Friday, October 29 2004
This evening Gretchen and I drove to the Rosendale bus station to pick up her friend Dean, who was visiting from the City. His bus was delayed, though, so we ended up killing some time across the street in the "Quik Mart" (whose gas pumps featured prices with misplaced decimal points and at least one backwards "1"). The junk food on the shelves was delightfully entertaining in terms of how completely disgusting it looked, although there were some things we could use, such as sauerkraut and salt. As we were discussing the differences between sea salt, regular salt, and iodized salt, I hatched a plan for a documentary. It would be modeled on the general story arc of Supersize Me, but instead it would feature a man who decides to go completely off of iodized salt in a heroic attempt to grow himself a goiter. Periodically he would check in with his doctor who would apply calipers to his neck to measure his progress. At some point there'd be a scene where his thryoid specialist would be looking in dismay at his charts and pleading with him to please discontinue the madness, but no, he would soldier on.
Dean's bus finally arrived, and we three ate dinner at the Rosendale Café. Dean is attempting to become a vegan, though he didn't seem to be completely clear on what he'd have to avoid, so Gretchen (who is not a vegan) provided helpful menu suggestions. Since he's just starting out, the rennet-containing soy cheese was deemed permissible.
After a long conversation about Dean's carefully-balanced holistic approach to wellness (he suffers from some sort of hepatitis that he thinks he contracted from a razor blade), we inevitably slipped into the quagmire of politics.
I was in Sharon, Connecticut today when I first saw the new Osama bin Laden video. I remember thinking, "My, he's looking well, and his studio doesn't suggest stone age conditions." It didn't even occur to me to look for the dialysis machine he's supposedly been dragging behind him over the broken rocks of the dessert.
Later, though, partly through a phone conversation I had this evening, I got to thinking about Osama bin Laden as the ultimate master of geopolitical Jujitsu. Jujitsu, for those who don't know, is a martial art wherein the weight and force of an attacker is cleverly used against him, thereby allowing a small, agile practitioner to bring down foes of any size. (It's something Julius the kitten comes close to achieving whenever he darts beneath my feet.) Now consider Osama bin Laden's accomplishments and the methods he used to achieve them. We live in a completely different world, our democracy is under threat of creeping fascism from faith-based medievalists, oil prices are at an all-time high, and Tractor America is bogged down in a quagmire. How did we get to this place? Osama bin Laden managed to get 19 suicidal hijackers onto three American airliners and redirect them into big American buildings. These hijackers didn't use (or have to buy) any explosives; all the killing force they needed lay either in the fuel tanks of the airplanes or in the potential collapse energy of the buildings that were hit, energy they got entirely for free. But step back from that for a moment, since that's not the only level on which Osama bin Laden's Jujitsu applied. He timed his attack during the administration of a crypto-fascist with plenty of freudian and religious baggage. The shock and awe of 9/11 gave Bush license to do things that would have been considered irrational in any other situation. So now we find ourselves with a ruined foreign policy on the eve of an election, and Osama bin Laden is still around to taunt and apply his subtle Jujitsu jabs. Today's video release has to be viewed in this context. Clearly, Bush has been good for Osama bin Laden. He's snapped at Osama's bait in ways that have been consistently ruinous for America, and yet Bush still retains enough popularity to continue on for four more years of unimaginable decline, if, that is, a slight prod can be applied to the electorate. To survive politically, what Bush really needed was a break in the news cycle, which, in the final hours of the campaign, was focused on his failures in Iraq. Now the story is focused on Osama bin Laden, the textbook evil that has consistently made Americans react in irrational ways. Though they should be asking the question, "Why is this guy still on the loose?" bin Laden knows that they'll instead react on an infantile level, with something more like "Daddy! I'm scared!" Bin Laden knows that people don't want to change Daddies when there is a boogie man outside the door. If Osama plays his Jujitsu right, he might just be able to milk four more years of American decline out of our commander in chief and his grim band of reality-challenged henchmen.
These thoughts put me in something of a funk and I had trouble falling asleep tonight.
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