Saturday, August 25, 2012

Don't Know Much About History (or, "...won't hurt me," Part II)

There is a fact about Mitt Romney that could turn this election.  But it won't.  Want to know why?  Because Americans don't know anything about their own history.

I'm sorry for keeping after this, having posted on the same issue last week, but our own ignorance is a national tragedy and its implications are entangled everywhere.

We like when Jay Leno interviews people on the street and gets laughs from how fucking stupid Americans are.  We laugh with him.  Don't know who the vice-president of our country is?  So what.  Ha-ha-ha.  Don't know our national geography?  That's hilarious.  Don't know much of anything about documents like the Constitution?  That's rich.  Think Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11?  That's good stuff.  Think our current president was born somewhere else?  It's a great punchline, and a harmless one at that.

We are a country of fucking idiots.  And it has been getting worse.  No one likes to admit it.  Even those who are pretty informed have a plethora of excuses for why they aren't more informed.

But back to that fact: when Romney was amassing his original investment for Bain Capital, a third of the money he raised came from El Salvodoran families who were also behind funding the right-wing "Death Squads" that terrorized that country in the late 80's. 

That's right, his investors were the worst upper class scum that country had to offer.  To me, that's akin to taking money from Nazi Party members, but this isn't about me and there are a number of problems:

1)  most Americans don't know where El Salvador is.
2) most Americans don't know what happened there in the 1980's, let alone what a "Death Squad" is.
3) most Americans don't know much of anything at all about the Reagan years, including the fact that his "men" created a shadow government outside the government to engage in some shady practices and that they got away with it.

So I can picture the Obama re-election team getting ahold of this information and going, "Shit, we can't use this.  People won't have any idea what we're talking about.  To try to explain it would be far too complicated, and most of those "Independents" don't give a crap about El Salvador.  All they see are potential Hispanic illegal immigrants."

When it comes to American History, if you know something about what the American government engaged in that is negative and you promulgate it, you yourself are considered unAmerican.  That's the white-washed country we live in now.  Unless, of course, it's something that Obama did.  That's totally fair game, since he isn't really American anyway, even if he is American, and certainly if he isn't.

We, as a country, are spending untold amounts of time and energy apologizing for ourselves, covering ourselves, romanticizing ourselves, and, yes, whitewashing ourselves.

And yet, we have a presidential candidate who has a fair amount of money stashed in offshore accounts and (some) people want to know why and now we know why: because that's where you hide money when it comes from unsavory sources.  But we also know ourselves enough to know that there's not a damn thing we can do about it.  Because we too stupid.  Because we don't want to know.  Because we don't care.  If we did, we would spread the word.  But we don't.  Because we don't care.  Not because we can't care, but because we don't have time to care.

Because we are so overwhelmed with our lives and our television schedules (and because, Godammit, we need some down time from those difficult lives we're living), that we can't take the responsibility for either what is happening in our country or in our world.  We can't get outside ourselves; there are too many movies and television series that we want to keep up with to actually do some research or introspective thinking or writing or protesting or caring.

And that allows us to think that two men, two parties, are not that different, and though we might prefer one over the other, it isn't that significant a distinction and we can probably live with either one and not get too energized or worked up about it.  After all, most of what goes on in America is beyond our control;  we don't even think our vote really matters.  We've bought into all of the cynicism, all of the powerlessness.

Which is why we retreat into fantasy.  If only things were like the way they are on television and in the movies.  If Harrison Ford from Air Force One were our president, then we'd have a kickass president, or Kevin Kline from Dave, or Bill Pullman from Independence Day or Michael Douglass or.....

Reality sucks; history sucks; intellectualism sucks; awareness sucks.  Those are more than we can do.  All that really matters are the distractions that we don't see as distractions.  Because their manufactured outcomes offer us hope.


Billy said...

Geez... take a dump on your blog partner much? I'm impressed you managed to fit it in with all that aggressive national activism clogging your schedule.

P.S. Is there still a fantasy football draft this week?

Bob said...

No, that wasn't aimed at the west wing, but I guess you did get me thinking.

troutking said...

Or maybe they are all distractions. Inquiry, knowledge, love, friendship, books, movies, reality TV, foodie-ism. Maybe they are all distractions of varying degrees of shallowness that we decide are important. And then we die.

And that thought is why we have the distractions in the first place.