Sunday, May 21, 2023

A Bridge Not So Far

May 21 2023

I read the news this morning, have you? I know. Who wants to do that?

There is so much of real concern. Today the headlines are more than war, climate catastrophe, corruption, racism and bigotry shamelessly advocated by one of America's two political parties.
Today it must include a crisis that does not need to happen, one entirely of our own making, one wholly avoidable. What sort of society conjures such madness when there is so much that needs to be addressed in shared interests? Why do we seek our own pain, our collective ruination?

To appreciate the debt ceiling crisis---and it is a crisis---we must first opine a bit on human nature. I may not know jack (or his best friend's name) about economics but I pretend to contemplate our shared humanity. What I know is that humans are capable of things worse than we ever like to admit and sometimes better than we imagine.

Let's start with the importance of denial. In the face of illness, death, impending catastrophe, even inevitability there is no quota placed upon our willingness for denial as a strategy. We would, as Bartelby reminds us, prefer not to. We postpone, live "as if", and do everything we can to say not me, not today, even never because admitting otherwise is traumatic, painful, far too real. To put this in our vocabulary, we need the Maya because reality is just too much to deal with before the sky actually does fall.

Denial is a feature not a quirk when it comes to being human. It's no more solvable than any other shadow that occupies the human light that burns as consciousness. 

Let us add to the normal denial (not a good thing, just a normal thing) the abject ignorance of those driving this bus over the cliff. It is genuinely painful to hear Republicans speak about, well almost anything but economics in this case is as dangerous as it is (and I don't like this word but it seems undeniably true) stupid. Think of the fact that 68 million voters thought Trump competent to run this economy. Think of who controls the votes in the Republican Congress. Yes, we are in serious trouble because they simply don't comprehend where this is taking all of us with them.

Then there is the cruelty, the sheer vindictiveness blended into mendacity, craven indifference to consequences, and the shameless joy they take in making people hurt. Cruelty is the point and again Trump is their example: the law like any tangible advantage should belong only to them and must never apply to anyone else, especially their enemies. But that latter point is crucial: they may define themselves with madness, ignorance, and cruelty that they refuse to admit but they are much happy to define themselves by who they perceive to be their enemies. They are not partisans, they are nihilists because they don't care to protect even their own if that means giving in to their "enemies".

I say the problem isn't partisanship. I think it is that we are not partisan enough. Partisans stand with their side but care not to destroy their opponents. Rather they merely figure out how to live with it all. Refusing to accept racism, bigotry, the expurgation of women's rights, the rejection HUMAN rights is not hate: it is to side with humanity. Nihilism is not an abstraction, it is a way of life. "They" must fail at any cost. It's not as if we have not seen this before. But ironically we need to say that the Nihilists must fail and that we are also in the business of helping them live to see another day. Enter Joe who says as much every single day.

Republican white supremacy along with their nihilism must fail.  Caring about all people, even those who want the world to burn if it means destroying themselves and somehow admitting that these shameless, willful bigots too are human and so warrant concern, this may not be a solvable dilemma. I will not grieve their demise in any form that might take even if I will not seek to expedite the worst for them. We are going to need peace even if we cannot have reason. We will not survive a culture based principally on menace and violence.

It seems apparent that playing Russian roulette with the entire structure of the American (and so the world) economy is not beyond this intellectually arrested and ethically bankrupt Republican Congress. The debt ceiling, according to those who really understand this mess, is no joke. But Republicans enjoy watching sane people squirm, they will do anything to "own the libs" and that includes driving the country over a cliff.

The gambit to use the 14th Amendment would require litigation and even if that were expedited to the SCOTUS (as the country melts down), what then? This is a novel legal theory and what makes anyone think that this corrupt Court will not simply allow the world to burn. Remind me, wait you don't need to. Dobbs. Shall we entrust the full faith and trust of the American economy to the likes of Alito, Thomas, and the drunken frat boy sexual abuser? There is really no sane way to rely on the Court to fix what this Congress can ruin and Biden I think knows this. Otherwise the threat of the 14th Amendment or the trillion dollar coin would be made much more.

None of this needs to happen so why didn't the Democrats eliminate the debt ceilng move---why a two step, where you spend the money and then refuse to pay the bill? Because the politics of saying there is no ceiling for debt despite the fact that the spending was authorized by both parties is too hard to sell to people who can't understand or refuse to pay attention to even this simplest argument. Never underestimate the ability of people not to understand when that depends on thinking with a shard (just a shard) of complexity----call me the cynic for that one. If reason made for politics we'd be living on Vulcan. Earthlings for all of their rational achievements prefer simple feelings to complex ideas. Politics is 99% "gut feeling" which is why it is equally foolish to think that Trump cannot win again.

So Yellen is running out of paper tricks, Powell is likely shitting his establishment Republican pants---MAGA hates McConnell almost as much as Democrats. (Check that, they hate Democrats more than they love life: this is why they are nihilists, not just racists and morons.) So now what?

We must be better than we want to be. As they rig and manipulate the system, use their corrupt courts and the power of the structural advantage (think electoral college because the popular vote really does NOT matter), we must be smarter, wiser, more prudent. We must not become bent upon their destruction but rather the victory of decency. They live in a world in which not only must dogs win but cats must lose. We must make room for the cats (no matter how we might feel about them) because without difference we are nothing but sameness and that, that leads to everything that is destructive about humankind.

I don't know if cooler heads will prevail. I don't respect holding the world hostage for the sake of hypocrisy, stupidity, and nihilism. I am going to spend my day reading something more humanizing and enjoying the beauty of this late spring day. But I am not indulging in denial so here I am with too many words writing to you on a Sunday morning. We should be scared enough to step up and pay attention, at the very least, especially when we are more or less powerful to control what happens next. Sometimes paying attention and deciding who you want to be as a person is all you manage. Let us manage that together. We must be that bridge not too far but close enough to hold each other.