FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

CAFTA and the Disassembling of America

by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN

I am working on my computer when I discover that the House has passed CAFTA. I turn on the TV for the eleven-o-clock news. The local channels are full of reports…about an uptown homicide. On cable, both Fox and MSNBC each have a specialist standing near a pond in Aruba talking with great earnestness (I have the sound turned off). On CNN, Paula Zahn is interviewing an expert on the size of the debris from the space shuttle.

The House has just passed CAFTA, and the discussion on television is all about Natalee Holloway and flakes of foam.

CAFTA comes twelve years after NAFTA, about which every dire prediction — job losses, erosion of the manufacturing base, mounting trade imbalances — has been borne out in spades. Against this background the Senate voted 54-45 for the bill a few days back, and the House
has followed with 217-215.

Watching CSPAN the following day when the Senate re-voted on the revised version of the CAFTA bill after just 20 minutes of debate, I saw a couple of senators extoll the bill, saying how it would remove tariffs on American exports to Central America. I was reminded of an old remark by my cousin, “If we had ham, we could have ham and eggs —- if we had eggs!” When all the manufacturing has fled, Senator, I felt like shouting, what do you plan to export? Like the morning-after pill, Democrats complained the next day about the House vote (took place at midnight, was kept open for forty-five minutes until a majority was….assembled), complaining how the rules were bent after the original tally actually rejected CAFTA by five votes. Why did they then not stage a sit-in or register a vociferous protest? One Democratic senator referred to this ploy, but when the vote came, I counted many Democrats — Dianne Feinstein, both the Washington Senators, and the Old Reliable, Joe Lieberman himself, all voting for CAFTA.

Any other country would have made a huge stink about a re-enactment of such a fire-sale of its wealth. But not
America of the New American Century. If Socrates died cheerfully sipping hemlock from a chalice, we will likely reach our end propped up on a couch, watching the latest ‘breaking news’ of a high-speed car chase or a disappeared bride, maybe even to the background music of ‘Suicide is Painless’.

Unlike many others, I have somehow admired President Bush for his knack, like Mr. Dick (he of David Copperfield, not he of the undisclosed location), of revealing profound truths even when appearing to speak in toungues. Remember his interview last year where he said he didn’t think something like the ‘War on Terror’ could be won? Or during the 2000 campaign when he thundered, “They think Social Security is some kind of a Federal Program”?

But his purest vision of clarity came some weeks back, when he introduced ‘disassembling’ back into the popular lexicon. Everyone laughed at his not knowing that the word he wanted was ‘dissembling’.

But they were misunderestimating him once more. He was right. Disassembling is mot juste. My only regret is that he didn’t save the word till January — he could have uttered just that one word and delivered the shortest and most accurate State of the Union speech in history.

Disassembling covers everything that’s happening around us. The government’s sole purpose seems to be to dismantle every protection the country has, leaving the borders unguarded, splurging on an empire project that sputters even before getting under way, and financing foreign reveries and domestic revelries with borrowed money hiding the bottom of a Hubbardian treasure chest. The loyal opposition — loyal not to the nation’s interests but to focus groups — silent or spouting cant while freedoms are freely curtailed, jobs vanish abroad, and economic security disappears. The press is rotted (I have reported only the facts in the opening paragraph), and a once proud people, now riven by anxiety at one level and addled by a half-century of don’t-worry-be-happy television at another, have no idea what to do after two generations of systematic alienation from politics. The notion of a nationalist bourgeoisie seems to have vanished too, and big industry is no longer American in any meaningful sense, being indifferent to American plight in more ways than a Bermudan or Caymanian registered address alone might suggest.

All this is accompanied (and accelerated) by an equally rapid ‘disassembling’ at the cultural level. Whatever one’s view of Ricardo’s theory of  comparative advantage, there is no  doubt that having one language — and that language be English — is one of America’s major assets. In fact, the Indian Prime Minister (incurring criticism at home for obliquely praising the Raj) recently thanked the British for the legacy of English (Doubtless he wasn’t just being grateful for Shakespeare and Milton:  on a more prosaic level, No English, No Call Centers!). The Chinese and Japanese have introduced English in the primary classes. America has chosen this opportune moment to exalt a multiculturalism of the most imbecilic variety. What Me Advantage? seems the Newmanesque cry.

I saw a hospital bill the other day. Jostling the English version was the Spanish, followed by the Russian and Vietnamese ones. I have seen utility notices with information in seven languages. These are not excesses by some politically correct government bureaucrat. One is a large private hospital, the other a big utility company. Within the last year our local Home Depot redid all its signs, adding Spanish text below the English on all the signs. The large stores at our mall have done the same thing, as has our DMV. Neither the political nor the cultural, and certainly not the business, leadership seems to realize the chaos that lies at the end of this path, or seems to care.

“Watch carefully”, said the old Russian nobleman in Dr. Zhivago. “You are seeing the last half of the last cigar in Moscow!”
With the CAFTA Senate vote today, I felt I was witnessing one of the last nails being hammered into the casket of twentieth century USA.

I can report with confidence that this hammer and this nail at least were both Made in America.

NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN is a writer living on the West Coast. He can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com. His blog is at http://njn-blogogram.blogspot.com.

 

/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail