Sometimes, like now, I try to write about politics when my attempts to write fiction are floundering, and it is just not feeling true. While writers block often affects my fiction attempts, writing about politics seems pretty easy, even when I know what I write can be justly called "bullshit", and is mostly a kind of a lie. Political discourse always, in some ways simplifies and blocks out conflicting narratives, in the name of expediency. It always involves fibbing, distorting or shading out or outright ignoring evidence, especially when writing about national political phenomenon in the US. A big country we are, in many senses of the word "big". Yet here and now, as before, there are only two choices, and both the R's and the D's compress ideology into almost meaningless slogans or silly memes. And to make it worse, I always feel dirty when I try to write seriously about any of it. Any other subject of importance such as science, technology, history, economics all require a level of intellectual investment and competence that is difficult to attain, in order to feel comfortable discussing any of it. But not so with politics. I feel perfectly at home braying my opinions without any shame. It is a full contact mass scrum that I believe we have to join in, and we ignore it at our peril, particularly these days.
For example, how to react to Glenn Greenwald and Tulsi Gabbard appearing so often on the FOX network, particularly on segments of Tucker Carlson or Hannity or Laura Ingram. Without elaboration, I feel these three at FOX are scum-sucking purveyors of hate, shameless liars, deniers of truth, dedicated to convincing their viewers that some form of fascism is preferable to a government decided by honest elections and universal suffrage. For me, "to hate" is a reflexive verb. It always comes around like it goes around. So I try to push it out of my mind, but with those three, (who really are only avatars, not even real, any humanity they have is left outside their studios) with them it's a constant effort to flush out hate from seeping into my emotions.
I admire Tulsi and Greenwald. I saw Tulsi speak in 2019 in a park in Portland and talked briefly to her afterwards. She's a dynamic speaker and a full-fledged force for peace, and she is whip smart, (as well as quite beautiful, an asset in politics for certain). While in Congress, she called out the hypocrisy of Hillary and other establishment Dems who voted for the Bush/Cheney Mesopotamian wars. Back in the beginning of the century, Tulsi, as an army officer in in the Middle East, saw firsthand the dishonesty and futility of the effort and she was an eloquent voice against our presence there, pointing out our ignorance of the region and the self-defeating nature of our own effort.
Glenn Greenwald helped Snowden publish exactly how our intelligence services eroded the constitutional protections of our rights and liberty. His resume, to me, is admirable. I always learn something substantial when I listen to him.
Neither one, Greenwald especially, seem to care much about political party. He refuses to be pulled into the political argument that one side was bad, so what they did had to be bad, while the other side was not as bad so what they did was not as bad. Tulsi of course ran for President, and was the only candidate - well it doesn't matter, she lost.
Their attitude toward politics and the truth is uncomfortable, not just to other pols, but to us, or at least to me as well. We just can't be pulled into it, because it muddies the preferred narrative. For me, I feel especially dirty as an avowed fiction writer, supposedly above the lies, arguing partisan points, leaking out whatever shred of moral authority I might have had as cover.
I believe that there's no such thing as nonfiction. Everyone has an angle, no story is neutral. I subscribe to the corollary of Rashid Wallace's dictum that both sides played hard. The corollary is both sides are both good and bad. Yes we are to some extent a racist, ignorant country, but still, I know these people, and they are not as evil as we tend to see them on TV. But how do you say that in a 30 second ad, which is the "creative" side of politics?
Believe it or not, I try to askew politics or at least pretend to see and explain the whole field of play when I write fiction. That is why it is so much harder than when I write about politics. In politics there can be no such rule, but if you believe, as I do, that there is no non-fiction, then you can't avoid the sin of prevaricating, no matter the subject. It is all lies, in one form or another.
As for Gabbard and Greenwald, they are now media personalities and I guess they need exposure to make a living. They believe in their "truth messages" and that apparently trumps any political or rhetorical ammo they may be supplying to the FOX authoritarians. Or maybe they just like being on TV.
We are now watching the media reanimate the reputations of Bush through his weird paintings and his daughter appearing with Hoda on the TV show Today. And don't forget that his former flack, Nicole Wallace is one of the biggest voices against Trump on MSNBC. We also see Cheney becoming less of a pariah while his daughter is the one and only R to sound the alarm against the orange faced former Reality show "star" ("When you are a star they let you do anything").
Bush-Cheney's decision to invade the Middle East was the greatest disaster in US history, at least I believe history will see it as such. If the US is in the process of historical decline then that action was what set the decline off.
Without doubt Trump has played a big part in this process of decline, if in fact it is a decline. Trump undoubtedly accelerated it even though paradoxically, he condemned Bush-Cheney's war. Now he is the real and present danger while the "real" Cheney and Bush live in their Dallas fortresses of retirement.
So what should think? What should we do? Should we condemn Tulsi and Glenn for aiding and abetting the present day enemy and should we forget their past actions which focused a bright light on the worst aspects of the worst foreign policy disaster in the nation's history? Or should we say history smidgely, what have you done for me lately? How do we acknowledge the opposing truths?
Time does not stop. It's a river, it is never the same. We can't freeze moments in time and move them into other eras and expected all to fit. We are now in a struggle for a future that we can't see. Remember the show trials of the 20th century from Stalin's to Joe McCarthy's. Should we put Gabbard and Greenwald on the dock and send them to the proverbial block? Do we want a return to that? Do we want to replay the lies, the evil barbarity and stupidity of the past in order to accommodate our very murky present?
If not, that means we have to chart our own course, and let the past go, while at the same time never forgetting it. That is the scariest course of all. Leaping into the unknown, led by the new and unfamiliar.
19th century France couldn't stomach the horrible side of their own revolution, but they could not let go of the part they admired, so after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, they returned to monarchy and after that to the mediocre authoritarian, and silly nephew, Louie Napoleon. That turned out to be an even bigger disaster for France, and led to the first World War, eventually. Does our future have another Cheney or Bush or Clinton or Kennedy or even a younger Trump in the wings? Can we escape the past? Can we get to a sane place, a livable place without going over the same ground?
If you were waiting for an answer, then don't ask a fiction writer. We are the most untrustworthy of them all.
PS Sun Feb 28 2022 (Tulsi Gabbard spoke to CPAC. My comment on her Facebook page)
What a disappointment! No one disagrees with the meaningless cliches you spout, but no one is listening either. But at the current moment, to speak to the Traitors at CPAC as a warm up act for tRump and you new boy friend Tucker is disgusting. Yes I liked you once, but no more. Yes I supported you in the D primary. What you said then, about our Imperialism in Mesopotamia was right. But your primal need to stay relevant, to be in the News, to be on TV outweighs any wisdom or judgement you might have possessed. I never saw this side of you, and it is shame on me, and this should be used to judge my own political judgment. I was warned by people who know you, but I ignored them. You can’t change the past. But you can change now. That is a journey you are going to take alone. I won’t be with you. Wake up now and realized yo are being used as a shill for Fascists like tRump and Putin. And not even a very important Shill. You are now just filler, a Segway between the main acts, while the CPAC incels go together to the bathroom. You beauty is your curse. If you were not pretty, you would be laughed off the stage. Sorry, Tulsi, but I am breaking up with you. Long live Ukraine!