FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cheney Does Oregon

by David Bates

On two occasions, I have found myself directly beneath the underbelly of presidential power. The first was last summer in Austin, when His Fraudulency and a couple of military choppers flew toward Dallas. I recall speculating at the time that this was the closest I was likely to get to a living U.S. President without having to subject myself to metal detectors, Secret Service agents, etc.

The second was Sunday afternoon in downtown Portland. Across the river, my partner and I had just spent 90 minutes at an east-side library branch listening to a Texas political science professor discuss how the enlightened environmental policies of Gifford Pinchot under Teddy Roosevelt had, over the next hundred years, lurched to the right and mutated into the ecological troglodytism supervised by Bush and Cheney.

We decided to cap the afternoon off with a trip to Powell’s City of Books. Driving back downtown by way of Highway 84 was out: a police officer had blocked the westbound on-ramp. All three lanes heading into the heart of the city were empty. A traffic accident, we thought. We headed south and got on Burnside.

We crossed the river and hadn’t gone more than a few blocks into downtown when it became clear that something was up. The side streets on our left that pointed at the city’s heart were cordoned off with yellow tape and metal barricades. Cops stood in the intersections. Patrol cars were parked everywhere, lights flashing.

We parked a few blocks north of the store and headed up Tenth Street. By the time we reached the store, another element introduced itself: The pounding thud of a helicopter. A crowd had gathered on the corner, in front of the store, straining to see from what direction the noise was coming. Meanwhile, Burnside had been flushed of all traffic.

It finally appeared from behind the roof-line and was directly overhead. It was not a TV helicopter. It was an Army chopper, a big one. I don’t know much about aircraft, but I can tell you it appeared to be built for more than simply keeping an eye out from above. This thing, from what I could tell, was armed.

I asked a woman if she knew what the commotion was, and it wasn’t more than a minute after she said it was for Dick Cheney’s motorcade than it came roaring down Burnside.

It was led by Portland police officers on motorcycles, more police officers in patrol cars, the limousine, black unmarked cars with tinted windows, more cops in cars, and more on motorcycles. Oh yes . . . and an ambulance. The Dick Cheney Heart Attack Brigade, no doubt. God save him if he should ever keel over. If he died, they’d put Bush in charge.

I looked up again at the chopper. Would all this have been necessary if September 11 had not happened? Hell, would it have been necessary if Bush and Cheney had actually WON the election?

It occurred to me that this might be the closest I’d ever get to the oily Cheney. I wondered how to make the most efficient use of the occasion. My mind raced. What to do? I had no placard or loudspeaker, and yet for just a second, I would be even closer than Indiana environmentalist John Blair got in February before the cops hauled him away for carrying an anti-Cheney sign. For a brief, exhilarating moment, I stood poised on the curb, prepared to Express Myself to the Vice President of the United States with the most appropriate, non-verbal sentiment I could think of: my middle finger.

I did not extend it.

Blair’s experience back in February, recounted here at CounterPunch, did not come immediately to mind. But I looked at all those cops, all those armored cars, and that deafening chopper, and I thought better of it. And, only seconds after Cheney had passed, I regretted it.

I regret that I cannot report to you today what it’s like to be arrested, or even questioned by a police officer for flipping off the Vice President of the United States. Of course, I can’t guarantee that I would have been arrested, but I sure as hell can’t say that I wouldn’t have. Can I?

At 10th Street, the motorcade peeled off to the right toward the Benson Hotel. Cheney was in town to lend his fundraising prowess to Oregon’s senior senator, Gordon Smith, a millionaire Republican who has already amassed roughly $4 million for campaign against a Democrat who has barely topped $700,000. His itinerary, according to news reports, will include meetings with $10,000 donors over breakfast and a separate “photo reception” for $5,000 donors.

Not since watching the towers fall had I felt that kind of dread and sickness in my gut. Not since I’d heard Donald Rumsfeld insist last winter that the United States was “bombing targets in Kabul” without bombing Kabul itself had I been as angry.

An hour or so later, two young women outside Powell’s were providing an outlet for the citizenry’s frustration. They identified themselves as artists who were asking downtown folk for their thoughts. They provided a scrap of paper, and I provided a thought:

“Vice President Dick Cheney’s motorcade through downtown Portland this afternoon was an offensive and frightening display of American imperialism and militarism. Such a thing should not be necessary in a society that calls itself free and democratic.”

My partner and I headed up Tenth to grab a bite. In my Powell’s bag was a copy of Aime Cesaire’s “Discourse on Colonialism,” which struck me as an appropriate purchase for the day. The first three lines, I think, are worth repeating and thinking about deeply.

“A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization.”

“A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization.”

“A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization.”

David Bates is an Oregon-based writer. He can be reached at david@onlinemac.com

 

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail