FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Just Say No to Anthrax

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

April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman - TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail