William Rivers Pitt: Real Change
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Columnist
Wednesday 23 January 2008
I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.
- George Carlin
That's been the big buzzword since the middle of December or thereabouts. While the last days of 2007 bled away one by one, and as the pre-Iowa political bedlam became loud beyond endurance, "change" was the word on the lips of every candidate. One could not swing a dead cat by the tail in Ames or Des Moines without swatting campaign literature pledging "change to come," but only if they got the votes.
Giuliani described himself as an "agent of change." Clinton talked about needing experience in order to be able to bring change. Obama fairly waxed rhapsodic on the topic, setting the pre-caucus benchmark late in November by using the word four times in one sentence. Romney vowed to bring change to Washington, DC. Even McCain and The Artist Formerly Known As Thompson were grudgingly forced to work the word into their speeches after a while. It was everywhere, and any credulous folks in the crowd must have gotten to a point, after hearing it so often from so many candidates, where it felt safe to assume "change" was really coming no matter who wins come November.
"Change." Let's talk about that word, and what it involves. Certainly, making change in America's domestic and foreign policy priorities is a necessary activity. Consider ...
Iraq - A suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a school, wounding 22 teachers and students who were arriving for the beginning of the academic day. Another suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral in the oil refinery city of Biaji, killing 15 and wounding ten others. The bodies of six family members who had been kidnapped the day before were found shot execution-style in Diyala province. Seven other bodies were found in different Baghdad districts. A bomb went off in Baghdad and wounded a policeman. Gunmen in Baghdad attacked and wounded three other policemen in Baghdad. A roadside bomb detonated on the Diyala Bridge killed an employee of the Transport Ministry and wounded six others. Two US soldiers were killed in Kirkuk, bringing the total number of American soldiers killed in Iraq to 3,931, with 27 of those deaths coming in the month of January to date.
All this happened between Monday the 21st and Tuesday the 22nd of January, 2008.
America - Consumer confidence has cratered. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke had to scramble in order to avoid having Wall Street detonate in a frenzy of mortgage-crisis stock-dumping. "Debt" has become synonymous with "Ain't getting paid" for massive lending institutions that are now, one by one, declaring galactic write-offs to the tune of billions. Bush and his crew of cretins are trying to fob off another massive tax cut for their friends under the guise of a "stimulus package" that will probably meet with Congressional approval because that's what Congress does. Oil prices continue to hover near the $100-per-barrel line, clobbering families from sea to shining sea wherever heat and automotive transportation are involved in day-to-day existence.
All this happened yesterday, and the day before, and will happen again tomorrow. So, yeah, "change" is an attractive menu item. Too bad it isn't coming around anytime soon.
How can this be? Aren't all these 2008 candidates promising just that?
Indeed. They are promising that which is beyond their capacity to deliver, assuming "change" is something any or all of them actually want to see happen. Change has not been an easy action item to tick off the Get-Done list for many decades now, and for a variety of reasons.
Corporate Personhood, as delivered by several 19th century Supreme Court decisions, gave faceless financial juggernauts the same 14th Amendment rights as any living American citizen, and exists now as the bought-and-paid-for breed of politics that is beholden to a media machine owned by those same faceless powerhouses. If you know the name of a politician or presidential candidate, odds are better than good he or she earned their national notoriety and campaign viability by signing on to the program as it stands today. That's not a good recipe for cooking up an agent for change.
Add to this apparatus the economics of America's war machine, dubbed the "Military Industrial Complex" by President Eisenhower in his 1960 farewell address. Preparation for and waging of wars have become as important to the American economy as consumer confidence, housing indices and fuel prices. The ridiculous calamity that is America's occupation of Iraq is, for a notable few, nothing more or less than a magnificent revenue stream, and those who profit from American war-making have enough financial muscle to make sure this gravy train continues as it has since 1947. Once again, national candidates have no hope for achieving higher office without first bending a knee to this phenomenon. They have all signed on the line that is dotted, which is the only reason you've heard of any of them to begin with.
Those are two reasons "change" is not in the offing after Inauguration Day in January of 2009. Both parties are beholden to this situation, and have been for some time now. No one candidate, party or national election is going to undo this mess. There will be no change in any real or fundamental sense once this farce of an election has been and gone.
A black man and a white woman are standing tall as potential presidential victors, forcing America to have long-needed public discussions on matters of racism and misogyny.
The currently-constituted Republican coalition, which gave us George W. Bush and the Gingrichian Revolution, is in the process of flying apart at the seams. The GOP base rejected the two coronated "front-runner" candidates in favor of an Arkansas rube who doesn't believe in science and had a direct hand in allowing the rape and murder of two innocent women in Arkansas. Issues like immigration and abortion are detonating amid party ranks, and threatening to undo the GOP's three-decade intra-party harmony that is their greatest electoral strength.
One election won't change anything, but ten might, and there is no reason or impediment blocking dedicated Americans from keeping their shoulders to the political activism wheel long enough to roll that rock up the hill.
Change is not going to come, and has already come, and may yet come. This is what makes the 2008 presidential election an absurdity, and an opportunity, and a fait accompli all at once. It is what it is.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times
and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You
to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence."
His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War,
Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now