“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
You know, I realized the other day that it’s impossible to have a blog focused on progressive political analysis because to spend time thinking critically about modern-day politics is to drive oneself down the path of madness. In plain English, there’s simply too much bullshit going on every day to keep up. And because I can’t write something about every major event happening in the world—although I’d love to if I had the time—I decided to write a bird’s-eye take on what’s been happening this week in America. Because if this week has taught me anything, it’s that Thucydides was spot-on in what he wrote over two millennia ago: “[T]he strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.”
Take this week’s revelation that presumed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state,” very likely a violation of federal law. The story may have generated anger amongst conservatives and it further strengthens the argument that Hillary is a secrecy-obsessed politician who has little respect for transparency, but let me ask you this: do you really think Hillary will be held accountable for any legal ramifications or that her candidacy is now derailed? Of course not! It doesn’t even matter, in the final analysis, whether Hillary’s use of personal email for government business violated any laws, because the reality is that there’s a snowball’s chance in hell she will face any serious repercussions over her flagrant disregard for transparency and accountability. She was simply doing, as Thucydides would have recognized, what she could—law, transparency, and accountability be damned.
Then there was the much-hyped speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress, in which he claimed the proposed US-Iran deal would “all but guarantee that Iran gets [nuclear] weapons, lots of them” and that “Iran not only defies [nuclear] inspectors, it also plays a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat with them.” Jesus—the chutzpah on that guy. First of all, there is only one country in the Middle East that has “lots of” nuclear weapons: Israel. According to a report in Haaretz, in fact, Israel has approximately 80 nuclear weapons (compared with Iran’s count of zero). Second, Bibi’s argument that Iran “defies” nuclear inspectors is funnier than anything penned by Oscar Wilde. Again, there is only one country in the Middle East that has straight-up refused (talk about defiance!) to have any inspector visit their nuclear weapons program facilities. And that country—shocker, I know—is Israel. Again, Thucydides was right. Israel is a strong state (rich, supported by the US, heavily-armed, etc.) and so they do more-or-less whatever they want (build nukes, destroy homes, fence-in the Palestinian population, reject inspectors wholeheartedly) without ramification. By contrast, Iran is a relatively weak state (poorer, more isolated, sanctioned, etc.) and therefore they must suffer the hypocrisy of speeches like the one Bibi gave this week.
Then there’s the Gen. Petraeus news, which is that he received a cushy (to say the least) plea deal in which he will avoid jail time entirely after he shared classified information with his biographer and lover. Contrast that treatment, of course, with the treatment of other leakers of classified information: Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, etc. I don’t need to review here how harshly the US government has prosecuted and/or treated those individuals because that (should be) common knowledge by now, but suffice it to say that again Thucydides was right. Petraeus, an Army General and former CIA Director with obvious (and manifold) ties to power, gets away virtually scot-free with leaking state secrets. By contrast, Manning, Snowden, and Assange were all rebels acting against the fountains of power and operating from relatively weak positions, and hence were pursued with incredible vigor by the American government.
And then there’s news from Ferguson, Missouri, in that the Department of Justice found that Ferguson’s police department routinely violated the rights of African-Americans. They also cleared Officer Darren Wilson of any federal civil rights charges. Which brings me back to something I wrote about several months ago: where did the #BlackLivesMatter protests get us? To borrow a line from Sarah Palin, those protests were a bridge to nowhere. I’m sorry—ain’t a damn thing change since Mike Brown was gunned down, since Eric Garner was choked out, or since Tamir Rice’s lifeless body fell on the grass after being shot by police. So to be honest with you, I don’t really care that the DOJ found gross civil rights violations on the part of the Ferguson PD—what’s that gonna change? Who will be held accountable? Short answer: nothing and no one. Once again, Thucydides was prescient. The military-industrial complex is too strong, entrenched interests (the private-prison lobby, arms manufactures, etc.) are too powerful, and working-class Americans too weak to do anything about it. As my headline says: same shit, different day.
But I’m getting tired of this endless merry-go-round, folks. I’m getting tired of DOJ investigation after NYT report after presidential pronouncement after Congressional committee after public protest when I know those things won’t bring us change. And I know that for the simple reason that we’ve already tried those things one-hundred times over, and yet change and justice remain dreams deferred. As has been observed a million times before, isn’t it insane to do the same thing again and again but expect a different result each time? I’d rather take inspiration from Claude McKay’s poem “If We Must Die,” in which he observes “If we must die, let it not be like hogs/ Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot” but rather let’s “face the murderous, cowardly pack, / Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”