After All These Years: Still Sucking

Dormant lilac buds. Photograph Source: Selena42 – CC BY-SA 4.0

Spring brings many things. With March waning our small greenhouse coaxes 400 tomato seedlings and three flats of sprouting lettuce along. If the recent growing seasons are any indication, they will face what are called “challenges,” in the neutered and anesthetic lingo of the day—— seared by heat and drought, drowned by deluge.

March also brings remembrances of the war against Vietnam for those of us aged enough to recall: The emblematic My Lai (“Pinkville”) massacre on March 16, 1968, and March 29, 1973 when the last American troops officially departed that bombed-out and dioxin-contaminated landscape.

In March or April the Trustees of the Social Security Administration annually issue their report on the finances of Social Security and Medicare: What Reagan’s budget director David Stockman referred to as “the twin citadels of the welfare state.” The “storming” of these “citadels” has long-been a Republican Party objective and sadly it’s increasingly becoming more bipartisan.

When the report is issued this year we’ll hear again the dishonest doom-fest fiction of looming “insolvency” and earnest calls for “saving” country’s most popular programs by cutting them. As T. S. Eliot once observed, “April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land….”  Yes, dear reader, the fiscal pruners will be intent again on sharpening their shears.

Meanwhile the recently passed congressional $1.2 billion “spending package” was, according to Maine’s own Senator Susan Collins, “…truly a national security bill—70% of the funding in this package is for our national defense, including investments that strengthen our military readiness and industrial base, provide pay and benefit increases for our brave service members and support our closest allies.” (And no money for UNRWA.) (Of course.)

In April 1967, one year before his assassination, Martin Luther King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

It was “controversial” at the time. He was accused of wandering off the “civil rights” reservation. He recounted the hopes aroused by Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs that would have furthered the New Deal legislation of the 30s—“a promise of hope” he called it.  But….“Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.”

Decades later in a new century with many more militarist “adventures like Vietnam” in the rearview, more being teed-up, and proxy wars in the Ukraine and historic Palestine bankrolled from the U.S. purse, King’s words loom large.

Meanwhile, homeland societal security is increasingly shaky as austerity bites. Slick Willie Clinton famously destroyed the modern Democratic Party by getting the Reagan-Bush North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) wet dream enacted. This created what H. Ross Perot called a “giant sucking sound” as US corporations pursued massive profits exploiting sweat-shop (non-union) labor in the “global south.”

So how’s that working? Interestingly, the “Mounties” in the Great White North of Canada just completed a (partially redacted) study for policymakers there. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) function much like “our” FBI.Wikipedia notes that, “As part of its national security and intelligence functions, the RCMP (has) infiltrated ethnic or political groups considered to be dangerous to Canada.” Sounds familiar. Yup.

Their recently completed “Whole-of Government Five-Year Trends for Canada” report forecasts that, “The coming period of recession will… accelerate the decline in living standards that the younger generations have already witnessed compared to earlier generations.”  (See: “Secret RCMP report warns Canadians may revolt once they realize how broke they are”)

The National Post’s headline (3/20/24) above is a grabber. It continues, “The report, labeled secret, is intended as a piece of ‘special operational information’ to be distributed only within the RCMP and among ‘decision-makers’ in the federal government.”

“The heavily redacted version was made public as a result of an access to information request filed by Matt Malone, an assistant professor of law at British Columbia’s Thompson Rivers University, and an expert on government secrecy.”

“In addition to worsening living standards, the RCMP also warns of a future increasingly defined by (climate-related) unpredictable weather and seasonal catastrophes, such as wildfires and flooding.”  The report finds that “many Canadians under 35 are unlikely ever” to afford “a place to live” with the Royal Bank of Canada finding condos affordable to only 44.5% of households and single family houses “only to the richest 25%.”

Meanwhile, back in the USA (currently consuming 80% of the worlds’ opioids) the situation is somewhat grimmer.

CBS “MoneyWatch” (9/28/23) reported, “Homes ‘unaffordable’ in 99% of nation for average American.” The Mounties warn of a restive population where 44.5% can buy a condo, 25% can afford a house and everyone has single-payer healthcare.

Here, all’s quiet, except for that demonic, destructive sucking sound.

Richard Rhames is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: