Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why ISIS Doesn’t Matter

If caring is a matter of degree, then ISIS doesn’t matter.  Yes, they are loads of nasty people doing terribly nasty things, but that’s not rare on the ground these days.

Poor Barack Obama.  He looks sallow and thinner than ever; his hair is gray.  He’s aged 20 years in less than 7.  They say absolute power corrupts absolutely, but perhaps it’s equally soul killing to have power fairly won, then castrated by people who don’t like you because of your skin color.  He might have been a successful president if the opposition hadn’t sworn, at the very beginning, to oppose him at every turn no matter what.  Maybe when things like that happen, you have no choice but to start acting just like the blinkered idiot who got us into all this trouble in the first place.  George W. Bush

To someone who has been around awhile, it seems like only yesterday that Nine-Eleven happened.  Back in those days, the inhabitants of the Whitehouse were aching for an excuse to invade Iraq.  Dick Cheney was up to his vacant psychopathic eyes in Halliburton, and George W. Bush, so convinced by his boneheaded averageness and arrogance that he knew what he was doing, imagined he was in charge and leapt onto the bandwagon before the first blasts of the sousaphone even sounded. 

But there was no reason to go to war with Iraq.  Osama bin Laden was not there, nor were any of his friends.  The Iraqis did not have yellow cake uranium.  They were not building a bomb.  And while Iraq and Syria have never been particularly stable nation states, they’re absolute chaos now: wrecked infrastructures, destroyed economies, sad and hopeless populations of the dispossessed and the desperate.  The strategy the Bush administration used to get us into that war was exactly the same one to use if your dog’s got ahold of a dead bird, a cat turd or something.  Distraction.  Throw a biscuit to the other side of the yard and go fetch.  WMD’s, Al Quada, retribution for 911.  They were all just excuses to keep the American people from noticing that the bastards at the top and all their prick friends were busily destroying our domestic economy and plunging us into an economic abyss we may never get out of.

We bashed Iraq, alright.  Never reported, never even counted the dead except for our own, imagining it was possible to force reality into being what we wanted it to be.  Saddam Hussein, holed up in his pathetic spider hole, hairy and feral and filthy.  Hot damn.  The press loved that image and so did plenty of Americans, never actually considering the ruined, shattered lives getting it left behind.
So now, what must it be like to be a young Iraqi male?  The world they’ve left you is not a nice one in which to wake up.  You feel powerless, weak, impotent.  And when you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.  Why not join a terrorist organization and blow people up?  If the best you can hope for is making others more miserable than you are, then that’s what you go for.  It’s called nihilism, philosophical-eze for not giving a flying fuck.  It’s close kin to hatred, towards everyone and everything.

So in Iraq and Syria we’ve got ISIS.  It’s touted as a global terrorist threat and yeah, it might sneak into another country, blow up a train station or a public gathering and kill hundreds of innocent people.  This is a terrible thing but given that it springs from a mess US Government policy created, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. 

The fact that Barack Obama is currently set on a course that looks alarming like the mess caused by his predecessor, is profoundly disturbing.  So he gets ISIS.  Another terrorist group will take its place.  Then another and another.  Violence begets only violence.  This has been true for as long as human beings have walked upright.  It will always be true.
And yeah, chopping peoples head off is barbaric, medieval, un-thinkable.

But not any more unthinkable that the things going on right here, every day.

You can ride your bike around downtown Los Angeles.  There are hundreds of homeless people.  Most of them simply wander the streets during the day returning to hidey holes or tent villages at night.  Well, tent is kind of an exaggeration.  You rarely see an intact tent.  Mostly they are patched together flops with odd bits of plastic tarps, string, plastic bags and whatever else they can find to keep the weather out.  Under an overpass, somewhere around Pico and Washington, both sides of the street are filled with one of these homeless villages, or they were today; the police will probably clear them out by tomorrow.  It looked like a slum in an old time Hooverville.   There is drug addiction there, alcoholism, despair, resignation.  I saw a guy reading a paperback book, and a woman in a dirty dress sweeping the sidewalks in an effort to maintain the appearance of a plausible human community.  This was oddly sweet, especially considering that she was breathing enough car exhaust and filthy road dust to kill the average lab rat in about ten minutes.  Human beings, no matter how poor or of what ethnicity, should not be made to live like this.

There are bodies of passed out workers waiting outside Home Depot for jobs.  Maybe they are illegals.  So what?  They deserve dignity, some minimal standard of living signifying even slightly, that they matter.  Yet we, one of the richest countries in the world, will not give them that.
We are destroying our environment, or maybe we’ve already destroyed it.  A scientists on NPR opined that at this point there is so much carbon dioxide not just in the atmosphere, but the oceans where it is trapped, that nothing can be done.  The oceans are heating up, accelerating global warming.

Public education systems are breaking down.  Once upon a time the general perception was that people who home schooled their kids were all fanatics and nuts.  Not so much anymore.  Columbine, Virginia Tech, Littleton Colorado, Newtown Connecticut.  At this point the frequency of public shootings is so great I’m not sure they even make the news anymore.  Sending kids off to school, something that used to be life affirming, has now become a source of anxiety.

The infrastructure of the US is crumbling.  Bridges, highways, waterways, public utilities.  No one is fixing them.  No one does anything until disaster strikes, and then it’s forgotten before the next news cycle.

The other day, thousands of people without health or dental insurance stood in line all day long in the heat at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Center to get wristbands for free health care appointments.  Many did not get in.  They interviewed a guy who got shut out last year.  He said he almost made it up to the gate before it closed and the police turned him away.  He needed dental work.  They told him, “come back next year.”  This year he got in.  What must the last year has been like for him every time he had to chew.  Contrary to public belief, most people do not seek dental care because they want to look pretty.  They go because they’re in intense pain and need help.

Ferguson, Missouri.  Race hatred.  According to Bureau of Justice statistics, at over 2.5 million, the United States has more people in prison than any other country, the vast majority of them African-American males.  Across the nation police departments are militarizing. 
The job market sucks.  Kids can’t leave home because they can’t support themselves.  If they’ve gone to college chances are their debt load is colossal.  It is not rare these days for a college graduate to emerge into the “real world” saddled with fifty or a hundred thousand dollars in debt.  This was unimaginable 20 years ago.

In short, this country has got real problems and would do well to take a lesson from airline flight attendants.  When you lose cabin pressure, put on your own mask before worrying about others.
Thinking this way is called being a patriot.

But of course patriotism is a na├»ve stance.  Reality forever underlies it like the bones of an ancient graveyard.  The question of whether to go to war again in the Middle East is not only absurd, but a complete non-starter.  Of course we shouldn’t.  We’ve done enough damage.  If you accept the premise that what the citizens of the United States need is employment, education, health care, safety and at least a crack at living contented, peaceful even thriving existences, then prosecuting nonsensical wars is exactly the wrong thing to do. 

But of course that’s not what the war mongering is about.  It’s about oil, and the huge profits accrued and hoarded by comparatively few individuals incapable of caring or even seeing the suffering of people around them.

So yeah, all things considered, ISIS doesn’t matter.  It’s a ghastly organization, agreed.   But its existence is not any more ghastly that murdered children, a ruined environment, countless hopeless and suffering dispossessed, and all the other horrors that have come to exist in this country due to a wrong-headed government hijacked by the powerful interests of big gas and oil companies, hijacked, in the end, by greed.   


Catherine O’Sullivan, September 2014