One of the more interesting side effects of the Jasmine Revolution – the
middle-eastern upheavals that have toppled the governments of Tunisia
and Egypt and threaten a half a dozen others – is the response to it
here in America.
The far right, quite predictably, is fear mongering for all they're
worth, claiming that Egypt is headed for a future as a vicious
theocratic regime inimical to the United States. You know. Like Saudi
Arabia. Except the Saudis have something we need, so we sort of overlook
that. But Egypt doesn't have any important exports that give them vast
wealth and power, so we need to cower in fear from the prospect they
might have a theocracy that is comparatively weak and powerless.
Sarah Palin, proving once again that if you support idiots you get
idiocy, said, “And nobody yet has, nobody yet has explained to the
American public what they know, and surely they know more than the rest
of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak and no,
not, not real enthused about what it is that that’s being done on a
national level and from DC in regards to understanding all the situation
there in Egypt. And, in these areas that are so volatile right now,
because obviously it’s not just Egypt but the other countries too where
we are seeing uprisings, we know that now more than ever, we need
strength and sound mind there in the White House. We need to know what
it is that America stands for so we know who it is that America will
stand with. And, we do not have all that information yet.” I'm glad we
were able to clear that up.
In other words, the right wing in America is ignorant, frightened, and
xenophobic. Hardly news, that.
Obama found himself in the position of a man trying to ride a wave with
a skateboard. It could be done, but it required rapt attention to
shifting waters, some nimble reflexes, and a lot of luck. He came out of
it not looking like an idiot, which is a bit like scoring a combined
1600 on the SATs.
By far the most interesting reactions came from the 90% of Americans who
aren't Teabaggers or members of the administration.
A lot of them were looking at the Egyptian hordes in Cairo and
Alexandria and wondering if and when similar scenes would occur in America.
And a lot of people—perhaps the highest percentage since the 1850s—look
at America as it now stands, and think a popular revolt is likely, even
That's astonishing. Just thirty years ago Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the
Russian Nobel-winning author, opined that in his opinion, America and
Canada didn't need a Marxist revolution. Contrary to what right wingers
think, Solzhenitsyn was a staunch Marxist who believed strongly that
capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction and made a
socialist revolution inevitable.
But that was when America still had a strong middle class, poverty was
nearly eradicated, and Americans, rather than corporations, controlled
the government and the laws.
Beginning with Reagan, that change has been accumulating over the past
thirty years, and we are now at the point where few, if any, believe the
government really represents the people. Even the group most loudly
proclaiming themselves grassroots representatives in government, the
Teabaggers, are jokes, a parody of a grassroots movement, engineered by
the Koch Brothers and pumped up by Faux news, the voice of plutocratic
billionaires worldwide, and organized by Dick Armey and Karl Rove. It's
about as grassroots as the national Chamber of Commerce. Why do you
THINK these “grassroots” common people are pushing to keep tax cuts for
billionaires, eliminate Estate and Capital Gains taxes, and repeal the
weak bank reforms Obama pushed through? Hey, Joe the Plumber! How much
will you save on taxes from GOP “reforms”?
Corporations already had enough whores on the Supreme Court to push
through the Citizens United decision, which very openly gives
corporations utter control of elections. Can anyone look at Clarence
Thomas and that demented lobbyist wife he works for, and think he's
anything resembling a real Supreme Court justice?
Barring the rise of a real revolutionary spirit amongst the American
people next year, expect voter turnout to hit record lows, since in
nearly all races, voters will have a choice between vapid millionaire
corporate whore #1 /versus /vapid millionaire corporate whore #2. The
corporate media will ignore all candidates in the primaries who aren't
endorsed and bought by major corporations, and marginalize any other
candidates as “extremist”. It's always leaned that way, a predilection
for that sort of coverage, but over the past couple of decades it's
become cast in stone.
That's why, despite the fact that 99.7% of Americans are not
millionaires, nearly half the members of Congress are.
It's why they have been passing legislation that runs counter to the
needs and wants of the people, weakening labor and environmental laws,
making it easier for predatory lenders and debt collectors, making it
harder to be a one-person business or have equal access to the internet.
Or good access, period; between turf battles amongst the big
telecommunication providers and monopolies in most towns, most people
have internet connections that range from mediocre to flat-out poor.
It's why most cable providers carry Faux News, even though it costs
several times what BBC or al Jazeera charge whilst providing
significantly inferior news coverage interspersed with relentless
It's why Americans have learned to be careful about what they say,
learned to be a little afraid, and take it for granted that they have
few rights and protections when dealing with large companies, and that
intemperate talk—no matter how harmless it might be—could get them in
trouble with the Patriot Act, or get them on no-fly lists, or allow
government spy agencies to monitor their email and browsing.
It's why you hardly ever hear people talking about how America is great
because its people and media are free. Most people know, deep in their
hearts, that it isn't true. Even the politicians tend to go with
mindless patriotism, but carefully avoid celebrating freedom of speech
or the greatness of the democratic process. Even if they thought the
process was really democratic, they wouldn't approve of it. Look at your
Congressional rep: do you really believe that that representative really
does represent the people in your district—or even cares about them?
Odds are overwhelming you no longer believe it.
For several years now, I've heard people talking about how if things
keep getting worse, there's going to be a revolution in this country.
And it isn't just the right wing whack jobs, who always talk that way.
They're the ones screaming that Americans will not be free until the
capital gains tax is abolished, and workers don't need unions, or a
minimum wage, or social security. Power to the people, baby!
I'm hearing these worried comments from liberals, moderates, veterans,
professionals, journalists and even legal people. Nobody's advocating
revolution, but they can see one coming, and sooner rather than later.
Two of America's most respected journalists, Bob Herbert and William
Rivers Pitts, wrote columns just this week noting that conditions in
America really aren't so far removed from those that sparked the Jasmine
Rebellion in Egypt and Tunisia.
The revolt in Egypt, like the one that brought down the USSR, was not an
armed rebellion, and it wasn't violent as such things go. I've actually
seen gun nuts claiming that the fact that the two rebellions occurred
showed how necessary the second amendment is, but the fact is that in
Egypt, if a few assholes in that vast crowd had had guns and begun
firing at tanks or Mubarak thugs, the death toll would have been in the
tens of thousands rather than the hundreds, and the revolution would
most likely have been crushed, because while the Egyptian army was loath
to fire on their own people, they probably would have had little trouble
if it involved shooting BACK.
The USSR was not lucky—they went through ten years of unrestrained
capitalist rape, followed by the inevitable rise of a thuggish strongarm
type in the form of Vladimir Putin, who is little improvement over
Andropov or Brezhnev. Egypt is presently under military control, but it
is a military that behaved admirably during the demonstrations. They may
have better luck.
America is headed toward revolution. With Citizens United, there seems
no turning back.
There are lessons to be learned from Cairo, though. Leave the guns at
home. Don't give up. Hope the military is as well-disciplined and as
loyal as the Egyptian military. And remember the real enemy isn't the
constitution, or even the government; it's corrupt politicans, and the
corporations that own them.
No sane person wants a revolution. I don't. But if it must come, it must
be peaceful and orderly, and it must be focused and oriented to the
future, rather than the past.
Posted: February 17, 2011