Moral and political scheisters of any stripe? Must we accept, acquiesce, in all this?
     In my youthful days in the Navy, I prided myself on the style of my salute. I did it right. I thought I knew what I was saluting as recognition of my right and proper responsibility as a citizen of this great nation. But that was another time-- long ago-- when our souls were tried to great and just purpose.
     I am troubled by these guys in their suits and am beginning to understand what young people today mean when they speak idiomatically of “a suit”, those identical, interchangeable operatives with their spread collars and Windsor knots. All black suits.
     I was raised to a careful standard of linen and cravat. I love neck ties and feel at my best only when wearing one. But what shall I do now, when that suit and tie, that perfectly knotted bit of the finest Italian silk, has come to suggest something quite other than it used to? What shall I do now?
     Shall I dress in the trash mode of the multitudes and become one of them? At my age! I need a New Style for this New Period that I keep plugging. That is, if there is to be any New Period.
     My soul is being tried. Out of uniform, as I am, I can salute no one and no thing. I have lived too long, a victim of my excellent physicians and their ministrations. I think I am living beyond my moral means…. Again, in a luxury that borders on the obscene given a world of such immense and pervasive suffering-- and the rampant resources for destruction of BP.
     While I despise the religionists and their silly “end times”, I have to wonder if I ought to just come down off my high-horse, quit looking for New Periods and just accept, salute, what might well be The End, finis, of all that I understand and has been given me… I suspect that there is not enough in Google to save us. And Mozart cannot last forever.
     Still, maybe there is something for me to salute after all. I am bound on my own special wheel, bound to the continued effort to try to encourage and assist young people. Young people distract me from my miseries of mind and heart and remind me once again of life and art. They inspire me simply by their being young. But for them, I should be in despair. I salute them-- at full attention.
     Is this the way to use the privilege of a blog? As a sort of antacid for a burning spirit? I had thought that my blogs ought to be a series of carefully wrought essays, written, revised, and rewritten. They ought to be on matters of common interest and concern with the reader-- a place where we might meet in mutual pleasure.
     Now here’s this piece, burning and indigestible. Shall I be forgiven ?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sleepless in the Gulf

Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Not all the drowsy syrups of the world
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou ow’dst yesterday. Othello, III,iii

    It will be years before the bosses at British Petroleum, its ancillaries like Halliburton, and the undesirables at Interior’s mineral management can once again sleep easily as once they did on that “yesterday”-- for which today they must so yearn. Courts will wrangle for years over what are “legitimate” claims and over personal responsibility for lost lives, livelihoods, homes, a way of life.      Some talk of indictments in the case of the eleven dead. Others keep pushing the long narrative of corporation neglect, malpractice, dishonesty, and profiteering coming forth from whistleblowers who were on the spot. And those wretches in the offices of MMS, where can they go now?
      No, there will be precious little “sweet sleep” for any of them in the face of charges for their malfeasance. They must toss and turn the nights away thinking how bitterly ironic it is that, had they only, many yesterdays ago, cooperated with and not fought off regulations and supervisions from federal authority, this thing might never have happened. The right-wing, single-minded as it is in its effort to “get” the President for anything and everything, is now crying out against the failure of government to fix the mess-- a “mess” that their opposition to regulation of corporate culture has brought down on all our heads.
     Surely it must be clear to some sober conservatives that government intervention into any emergency like this must move them closer to just what they most fear and now call European democratic socialism.
     Year by year, day by day, almost by the hour, the public is moving closer, in spite of protestations to the contrary, to acceptance of the need for greater governmental regulation of American business, industry and finance. Government is, after all, the means by which we save ourselves from ourselves.
     Surely there are thinkers on the Right who must realize how much bigger this disaster in the Gulf must now make the federal government? Don’t they hear the public demand for a bigger government intervention? At what point might public consciousness turn to the possibility of out-right public ownership of the oil industry for rescue from its product?
     And the industry has only itself to blame. It has fouled, quite literally, its own waters. Corporate capitalism, foreign and domestic, has taken a body blow and might never be the same again in the United States of America.
     Who among us would want to walk in the pajamas of the management of BP and face the miseries of those sleepless nights, imagining papers of indictment, writs of restitution, threats of corporate collapse, possibly even the loss of private millions?
      Where is the great man, jaunty with a cigarette and a martini-- or that plain, hard-boiled Missourian with a plain bourbon and water-- where is that man of whom I have dreamed to lead me through these late days of my life? Where is he who will raise holy hell, cleanse the temple, and restore the beauty of American life?
      Well, you can’t fool me: I know where he is. I want him to rise to the full height of his excellence and lay about, as it were, with the jaw-bone of an ass to call an end to this nightmare of corporate malfeasance. “Yesterday” is a lost cause. A livable tomorrow can still be cried in the streets.