Curtain Raiser

A Place to Rest Our Sore Hopes, Colltalers

The myth of American exceptionalism suffered, this past week, a severe blow. Shockingly, it wasn’t because of some cumulative effect of what study after study has demonstrated, that the U.S. is no longer the nation where values such as egalitarianism and individual sovereignty are untouchable.
Neither was the indignation we read and heard so much lately in the media about the mind-boggling jump in U.S. income inequality in the past five years, or the statistical data showing that poverty levels have risen for the fourth consecutive year. If you know all about that, you’re indeed depressed.
But no. The source of this misguided discontentment came from a NYTimes article penned by a former KGB officer who’s been Russia’s strongman for 13 years. He could’ve been any of the tyrants we’ve been supporting all over, except that we kinda hate him, even if he’s been voted into office.
Also, this being Vladimir Putin, with his special knack to irk American officials and his hands at the helm of a former ally-turned-into-formidable-foe in the post WWII years, suitors of our prefab patriotism see the situation as an affront to our most dear traditions of not ever being talked back to.
The much ado is, of course, about not much. Central to Putin’s Op-Ed piece was an appeal of sorts against a U.S. military strike, and possible long term involvement, in Syria, an act of aggression that unlike others in the past, has already been vigorously opposed by the American people.
That Putin joined a number of Republicans in Congress, plus liberal and progressive forces, grassroots anti-war movements, and a majority of common citizens, indeed makes for an interesting crowd sleeping together for this issue. But we dare not to anticipate how they’ll see eye to eye in the morning.
For sure, Republicans refusing to go along with Pentagon hawks in any given issue is anathema. But underlying their stand, lies a deep-seated will to sabotage President Obama, so there’s no surprise here. Unless, of course, you mention a certain Nobel Peace laureate and his warmonger role of late.
But let those particularly vicious dogs, if hardly sedated, lie for now.
What really irritated the self-appointed guardians of our the-world-is-our-shell arrogant attitude was the fact that, halfway through the article, Putin touched the subject of American exceptionalism, and how ‘extremely dangerous’ it may be to tell people how exceptional they are. He should know.
His regime’s sent to jail or to a life of harassment countless of such individuals, some even rich, others who happened to be gay, and anyone on the other side of any political issue dear to the Kremlin. In the current situation, as usual, he’s just managing to manipulate the issue to his own gain.
That’s what wealthy bastions of American capitalism, and their suit of blowhards and acolytes, couldn’ bear: that a powerful despot could actually make a populist point and find resonance with so many Americans, to whom such bastions could as well live in Russia for all they care anyway.
For an early 20th century concept, that equated ideals engraved in the U.S. Constitution to a universal set of humanistic goals, regardless of class or race or religious differences, which by most accounts, is sadly in its death throes, exceptionalism turned into the ugly contemporary myth that the U.S. has the god-given right to bomb whoever it wants, the poor, the unemployed, the dispossessed, even the agnostic be damned.
No wonder most Americans were skeptic about the official rhetoric that a proposed air strike of Syria would be the ‘humanitarian’ right thing to do, even if it’d be obvious that hundreds or even thousands would immediately perish with such ‘help.’ Never mind who we’d be aiding in such scenario.
Sunday also marked the five years of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, when Wall Street firms singled-handedly drove the world’s financial system to the brink and started the Great Recession. Even if Lehman is gone, every other bank involved is doing really well nowadays, thanks for asking.
Boldfaced names of the Wall Street big swindle of 2008, rescued by a taxpayer-funded government program they have since paid back, are even more incredibly profitable, and those retired CEOS, who mismanaged resources and the lives of millions, will never have to work a day in their life.
Or spend time in jail, apparently either. Promises of regulations, of enforcing investors’ (and common citizens) rights with a series of proposals to reign in costs of mortgage loans, banking and credit card rates, and executive compensation are not even promises anymore. Let’s face it, we’ve been had.
About those millions. They’re are the core of those falling fast through the cracks of our social networks, severely impaired by austerity measures that seemed to have been applied only to working classes and have all but saved pennies. But there’s also another anniversary to be marked ahead.
Tuesday will be the Occupy Wall Street movement’s second year of existence, and if some talk about the ‘terrible two’s,’ and others insist in its fading from the media’s headline news, it remains the only popular movement to address the impunity and jail-free card that bankers have clearly purchased.
In two years, the leaderless loose-coalition of the aware did find relevance at key moments, adjusting its non-rigid agenda to fast-moving events, such as the Hurricane Sandy, and public discussions, as in the increasingly levels of indebtedness by students and the society at large.
More than a cultural phenomenon, captive to a few industrialized nations, the OWS proved inestimable to bring to discussion the inherently dishonesty of our economic system, which is rigged in favor of a minority that grew astonishingly wealthy, even when most of everyone else fell apart financially.
And of course, for creating the deceivingly simple, headlines-friendly ’99ers’ adage, which by now has overcome its initial hyperbolic restrain, that of defining the unemployed, near-poverty, and under served in this country, to reach global resonance as the shortest way to exemplify income disparity.
Thus in such calamitous times for so many, it’s almost outrageous to be outraged by what some political leader we never particularly cared much about is saying about us or doing with his finger, all the while letting our own citizenry feel they’re under siege, penniless in a 24h-surveillance state.
It’s even worst to lecture the world on its supposedly wrongdoings, while invested in a lethal high-stakes game of political grandstanding and pseudo-moral superiority. As is also depressing that it’s all happening under the watch of President Obama, a man who we voted for and, oh never mind that.
It can’t be about names anymore. We’re way past the agony of watching Sec. John Kerry, a decorated combatant, once instrumental to ending the Vietnam war, now engaged in playing into the Pentagon’s hand, leading us to what may be yet another senseless conflict, boots on the ground et all.
Of Putin’s skillful manipulation of public opinion; billionaire bankers enjoying their off-shore accounts; wealthy politicians doing the bidding for the military complex; an administration that has been painfully tone-deft to the wishes of most Americans, an economy that seems to be recovering along the lines of the stock exchange, and pretty much stagnant for those who can’t afford being in it, it can’t be too hard to choose the OWS.
As far as good news, or at least, hope to be cherished, we can’t think of no other date to be celebrated with some pride as the Sept. 17th. After all, way before Colltales was around, this month has been plagued with some of the worst about war, terrorism, recession, and unemployment. At least the inception of a peaceful movement that’s still open for democratic debate and invested in change for the rest of us should deserve our utmost respect.
On Tuesday, there’ll be few places more charged with hope than Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. If you’re around, stop by and say hello. WC


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