Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I For Insanity

Clay Duke, the Florida man who opened fire on his local school board and somehow missed hitting any of them, is the latest specimen of a system gone berserk. Not that Duke's actions were laudable: there are better, more creative ways to register one's disgust for our wretched conditions. But it seems that Duke craved martyrdom and believed, correctly, that this was his final living act. Whatever his intentions, Duke will soon be forgotten, save for family and those who literally dodged a bullet.

Duke's V For Vendetta fetish adds to the confusion, showing that even in one's darkest moments, pop culture plays a major part. Were Duke truly faithful to this narrative, he would have picked off government targets individually, privately, away from cameras (except perhaps his own), leaving cryptic notes about his lethal reasoning. But that would require serious work, and luck, to achieve. Clearly, Duke's public freak out and death was all he had the energy for. He didn't even bother to wear a mask.

On his Facebook page, Duke cited Warren Buffett's boast, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class that's making war and we're winning." After Duke's wife lost her job and benefits, sentiments like Buffett's must have burned into Duke's brain, lighting his fuse. According to reports, Duke had a history of violence, serving four years in prison for aggravated stalking and shooting. So the fuse was always there, only this time Duke made it political.

Tragedies like this are bound to occur in an asylum like ours. But with the class war from above getting nastier and deadlier (recently fortified by President Change), how many more working people will publicly snap, unleashing violence as an answer? Thing is, many if not all of these angry populists target people who are either small fry or have no power at all. They rarely if ever go after the big dogs, which on one level makes sense, since they would be immediately crushed. Yet if assisted suicide is part of the plan, then why not exit by attacking large institutions instead of local functionaries? Your point is made and death wish granted. It's so simple, it's stupid.

Any hope of stemming the corporate assault must come from organized political resistance, not individual acts of personal violence. But it's painfully obvious that most Americans lack the stomach or desire to fight back. They prefer symbolism over tactical action, and if they bother to lift a finger, it's usually in the service of our corporate owners, Tea Partiers and Obama liberals alike.

The confetti liberals tossed at Bernie Sanders as he delivered a Senate tirade against Obama's tax cut collusion with the GOP was cute, but as meaningless as Sanders' endless speech. With no chance to veto the Bush/Obama attack on working people, Sanders was free to star in his own Frank Capra film. Liberals lapped it up. The rich still won. It'll take more than YouTube hits to change this ending.

Unlike Clay Duke, Richard Holbrooke rarely missed those he was trying to kill. Holbrooke's recent passing inspired typical encomiums from standard outlets like The New York Times, who respect war criminals with good table manners. I would say that The Nation's parting kiss to Holbrooke surprised me, but given what Katrina vanden Heuvel has done to that once decent magazine, I merely nodded as Barbara Crossette (a Times vet, natch) applied rouge to Holbrooke's cheeks.

Among several howlers, Crossette's claim that "[w]ithin the UN system, Holbrooke had some achievements that were not often widely recognized. One was ending the pariah status of Israel, a cause of much American criticism," stood out. I'm not sure which planet Crossette is describing here, but her sympathies on this front are open and clear. Yet this is nothing compared to what Crossette omitted: Holbrooke's key role in arming and backing Indonesia's genocidal violence in East Timor. Were Holbrooke a Serbian state functionary, this alone would have landed him in the Hague along with reams of official vilification. But in The Nation -- y'know, the progressive magazine that's on YOUR side? -- Holbrooke is seen as a triumphant, if controversial, American patriot, his greatest crime airbrushed away.

I wonder if when making out his will, Holbrooke considered The Nation. They certainly deserve a cut.