FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Just Say No to Anthrax

by ANTHONY GANCARSKI

Several folks emailed me regarding a recent column I wrote for CounterPunch, 1/30’s “Free Press?”, to tell me that they loved the column but that I had been snookered by an urban myth regarding John Swinton. It turned out that there in fact was a John Swinton who spoke out against the rigged game that is the corporate media, but that the words I attributed to him had in fact been uttered decades before, under different circumstances than the ones I’d believed to be the case.

Realizing that I had been factually wrong caused me some embarrassment. But then I realized that my mistake was quintessentially American. Because America is a society obsessed with artificial mythologies, and by falling prey to a permutation of the truth I was practically doing my patriotic duty.

I’ll go one better. I’ve been doing that patriotic duty my entire life. One of the few memories of elementary school I have left is reading in a Social Studies book about how computers and the automated world of the future were going to create an environment where people would only have to work for a few hours a day. The rest of the time would be left for leisure. Since at that time my mother and I were crowded into a two bedroom tenement with four other relatives, I stood in awe of the future, and imagined a world where those promises of high-tech luxury would come to pass.

I mean, why would they put it in books if it weren’t true? Why would the government put it in their schools if it wasn’t reliable? Those were questions every school kid I’ve ever known has learned to avoid, and I was no exception to the rule.

Turned out I was a fat kid. I bought into the idea that I would be redeemed by weight loss, by looking “normal.” Turned out I had a lisp. I spent evenings working on talking like other kids talked, and endeavored to avoid words ending in S while in public. In blending in, there would be redemption. That was the message of everything from public schools to cable television, all of which were constant advertisements for the idea that people didn’t own themselves. That they were subject to constant examination and random reprisals, and that their only hope was to perform assigned tasks. For a break from all this external pressure to conform, white boys always had video games. Defender, Zaxxon, Galaga; games where you flew a craft and shot and bombed targets and planes without ever knowing why it was to be done. A far cry from Cowboys & Indians, where it was at least possible to imagine why the conflict was taking place.

Throughout high school, I bought into the propaganda, thinking that if I ensconced myself in it I could maybe understand it, be transformed by it even. I did campaign work — sign-waving and phone calls to Republican sorts — for Bush in 1988. The victory party at the Duval County campaign headquarters was a dreary event; Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” played over and over again, a cd track on endless loop, presenting a recurring theme: throaty-voiced pride, with no rationale presented to justify it. The musical accompaniment to the rancid party sub on offer

I was coming to realize, even before I could drive a car, that these folks weren’t conservatives in any real sense. Tell America you love her, thank you, drive through; a message so bleak and political hacks so colorless and venal that there was a Quayle in ’96 faction while he was Veep. When the Cold War finally ended, I waited with interest to be told that the long state of national emergency was over. That the troops would be coming home and that America would fulfill the long-suffering faith of its people and allow them to rest from a half-century of propping up defense contractors.

But that would be too simple. Instead, the bastards went and invented a new Hitler. It’s what you’d expect from the Bush family, who exchanged proverbial business cards with Hitler, Clan bin Laden, and Mr. Hussein himself, the newly-anointed Butcher of Baghdad. Americans were filled with rage over rumors that he drove his armored vehicle down the main street of Kuwait City — like James Garner in TANK — and double-parked in front of Kenny Rogers Roasters, then went in and unplugged the rotisseries, causing all those juicy roasters to go to waste. Actions like that led President Bush to talk of “naked aggression” and “lines in the sand”, and then the poll numbers doubled in 48 hours, as if all the war supporters had gone out and gotten cloned in the interregnum. Of course, you all know what happened next, and all the good it did humanity.

If Gulf War I opened one of my eyes and made me notice that politics and public service weren’t as advertised, then 9/11 opened the other one, punched me in the jaw, and made me recognize that forces colluded to create catastrophe. So-called libertarians wanted to outsource torture, and the would-be liberals ran around like beheaded yard birds. To the Capitol, to give the CIA chief’s baby boy carte blanche for foreign military adventure. Out of the Capitol, scampering away from white powder in envelopes [Just Say No To Anthrax!], or toward the waiting TV cameras to sing patriotic songs, pledge allegiance to the flag, or say their ABCs.

Obviously, the twenty-hour work week will never come to pass. The logistics are flawed, you might say. Or you might say that a few thousand families in this country took our legacy and our birthright and pissed them down their legs.. They polluted our rivers and created a food supply ridden with periodic plagues. And now they want us to thank them for surveying Arab countries for military subjugation. For debauching our currency beyond repair. For building prisons to lock us up and not tell us why. Freedom, safety, security, democracy; in America, in 2003, these are the greatest urban myths of all.

ANTHONY GANCARSKI, author of 2001’s UNFORTUNATE INCIDENTS, is the proud owner of 16 Richard Nixon campaign buttons dating back to 1960. Comments are welcome at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com

 

More articles by:

ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com

February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail