The Great Race and the Marathon of Hope
There's a way to get there, and I'll figure it out somehow
But I'm already there in my mind, and that's good enough for now - Bob Dylan
Thinking about John Bolton the other day got me thinking about Terry Fox. The mind's funny that way.
But first, let me tell you about this friend I had in Grade Six. He was the kind of friend who, even in Grade Six, made me wish I had one less friend. But try telling my parents that. ("He's a nice boy! You want to sit in your room reading all day?") He was the school bully. Not a beat-the-shit-out-of-you bully, though his smile always implied that he could if it came to that, so it never came to that. His metier was psychological abuse. Some eleven-year olds just have a knack for the psy ops, you know?
One week, he got it in his head that I was his "slave." To win my freedom, he said, I needed to beat him in a race. One contest a day was held at recess to see if I could be a free boy again. The first time I beat him I was thrilled, until he told me nuh ah - that was just practice. Darn it! When I beat him again, he said I'd merely earned X number of points; I needed Y to be free. Crap, this is harder than I'd thought.... And I kept competing, because I wanted my freedom, and because every time he moved the goalposts I felt more like a slave.
I'd like to say I woke up one day and told him to go to Hell, but I didn't. The episode just petered out as he found some other child to torment. It wasn't until later that I realized how much a party I'd been to my own enslavement by simply accepting the base premise.
Which brings me to John Bolton, a bully in his own right, and the news that next week, George Bush will take advantage of the congressional recess and appointment him UN ambassador without confirmation from the legislative branch.
That the Senate might have denied Bolton's appointment was clearly possible, which would have meant a rare loss for the Bush Administration. So rare, I can't off the top of my head think of a single thing that's been denied them.
It's difficult to watch the perpetual dashing of hope in America amongst those who still think politics matters, and that political action is sufficient to reverse America's fascist course. To them, it remains a race. C'mon gang - we can win this thing! But their opponent is more than a competitor: he is also the track official, and what a bloody-minded bastard he is. He has neither conscience nor fear of reprisal for tripping them up, tying together their shoelaces and moving the finish line. If he's seen to be running, it's simply to be seen. And so he's not even a true competitor, because there is no competition.
After the Supreme Court rubber-stamped the coup of 2000, I heard "wait until '02!" After Wellstone was murdered and the black boxes began swallowing invisible votes, I heard "wait until '04!" And even before Ohio and the bizarre Skull and Bones shadowplay, I started hearing "wait until '06!" And I tell you, I just can't hear anymore.
Lewis Lapham wonders, in July's Harper's, "why so many people continue to insist that we're living in a democracy that somehow would have been recognizable to Franklin D Roosevelt or even to Richard M Nixon. The belief is bad for the health and mental stability." Perhaps if Kubler-Ross had been a political scientist she would have described it as the first stage of grief upon the death of a republic. Either that, or they are simply inattentive, and still don't know enough to be in denial.
Listen, America. I've been there. The bully won't let you win, even when you do, as you have a number of times now. As soon as you rise to his bogus challenge, you give up your power, and he's got you.
If politics is a race that can never be won, then perhaps parapolitics is a solitary marathon that can never be finished.
If this is it, and the old cancer upon the presidency has metastasized beyond treatment, and all we can do for the American Experiment is make it as comfortable as possible, there is still hope. Hope for us, I mean, and not for a system, nor even possibly for a civilization. Because if what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, perhaps what kills us - or could - makes us strongest. I mean that like Dylan meant this, which he wrote during the Cuban Missile Crisis:
I will not go down under the ground
'cause somebody tells me that death's comin' 'round
An' I will not carry myself down to die
When I go to my grave my head will be high
Let me die in my footsteps
Before I go down under the ground
To me, the metaphorical oomph of the Fox run is not the ringingly hollow "cancer can be beaten." Because, after all, it beat him. Rather, it's "Hey cancer, get a load of me - I'm fucking alive!"
It's not a race, but we have to keep moving. And long may you run.