B y J e f f S m i t h
GEORGE WILL IS about as close as one presently can find to the superego of the Republican Party (with Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich performing a duet as its id, and nobody in particular functioning as ego.) For those of you who either have forgotten your Psychology 1A, the id, ego and superego correspond, roughly, to the animal self, the intellectual self and the conscience, comprising the psyche of higher organisms.
The Merriam-Webster Pocket Dictionary, between superconductivity and superficial, defines superego as: "The one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that functions to reward and punish through a system of moral attitudes, conscience, and a sense of guilt."
The reason I bring this up is that last week Will wrote this piece of tripe arguing that what the country needs to reclaim its greatness, its sense of purpose, its divine mission, Manifest Destiny, its good old-fashioned American know-how...
...Is to build another mother-humper of a dam across a river somewhere...or fly a man to Neptune with an autographed picture of Elvis...or pave all those rectangular states between Idaho and Illinois...some goddamned project that uses up money as fast as the Gulf War, but leaves a shitload of concrete or asphalt, like a zit on the face of nature, as a monument to busy-work.
Will has been beating the drum--much as I have--for the past few years, to the effect that this nation has lost its fastball. (This is an especially nice metaphor in Will's case, as he is this huge baseball fan and likes to write about it in terms and tones usually reserved for lofty intellectual inquiry.) We differ as to specifics. George seems to think the USA was doing just dandy--Yankee Doodle Dandy--until Ronald Reagan passed the reins to George Bush. My feeling is that the wheels began to fall off the skateboard back around the time Richard Nixon got elected. Vice President.
I think the manifestations of decline are found in our loss of belief in equality, opportunity and social justice. Will seems to think it's more a matter of needing a national hobby. Like building a dam across the Colorado River. Or paving an interstate network of highways from coast to coast and border to border. Or putting a man on the moon.
Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy got the nation interested in these do-it-yourself projects during their respective presidencies, and each took our minds off the real problems confronting us in the real world. Each made us proud of ourselves for a while. Rather, each made the middle-class majority and the upper-class managers comfortable with themselves and their patriotic view of the country as global ass-kicker. The poor, the disenfranchised, the minorities simply remained poor, disenfranchised and minor--and kept their mouths shut and bred. Now they're still poor, still disenfranchised, but they are statistically much nearer becoming a majority.
Big problem there.
In addition to which the country can't find much to brag about anymore. The Democrats tried, sometime between the man-on-the-moon thing and the Great Disillusionment of Watergate and the Bugout from Vietnam, to make a national hobby of ending prejudice and poverty. It started with immense amounts of cash and political will, which is all that kept it rolling as long as it did. Ultimately the failure of these good intentions only proved that intangibles are not the nation's strong suit. Give us a big ol' cement dam over a healthy, educated generation of people of color any day.
Nixon gave the nation Watergate. Gerald Ford gave us Chevy Chase. Jimmy Carter gave us 18 percent interest rates and Reagan made us walk like John Wayne. Who, if you study his films, actually kind of minced along, knock-kneed, baby-stepping, like the sissy you knew he could not possibly be.
Ronnie took credit for the symbolic crumbling of the Berlin Wall, and the actual unraveling of the Soviet sphere, but our pride didn't last long because we knew deep down that they fell of their own weight. Bush cooked up a little war in the Persian Gulf that made us feel manly for a short while...about a week after we declared ourselves winner and still champion, when we saw that Saddam Hussein was still in charge and still mean as a snake.
Well hell, what to do?
Ask George Will: He's practically the Republican Richelieu, and he's got this huge vocabulary. George will come up with something new. Or at least something old in weird words, so it sounds new.
But no. George says we need to build something great big. Sounds almost like FDR's old WPA or CCC programs, but that could not be, could it? Only if you sub the job out to private firms. Non-union firms. Without affirmative action.
Don't be surprised if the new Republican majority in Congress takes George's suggestion. They'll have some cash lying around after doing away with free school lunches and health programs for single mothers and stuff. Even after they give the rich folks all their tax money back.
I don't see them coming up with any new or imaginative approaches to tackling the root problems of poverty, ill health and poor education that underlie unproductivity and ruinous tax expense. Not even tax-free, capitalist, self-help solutions.
I see a future America with an Interstate Golfing System, linking the coast of California with the shores of the Potomac, via an uninterrupted series of fairways and greens. A perfect leisure world in which every Republican with an income over $500K per annum and a big back lawn can step out his door, hit a tee-shot onto the Interstate and go golfing in any direction until his IRAs mature.
But what of the still-poor, the still-disenfranchised, the not-so-still minority that grows more major, more angry, more expensive and more certain to detonate at megatonnage beyond imagining?
They can caddy.
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