By John Cory
TO correspondent in Saudi Arabia
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 19 September 2003
We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
Make no mistake; this is an administration in love with fiction, with turning the unreal into the real, if they can get away with it. So it seems only fitting that fiction be turned on them. It is after all, the poets, playwrights, and novelists, who reveal the truth to us, and speak to our souls.
Consider Dick Cheney s appearance on, Meet The Press recently, where he uttered such gems as, I don t know (if Saddam was connected to 9/11) or I have to assume (his guess on another 9/11 attack on the US) or I had no involvement (regarding no-bid contracts to Halliburton) and, that would be a mistake (canceling tax cuts for the wealthy). I mean come on, the more this guy talked, the more I heard Joseph Heller writing in Catch-22 about Milo Minderbinder: Milo had been caught red-handed in the act of plundering his countrymen, and, as a result, his stock had never been higher."
I hear Joseph Heller whenever Bush pounds the podium about the war in Iraq and the bravery of American troops that he has placed in harm s way. Remember how Heller described Colonel Cathcart? Colonel Cathcart had courage and never hesitated to volunteer his men for any target available.
Whenever this administration speaks, you can hear the booming voice of Big Daddy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, who turned to Brick saying, What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?
If you can t smell the mendacity, you re not angry. The key is anger. Anger is hope and salvation. Anger is deliverance.
There aren t enough people left who get mad, plain mad. Not mad for a cause or a purpose, but just generally mad at all the bitchery and fraud. We take fraud for granted. We accept it. We like it. We want to be had. That s where he was different. He knew he was being cheated and he didn t like it one tiny bit, whether it was some old biddy doing him out of his two dollars or a corporation telling him they made better cathartics. He was the last angry man. The story summary of Gerald Green s 1956 novel, The Last Angry Man.
That is why we respond to men like Howard Dean. They voice our anger at the fraud and bitchery of this Bush-GOP attack on America. They are willing to stand up to the shameful peddling of fear and lies that are aimed at twisting our democracy. And it is a thankless job. In the play, Inherit The Wind, Henry Drummond explains to Bertram Cates fianc , I understand what Bert s going through. It s the loneliest feeling the world to find yourself standing up when everybody else is sitting down.
If you don t think anger works, consider Upton Sinclair, who in 1906, self-published his novel The Jungle because no mainstream publisher would touch it. Originally intended to show the plight of workers suffering at the hands of the corporation, the novel enraged the public and led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, and eventually the reform of working conditions in the meat packing plants. This, at a time when the great robber barons ruled America s corporate empires, and Gordon Gecko s mantra, Greed is good, was never stated openly, just implicitly understood.
Fear is the weapon of choice of this administration, fear to speak out, fear to peek under the rocks at the slime and ooze, the fear to be free and voice dissent. Fear is paralysis if unchecked. Ray Bradbury wrote in The Martian Chronicles: There was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves
Fear is a cage. But within the cages of fear, are the dreamers. The voices that sing to us, like Maya Angelou in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings:
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
Pres. Clinton understood the power of dreams and the need for hope. Why else did he invite Maya Angelou to deliver her inaugural poem, The Rock Cries Out To Us Today. If you haven t read the poem, get a copy and read it entirely and read it again. Here are a few of my favorite passages:
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change
We cannot look to the press corps or the lapdog media for truth. They are embedded in the privilege of status and profit, full of themselves as the power that preserves what is best for them. The modern corporate media thinks they know what is best for us. Go on over to www.dailyhowler.com and read how the Washington press corps attacked Al Gore, not based on fact, but based on how fun it was and how easy it was to make things up. They are not only vicious; they are lazy. As J.J. Hunsecker said to the grubbing Sydney Falco in The Sweet Smell of Success, You re a cookie full of arsenic.
Our old friend Howard Beale in Network warned us back in 1977 about the media. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here, you're beginning to believe that the tube is reality and your own lives are unreal! You do! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing, WE are the illusion!" He also warned us about the coming corporate media mergers. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network!"
Of course we can remain quiet and passive. Afraid to rock the boat, we go along to get along. And each admonition from the likes of Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Ridge, and Bush binds us in silent subservience for fear of following our conscience.
One of my favorite scenes from A Man For All Seasons was when the Duke of Norfolk pressed Sir Thomas More to sign the Act of Supremacy, for sake of fellowship. I may have the quote wrong, but I recall Thomas More responding, And when we stand in judgment before God, and you are sent to Heaven for following your conscience, and I am damned to Hell for not following mine, will you then come with me, for sake of fellowship?
Restricting the truth about American casualties in Iraq, praising a jobless economic recovery, hiding freedom behind invisible WMD, and offering peace through war; these are nothing more than repackaged Twilight Zone episodes but not nearly as good as the originals.
For those who think Howard Dean has little chance of victory, remember Gore Vidal s, The Best Man and how in the end, after all the mudslinging and dirty politics, a little-known governor won the nomination. For those who prefer fact to fiction remember 1992 and the unknown governor from the little state of Arkansas.
Jump to TO Features for Friday 19 September 2003