The Elite Celebrate
Success - While Rome Burns

By Judith Moriarty
As usual our state (NH) Portland Herald, newspaper missed it in today's editorial, Jan 22-'05lauding Democracy In Action-(Inauguration Day-Jan-2005).
"While the residents of other countries see their governments come and go in hails of gunfire and rivers of blood, here we celebrate with pomp and circumstance, and even some humor".
What a difference a decade makes or for that matter just a few years! Watching the entirety of the inauguration and parade, I was struck at the similarity and the great difference from 1993, when my husband and I attended the first Inauguration ceremony of President Clinton. That too was a garish affair costing upwards of 33 million. Except for a small area of chairs in front of the podium ('93) the rest of the area was for the people.
We arrived early and were able to secure standing room within yards of the reserved seating. Regretfully, we missed the entirety of the swearing in, as the elderly Black gentleman standing next to us suffered, what appeared to be cardiac arrest, just as Mr. Gore was being sworn in. (Another impossible story this whole experience). Afterwards, we walked over to where the parade route was, and were dutifully informed that one needed all we saw was the President's limousine speeding by.
We then decided to visit the mall area where various tents had been set up for the 'public' to partake of various musical shows, food, and exhibits (for free). My husband (hardly the professional photographer or video expert) was filming some video, when six goons surrounded him and ordered him to STOP! The reason given was that the only video filming permitted was for MTV. We left our grand Inaugural experience and walked back to our hotel.
Blocks from the extravaganza; there was little sign that anything of importance was happening. There was a small pocket park beside our hotel, and I noted as we approached, a couple dozen men, mostly African American (a few elderly white gentlemen), in rag tag attire, shuffling around the empty park. I suggested to my husband that we pay them a visit. Chatting with them it became apparent that they were waiting for the daily soup truck that made the rounds in Foggy Bottom (Washington D.C.). I thought of the irony of this; what with the palatial wining and dining going on only a mile away. The truck arrived and they lined up for a Styrofoam cup of vegetable soup and a slice of bread. I spotted a delicatessen across the street and sent my husband and a few of the men over to buy some roast beef grinders and coffee for them. A small cup of soup seemed hardly adequate for those exposed to the elements.
As we all sat there eating our Inauguration day fare (it was a tolerable 45 degrees) I asked them if they felt any hope with Clinton coming into office. An elderly Black gentleman, his coat held together with huge safety pins (veteran of WWII), remarked between gulps of coffee."Child, we've seen'em come and we've seen'em go, don't make no never mind to us, they's all the same, they's don't even knows we's alive". The others murmured in the affirmative. I'd been sitting on one of the park benches beside a quiet white gentleman who was probably in his mid-seventies.
He had a grizzled beard and was dressed in layers of sweaters, and pants. His lined weathered face, and deep blue eyes, held a resigned peacefulness over his predicament. He tugged at my sleeve and asked if I wanted to hear a song? I at first thought he meant to singbut no, he had held tight in his hands (in a garbage bag) a violin. The other men encouraged him to please play them a song. Apparently Johnny played only rarely. He carefully took the instrument from his bag and put it under his chin. I noted that it was held together with duct tape and baling wire. In the quietness of that small park with these homeless men gathered round Johnny played Hail To The Chief.da da da dum screech da da da da dum..screech. Johnny told me afterwards that he'd had this violin since he was five years old and that it was the only thing he possessed. I thought of the concerts and professional musicians entertaining the in-crowd and was thankful that we'd had the best seats in Washington that day. I shall never forget the most memorable of Inauguration Days.
Before leaving for home, in nearby Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, we drove all around Washington. What most people don't realize is that outside the manicured lawns, the museums, the opulence of the Capitol and White House (various memorials) is abject poverty. Just a few blocks away (far from sight) is a block long shelter, housing projects and decaying housing. Mostly I felt a terrible ache that all we could offer the men in the park was a sandwich and coffee.
The biggest difference from that 1993 Inauguration and today's Jan 2005 spectacle was the fortress-like atmosphere. In '93 we saw an occasional policeman directing traffic or offering advice but that's all changed. One hundred square blocks were cordoned off in an end of the world like scenario. In '93 my husband and I walked all over Washington-in today's militaristic world that was not possible. What wasn't evident on the TV showing of this opulent display of arrogance were the numerous streets closed and pedestrians severely restricted. The streets were swept clean of any homeless (much like the Republican Convention in New York City) and programs meant to serve their needs (soup kitchens etc.) shut down. Inside this "security zone" meal deliveries for shut-ins and the elderly were also canceled.
As one organizer, for this the most expensive inauguration in our nation's history, bragged, "This is the Super-Bowl of the elites. Washington, D.C. is an ethics free zone these next few days". The only free event was some Texas Fair set up in a removed building, complete with spangled outfitted cowboys and grotesque stuffed bulls, that you could have your photo taken on! The standing room for ordinary citizens at the swearing-in ceremony had been replaced (2005) with thousands of chairs (cost $5000.00 a piece). The regular folks were located far down the mall behind barricades manned by rows of security police.
There were no tents or exhibits for the people on the mall just numerous check-points. Nobody but nobody was entering into the 'security zone' without being checked. Ten-foot high barriers lined the park in front of the White House with 100 city blocks closed to traffic. Those having to work for a living were told to stay home, (naturally without pay). Subway stations were shut down forcing people to be herded in only certain directions. "Democracy in Action" had sharpshooters deployed on the roofs of all centrally-located buildings, with bomb sniffing dogs working the streets.
Police helicopters hovered overhead and anti-aircraft missile sites were scattered throughout the city. In total there was a 13,000-strong security force composed of 7,000 military and 6,000 police (from all over the country) and Secret Service members on hand. Cutting edge surveillance cameras sent pictures of all parts of the crowd to a specially-established joint command center in a secret location in northern Virginia. I couldn't help but think at all this security and high-tech protection for the elites "Super-Bowl" partying and celebrating of Sept 11-2001, when thousands of ordinary citizens (fire-police-rescue personnel) died as planes careened across the country for hours; with apparently no 'command centers' on duty? Astoundingly, with trillions spent on supposed defense these past decades, the white wash 9/11 Commission found nobody at fault!
Common sense might surmise that New York City (financial capital) and Washington D.C. might be prime targets, most especially when the towers had already been bombed. Apparently, there's a lot more care and attentiveness in protecting inaugurations-parades-numerous balls-private parties-and exclusive dinners; for the gathered elite of the nation. The airspace around Washington was severely restricted with planes forbidden to fly within 23 miles of the capital's three major airports. The one exception was for private planes flying under instrument flight rules. This sounds reasonable or how else would the numerous elite (not hindered by security checks at airports) flying in on corporate jets get to their parties!
The $17.3 million to secure this party zone will be paid (really by us) from the Homeland Defense money of the District of Columbia. The Bush administration responded to the District's complaints with the usual indifference. It told city officials that in order to pay for police overtime, security fences and parade route bleachers they should dip into their share of federal homeland security funds otherwise allocated for hospitals, fire-fighting and transit command centers. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the lone delegate voice from the District of Columbia (ignored) stated, "If we are asked to pay for the inauguration out of our Medicaid money or out of our money for mass transit, everyone would understand that's quite inappropriate. It's worse to have to pay for the inauguration out of funds that have been designated for homeland security priorities to protect the nation's capital from terrorism." I fear that Eleanor didn't realize that the millions upon millions in corporate donations to this hullabaloo; were to garner future favors in legislation and lucrative military industrial contracts et al. As for herding the multitudes into 'security zones' that tab could be picked up by those being herded. After all, in the event of any future terrorism, the elite would be far from Washington or whisked off to bunkers.while District residents got out their duct tape and plastic sheeting.
While the Portsmouth Herald opinioned over "free speech as part and parcel of the democratic process" they apparently missed the court actions and efforts it took for groups to secure a distant section along the parade route. Having to stay on site to secure this small section of bleachers, they were not permitted to even put up a warming tent.(for fear of what would happen behind tent walls). When A.N.S.W.E.R. offered to put up a tent with see through plastic sheeting; even this was forbidden, in the event that a glare from the sheeting might blind security forces eyes for a moment in time. This shows you the insanity of the times.
While I have read of other events taking place miles from the downtown; none of these were shown on the media. They might as well have saved themselves the long trip; if they thought their efforts would be seen by the multitudes. As it was, the protest that was held at the beginning of the parade route was crushed into a small area, with a variety of different issues being addressed. This is confusing for those out in the hinterlands who are ill-informed or not informed at all.
People are impressed watching vulgar and lavish ceremonies be it the Queen in England or our own poor imitation. They are enraptured by the show of wealth, the pomp, pageantry, designer gowns, and exquisite luncheons. One newscaster proclaimed "These people are celebrating success". Yes, indeed, I thought-the success of the few at the expense of the many. None seated in the expensive reserved areas, the reviewing stand, nor the exquisite dinners, had any inkling of war and its horrors. Their children were not coming home unheralded (except by friends and family) to a hanger in Dover, Maryland. Their children were dressed in designer gowns and tuxedoes; while the children of the dispossessed, unemployed, ghetto youth, green cards, and small town America (men and women) were dressing in war duds.
As one watched the meticulous care to protect the few celebrating their "success" (business-politics-corporate chicanery) one couldn't help but reflect on the parents buying protective vests for their youngsters, or of our military scrounging in junk piles, for pieces of scrap metal, to protect their vehicles. Not on Pennsylvania Ave; where all limousines were heavily armored, with special bullet proof windows and numerous armed security personnel. One wondered where the homeless had gotten themselves to; as the 'successful' few made their way into a heated (temporary) multi-million dollar reviewing stand. I thought of the thousands who'd been kept waiting (parade participants-military-visitors) in the bitter cold as the ceremonies ran late. Our new "democratic process" allowed no knapsacks, no thermos bottles, no signs (except hand carried ones), and no threatening terrorist puppets! It's not like one can stop in at a local diner or restaurant (none available in this area) to get a hot drink or warm oneself.
Perhaps that's what most appalled me.this blatant, arrogant, indifference to the multitudes. Oh, its not that it's not a fact of life, but to see it televised in such cold contempt, makes it all the more glaring. Frankly, I thought the best protest would have been for nobody to show up. It would have looked pretty silly watching those thousands of troops, snipers, a war room, and riot police; having nothing to do but escort the fur draped dignitaries from event to event. Without the multitudes of hirelings for the day (police,military,those manningmissiles,limodrivers,secret,police,cooks,waitresses, doormen,maids,bartenders,florists,hairdressers,makeup specialists,seamstresses,butlers,et al) one wonders how the elite would make it through a single day. They wouldn't. Just as there would never be a war-the guarding of oil fields-the spraying of forests with defoliants-prison guards-or contract workers; if not for the less "successful" (not invited to the Super-Bowl) poor, disenfranchised, immigrants, and various minorities.
TV didn't show the long lines, those sprayed with pepper spray, the corralled herding (in this the land of the free) those kept out from the 'security zone', or the empty, echoing, 100 city blocks; cleared of people to assure the elite of the utmost security. They only saw the pomp and pageantry, the limp wave of a hand, the plastic smile, the hustle from a warm opulent residence, to a warm armored vehicle, to a warm candlelit- pig fest. I thought of the military families on food stamps, the Iraqi civilians without food, electricity, kerosene or gas (in the land of oil). I couldn't help thinking of what a selfish-surreal- cartoon world we live in.
In a time of war, of massive unemployment, rusted mills, shuttered plants, $5.15 an hour (NH) minimum wage, closed hospitals, overcrowded shelters/soup kitchens, 45 million without health insurance, pensions robbed, and robber baron pharmaceuticals; ripping off the elderly and everyone else- decorum, might have wanted to tone down the extravagant, vulgar, obscene, excesses! With multitudes limbless, blind, and shattered at nearby Walter Reed; one would have thought a little sensitivity might have been in order for those whose lives are forever altered. But then lack of fuel, medicine, shelter, wages, medical care, food, or jobs doesn't touch the detached-indifferent-successful-and wealthy. Jeweled sausage fingers, grasped at tumblers of thirty year old Scotch, as the announced "successful" amongst us slurped from event to event. I for one am dutifully unimpressed with this new militarized-hogified-plutocracy disguised as democracy.
I'm sorry, I didn't have the opportunity to attend, what was probably the last hurrah of gathered democracy; on Oct 26, 2003. It was then that 200,000 people gathered in Washington to say "No" to war. A look at the Rally and March article; and great pictures will show you what once upon a time "freedom of speech" looked like in our nation's Capitol. In no way does it resemble the orchestrated, managed, police state of today.
Our new "democracy" means to end "tyranny" throughout the world. "From the day of Founding (not exactly jm), we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Our goal is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way. The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. By our efforts we have lit a fire as well-a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself. When the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, 'It rang as if it meant something'. In our time it means something still. We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom". Part of Inaugural Address 2005.
I was trying to make sense of this shallow rhetorical speech (labored over by an army of speech writers) and its implications for the future? Vice-President Cheney, on MSNBC Inauguration Day, gave Israel the green light to take out Iran; it being next on the list of "ridding the world of tyranny". It appears that our "security" is dependent on our aggressive expansionism? The President's vision spoke to "the concentrated work of generations". Those being called thus far; in this global thrust of "serving a cause larger than your wants", wasn't targeted to those in the $5000.00 seats or those blowing into town in their private jets. But then, it seems apparent that their "wants", at least materially, seem to have been met? I thought it really righteous of the President to speak to the "rights, value, and matchless value of every man and women on earth because they bear the image of their Maker." I did a John Stewart (Comedy Channel-Daily Show) and rubbed my eyes!
Seems pretty blasphemous to have those; "bearing the Image of their Maker" being stacked in naked pyramids, kept in cages in Guantanamo Bay, engaged in lewd sexual acts, lit up at checkpoints-(whole families), napalmed, slaughtered, and their towns pulverized. It appears to me that the "Image of our Maker" is being pretty maligned and desecrated with cluster bombs; shredding the limbs from children and being referred to as "collateral damage, sand niggers, rag heads, towel heads, and camel jockeys". I wondered if the President was referring to Shock and Awe as our, "efforts that have lit a fire". If the ending of "tyranny" is a "concentrated work of generations"; it appears that we're talking Orwell's Ingsoc principles of War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, and Freedom is Slavery. In today's world Liberation is Annihilation, Occupation is Democracy, Evil is Good, and Religion is Patriotism/Nationalism. Why Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.
Before war with Iraq there was Afghanistan and before that we were at war with the evil Soviet Empire and the Sandinistas of Nicaragua. In the 60's and 70's it was Vietnam, before that North Korea.and back through the generations. Forward we go to an announced "generational war"; which proclaims to the multitudes that the children they bring forth are merely being incubated for future wars. Not all children of course; only those poorly educated, those hoping for that college degree, minorities and the multitudes of immigrants. Youngsters, who are naïve to war, easily led, easily intimidated, and easily conditioned in groupthink. The children of those who order war, who profit, who celebrate their "success" every four years; are trained up for their chosen professions, in exclusive private schools with special attentions and opportunities. There is besides 'generational war', (for the poor-working class) generational entitlements and favoritism, for those mostly chosen from birth.
The President tells us that the Liberty Bell 'still means something'. Not so much, that after residing in Independence Hall from the 1700's, it was usurped by a bell gifted from England in 1976, and moved down the street, along with its revisionist history. It now resides in a pavilion much like the rest stops one sees on our nation's highways. Perhaps the crack which happened when it was first hung and tested was prophetic in nature? With the Scripture verse (Leviticus 25:10) "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof".refused to ring forth a lie?
With ethics apparently regained, the celebratory imitation coronation (minus scepter and crown), ended in a solemn Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral. No metal utility church building this place, with cheap metal folding chairs. This magnificent gothic structure was completed in 1990 and sits on 57 manicured acres in Washington. Even worship for the elite is done up in grand style. Wishing to offend none, the service was multi-faith, with blessings and prayers for the President/Vice President given in abundance. Prayers were offered for a "clear mind, a warm heart, calmness in the midst of turmoil." Reverend Billy Graham (86 years old) prayed, "Renew our vision, and restore our desire to love and to serve all humanity." The organ thundered forth over the gathering of politicians and favored guests; as Irish tenor Ronan Tynam; was the one voice (my opinion) that touched men's souls (at least the souls of those watching on TV). Psalm 29 was read with some Cardinal speaking of love your neighbor, love your enemies etc. Reverend Craig from Dallas ended by telling the importance of the 86,400 seconds in a day and our choice in using these seconds for good or ill. He then proclaimed God's love for ALL the children of the world.
Again, maybe it was just me, but the lofty words of love, peace and choosing to do good over ill; didn't connect to the happenings in the outer world. I couldn't help thinking of little Ali with his amputated arms (cluster bomb) or our footless child (dead) in her purple sweater. They and the multitudes of other children-left orphaned with family cars "lit up" or buried in the rubble of Daisy Cutter bombs rolled off of planes. As I gazed at the polished pews; filled with designer attired holiness-tended to by top ranking church officials in full regalia.I thought of how the reading of Mark Twain's War Prayer would have gone over or some readings of Thomas Paine's Common Sense (Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession). "But there is another great distinction for which no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is the distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS."
"Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of Heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind. Men, who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent. Selected from the rest of mankind, their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially (i.e. Inauguration celebrations-balls-jm) from the world at large, that they have but LITTLE opportunity of know its true interests, and when they succeed in the government are frequently the most IGNORANT and unfit of any throughout the dominions." Little wonder that Scripture dealing with God's displeasure over the people's insistence of having a King.are not mentioned in various speeches.
President Bush has stated on a few occasions (2002) that he would prefer that we had a dictatorship-that it would make things easier-with him as dictator, of course. What most don't realize or think about is that the President (and the media reinforces this idea) believes himself the ruler of the whole of the worldthus his proclamations to end "tyranny" and pre-emptively (if necessary) instill "liberty and freedom" throughout the world. Liberty, liberation, image, freedom, values, dignity, democracy, are all lofty words and noble aspirations; but they are ethereal and abstract. One can't scrawl "liberty" on a piece of paper and send it to the gas company. Waving a flag over a shuttered mill, or echoing auto plant; won't stop corporate hucksters from outsourcing to China (not mentioned in Inaugural speech). The farmer can't plant Image seeds-nor can the fisherman bring in a hefty catch of Democracy flounder. Freedom script won't pay for needed medicine or food, nor will my self proclaimed "Values" get me that job; when I'm unceremoniously fired, laid off or downsized! How will 'Dignity' replace a youngster, husband, father or mother, lost to a cause bigger than them? And how, oh how, can I, one of the oppressed of the world, celebrate the love of God's, Shock and Awe "Liberation" without hands to clap or eyes to see my deliverance from "tyranny"?
And so we go on enraptured, mesmerized, or frantically and passionately believing; that a king, ruler, president, or self proclaimed savior; will save us from imploding buildings, hordes of Muslims, escaped Mexicans (from a failed NAFTA Treaty), aliens, asteroids, or tsunamis. With our roll of duct tape, plastic sheeting, jug of water, flashlight, and color coded fear alert---we wait on those who talk without listening, with no true thoughts (all PR jargon-or speech writers jabberwocky), saying what's already been said by others. We wait on the nothings, from nothing people, far removed from the sight and sound of the elderly couple, who recently committed suicide (NH) in their despair, the elderly brother and sister who died of hypothermia in a (NH) small village, the sound of taps on a lonely Vermont mountain, the anguish of the widow, the fear of the 55 year old man, with his scarred calloused hands out of work, long lines at shelters, the shut-off notice, those in Ohio unable to afford fuel to heat their home, the thunder of pulverizing bombs, the screams of the shredded (military and Iraqis), or the thunder of bulldozers smashing homes to dust, in the shadow of walled depravity.
It's hard to hear the cry of those "made in the Image of their Maker" behind concrete barriers, walls of shields, in armored limousines, amidst rustling silk, muffled elegance, in guarded gated estates, private clubs, Trophy home vacation retreats, and the slurp of toasted "success" in the red-white-and boo of Super-Bowl, Foggy Bottom, vulgar festivities. It's no surprise, that in our revisionist history; lauding the obscure and profane that Thomas Paine and his words have suffered their own downsizing and kicked to the curb obscurity.
Though he was speaking of England he might have applied these same words to our circumstances had he stood afar amongst the barricaded common folks on the mall (Inauguration day-2005).."In England a King hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which, in plain terms, are to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived". Common Sense-Of Monarchy and Hereditary Successions.



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