Not much to add to the chorus of horror and outrage regarding the shootings in Tucson. Everything that can be said in terms of immediate reaction and analysis has already been said, and for that I must acknowledge, once again, the stellar work of the Dawgmeister, Cathie, and Montreal Simon, among others.
One wants to believe, of course, that sensible words such as these will have an impact.
It's understandable, therefore, that at moments like these, we so desperately want to believe that something good can come out of this. Sometimes, the storyline goes, it takes the awful clarity of tragedy to help us learn from our mistakes and turn from sin. The truth is crystallized and made obvious by events like this.
Understandable, but misguided. Sorry to be such a downer, but does anyone seriously think the teabaggers are going to pause for a moment of reflection and think: “oh, dear, they're right. Maybe we have poisoned the national discourse. Maybe we do need to dial it back a little ... ” ? Does anyone seriously think the leadership of the Republican Party is going to denounce the screamers, the inciters, the demagogues, and distance itself from the nutcases and wackjobs?
No, comrades. Nothing is going to change in the wake of this. There is far too much invested in keeping America ignorant, crazy, and distracted.
But there's a bigger picture here. What we are witnessing is the slow and ugly death of an empire. This goes far beyond hand-wringing about “civility” or “respect.” What kind of polity allows itself and the language with which it conducts its daily life to become this toxic, this debased, this depraved? There is no reason to believe that anything or anyone about the political establishment – Democratic or Republican, legislative, executive or judicial – is going to arrest the process, let alone reverse it. The two-party system is a corrupt cesspool, a distraction at best. The legislative process is captured by lobbyists and special interests. The political process is so dependent upon corporate cash, it's surprising that the White House isn't festooned with corporate logos like the boards at an NHL game. To suggest that government pays any more than lip service to the interests of American society as a whole is to betray a sorry naiveté.
To the extent that dumbass white-trash teabaggers and the astroturfers who manipulate them even comprehend what's going on outside their own ignorant blinkered lives, they're coming to realize that as far as the rest of the world is concerned, American exceptionalism, along with all its myriad historical incarnations – manifest destiny, light unto the nations, arsenal of democracy, yada yada yada – is toast. And irrelevant, too. In fact, it's probably going unnoticed in most of what passes for American domestic political discourse nowadays, but to anyone who actually bothers to take notice, it's becoming clearer by the day: The Chinese, the Europeans, the Indians, the Brazilians, etc., don't take too much notice of what Washington wants any more.
Is there something for Canadians to learn from this? Well, yes, but it's not going to be pleasant.
For generations, our lickspittle comprador elites – using both Liberal and Conservative parties as vehicles – have worked to tie us ever more closely to the dying giant to the south. Most recently, it's been through abominations like so-called free trade, multilateral agreement on investment, deep integration, security and prosperity partnership, etc. But if this doesn't provide us with a moment of clarity, I don't know what will.
We can only stand so much integration and cross-pollination before the madness infects us as well. We need to break contact with the sclerotic mass next door. We need to disengage – politically, economically and culturally. Just back away, slowly, with uncomfortable smiles pasted on our faces. It's not going to be easy, but if we don't learn from this just how urgently we need to do it, we run the risk of going down the drain with them.