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Your Pal Harvey » your pal harvey
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Entries Tagged as 'your pal harvey'


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…With A Human Face


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The Persistence of Memory

 

The current political season reminds me of the 2000 Republican primaries. Bush’s infamous whispering campaign against McCain in South Carolina, specifically, comes to mind. I think of how the Bush people attacked McCain, not for the unspeakable transgression against tradition, in allowing a non-white into his family, but with regard to how they said he wasn’t quite right. The whispering campaign had it that when he came back from Vietnam, that something had happened to him there, and now McCain was not ok, that he was unfit to be President. I would like to suggest that, whatever the genesis of the political commodity we have come to know as John McCain may be, the bare fact that the man is running for office on the promise of war and death and suffering ad infinitum is more than adequate evidence that he is unfit for office.

 

At this point I invite you to look at the clip below.

 


 

 

McCain’s most valuable asset, apparently, is his his ability to describe the horrors of perpetual war with out setting off alarm bells in the public mind. The delivery is self-consciously Reaganesque. His candidacy is, in effect, McCain and Company marketing a man who can deliver the worst possible news to the public - that your son or daughter may be killed or maimed or permanently traumatized - in such a way as to make it sound not only inevitable but pleasant.  McCain seeks to make perpetual war seem honorable.  With McCain as our President, for example,  we may rest easy knowing the U.S. will be doing a lot more killing, but not so much torturing.

 

McCain’s placating delivery is reminiscent of Bill Clinton, whose tone also betrays little to nothing of what, in fact, his words portend. In Clinton’s case, the example which is getting the most television airplay is his comparison of the Obama campaign to the Jesse Jackson campaigns. The Clinton signature delivery is present in full form, i.e. a nice guy who is stating another banality. Factually, yes, they both won South Carolina. However, upon careful examination, the implication he is making is that neither Jesse Jackson nor Barack Obama, for no other reason than they both happen to be black, would or could ever represent the interests of (white) America.

 

Taken out of context, the Clinton remarks are a banality. They appear to be no more incendiary than, say, a claim that the sky is blue. When taken in the full context of the primary race, the off-the-cuff and casual-statement-of-fact nature of the delivery only distract and delude the viewer from the full implication, namely, that the Clintons are together seeking to play upon and reinforce the American tradition of white supremacy, which has carried many a politician into office.

 

The product that the McCain camp is marketing is a narcoleptic. The idea is that somehow horrors, however horrific you know them to be, will lose their horrific quality if you listen to McCain. The candidate is suggesting, ‘Accept these horrors as a part of life. You will soon come to take them for granted’. As a candidate, McCain has been selling us the War on Terror. He seeks, however, to change the political life of the war, from a direct attack on the American psyche, to a remote fact whose impact can be somehow mitigated. McCain is seeking public support for an endless war by turning it into a banality. With McCain as President, he tells us, there will always be war and PTSD and mass death and so on, and we will simply come to accept it as normal. Or so his financiers hope.

 

In the Blues Brothers movie, Jake and Elwood look out the window of their prospective new digs and the Chicago elevated train passes by. The noise of it is impossibly loud and the train itself is only inches away from the window. The entire building shakes. McCain is the realtor, in my analogy, who tells America, “It goes by so often you won’t even notice it.”

 

It’s funny when it happens in the movie. When McCain tells us, after blowing his nose, “You know that Beach Boys song: bomb bomb bomb, bomb Iran…” it’s macabre.

 

Obama versus McCain

 

In contrast to McCain’s efforts to cultivate a passive America, we have Barack Obama. Where McCain is telling us that the good Americans are those who do nothing but follow orders and applaud the government, Obama is enervating Americans to take responsibility and to take action. Significantly, Obama has a very modest voting record. He is barely discernable from the remainder of politicians in Washington, if viewed from the point of view of his record. For that reason I prefer to see the primaries, at least for the moment, in terms of the rhetoric.

 

The Obama campaign is challenging America to participate. The campaign rhetoric is a counterpoint to McCain’s languid and dull-witted repetition of the phrase, “my friends.” Obama’s speeches can have an uplifting and inspirational quality. Frankly, I can’t believe I’m writing that.

 

I can’t believe it, in part, because I notice that Obama’s rhetoric is also constrained by a strong appeal to a corporate white protestant America, which tolerates only a narrow latitude of emotional display. And there is a detectable level of self-restraint in Obama’s public personage.

 

I sensed in Obama’s best moments, an uncommon drive to give the public the feeling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In contrast to the present occupants of the White House, both Obama and McCain are trying make their bid on sincerity. Where McCain’s definition of sincerity is, namely, a menu of barbarity and human sacrifice, Obama’s message is rather more abstract, more positive, and, for those reasons, I would argue, more effective.

 

Lest you think I have gone off my rocker here, and you may if you haven’t seen this, I provide a link to his speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church:

 

 

To clarify the function of the constraints I mentioned before, they are an obeisance to the shareholders and executives. These constraints remind me that charismatic politicians exist for the purpose of motivating labor to answer the demands of shareholders and executives. In other words, in the wildly unlikely event that Obama is elected President and lives to take office, history tells us, for example, that we can look forward to having the budget balanced once again on the backs of the working and middle classes. This means you and me, brother.

 

 

Even under the best circumstances, having a President who happens to be a good salesman is clearly not a panacea. And we are certainly in nothing like the best circumstances.

 

I agree with Obama insofar as his message of public participation and public responsibility is concerned, but not to the extent that I believe that each member of the public has an equal responsibility to repay the government the money that the present paranoid and criminal regime is stealing, for example.

 

Obama threatens the American public, like McCain, with the feeling of comfort in a deteriorating economy, in a deteriorating democracy, in a failing empire. If, as a result of this election, we look at the White House and feel less driven to fight for our own interests, a friendly salesman in the oval office threatens to do us more harm than good.

 


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welcome friends and enemies


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welcome to your pal harvey’s web log.

here, I’ll tell you what i think.

and even more importantly, i invite you to tell me what you think.

about?

if you have been keeping up with all the cut-and-paste material I’ve posted elsewhere (ie on the now abandoned http://youpalharvey.over-blog.com/), the subject matter will be more of the same.

For those of you who haven’t, ‘more of the same’ means a variety of public issues.

this site is intended to be a forum for progressive activists and people watchers. plus i try to promote creative work, so look for more music and visual work.

a big part of my motivation to move to this site was that i wanted to cultivate a forum for discussion.

i liked disseminating news articles and fotos and still do. you can find loads of such material in either of the columns to the right —>

yes im still a news-hound and i love it when people send me articles or fotos or links to websites. if what you send me is mind-blowing, ill light a candle for you and post a link for public consumption.

as opposed to delicious and flickr to the right, this particular column is for yours and my commentary.

harvey invites you to add comments! (see below)

hopefully ill come up with something interesting or entertaining, and maybe ill be able to elevate the existing public discussion.

ill try to keep my tone as humble and anonymous as i can.

ya, so don’t look for harvey’s vacation fotos or baby pictures here.

yourpalharvey.com is intended not as my page, but ours.

therefore, as much as i can, ill keep the focus on factors common to us all.

i like the word “relevant.”

if you think there’s some topic that’s widely relevant, let us know.

especially if you feel the topic is not getting just attention elsewhere.

and tell us what you think.

if i get my facts wrong, or you think my analysis is skewed, lay it on me.

the door’s wide open.

thanks for coming.

-ted

ps huge thanks to todd and ari for all the work they put into design and realization of this page.