Reading Nietzsche in Starbucks
When the human waste of politics gets to piling up so deep you want to run screaming into the night, a good remedy is to fall back to the powerful historical minds and immerse yourself in some great writing. I ran into this dilemma last Sunday, after a morning of reading The New York Times about the continuing blackmail antics of Rep. John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell and their merry band of Teabag Republican cutthroats.
As backdrop to the Boehner/McConnell farce, there were stories in The Times of floods, a religious bombing in Pakistan, persistent corruption in the Shiite-ruled government of US occupied Iraq, and lunatic Islamists in Afghanistan wanting to stone to death a teenage couple out of Romeo and Juliet whose romance crossed ethnic lines and offended arranged marriage customs. Finally, maybe the most sobering story of all, an equally lunatic Hasidic Jew from New York had connived with well-connected, post-9/11 security operatives to disseminate draft legislation for state and local governments across the United States to outlaw anything smacking of Islamic Shariah Law; this man's legislation is apparently taking root in many localities and will no doubt sweep away a host of civil liberties in its flood waters, as it exacerbates a growing state of religious war in America.
The only bright spot in the Sunday Times was the story from Turkey about how a moderate Muslim government has effectively, slowly castrated an entrenched and corrupt military institution. Now there's a positive story to keep an eye on. Turkey seems to be on a course of becoming a model for what a moderate Muslim government looks like. Egyptians are, no doubt, taking notes.
The military-civilian relationship in the United States is going the other way and is more like Guatemala or Egypt; like them, we're a nation with a fig leaf of civilian democratic elections. In the US, the incredible military monster is sacrosanct -- a huge sacred cow munching away contentedly on tax resources and driving the debt ever higher and higher as politicians of both parties cravenly kowtow and throw money at it, all the time decrying the debt. President Barack Obama has shown himself to be a number one shining example of this cravenness, a man who has become quite comfortable solidifying his power by resorting to international homicide with flying robots and special operations assassin teams. Meanwhile, he and his VP Joe Biden have pretty much given away the economic store to a rapacious right wing.