What’s Good For The Goose…
by James Killough
Finally, protestors in America hit the streets to complain. The movement is gaining momentum, in part thanks to a thrust Susan Sarandon gave it in the media last week. Good for Susan.
Of course, the reasons behind the protests are far more nebulous than those, say, behind the murder of Troy Davis, institutionalized under the guise of capital punishment. That’s very cut and dry. Eric Baker summed up the reasons capital punishment is wrong better than I can in a previous post, but I would add to his list that leaving any human being to languish for years in doubt over whether the state will take him out back and whack him is the very definition of cruel and usual punishment. At least the death row inmate’s purported victims died more decisively and swiftly.
The problem is “corporate greed” is redundant, which makes it such a hard thing to protest against. Corporations are set up to make a profit, and the US is a mercantile nation. The real issue is regulation and the lack thereof. The Obama administration is being taken to task for implementing regulations at some un-right-wing rate, but what they are doing is trying to restore order after the fences were taken down by previous governments, and the ravenous wolves were allowed out to do what is in their nature, which is to slaughter the sheep and grow fat doing so.
I can’t go into the details of either the protests or what the financial world is doing in a blog that aspires to be as fluffy as this does—and if even Sarandon can’t articulate what exactly needs to be fixed, then I’m in good company— but I do hope that these protests take some shape, gather momentum and affect real change. I have been surprised over the past few years that this didn’t happen in the winter of ‘08/’09. It seems America has been dazed, or asleep, or just too fat to move with appropriate decisiveness and swiftness. I was honestly expecting 60s-era type marches on Washington. Instead, all we got in the Capital was a Martin Luther King memorial that looks like the entrance to a high-end mall in a wealthy suburb of Florida.
The truth is, we are just plumb confused, but nonetheless disgruntled, and for good reason. We’re just not sure what the totality of that reason is.
I hope this is the American Autumn the way the beginning of this year begat the Arab Spring. While applauding and cheering on what is hopefully the end of the Arab world’s modern middle ages, I kept asking myself, “But what about us? Where is our revolution?” If Thomas Jefferson were alive, surely we’d be getting an earful and being encouraged towards correcting the egregious wrong that has overtaken us, annoyingly amorphous as it is.
Of course, in Thomas Jefferson’s era, we were too young and innocent as a nation, too much of a minor player on the world stage, to be afflicted with the kind of national Narcissism Personality Disorder that we have been growing increasingly sicker with since the end of World War II, becoming increasingly delusional and badly behaved as time went by. We reached our NPD apotheosis under George W. Bush, who decreed that if anyone didn’t like what we were doing in response to 9/11, i.e. in Iraq and company, then he should leave. Which is what I did: I went to London for six years and tried my best never to return.
That fascinating goon Ahmadinejad was in New York recently for his favorite event, addressing the UN, assaulting us with his own brand of delusional ranting, and staying on for a few days to shop and presumably mingle in the glimmering salons of the Upper East Side. Once you get past the outrageousness of his statements and actions, there is some food for thought on his particular sofreh, the plastic sheet Persians eat off. I admire, for instance, that he is threatening to send the Iranian fleet to sit off the US coast because we are arrogant enough to patrol the Persian Gulf.
This is, of course, a specious argument for many reasons: Iran has no reason to protect its mercantile interests on our coasts, unless he means to park whatever clutch of rusty tubs he has in his “fleet” off Los Angeles — known locally as Tehrangeles — to protect the hundreds of thousands of Persians who fled his regime and the ones prior to it, who now live in Glendale and Beverly Hills. Also, the signatory nations of NAFTA are unlikely to erupt in an armed conflict that will destabilize the entire world any time soon, no matter how bad the drug war in Juarez, Mexico gets.
Still, Batty Ahmy has a point, especially with regard to nuclear weapons and his Allah-given right to bear them: what is good for the goose is good for the gander. What gives the US or its allies, in particular Israel — another state founded on religion far more aggressive in many ways than Iran — any right to have nuclear arms, while others can’t? It can be argued that, Batty Ahmy aside, Iran is actually a highly evolved and sophisticated culture with no more predilection for mass annihilation than any other.
In a side note, Batty Ahmy did clarify for reporters last week that his statement in a speech at Columbia University a few years ago that there were no homosexuals in Iran wasn’t accurate. What he meant to say was that Gheys are so looked down upon that they dare not be open about it, that Iranian culture has nothing but scorn for us. Considering their preferred method of dealing with us is to hang us, even if we are teenagers, there can be little doubt as to the truth of his statement.
I have had considerable exposure to Iranian culture over the years because I belong to a Persian Sufi order. They are, indeed, disgustingly homophobic, and it’s always been a major turn-off for me. But I also understand it in context: in Islamic culture, you can’t make lewd jokes about women, so Gheys get to be the victims. A typical Iranian dirty joke ends with a Rashti—or a man from the state of Rasht, where they are all believed to be uniformly stupid—taking it up the ass. Somehow the joke just ends this way, almost like deus ex machina in Greek plays. The poor Rashti leans over a tree stump and bottoms out for the clever Persian.
It’s no wonder Iranians were so upset being portrayed as camp drag queens on steroids in 300. I thought it was brilliant comeuppance. Knowing it as well as I do, I have no affinity whatsoever for Iranian culture on an aesthetic level, and their jokes are tasteless and tactless, but there is little to compare to their esoteric philosophy and poetry, starting with Rumi.
India used the same argument as Batty Ahmy’s for years, successfully. This was back in the 70s, 80s and 90s when they were something of the enemy; the US supported the rogue Islamicist state of Pakistan (which was far more involved with 9/11 than Iraq ever was), so our friend’s enemy was also ours by extension, regardless of the fact that the friend was a ruthless, venal military dictatorship and the enemy was the world’s largest democracy. India, the nation founded on Gandhian non-violent principles, simply ignored us and went ahead and got herself some nukes, and of course Pakistan followed suit, but with rather piddly ones that we’re not sure actually work properly.
The only reason India is still speaking to us after all we’ve done with our misguided NPD delusional world diplomacy is because she is forgiving and compassionate, and she’s after the money now. All is forgotten. Computers and our Silicon Valley have rebuilt India in a way that could not have been imagined when I lived there. Pakistan is just a pesky nuisance. Now her sights are set on catching up to China, and that’s a healthy, if Olympian, aspiration.
When I was a kid, my mother, who was largely responsible for my cultural and political education, explained the poor relations between the US and India this way: “Indira Gandhi wants the atomic bomb rather than feeding all of the millions of poor in India, and the US doesn’t like that.” Years later, when I lived in Delhi, I repeated this to an erstwhile member of Mrs. Gandhi’s administration. I will never forget his guffaw. “Your mother really said that to you? That’s unbelievable,” he said as he drifted the conversation away to something more diplomatic.
Of course, now that Pakistan has been outed as the rabid troll it really is, I understand that guffaw even more. Pakistan is so much worse than I imagined even when I was scampering away from the unrest they fomented in Kashmir back in the early 90s. Whatever her flaws, and they were myriad, Mrs. Gandhi was crying real wolves, at her doorstep, a vast pack of them, and only the Soviet Union would listen. The punchline for us was 9/11. No doubt she’s muttering “told you so,” as her ashes swirl around the Ganges. But I know she has the grace not to guffaw.
I owe the Italian judicial system a huge thank you today for trimming a couple of centimeters off my waistline by keeping me on the elliptical machine at the gym for an extra half hour while I waited for the court in Perugia to overturn Amanda Knox’s conviction. At the start of her retrial, I wrote a post about how I grew up with her defense attorney, Carlo Dalla Vedova, and how I couldn’t believe he would defend a guilty woman, therefore she had to be innocent. Which is the most ridiculous reason for hoping a woman convicted of murder be exonerated. But I felt like I’d placed a hefty bet on myself and my “people,” so it was an anxious few hours while I waited and panted and really couldn’t tell if it was the cardio or the excitement that was keeping my heart rate so high.
As I mentioned before, Carlo’s father, the founder of the family practice, was my dad’s attorney. Carlo and I are exactly the same age, even though I was much closer growing up to his older brother, Marco, who was more of a ditzy artist type like me. If I were ever framed for murder by a corrupt, vindictive Perugian prosecutor—and it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that something bizarre like that might happen to me after a night on drugs and debauchery—Carlo would be my de facto attorney, which is comforting. And I would feel that I had the best chance possible of being cleared, regardless of the fact that Carlo found the suspenders I wore with my swim trunks all summer once to be worthy of endless amounts of ridicule. However, as Chris Cramer and his penchant for suspenders confirm, I was merely ahead of the time.
I stated in that previous post that Amanda was in good hands. I’m glad I was right. I’m glad I was right about Mama Gaddafi and the Arab Spring, too. I just don’t know how to call this Occupy Wall Street movement, though. I think it’s laudable because we need change as much as the Arab countries do. But their wrongs are so glaring, such low-hanging fruit by comparison. Our rot is far deeper and more insidious because by all appearance the American apple tree is still so lush and gorgeous.
I just don’t think our national narcissism is going anywhere soon. We’re like Charlie Sheen on a bender, willfully fucking up a great deal because we think we’re Adonis tigers. I see revolution as the only solution. But how?
Amanda, my heartiest congratulations to you. Nobody can restore those four lost years, but look at it this way: at least now you speak beautiful Italian, as useless as the language is. Hurry home and never look back. I haven’t.
Amanda Knox freed after second trial reveals she and all people connected to this case that were charged are all now free because there is no case against them in the first place. The only people upset now are the people that still do not know or understand how the criminal justice systems work, both here in the states and overseas. Now that they do not have to continue to fret over this case now, maybe now for these unsatisfied-people it might be a great time for those upset with this verdict and Casey Anthony’s verdict to get back to school and get their doctorates now, imo. Ignorance appears bliss for those types of people. Next, these same folks are likely thinking Conrad Murray will be found guilty in his case and will receive four years in prison. Hope their expectations are low enough for themselves because they may again be soon shocked by another dose of reality, imo.
True, we delude ourselves that ours is the only true justice system in the world. Still, knowing the Italians as I do, I would be glad to have Carlo repping me in the event something as horrendous as this happened to me.
Terrific post, JK. I’m happy to be associated with someone who is so articulate and erudite on social issues. Re the death penalty, I am sure you can say what I said in a better way.
Thanks, Eric. I’m continuing the post today because there’s a bit more I want to say, on the subject of erudition as well. I do not think I have ever organized my thoughts on capital punishment as well as you did in that post, and I read Foucault’s “Crime and Punish” (okay, I tried).