The former movie critic drops in this week to once again talk up the nation-building advantages of bonded servitude, genocide, and colonialism, but he can’t stay long, because he’s being relentlessly pursued by police Lieutenant Philip Gerard, who believes that Michael is guilty of transporting Harry Reems’ mustache across state lines for immoral purposes. So let’s dive right in and start airbrushing Trotsky out of the May Day pictures…
If citizens look upon the origins of their society with guilt and confusion, they’ll find scant reason to identify with its fate or to repair its shortcomings. The current notion that America’s undeniable power and privilege rest upon shameful foundations poisons our public discourse, embitters the national mood, and paralyzes all efforts for constructive change.
If you don’t stick your head in the sand and practice denial, how are you ever going to really change things?
Those who embrace the idea that the USA came into being through vicious genocide against native populations, built its economy through the unique oppression of African slaves, facilitated corporate exploitation of immigrant masses, and damaged countless other nations with its imperialist policies, will naturally assume that we’re paying the price for these crimes and abuses –
Until they remember that Accountability was found dead of a suspicious gunshot wound in Ft. Marcy Park.
Negative assumptions about our guilty forebears allow contemporary Americans to wallow in self-pity without accepting blame of any sort for our much-discussed sorry state.
Translation: If you’re feeling a trifle guilty about voting for George W. Bush, and a bit stupid about voting for him twice, it helps to realize that America has gone through many periods of injustice, rapaciousness, and general crapitude and above all to remember the legacy of your great-great grandfather, who horsewhipped an apprentice tanner into a coma after the boy was overcome by the stench and dropped a bottle of chromium salts into a drum of goat skins. He never recovered, of course, but on the bright side grandpa was easily able to fill the position with another desperate urchin, and thus continue the Circle of Life.
This ‘tainted legacy,’ this endlessly analyzed burden of embarrassment and apology, has brought a bittersweet or even decidedly sour flavor to great national celebrations that formerly featured joy and jingoism.
Boy, nothing brings back the childlike joy of a national celebration like the smell and the squeak of patent leather jingoism polished to a mirror shine. It sparks so many memories! Gatherings that featured cheerfulness and chauvinism, tasty funnel cakes and shave ice. And then, every Independence Day, revelry and racism! And, if we were lucky, churros.
Columbus Day provokes similar controversy on a yearly basis, with angry demonstrations against the unwelcome encroachments of white interlopers in the pristine New World paradise they polluted with their disease-ridden, gold-hungry presence.
Ingrates. You think those smallpox-infected blankets were cheap? They were pure wool, fully lined, and thermal rated to 35!
Our previous observance of the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln has given way to the anodyne and insipid “Presidents Day,” in which we’re supposed to commemorate all inhabitants of the White House – the incompetent as well as the inspiring
We had to, sorry. Bush was starting to feel like the kid who doesn’t get picked for kickball even when one team is short a guy. Admittedly, Michael has a point; we did once honor excellence in our chief executives, but now it’s more like the Special Olypmics — you get a holiday just for showing up and crapping your pants on the Constitution.
We’ve added a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr., but while sanctifying the memory of a great and courageous advocate of brotherhood we inevitably use the occasion to recall, yet again, our ugly history of racism.
Yeah, do we have to keep harping on the civil rights stuff every time we take a day to honor MLK? There’s got to be something else he was into. Did he play sports? Was he known for his work in the theatre…?
That same history now factors into the Fourth of July, with pointed reminders that some of the most prominent figures in the struggle for Independence (Jefferson, Washington, Patrick Henry) owned slaves.
Remember: Context is the Enemy of Joy.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the sparklers, cherry bombs, and other fireworks that comprise the festival’s most hallowed tradition, many (if not most) of today’s celebrants secure such ordnance at Indian reservations – another ironic connection with the most painful elements of the nation’s past.
True, Native Americans did lose their ancestral lands, cultures, traditions, and most of their populations, but we have to make a mildy inconvenient drive if we want to light up a Smokey Joe. So I guess the jokes on us.
Even Memorial Day and Veterans Day have lost some of their flag-waving, patriotic fervor and taken on a distinctly mournful, even skeptical edge.
I remember how juiced we all used to get about driving over to the National Cemetery in Westwood and laying a wreath on Memorial Day, but nowadays, what with all the contemplation and perspective and introspection, it really pisses on your party. On the other hand, I think it’s a misuse of the bully pulpit for Michael to write an entire lengthy essay just because he couldn’t get a date on Veterans Day.
We now make a point of recalling dubious as well as heroic wars
And how are we ever going to get history to repeat itself if we’re doomed to remember it?
…and taking note of those members of the military who sacrificed and served in our most controversial recent conflicts.
Remember, Veterans Day is a total gran mal seizure of Extreme Joy and Jingoism, unless any actual veterans show up, which is like somebody inviting the nerd fraternity to your big toga party. If your date sees men and women who bear mute testamony to the horrors and sacrifice of war before she’s downed three or more Mickey’s Wide Mouths, then trust me, you’re not getting those panties off with a winch.
In fact, the Vietnam experience and the associated dislocations of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s helped to dissolve the patriotic consensus that had endured for two centuries, and promoted poisonous lies about the national character.
Nobody ever voted for a candidate who promised to keep our boys out of World War I, or suggested the Maine blew up in Havana Harbor due to a faulty boiler, or questioned the wisdom and legality of the Mexican-American War and then had the treasonous effrontery to become our 16th President, where he continued his efforts to tear this country in two. Nope, skepticism about war all started with the hippies. But we forgive them because they invented the blowjob.
The United States waged deeply controversial wars long before the conflict in South East Asia, but in all previous cases a sweeping, one-sided victory (as in the War with Mexico) or at least a concluding, climactic battle that gave the illusion of overall triumph…
I like how Michael is ready to settle for the illusion of victory, which oddly strikes me as a triumph for reality. But he probably still can’t understand why the prisoners in Guantanamo won’t meet him halfway and accept the illusion of freedom by just closing their eyes and going to their Happy Place.
Once you’ve associated your native soil with genocidal fascists and white supremacist thugs, it’s tough to return to singing the praises of the land of the free and the home of the brave – even after ultimate victory in the Cold War, a new period of American hegemony, and the evanescent surge of unity and defensive pride following the terror attacks of 9/11.
Okay, maybe I’m totally misreading this, because it’s midnight and I popped a Lunesta about an hour ago, but is Michael really saying that while we’re a country indisputably founded on theft, mass-murder, and discrimination, our biggest fault is that we don’t lie about it enough, and when we do — and are caught lying — our reponse is insuffiently defensive. That about it?
Good grief, I haven’t even gotten through half of this thing yet — he’s still going on about the hippies, and when I scroll down, I’m rewarded with the lyrics to “I’m A Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Time for bed.Posted by scott on December 6th, 2007