Patrick Lawrence asks some pertinent questions of the American people.
By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News
Are Americans going to sit around indefinitely eating potato chips while the State Department and Treasury starve Venezuelan children?
Are Americans going to play video games while Israel fires U.S.–made missiles into Damascus from Lebanese airspace—two violations of international law?
Are Americans going to sit around watching corporate sports while the Pentagon drone-murders entire families and Congress votes to increase its post–Afghanistan budget?
Are Americans going to sit on their sofas while the United States condemns several generations of Cubans to lives of desperation because they have chosen to live in a socialist republic?
Are Americans going continue stuffing their faces with Cheetos, Hot Pockets, and Bac–O’–Bits while the Saudis use American–supplied bombers and bombs to drive Yemen into a state of famine and reduce its people to Dachau-like skeletons?
Are Americans going spectate on their sofas while the CIA and other rogue intelligence agencies subvert the Republic of Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic, and any other nation that resists American hegemony?
Are Americans going to sit around silently while no-neck generals push the U.S. relentlessly toward military confrontations with China and Russia, two nuclear-armed nations?
Are Americans going to shop on Amazon while The New York Times, CNN, and the rest of the monstrous propaganda machine cultivate their ignorance—purposefully, knowingly, and with malign intent—by way of gross omissions and outright falsehoods as to America’s international conduct?
Are Americans going to sit around worrying about their lawns while climate change burns half the country, floods the other half, and a federal judge tells the Biden administration it is obliged by law to auction new oil– and gas-drilling leases on hundreds of millions of acres?
Are Americans going to read The New Yorker and The Nation while mainstream journalists cheer the creeping suppression of independent media and post-adolescent know-nothings in Silicon Valley are authorized to censor their speech, what Americans read, and—it will come—what Americans think?
Are Americans going to sit around dribbling on their shirtfronts while Julian Assange, Daniel Hale, Steven Donziger, and other courageous people acting in their behalf are made victims of extravagantly corrupted judicial systems?
Are Americans going to remain silent while millions of them are malnourished and evicted from their homes in the name of the market god?
Are Americans going to sit around while millions more get sick because they can’t afford perfectly ordinary medical care and those who could remedy this crisis are paid by insurers, hospitals associations, and drug companies to refuse to do so?
Are Americans going to sit around while Big Pharma treats a global health crisis as if it were simply an eternal profit center?
Are Americans going to sit around stuffing their faces with chlorinated chicken, Velveeta, and Pepsi while corporations colonize every minute of their lives and every cell in their bodies?
Are Americans going to sit around soporifically watching television while Rachel Maddow takes home $30 million a year for turning news into a Barnum and Bailey circus?
Are Americans going to sit around watching Walt Disney movies while Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez and other such “progressives” betray every voter who got them into office?
Are Americans going to sit around talking about their IRA accounts while a dense web of mind-manipulating institutions, corporations, corrupt pols, and the national security state totalizes its grip on power?
Not one year into the Biden presidency, the mind regurgitates. The mind dreams of exile in the way all those principled anti–Cold War people expatriated during the 1950s, having had enough.
And the mind wonders.
When are Americans going to stand up?
When are Americans going to clear the litter millionaire bums have left on their village greens and reclaim their public space?
When are Americans going to stop indulging the weak-minded fiction that they are powerless?
When are Americans going to transcend the atomization of American society systematically inflicted upon it since April 30, 1975, and learn again to speak and act for the commonweal?
When are Americans going to present themselves with dignity to show they have regained their self-respect, their respect for those who have to look at them, and their respect for their reawakened civic selves?
When are Americans going to figure out that a global class war rages and that race is a subset of class and not the other way around?
When are Americans going to stop bickering about pronouns, gender preferences, bathroom doors, bronze statues, identity politics, and all such distracting rubbish?
When are Americans going to read the scholarly definition of fascism and then look at themselves in their mirrors?
When are Americans going to dismember the scam economic “model” that produces and reproduces billionaires and an ever more impoverished majority?
When are Americans going to tell the Pentagon, “That’s our money.”
When are Americans going to admit to ourselves that America’s nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, drones, bombs, and landmines are the root reason all these weapons proliferate globally?
When are Americans going to demand radical action to counter the climate crisis and change their lives—joyfully and with commitment?
When are Americans going to impose civilian control over the CIA and the other appendages of the “national security” octopus?
When are Americans going to say, No!” to subversive “democracy promotion” interventions in other nations?
When are Americans going to reject the Russophobia and Sinophobia their “leaders” and their clerks in the press malignly stir up?
When are Americans going to object that the U.S. started and prolonged the Cold War because the Pentagon needed it and defense contractors profited from it?
When are Americans going to turn off their televisions?
When are Americans going to stop eating Fritos?
When are Americans going to stop bothering to write their congressmen?
When are Americans going to stop pretending their political process is intact and voting matters?
When are Americans going to stop pretending Joe Biden is mentally competent?
When are Americans going to stop pretending Joe Biden is the second coming of FDR?
When are Americans going to stop pretending Antony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, and Ned Price are anything more than programmed robots?
When are Americans going to recognize that The New York Times is now a propaganda organ and the future of journalism lies in independent media?
What remains of the republic is a moonscape of unreality, of pretending and forgetting, of many wandering emperors with no clothes. “When you gonna wake up, and strengthen the things that remain?” Remember that?
To go back in time, to make use of the past to understand the present: Shall America try it for once?
The generation of ’68, les soixante huitards as the French named it, stand rightly accused of much foolishness, juvenile posturing, selfish indulgence, and all-around unseriousness. But that generation, mine, put essential questions before the nation. They are still with us; I have hinted at a very few of them as they are in their time.
They come to one large question, all of them taken together. This is the question of power.
This is what the ’68ers did that was of great worth: While they were pickling their vegetables in Mason jars—de rigueur, those jars—bonking everyone who moved, and sewing folksy patches on their blue jeans, they challenged power. “Hell, no, we won’t go!” Remember that? There was seriousness in that stand. Remember Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night (a phrase borrowed from Matthew Arnold)? They knew what history was and what it meant to make it, those armies.
Then, realizing what they had done, most of them, of us, flinched. Americans got lost in greedy consumption and “me.” And most Americans have flinched and gotten lost ever since.
The enormity of the task the ’68ers had put before their republic, the task of making it honest and true to its ideals, of putting a lot of people on trial and into jail cells (and getting a lot of others out of jails), was simply too much to take on. It would require too much. It would impose responsibilities and sacrifices. Very few wanted to make them.
“Be impeccable. I have told you many times. To be impeccable means to put your life on the line to back up your decisions, and then to do quite a lot more than your best to realize those decisions.”
Remember that? Carlos Casteneda’s Don Juan? The old brujo continued, “When you are not deciding anything, you are merely playing at roulette with your life in a helter-skelter way.”
Most chose roulette after the catharsis of the 1960s. So do Americans find themselves retreated to their sofas and their Cheese Doodles and their chrome hub caps and their 50 different kinds of salt and their vulgar “refinements” such as only some can afford them.
To maintain their righteousness Americans raised high their various banners—of identity politics, of their private preferences, of the primacy of race—anything to ward off all suggestions that Americans are living “in a helter-skelter way.” How militant it makes one feel, how “progressive,” as Americans scurry fast as they can from the question that matters—the question of power and who holds it in the name of whom and what.
I offer a pencil sketch, nothing more, of what happened to America after 1975, when voices were raised and raised voices mattered. I propose it as a guide to America’s present condition, to see itself in the past by seeing what America is no longer.
It is the strangest thing. Joe Biden, two steps from the taxidermist, imposes all the old questions upon the country once again. Americans have a mentally incompetent president; clods such as Secretary of State Blinken are simply too ridiculous to take seriously even as they bear responsibilities far, far beyond their capacities. The charade is all that remains.
Do you think Americans will muddle through these next three and a half years and then go onto something more sensible? I can’t imagine it. Power, at this moment, is very wayward. I can’t see how Americans can ignore this but to their great cost.
Guy Debord, among the most acutely insightful of the soixante huitards, made us see a long time ago: It is all spectacle in the Western “democracies”—there is no recourse left in their orthodox politics and political processes. Is this anywhere more so than in America?
The most stupefied presidency since 1945—can anyone name another?—stands to prove one of the most momentous, having put Americans face to face with their questions. If they flinch from answering them this time, Americans will have answered them in the worst possible way.
Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.