|Someone Else For President|
Shoot To Kill
In Memory of Jean Charles de Menezes
| SHOOT TO KILL|
In Memory of Jean Charles de Menezes
I can just hear the sentiments
racing through that cop's heart
(do cops actually have hearts?)
as he pumped seven bullets
into an innocent man's head:
“Take this, you Muslim bastard!”
And this - bang!
And this - bang!
And this - bang!
And this - bang!
And this - bang!
And this - bang!
Except he turned out to be Brazilian.
Oh well, win some, lose some.
And I doubt there's a shortage
of electricians in London.
Seven slugs? At pointblank range?
How dead did you want him?
There are lessons to be learned:
Never wear a coat in summer,
you might only end up colder.
Running late for a train?
Miss it and catch another;
yesterday's ride could prove your last.
Forget about taking a lunch to work,
especially in a briefcase or backpack;
choke at a nearby greasy spoon instead,
unless you don't mind never eating again.
If you're being chased by strange men
and are afraid they want to mug you,
stop in your tracks and let them go for it;
better beat up & robbed than safely dead.
Or maybe skip going out of doors altogether;
stay home, quietly starve, and watch on TV
all the lovely ways good people say bye-byes.
Meanwhile, you can trust me on this one:
There are more bombings to come.
And if the West and its lackeys
fail to quickly change their tunes,
very soon you'll be hearing me say
not merely that we asked for it
but that we fucking well deserve it!
July 26th 2005
Someone Else For President
Many years ago, a late friend of mine, a fellow poet and expatriate American, told me that whenever he did vote (not often) he always went for the Democratic ticket, because “under Democrats there tends to be more public money available for the arts.” Seems a good enough reason, given that Republicans usually provide precious little funding for anything worthwhile and generally favor cutting back on whatever decent programs are in place.
As for me, I have voted but once, in the 1964 presidential election. Four years earlier, despite being 20 and in the US Air Force, I was ineligible, as the voting age had not yet been lowered from 21 to 18. That time I would have gone for Kennedy, all the more so since he was running against Nixon (saved by Illinois, and the Mob; but only for eight years). Come '64, with Barry Goldwater apparently calling for outright war and Lyndon Johnson duplicitously vowing the opposite—“We seek no wider war” (August 1964) + “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves” (October 1964)—I naturally opted for LBJ.
Johnson won and America got more deeply, more tragically, involved in the horror of Vietnam (an involvement that JFK was initially responsible for and, to a certain extent, Eisenhower before him) than most ordinary citizens could have anticipated. Yet there were plenty out there who wanted just that, and not only among Goldwater's “Why Not Victory?” crowd, such as the 13% of voters who in 1968 cast their ballots for George Wallace and his mad-hatter running mate, my old Air Force boss Curtis (“Bomb 'em back to the Stone Age”) LeMay.
I felt betrayed. Notwithstanding the many positive domestic measures Johnson pushed through Congress, his Civil Rights legislation and all (the Great Society), there was no way I could trust this guy. Not him, maybe not any politician, quite possibly not the political system itself. The thought even crossed my mind that Barry and Lyndon had worked it all out in advance, cooked the campaign books beforehand as a sure-fire way of screwing the electorate and getting what they both wanted. 'You say war, I'll say no war, and whoever wins we'll still go to war.' Regardless of whether such a frightful conspiracy actually occurred (doubtful), the result was the same. As the online encyclopedia Spartacus Educational sums it up: “In the election of November 1964, the voters decided to reject Goldwater's aggressive policies against communism and Johnson won a landslide victory. What the American public did not know was that President Johnson was waiting until the election was over before carrying out the policies that had been advocated by his Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater.”
So that was it for me and voting. The way I figured, anyone running for office didn't deserve to win, they must have some nefarious agenda up their sleeve that won't be to my liking. Besides, the whole idea of majority rule rubs me the wrong way, and never harder than when the so-called majority is no more than a pitiful plurality. While even actual majorities are prone to showing poor judgement. Ask today's British public, for example, to decide whether capital punishment should be restored, and chances are there would be a huge voter turnout, with the rope winning hands down. The Labour government are bewilderingly unenlightened on many matters, from constant nannyism and steadily creeping infringement of civil liberties to blindly supporting Bush (never mind the huge public outcry that Blair arrogantly snubbed, at no apparent cost to his political future), as are the Tory opposition in their own dreadful ways; but at least on that major issue nearly all UK politicos are holding the line. Being in the EU helps; bared teeth (but watch out!) of the budding super-state.
The public. Whenever I tune in to any radio or TV coverage (British, continental European) of the American heartland, focusing on flocks of diehard Bushites, I don't know whether to laugh, weep or scream; so I mostly do all three. There they are, God-fearing (or so they say) and wretchedly mindless, yet ready, willing and perfectly capable (God help us!) of securing George W. and his neo-con cabal another full term in the White House. It can happen, and it will happen, unless every level-headed American who is registered to vote in a swing state gets out there on Election Day and stops it from happening. For the rest, those who live elsewhere in America, I heartily agree with my South African friend Tony, who recently wrote: “I know y'all in the USA have to vote for Kerry to save the world from the Bush Gang, but DON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN!!! If you live in a swing state, vote Kerry; if not, then please don't encourage these people by voting for them. The people you vote into office DO have an effect on every country in the rest of the world (not only the ones they're bombing or have sanctions against), and we've got no say in what goes down. You do.” Shades of the Yippies, as true today as it was in the Sixties and Seventies.
If you're not sure which states are currently up for grabs, check it out on the internet. Go to Google, search for “swing states 2004 election,” and Bob's your uncle (quaint English expression; another google for whomever doesn't know). Or what the hell, just go out and vote Kerry/tell your American friends to vote Kerry. Not Nader (thanks loads for last time, Ralph!), nor any other no-hoper; and for heaven's sake not in a swing state!
Let's face it, John Kerry will, in all likelihood, not make a very good president. [I can't think of anyone out there who might have met that criterion, except possibly Kucinich. And he's got the wrong name, wrong ancestry. They don't do Croats for the presidency in the Land of the Free. Or Greeks (Dukakis). Or my people, dagos (which Cuomo must have realized). Or Jews. I can't stomach Lieberman, but (shame on you, America) you can bet the family heirlooms he was a vote-costing factor in the 2000 election.] Same as Al Gore wouldn't have been anything special to write home or abroad about. And very much as William Jefferson Clinton was no great shakes, either.
Forget Monika Lewkinsky. I couldn't care less where Bill put his cigars or who went down on him where. I'm talking about the important stuff, starting with how he rode into office partly on the coattails of two high-profile Arkansas executions, including one of a certified mental retard. Small potatoes compared to Dubya's record-breaking serial killings as governor of Texas? Yeah, I suppose. But a life is a life and Bill snuffed two out, for personal gain. I don't know what you call it, but to my mind that's murder. After which, as honcho-in-chief, he increased the number of federal crimes carrying the death penalty; bore as much responsibility as any world leader (more; he was President of the United States, after all!) for the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, by continuing to back crippling sanctions against their homeland; and—along with his British cohorts—authorized ongoing bombing raids of that same nation, both by way of enforcing unilaterally-established (with Britain & France, then France dropped out), hence internationally illegal, 'no-fly zones' and otherwise.
For a fuller recitation of Bill Clinton's accomplishments as CEO of USA, Inc., read (or reread, as the case may be) chapter 10 of Michael Moore's Stupid White Men, headed “Democrats DOA.” And please don't counter by telling me how Michael occasionally plays a touch loose with the facts, because everything in that chapter is a matter of public record. As for the growing critiques by liberals (no one with an ounce of sense swallows the right-wing attacks) of his film Fahrenheit 9/11, such as that Moore neglects to confront, head on, America's imperialist tendencies, its seemingly unstoppable push towards global domination on all fronts, I don't buy it. Yes, Michael could tackle such topics and likely will someday, in another book or film. Yes, Michael is, on occasion, a trifle naive. But Fahrenheit 9/11, same as Dude, Where's My Country?, has one primary aim: to get Dubya dumped. And I, for one, damn well hope it succeeds.
Why do I hope it succeeds? C'mon, you've read the articles, you follow the news, you know what's going on. What can I possibly tell you about how bad, how terrifyingly dangerous, the Bush bunch are—in every respect, not only where foreign affairs are concerned—that you're not privy to already? As well as how criminally ignorant, even stupid, the nominal head of the organization is. Correct, when it comes to presidents of the most powerful nation on earth, it damn well is a crime to be stupid. I've no idea what my statistical IQ is, nor have I any intention of finding out. Plus I don't place much store in IQ tests anyway. (It might have been a bad hair day for you; or, like me, you could be a professional test taker.) But if it is not considerably above 100, then it's probably fair to say I have no business talking to you (okay, lecturing you) on anything as grave as this.
George W. Bush's IQ is reportedly well below 100 (somewhere in the 80s), his daddy's not much higher (ah, eight years vice-president, four years president, CIA director prior to both). Nixon's was high (as I presume Stalin's was, too). Clinton's IQ literally soars, a Mensa shoo-in. Verdict: IQ tests ain't everything and Bush is dumb, dangerous, and downright evil. What's more, I can't stand the sight of him, that 'screw all you suckers' smirk, or hearing his voice. Can you? I thought not.
Are there any valid reasons for not doing your damnedest to help oust Dubya on November 2nd, either by voting if you are eligible or urging others to vote if you are not (or praying or doing voodoo)? I doubt it. There are always reasons, for practically everything under the sun, à la Jean Renoir's “The tragedy of life is that everyone has their reasons.” But no valid ones here, not to my eyes. You don't care? Can't be, otherwise you wouldn't have read this far. You want Hillary in 2008? Shudder! She has too much of Lady Macbeth about her (as does the ketchup queen). But leave Dubya in office and there may not be an election in 2008. Hey, we'll be lucky to have one this year, on time anyway.
You have heard of the Patriot Act, I take it. (Much of which has got to be unconstitutional; so why isn't anyone challenging it in court?) Well, give the Crawford cowboy four more big ones and see what greater terrors the shepherd has in store for his nation of sheep.
There is, of course, the old Red Army Fraction philosophy (RIP Baader, Meinhof, Raspe, Enslin, et al), that if you push the fascists real hard to do their very worst, eventually the people will revolt and overthrow them. I was attracted to it once, for a time; but it's bullshit—it doesn't work that way, and it's not worth risking what's left of your social liberties, your individual freedoms, to see if it might could work. It won't. No one is going to overthrow anyone. Fail to realize that and you'll learn the hard way, with an electronic tag on your wrist or ankle for having done nothing more outrageous than trying to exercise your right of free speech; or free thought, 'cause that's how far it's meant to go, my friends.
Kerry won't bring all the troops back from Iraq, but he may begin whittling down their numbers from early on. He won't remake America's image on the international stage from number-one ogre into a paragon of virtue that everyone everywhere suddenly adores. But he most likely will change course in foreign affairs just enough to avert total and certain disaster. While if he makes it for eight, he may well push the envelope further. He won't, he can't possibly, eliminate the present budget deficit, certainly not anywhere close to overnight. But I reckon he'll give it a shot = do his level best to start lowering it. For the rest we'll have to see. But I feel reasonably assured that whatever John Kerry does and doesn't do, can and cannot do, he is not now engaged in a diabolical replay of the (de facto) Johnson-Goldwater scam that went down 40 years ago. If it turns out he is...hmmm, then it may in fact be time for me to dust off my RAF badge (or button, if you prefer), the one with the red star and black Kalashnikov on a white background, and pin it back on my lapel.
In contrast to Kerry's maybes are Bush's definites. He will pack the Supreme Court with utterly unacceptable right-wing appointees (this time round there are vacancies coming up). He will allow his neo-conservative hawk advisers (string pullers, really) to push their foreign policy agendas to the most potentially deadly limits imaginable. His administration will continue to erode citizens' rights in all directions (excepting gun control). He will keep right on overstuffing the wallets of his crooked fat-cat buddies at everyone else's expense, including virtually all his drooling, misguided supporters, from the heartland or wherever.
Oy, I'm not putting down 'the Heartland' per se. Most people who hail from there are, or can be, very nice (as far as nice goes). Most people from damn near anywhere have it in them to be nice and frequently show it. What I am putting down is the way so many of them think, or fail to think, or are unable to think, whenever it comes to questions social or political. They think they are thinking of themselves, of what's best for number one. It's an American tradition, man; and it's a sick tradition. Up by your own bootstraps and let the other guy fend for himself. Very Biblical (unless you're Amish): I'm not my brother's keeper. But they are not thinking of themselves. What they are doing is kidding themselves. They're backing a horse that bolted at the post (only nobody blew a warning whistle), appears to them to be going great guns, but even while they are still counting their unhatched chickens will drop stone dead a solid furlong from the finish line. It's called being taken to the cleaners.
Truly worrisome are the college-educated (often at East Coast universities), upwardly mobile yet ostensibly cool ('hip' to the casual onlooker), dyed-in-the-wool young conservatives described, in hair-raising detail, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in their newly-published book The Right Nation: Why America is Different. Here you have the self-anointed godchildren of Goldwater who are hellbent on doing us all in; and, benighted high-IQ souls that they are, doing themselves in, as well.
George W. Bush will...oh, you know what he'll do (and do it with all the emotional instability he continually displays in spades); do with (dis)respect to the environment, do with every woman's prerogative to choose, with the rights of minorities and the welfare of the dispossessed, with the (in)justice system, the economy; the whole shooting match. No, he won't manage to get a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriages passed, that's merely a political ploy (and Boss Cheney is agin' it). But the very fact that he's proposing it, that he believes in it, just as he claims to 'believe in God,' be in direct contact with God, and that this God he keeps jaw-jawing about is 'on his side' (“George, I want you to bomb the bejabbers out of them there I-rakis, y'hear?”), tells you more than enough.
I know who George is listening to, and so do you. “Pleased to meet you/Hope you guess my name.” Did he or didn't he guess? Does he know who he's working for, or is he getting hoodwinked? Evil or stupid or both, it adds up to the same thing: bad news all around. The Almighty works in strange ways. George is another test case. Drop the bastard, like hot coals into the devil's furnace. That's what God's telling me. Funny how He does it; He uses my own common sense. Yo!
Politics today. The Far Right (neo-Nazi nutters 'n such) push the Right even farther to the right, to more or less adopt some of their extremist policies (on immigration, for instance) in order to get additional voter support and stay in power, or in the running for it. The Left (which in Britain and America no longer even resemble the 'true Left,' not by any stretch of the imagination) then move more & more to the Center, and finally well over the Center into the left-hand side of the right-wing camp, in order to steal enough of the Right's thunder to keep their own asses either in power or within sniffing distance. And We, the People, are given the 'privilege' of choosing between them; given it with so much fanfare and hoopla that sometimes we still believe that there is a real choice. Well, there isn't. And yet there is.
We still possess enough free breath to choose the lesser of two evils. And that lesser evil, once elected, once in office, may, just may, start listening to some of the rest of what we're saying, saying about what we want and don't want, about what we insist on as a very minimum if they want to stay in office. They may—after they are in there; in there because we got rid of the other crew so they could get in there—if we then holler so loudly and so often that they can't help but hear us. No guarantee. But one thing is for certain: the alternative, the nightmare waiting to happen again, the George Bush Horror Show, is totally deaf when it comes to anything we might say. Where the future is concerned, at least in the short term (and possibly for a lot longer), it is odds-on for us with Kerry. Go for George and you're playing against a stacked deck. It's that simple.
I'm leaving you now. I've had my say and I won't be saying it again. I'll be speaking out on other matters, as time goes by, but not this. The 2004 election, including how much more vocal to get about it, is in your hands. Will I be voting (I hear some of you asking)? I've already voted, on the typer, with my famous ten fingers, like I did four years ago. (Right, they don't call me 10-Finger Eddie for nothing.) I'll decide later whether to make it official, do the absentee bit. And then keep it to myself, one of the better American traditions.
As you may be aware, the title of this article, or polemic if you will, is from a bumper sticker Ron Reagan spotted in Seattle and then quoted by way of closing his own excellent essay, for Esquire, “The Case Against George W. Bush.” I'll take an extra step and end by saying: please, ye gods, anyone else for president!