Sunday, April 12, 2015

Death is Inevitable. Not Hillary.

I’m thinking about Hillary Clinton lately, never very warmly, I admit.  I’ve spoken for a long time about the many ways in which I feel she is wrong for the presidency.  But, since I can’t get these thoughts to quiet down, I thought I’d write about my current perspective. 

HRC shares one quality with her husband:  they both have enormous egos.  She does not, however, share his charisma, which has helped people forgive his conceit.  Bill Clinton has that bad boy charm that so enthralls America, which allows so many of us to project all sorts of wished-for qualities onto the bad boy:  honesty, honor, decency.  Those qualities don’t have to be there, as Machiavelli so well understood, just so long as they appear to be.   It’s the burning desire to believe that, deep down, all those qualities are there in a misunderstood, but adorable guy that will suffice.  Hillary, alas for her, has no such charm, no such forgiveability.  Her ego is tied to a patrician’s sense of entitlement, where her husband’s is tied to a former white-trash kid’s sense of astonishment. 

She’s a kind of William F. Buckley in a pastel pant suit. 

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t give a damn what she wears, or how her hair looks, or whether or not she should lose weight, get some facial work done…..all the crap that’s written about those things is just that: crap. Misdirection.  Instead, I give a damn about the barely-concealed condescension, the internalized white privilege and her studied noblesse oblige.  Sure, she’s given lots of lip service to the plight of women, and has even raised a hand here and there to offer some limited help.  But her biggest donors are the Wall Street felons, who crashed the economy, and who are still very comfortably sitting atop their personal and corporate piles of fortune, good chunks of which flow freely into the Hillary campaign coffers.  Wall Street doesn’t give a damn about the plight of women, neither in the U.S. nor around the world…..unless of course you are talking about the zeal to lobby for cutting more emergency funds, food stamps or welfare protections – which cause greater suffering when cut to our most vulnerable women and children.   The Clinton Foundation accepts millions – perhaps by now even billions – from countries like Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia, where they systematically abuse, brutalize, beat and oppress women and call it piety.  In the words of Shakespeare, that is some “cruel, irreligious piety” right there.  Money trumps ideals, apparently, when it comes to the Hillary Clinton version of feminism. 

She’s been derided for saying that she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House – so I won’t belabor the ridiculous disconnect between those words and middle-American reality of what “dead broke” really is.  More recently, she’s said that she wants all children, even those little ones in places like Appalachia, to have all the advantages and potentials for success that her grand-daughter Charlotte has.  Give me a break.  In the first few months of life, as more and more research shows, the enormous gap between a child of pampered privilege and wealth like Charlotte and the child of hunger, want and misery becomes indelibly imprinted not only on their bodies and their overall health, but on their minds and their developing intelligence.  Just ask the parents of those children of want.  They know how far-reaching and intractable the misery will be – they’re living it. 

Hillary Rodham was a child of privilege, growing up in a wealthy white suburb of Chicago.  Her daughter was a child of privilege.  Her granddaughter is a child of privilege.  Can members of such a privileged class be effective leaders and advocates of the people?  Yes.  You can’t get more privileged that the Roosevelt family.  But actions, as ever, speak so much louder than words.   There is no credibility in Hillary Clinton’s assertions regarding equality of potential when she has shown herself to be a ferocious advocate for the very forces in this country which destroy that potential.  Her actions belie her rhetoric, and I suspect that will become even more glaring as she attempts to fashion herself – with the help of armies of very expensive PR professionals and campaign operatives – into someone the descamisados can love. 

What we need is a candidate who understands and shares the well-justified anger of the people, and who is committed to serving those people.  We need someone who will do that by making dramatic changes to this neoliberal system of inequality that has increasingly plagued us (with some mighty help from Bill Clinton himself) for decades.  We need NOT talk about “making college more affordable”, but about making public universities free.  We need NOT talk about protecting the “too big to fail”, “too big to jail” Wall Street banksters, but about forgiving all student loan debt, breaking up those banks, bringing those criminals to justice.  We need a return to Glass-Steagall, to pre-Reagan tax structures.  We need to take a long hard look at the far-reaching damages of NAFTA and begin to reverse them, not expand them with a Transatlatic Trade agreement (called “NAFTA on steroids” by some) that puts even more destructive power into the hands of trans-national corporations, and takes even more away from the rights of the people.  We need a minimum wage of at least $15/hour NOW, re-tied it to inflation, so that it never lags so criminally behind again.  We should, in fact, look at the Workers’ Bill of Rights that FDR proposed, but didn’t live to see implemented, and implement a version updated for today’s world.  We need NOT defend the ACA, but replace it with universal healthcare for everyone.  We need to acknowledge the loss of middle-class, well-paying jobs, and the low-wage, precarious service jobs that have replaced them.   We need to stop lying about “jobs returning” and decreasing unemployment.  Those jobs and the unemployment rolls continue to reflect the reality that there is little chance for most Americans to live a stable, middle-class life, no matter how hard they work.  More than half of us live at or near the poverty line.  It’s time to start talking about a guaranteed basic income for all citizens as a replacement to the broken systems of social welfare, since it’s clear that the productivity of American workers has continued to increase the wealth of the business owners, while wages have stagnated.   The idea of sharing in the prosperity lies in a dust bin somewhere in one of the alleys near the halls of the D.C. powerbrokers.  Speaking of those power-brokers, we need to overturn Citizens United, and halt the obscene amounts of money required to mount a successful campaign for political office.  We need to seriously explore the two-party system and ways to open up our election process to multiple parties and candidates.

We need to finally, once and for all, acknowledge just how sick this country is in terms of its racism, homophobia, misogyny.  We have to call a halt on the so-called "war on drugs" and realize that it was another way to maintain and institutionalize a new Jim Crow.  We have to stop our war on black men, shut down our for-profit prisons, demilitarize our police forces.  

We need to stop the international wars and occupations and drastically reduce military spending, and acknowledge that they are destroying our country.  We need to shut down, once and for all, the disastrous Patriot Act, as well as the NSA over-reach (and the over-reach of all the intelligence agencies), and acknowledge that they are destroying our rights.  Those trillions of dollars could be used to rebuild the country – not just the crumbling infrastructure, but the antiquated public transportation systems, the ruined public education system, the hollowed-out arts funding, scientific and medical research, a shift to solar power…..the list of areas of American life in need of money and attention goes on and on. 

The media is reporting that Hillary will announce her determination to seize the presidency today – although I’m sure she won’t put it quite that way in her carefully orchestrated performance.  Maybe, Evita-like, she’ll even find a balcony from which to address the shirtless crowd:

            It won’t be easy.  You’ll think it strange
            When I try to explain how I feel
            That I still need your love after all that I’ve done….
            You won’t believe me….*

No.  No, we won’t. At least I pray that we don't.  The many citizens who are furious at the lack of a real conversation and the apparent anointing of this candidacy without a legitimate field of choice, those who want a robust and on-going debate of the issues, need to seize control of the process, demand our voices be heard and our needs addressed.  We need to demand more of….what’s that word?.....democracy? 

*Lyrics from "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" by Andrew Lloyd Webber.