Wednesday, February 27, 2008

When Satire Comes True

These past eight years have been many things. Were people more verbose on average, I'd say that there's nearly as many ways to describe them as there are people. Unfortunately, for many, a more eclectic vocabulary is a secret fantasy at most. One thing you can be sure of, though, is that most people's descriptions of these years would involve a copious amount of foul language. Sometimes there's no other way to fuckin' say it.

Despite how terrible these years have been for most of the country and many parts of the world - in large part due to Walker, Texas President and his corrupt administration up there in D.C. - these years have been, in many regards, comedy goldmines. (Though granted, much of said comedy is relatively depressing when you look past the funny to what we've lost and what we've become. After all, torture isn't torture anymore if we say it's not. Think of it as a carnival dunking booth, except we make sure water gets in your lungs!)

Right around the time of George W. Bush's inauguration in January 2001, The Onion wrote a satirical piece that ended up being disturbingly accurate in its humorous look forward into his presidency.

They were dead-on in regards to virtually everything Bush has gone on to accomplish as president. He undid much of the good that Bill Clinton and his administration had for this country, and outright slashed as much funding as he could from as many domestic programs as possible. (This was epitomized in his proposed 2008 budget, in which he sought to effectively freeze every domestic program he could, while attempting to funnel virtually all of our tax dollars directly from our wallets into his war chest - and through that, the military industrial complex.) Likewise, the national debt and deficit have hit new all-time highs while he's made the main theme of his presidency warfare - deceptive warfare, at that. The September 11th attacks couldn't have occurred at a worse time, with this administration in power.

In domestic programs being slashed as much as possible, health care has become a privilege for the wealthy, as medical fees having continued to be the leading cause of bankruptcy. Insurance companies continue to excel at their jobs - to take your money and pay for as little of your medical care as they can justify, if not avoid paying entirely. It's a gamble, like all insurance, and more often than not, gamblers lose. In 2007, Michael Moore released his latest progressive documentary, Sicko, which focused on our nation's health care crisis and the dire need for meaningful reform. But while many saw the documentary and felt as depressed as you naturally would in learning indepth about this issue, many others - on the right, of course - went with their usual shtick in continuing to attack Moore for raising issues they didn't want addressed to common social consciousness. And of course, Hillary Clinton's proposed major health care overhaul has been written off as the evil socialized medicine so many on the right have come to fear. Health itself is a benefit for those who can afford it, after all. Why should a nation look to take care of its people when they could be focusing on the interests of the wealthy alone instead? Even if the character of a nation is best measured by how it treats its lowest citizens.

They were almost cautiously optimistic in suggesting that Bush would only be involving us in at least one Gulf War level conflict in the first four years of his presidency. (Though they were also optimistic in not outright assuming he was going to get reelected. Way to drop the ball there, America.) Now in his final year, we're well into two Middle Eastern conflicts. First off, we have the Afghanistan conflict, which we prefer not to talk about, since it was easier to drop a lot of bombs, drive the Taliban out, pretend everything was just peachy, then move on to bombing our next target. We don't want to acknowledge the current situation there, let alone how little responsibility we took for our actions after the fact. We whet our appetites for war - and aren't even bothering to go after bin Laden anymore - and went on to our second conflict in Iraq, Bush hellbent on finishing what his father started, against all facts, logic, reason, or humanity. Evidence was manufactured, a disturbingly massive number of lies were told, bombs were dropped, and countless people - innocents and otherwise - lost their lives. Our military's seeing overall fatigue like never before, we're desperately taking anyone we can get to throw over there with a gun, and cases of heinous military violence against incidents and sexual assault against women in the military are on the rise. We've seen stories like this in the news every year since the Iraq war began, with no trend of improvement - it's getting to the point at which if you're a woman in the military, chances are nearly fifty-fifty that someone will rape or otherwise violate you. War does awful things to people - and I'd argue that the psychological conditioning the military puts soldiers through could easily be detrimental in many ways as well, in seeing free thought discouraged as often as it is - and we don't like to look at that part of the picture either. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is only becoming a more daunting issue, and one we aren't seeing addressed well either, with so many of our veterans coming back changed people whose lives simply crumble around them as a result of their experiences. Mental health care is a tremendous issue this administration has ignored. In this, his final year, Bush has continued to push to start a third war in the Middle East with Iran - remember, diplomacy is for pussies - while Republican frontrunner John McCain has pushed to keep us in Iraq for, to paraphrase, "as long as it takes, even if that means another 100 years." We as a nation continue to overglorify and expand our military to a dangerous, frightening degree - we're seeing the backlash of an obsessive militaristic and paranoid culture, and demonstrating to the rest of the world that if there is a truly dangerous, unstable nation on this Earth, it is America. Whoever replaces Bush in the White House, whether Hillary or now more likely Obama, has their work cut out for them and then some, in working to repair the decades' worth of damage the Bush administration has done to this country and the world. With McCain, we wouldn't be seeing that - merely finally recognizing waterboarding as torture doesn't cut it.

Economically, all Bush did was give the richest of the rich tax cuts - increasing the tax burden on the rest of us - and watch as the economy collapsed into a recession. Eventually, the economy "corrected" itself, as those soulless buzzword-spouting TV economists'd probably put it, and we saw a "jobless recovery," as they put it. Of course, to most of us, this is scarcely a recovery at all, as the job market continued to remain terrible as more and more desirable jobs continued to be outsourced to save money - remember, corporate profits and big executive salaries are American values - and the only jobs we'd see created were more minimum wage jobs that didn't allow people much breathing room to go anywhere or accomplish anything in their lives, trapping and crushing them as many jobs do in today's modern world. (And it wasn't until after the Democrats took Congress back in November 2006 that we finally passed our first minimum wage increase in many years, which we were long overdue for. Even now, the new minimum wage could still stand another raise or two to truly reach living wage level again. People aren't worker drones, after all - we need money to survive.) And if you suggest the tax cuts shouldn't be made permanent - trickle down Reaganomics! They've never worked before, but if we pretend they do, it's okay! - you'd be looked at by the staunch Bushies as though you were just caught making out with Osama bin Laden on a street corner in San Francisco while wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt and also happened to be an atheist. With the housing bubble having burst, the average American is in even more frighteningly awful economic shape than in decades, and the dollar continues to fall through the floor. All the while, what little "stimulus" the administration offers doesn't help the people at the bottom who really need it. Their economic policy? When all else fails, give the rich a little more. They just skip the "all else" part.

They were dead-on in regards to Bush's environmental policies as well, passing deceptively named legislation to loosen regulation on emissions and allow companies and factories to pollute more - after all, spending money on cleaning up your production methods and factories and seeking environmentally friendly approaches to things might hurt their bottom line a little. That money is far more important than the health of our planet. And oil drilling was a fairly big issue right out the door - wildlife be damned! There's oil in them thar refuges!

We've seen the mandated separation of church and state eroded even further as Bush pushed his "faith-based initiatives" with American tax dollars that would've been better used in more secular, widely beneficial measures. And he scared pretty much all of us capable of thinking for ourselves when he started claiming that god talks to him. When did we elect David Berkowitz!? And though he has little chance of getting the nomination, we get to enjoy candidates like Mike Huckabee so far on the religious right that he's hellbent on changing the very fabric of American law by striking down the separation of church and state and amending the Constitution "to god's law." Apparently, we're supposed to be some kind of Pat Robertson nation.

In the end, Bush has dealt an undeniable critical blow to American democracy - something which many will never be able to reconcile with, as of his coming in through a stolen, dirty election on day one. And that wasn't even the tip of the iceberg, in the end.

It's fun to look back at this article and laugh, and to laugh at shows like the Daily Show and Colbert Report on a regular basis. But underneath the humor lies a tremendous amount of depressing damage this man and his cronies have inflicted upon America and the world.

In the very least, we haven't seen the Roe v. Wade overturning yet that they predicted, and let's keep our fingers crossed that they won't. Women have taken more than enough suffering from this administration as is, their rights and progress certainly not being something they even considered. And we've seen the anti-abortion crazies empowered to especially visible and vocal levels in these troubling times. If we turn the clock back on our society much further, it may yet simply break.

... Man, this one was kind of a downer.

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