Thursday, September 29, 2005
Layers of Protection
There is a haunting piece about the dead in Louisiana in the Village Voice, a piece also about the dead in another criminal war, a piece that got me thinking about who gets protected, what they get protected from, and why that protection is or isn’t there when it is needed most.
I walked down Iberville toward Hwy 30 and the railroad tracks that run along the perimeter of the morgue until I reached a spot of relative darkness, shielded by some warehouses from the massive banks of lights that illuminate St. Gabriel’s 24-hour operation. I lay down on the tracks and closed my eyes and tried to clear my mind. I got down to what I really came to St. Gabriel for: to see if I could feel the dead, if I could hear them.
Michael Swindle is visiting the temporary morgue set up in the town of San Gabriel, a place he visited shortly before the government relented, allowing the press entrance to the facility. He seeks some sense of the place by taking that walk, trying to commune with the dead within:
I have met the dead before like this, supine in a physical and mental darkness, in a very small place called Dong Ha that was nestled hard up against what was in 1968 the South Vietnam side of the DMZ, where I was sent on courier duty from Danang now and again when my Marine Corps superior officers were in a particularly eager mood for me to be killed. A trip to Dong Ha was always an overnighter, and the transient barracks (a large tent) abutted the graves registration operation for all of I Corps, the northernmost sector of combat in that war. That’s where the bodies came, and they came in a steady, 24-7 stream, to be tagged, bagged, and “sent home.” And they came year after year, far past my tour of duty, for a long, long time.
That transient tent in Dong Ha was the eeriest and most unsettling spot I have ever visited, and it had nothing to do with machine-gun and small arms fire, with grenades and mortars, with incoming rockets. The dead were there. Their bodies were there, and their spirits were there. You could feel them. All night long, if you were listening, you could hear them, and I rarely slept there.
For a short time, in the aftermath of Katrina, the press actually pulled back the gauzy veil of relentless consumerism and showed us real life, real death, real suffering and real heroism and really real consequences to human choices, government choices and the relentless, unstoppable wail and force of Gaia when she decides to cut loose.
It didn’t last long, of course. We need the fairy tales, the predigested “reality” of comfortable narratives of ONLY heroism, of faith-based charities, of an upbeat story of how the devastated South will rise again, preferably with profitable walls of condos and new second homes for rich folks, nice hotels for rich tourists, and nowhere for the poor. For the dead:
I got to my feet and dusted myself off and walked back to my van. I had not felt the dead in this place, nor had I heard them. Only their corpses are here, their casings, and they are invisible. No Press on recovery efforts, no images of corpses. Press blackout on all aspects of the morgue, no images of corpses. The symbol of “dead body” around here is a gleaming Peterbuilt pulling an insulated, odorless, refrigerated 18-wheeler trailer. This works on the same principle that holds that no images of body bags or coffins coming back from Iraq “respects the dignity” of grieving families and “softens,” I guess, the collective loss. The dead you can’t see become simply numbers, and numbers are clean unambiguous things. They are easier to work with than, you know, the other.
This isn’t, of course, done for the protection of the families, of the survivors. It’s certainly not done for the protection of the unlucky, the foolish and especially not for the abandoned. No, this view must be obscured, must be wrapped in a silken shroud of numbers, of PR spin and obfuscation and an avoidance of any responsibility, any accountability. This arithmetic caul must be pulled over our fragile innocent eyes to protect the guilty. To protect those in power. To protect the ruling corporate feudal class and the Boy CEO they elevated to rule over their little concrete fiefdoms.
After all, this is where our society expends its greatest energies, to protect those with the most from failure, from consequences ... from the aftermath of the disasters they bring upon others. While more and more Americans keep going, without the security of health coverage or insurance for job losses or even access to a living wage, layers upon layers of legal kevlar protect the assets of the wealthy.
Trusts, overseas bank accounts, holding companies within holding companies protecting the incorporated Lords in their tailored bulletproof suits. Not for them the vagaries of nature ... a quick ticket out on the platinum card, a cozy hotel waiting in another place, for the world is their playground. Feudal America has no need for keeps on hills or watery moats: these fiefdoms exist on fluid paper and international travel. They are fortresses created by the best estate and corporate lawyers money can buy. If a business plan goes bad, government is there to help to preserve it, to cover any losses. Losses for the bosses, that is: the lower level plebes will just have to fend for themselves.
While the Dauphin rides in his armored Cadillac Presidential Limousine , kept safe from the sight of those he rules by tinted bulletproof windows, soldiers fighting his illegal war for oil and American Hegemony are still underarmored in body and vehicles.
After all, what must be protected is what we value: money and power. Left to our own devices, many of us vote for the promise that if we’re good, if we get with the program, then maybe WE or our children will get access to that money, that power. No counter offer is forthcoming from an opposing party, for there is no real opposing party. The “other side” of our party-and-a-half system is itself mired in privilege and wealth and their very own armored vehicles. As they usher in a corporate counsel as the new Chief Justice of the highest court, we see that most of our leaders are just comfy with protecting a system they benefit from. No one is left to fight for the idea that there are other values beside cash and power, no one to stand for the belief that we the people had hoped to form a more perfect union. No one.
Meanwhile, the dead are ritually washed and ritually interred and ritually forgotten, as the shiny Peterbuilt trucks roll down the highway and the armored Cadillac limosines carry the comfortable from keep to safe and luxurious keep.
Senate Democrats: Last Chance to Avert Disaster
Update: Harry Reid fails to hold Dems together. Roberts confirmed 78-22.
OK Senators, today is the day we see what you are made of. Bush’s numbers are in the toilet, there is rampant dysfunction, corruption and ineptness in everything the man has touched for almost 5 long years. Here is a Supreme Court nomination that is one giant Trojan Horse, guaranteed to bedevil the very Democrats who elected you for the next 30 years. What you do now will affect all of us for ages to come and we are watching you today so we know just how to spend our political dollars as well as cast our votes next year and beyond.
Remember that this nominee has a very slim paper trail, which is why he was chosen. What little paper there is on Roberts is being withheld from you and it is being kept from you for one reason and one reason only: it defines him and is the reason Bush has nominated Roberts to sit along with the two justices he has publicly favored, Scalia and Thomas. There is a reason why the Neocons and Fundies have been quiet throughout this process and that is because they have been assured that Roberts is everything they have been longing for.
Your job as Senate Democrats is to see that they do not get this and today is your day to fight back with your vote. Your constituents will understand when you tell them that you cannot vote for a man when the relevant documents have not been handed over to you, but your constiuents will not forgive you when every month for the foreseeable future they watch the Supreme Court dismantle our freedoms and allow corporations, religious fundamentalists and the uber-wealthy to run rampant over our way of life. Act now or we will all suffer the consequences.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
An Alinsky Compendium
Many of us here have learned a lot from Dancing Larry’s Alinsky posts. I thought, since they were mentioned a couple of times in Meteor Blade’s diary, I thought I’d post a quick set of links: