Mar 31, 2008

Someone Should Kill The President

It used to be unthinkable to express such a thing openly. Maybe not in the counter culture, but in the gray-flannel-suit culture you certainly might have thought of it, but you wouldn't say it, never, because those three assassinations that became the coming-of-age for this generation were too close, and still they're fresh in the mind. So even if you hated the president, and we're not just talking about liberals, if you blamed Jimmy Carter for 20 percent interest rates, for example, or you despised Bill Clinton after Monicagate, still, no matter who was president, you wouldn't want that old sick feeling again.

I remember people saying during Watergate how somebody ought to 'get rid' of Nixon. And, of course, the same thing about Lyndon Johnson. I remember feeling how daring it was to say on a sign at a march, "get out of Vietnam like your father should have" (gotten out of your mother). I remember people saying they wanted to put Reagan on hormone replacement therapy. Because he was too stupid to assassinate. It would be like killing Dumbo, the elephant. Or what Nancy Reagan needed was a good gang bang.

For sure, no president has escaped his would-be assassins, his vermouth-with-a-twist killers. His pot head killers, his SDS and Black Panther killers... But now there's something relentless about the loathing of Bush. And the idea of assassination seems more than just an outrageous thing to say. It's what some people really feel. "I want him to know what he did," someone told me recently. "But I don't think there's any way to do that. So yea somebody should shoot him. And it always amazes me no one has."

What's striking is that the people I'm hearing say these things are gentle by any other standard. They're not repressed, angry people underneath, or on the surface. They're smart middle class people, and not so 'liberal' as you would assume, people who are too sophisticated to honestly wish such a thing, much less say it. They're also women.

Incidentally, killing George Bush is not my own fantasy. Beyond Buddhist teaching, my argument is, why would you wish to make the man a martyr (Or men, since often the fantasy involves Cheney as well as Bush). And can you imagine how that would further deepen divisions and suspicions in this country?

Of course you can understand how someone might think such a thing, not wish it, but conceive of it. Not imagine themselves doing such a thing but feeling the way my Moroccan students felt about 9/11. 'It was a terrible thing,' they'd say, 'but America had it coming', and you could see that it made them happy on some level. And I would say to them, 'but you have to see those people jumping out the windows, 80 floors up, to really FEEL the horror of that day.' But they hadn't seen it and they couldn't imagine. All they knew was Goliath took a shot to the head....

That an American could talk so blythely about killing the president doesn't just come from opposition to the war. And it's not the feeling of hatred coming from the rest of the world, or wiretapping without a warrant, or any process of habeous corpus. Nor does it come only from the conviction that this administration has been overwhelmed with moral corruption, and utter stupidity, or that veterans have been abandoned or that corporate-profiteers have been so shamelessly rewarded, or that education feels like it's been sacrificed for the armchair policies and politics of the Vice President. And there's a piece of work. There's a figure you would want every child to know, like the sexual predator that lives in a house two streets over, and you would say to the child, "don't ever be like that person, that person is evil".

Thinking such things doesn't even cover this body blow to the economy and the culture of greed that brought it, Bush's culture of greed, and now the growing dread that this is not a recession but a depression and all the old ghosts of the previous generation are coming out of their crypts: That deep down fear that in old age to make ends meet we'll be selling life insurance door to door, and in a minute here there'll be no jobs and no social security and people will just start killing themselves because they won't see a way out or they'll think the only way they can save their families, is to commit suicide.

The black desire comes from all of that but maybe also the sense that every good thing you wanted for this country now seems lost. It's as though you realize the fantasy is over. This is the end date history books will include, marking the end of America's run. It's as though we've been exposed, as a country, and somehow as individuals, as second rate. As pretentious, naive bores who never did anything for the world after all, despite the good intentions. The truth is, Michelle Obama is right, there is very little to be proud of these days. And there's a lot of people that feel that away and not just latte liberals or blue state, blue collar people....

Theis black desire I'm hearing flourishes in the fear that all we've built up in the last 60 years is being washed away. It doesn't help that on the right wing talk radio, on 560 am in the Bay Area, one after another these pundits take the mic and blow fear and hatred your way. Limbaugh is the least of them. You listen to them and even the likes of Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee seem small in comparison.

We always say in this country that this is the 'turning point', this is the moment when we've all got to show our hand, and always we make a drama about it, we talk in extremes, we talk trash, we talk like we don't know the danger of reckless expression... but now we really are at one of those moments.

Mar 5, 2008

After 3 a.m.

And now the senator should respond something like this... "The danger this country faces is not the "inexperience" of the person who answers the hotline at 3 a.m. George Bush has proven you can have neither experience or intelligence and get through that call. The danger is from ignoring the calls that come in throughout the day — from people who have lost their houses, their jobs and their confidence. After all, we have the strongest army in the world; we don't need to fear other countries or other societies. They may attack us, they may wound us but they cannot destroy us, physically. But clearly we need to begin a new era, not based on fear and trepidation. That's the legacy of the Bush administration. That's the old enslavement. As a nation, as individuals, we face difficult times and we need our wits about us, but we also need to regain our spirit, our fearlessness, our humor as she would say, that quality that's always distinguished America and Americans."