People, I know this is a humor blog, and I swear I’m trying to keep it jolly around here, but I’ve got say that three stories all coming right in a row the last few days have really knocked me on my ass and made the funny seem not so funny anymore.
The first was the news that, following a lengthy investigation, the Justice Department has announced that no criminal charges will be filed against those who destroyed evidence of CIA torture of prisoners. As Dahlia Lithwick says over at Slate, “We keep waiting breathlessly for someone, somewhere, to have a day of reckoning over the prisoners we tortured in the wake of 9/11, without recognizing that there is no bag man to be found and that therefore we are all the bag man.”
The second was the news that Obama has caved to the Republicans (and to the spineless Democrats) on extending the Bush tax cuts on the rich. Caved without a fight. Or as Jane Hamsher puts it, “Obama twists own arm, says Uncle to extending Bush tax cuts.”
And finally we have Matt Taibbi’s devastating piece in Rolling Stone on the gargantuan and systemic fraud that lies at the heart of the financial and mortgage crises.
When you meet people who are losing their homes in this foreclosure crisis, they almost all have the same look of deep shame and anguish. Nowhere else on the planet is it such a crime to be down on your luck, even if you were put there by some of the world’s richest banks, which continue to rake in record profits purely because they got a big fat handout from the government. That’s why one banker CEO after another keeps going on TV to explain that despite their own deceptive loans and fraudulent paperwork, the real problem is these deadbeat homeowners who won’t pay their fucking bills. And that’s why most people in this country are so ready to buy that explanation. Because in America, it’s far more shameful to owe money than it is to steal it.
And here’s the humor I alluded to earlier: I thought it would be different under Obama. Seriously. I thought that all we had to do was hunker down and wait out the Bush years and someday down the road justice would be served. Tepid justice perhaps, a few felony convictions meted out to a handful of ritual scapegoats (I never fooled myself that Cheney or Bush would feel the heat), but justice nonetheless. Someday we would return to some semblance of sanity and the rule of law would be restored as the absolute bedrock of our society. Someone would stand up in a court of law and say, “Man, this shit isn’t right.” Someone would remind us that the law applies to everyone equally, to the connected and the unconnected alike, to the top 0.01% of earners along with the rest of us schmucks. Because lawbreaking at this level (i.e., official torture and systemic financial fraud) is corrosive to society, to democracy, to common fucking decency. When behavior this flagrant, this piss-in-your-face outrageous goes not only unpunished but unexamined (or even rewarded), the result can only be despair, the kind of soul-crushing despair that is the stock in trade of, yes, totalitarian regimes, oligarchies, and banana republics the world over.
I am pissed.
And don’t give me that Tea Party bullshit – yeah, those people are pissed too, about all the wrong shit. Soshulism! Communism!! Birth certificate!!! God you people are being played so hard by the very people who fucked you it’s a miracle your dicks don’t twang.
I cannot help but feel that this country is at some sort of irreversible tipping point — and that we’ve tipped the wrong way. And the fact that it may take us a good, long while to fully descend into the subliterate kleptocracy we’re destined to become seems at this point a rather bitter consolation.