Expanded from the 7-3-2005 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune.
Updated 10-7 and 12-17-2013
Happy birthday, America, the joke's on you. You keep falling for the same sucker punches but always come back for more, especially after the neighborhood bully who ate your lunch says he's sorry.
Maybe that's why Charlie Brown is still a hit in reruns. Chuck is the ultimate Christian optimist, always willing to forgive the faithless Lucy for pulling the football away at the last moment, then charging him for psychiatric advice afterward.
No matter what Tom Cruise says about psychiatry, there's a bloodless term for such textbook toxic relationships: co-dependency. It's now our national disease and neither psychology nor scientology can cure it.
As a people, we are superstitious, co-dependent and very susceptible to trinkets and candy from smiling strangers who promise us protection from the bogeyman under the bed. As a result, liberty and democracy are in serious jeopardy.
"Americans do not want democracy, they want theocracy," a French observer noted a decade or so back.
While divine paternalism may not be our stated national goal, forget the paperwork and look at reality on the ground.
We have been taught to worship the free market as a system ordained by God hisself. Unfettered by communistic, liberal government regulations, the free market was supposed to turn Iraq into a post-liberation paradise. (Only Saddam's ban on labor unions was kept on Iraq's books when Dubya's neocons took over.)
The results of this expensive experiment in pure capitalism have been less than stellar.
Just as with Iran, we have driven Iraq toward theocracy in our own image and likeness. In a few years, will anyone be able to tell us apart?
Our abusers come to power by promising to protect us from the bogeyman. Should we look under the bed and find nothing, they'll invent one. Alas and alack, the United States has become the bogeyman.
Looking at the broad context of our past 52 years of knocking off governments we don't like, the hijackings of 9/11 were arguably counterattacks. But we keep electing leaders who slam our heads into that same old wall because it feels so good when they stop.
Some former hostages say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's new president, was among the student hostagetakers who overran the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. They imprisoned Americans for 444 days, knocking President Jimmy Carter out of office in the process.
Despite his Nobel Peace Prize-winning decades of penance, I have no sympathy for the ambitious moralist from Georgia. He turned down deals for release of the hostages on two separate occasions because he saw the crisis benefiting his campaign against Sen. Edward Kennedy's primary election challenge. (1) Like Carter, Dubya has used a disaster for domestic political purposes.
The students who took our diplomats and spies hostage in 1979 did so because they were good scholars of history. They remembered that our C.I.A. had overthrown their democracy in 1953. Stephen Kinzer, author of "All the Shah's Men," traveled to Iran in researching his 2003 book. He interviewed several of the former hostagetakers who told him that they wanted to prevent the U.S. from installing another puppet government. (2)
So here we are on this Fourth of July weekend getting all gushy about fireworks and other things military. Don't let the sparklers and bombs bursting in air blind you to the facts.
If you are not willing to accept that Iran, Iraq and the U.S. are in various stages of moving toward complete and completely abusive theocracy, focus on women.
The rulers of all three societies promote their potency by pounding their chests and exerting increasing control of females. In Basra, Iraq's second largest city, women who were free to dress as they liked under Saddam now dare not venture forth unless covered head to toe by those burlap sacks which double as Islamic high fashion.
In the U.S., Promise Keepers and other Christian organizations exalt male supremacy and female submissiveness as conditions ordained by the Lord. A proposed constitutional amendment to guarantee equal rights for women has been killed and re-killed by our theocrats for a century.
Las Vegas Review-Journal editor Thomas Mitchell reaches the same conclusion today that Mickey Hart's foundation did almost two decades ago. Read "Do I hear a knock at the door?" in the July 3, 2005, edition.
About 15 years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported the results of a study funded by a foundation created by a member of the Grateful Dead.
The question: Which portions of the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution) stand inviolate after more than 200 years? Answer: the prohibition against being forced to house troops in your home. All others have been eroded.
It is thus fitting and ironic that this Memorial Day weekend will be suffused with speculation about who will replace the first female ever to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Dubya will most probably push through some neanderthal like Robert Bork who will hurl us butt-first into the 19th Century.
A new conservative majority will jeopardize the rights of everyone but the corporately wealthy, but the historical symmetry will be perfect. The United States would have probably fallen apart under armed rebellion during the 1930s had not one conservative supreme court justice switched sides. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's remedies to help a nation ravaged by the Great Depression had been consistently ruled unconstitutional by the court's right-wing majority. The president failed in his attempt to modify the Constitution to expand the number of justices.
Fortunately, the fabled "switch in time saved nine." Without it, there would have been no New Deal and perhaps no United States to win World War II.
That a worldwide depression is just around the corner seems increasingly likely. When a new Roosevelt emerges to save us, I wonder who she will be.
Happy Co-Dependence Day.
Be well. Raise hell.
(1) Former U.S. Sen. James Abourezk, D-South Dakota, reveals that President Carter could have freed the Iran hostages, but chose not to.
"Jimmy Carter at that time was standing tough. He was trying to look like he didn't want to negotiate. And my view was, 'Look, you know, I don't care who you negotiate with. If you've got hostages who are suffering, you'll negotiate with anybody to try to get them out.' That's not to say you have to lose your dignity. But it means that you surely should try to do what you can for people who are taken hostage.
"Well, in any event, they turned the deal down, the administration did, and the (U.S. Senate) Foreign Relations Committee, I think, objected to it as well on the grounds that Carter should be allowed to handle the situation. I said (to Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Virginia) 'Well, Bob, you'd think that Carter might give you the approval under the table and still be against it in public if he wanted to be. But let us try to get the hostages out.'
"And he said, 'Well, we have to stay with what the president wants.' I'm convinced to this day that Carter and his people were running against Ted Kennedy, by the way, in the primaries. I think what he wanted to do was hang on to this hostage issue until he got Kennedy out of the race because his popularity was going up and Kennedy's was going down as a result of the hostage thing.
"So I think they passed up a chance who knows whether it would have worked, but at least they passed up that chance."
From Abourezk's 3-25-1990 C-SPAN interview
Click here to read the whole thing.
EDITOR'S NOTE 10-7-2013: Long after the hostage crisis, the Associated Press confirmed that Abourezk was working for Kennedy in trying to free the hostages. An exclusive Barbwire source told us in 1981 that because Carter rightly felt that Kennedy getting credit for the liberation would doom his re-election bid, the president let the hostages rot and turned down the Abourezk-negotiated deal.
Abourezk, the only Arab-American ever to serve in the U.S. Senate, moved quickly and early in the crisis. Before the mullahs came to power, the only person available to negotiate was interim leader and future president Dr. Abolhasan Bani-Sadr, now exiled in France. The Iranians asked only for return of their frozen assets, billions of dollars. Other demands cropped up later. The U.S. never returned the Iranian assets, which have seriously dwindled because of damage lawsuits brought in U.S. courts after Congress passed enabling legislation.
"We grabbed their money and we kept it," a commentator said recently.
...and more ammo
On this date in 1937 under a new schedule approved by the Roosevelt administration, Boulder Dam workers started getting Saturday off for the first time; in 1970 Elmer "Al" Gunderson announced his candidacy for the Supreme Court of Nevada; in 1970 at the behest of the Downtown Casino Association, the American Independent Party of Nevada, and local law enforcement agencies, the Las Vegas city commission rushed through an "emergency" ordinance in an effort to stop a five-hour rock festival at Cashman Field featuring Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Country Joe and the Fish, the Youngbloods, and the Illinois Transit (on July 5 Georgia Governor Lester Maddox requested a law outlawing rock festivals in his state); in 1988 a civilian Iranian airliner carrying 66 Iranian children and their family members from a summer at Bandar Abbas to Dubai was brought down by antiaircraft fire from the U.S.S. Vincennes, killing all 290 passengers, which may have played a role in provoking the December 1988 Pam Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland (the Vincennes was decommissioned last Wednesday in San Diego); in 1996 the movie Independence Day, set in part at Nevada's Area 51 base, debuted (the film's marketer and some of its stars appeared on March 22d at the dedication of Nevada's "Extraterrestrial Highway"). Courtesy of Poor Denny's Almanac
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Copyright © 2005, 2013 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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