Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

Like a great many bad ideas, I was born on K Street in Washington, DC. When I was whelped in the waning days of the second Eisenhower Administration, its succeeding president was running around shooting his mouth off to anyone he thought might quote him about how my native burg possessed "Southern efficiency and Northern charm." That's some wit, right there, Harvard, yes sir -- but I'll lay you good money Family Joke Retainer Ted Sorensen actually noodled it up, and was paid the princely Kennedyesque tare of $0.45 a pound to slip it to My Boy John. Camelot!

At any rate, the disgraceful defilement of Washington, DC in the 45 years since (no, be honest: 46) was brought to mind in a single moment yesterday afternoon. The battle-hardening of the square-mile area surrounding the White House, begun in the hysteria over Libyan terrorist cells during the Reagan Regnum, and reinforced and made permanent in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing of the middle Clinton years, has made the Ellipse a dreary maze of Jersey barriers, ugly temporary fences and chain enclosures that mark off arbitrary Sterile Zones into which the hapless tourist wanders erroneously at his peril. A non-English-speaking visitor stands an excellent chance of being shot dead for wandering into one of these ambiguously marked Zones and not understanding the police's bullhorned cease-and-desist order. A more enslaved symbol of the Land of the Free, and a more pusillanimous emblem of the Home of the Brave, is simply impossible to imagine.

Yesterday I heard a sane, measured, adult voice speaking, encouraging me to stand tall and refuse to be afraid, refuse to be cowed, refuse to be swayed by the rhetoric of fear, a voice that intoned,
It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they did. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it’s up to us to do the very same thing.
I walked past that White House just a few minutes after I heard those words, saw the layers of temporary fencing and Jersey barriers and steel-chain bollards and black-clad stormtroopers wielding god-knows-what kind of weaponry around the Presidential Perimeter, and was struck as never before by one laser-sharp insight:

The Fear starts -- and ends -- here.

In my fondest dream, my most fanciful of fantasies, the next President of the United States will, within ten minutes of taking the Oath of Office (you know, that one where he or she swears to preserve, protect and defend that Crazy Ol' Constitution), issue an order that the whole Führerbunker shooting match --the tank traps, the Checkpoint-Charlie-style vehicle mazes, the concrete-barrier wasteland -- be dismantled forthwith and deposited in its rightful place at the bottom of the Potomac. Not because the War on Terra is over or because Osama bin Laden has ruefully turned himself in at the nearest gendarmerie...

...but for the infinitely more honorable reason that, in the face of all this danger: We Are Not Afraid.

How much more diametrically opposed to Franklin Roosevelt's reassurance to a nation under extreme adversity -- "We have nothing to fear but fear itself"-- and how much more dishonorable, can be the message of the current occupants of that Führerbunker: "FearFearFearFearFearFEAR!"

And for a regime so solicitous of the feelings of the troops that it denounces as treasonous any dissenting voice that may call into question the integrity and usefulness of their self-evidently poorly defined and endless mission, the fact that these chickenhawks, draft dodgers, Swift Boat Veterans and TANG deserters occupy a hardened concrete Führerbunker at the very heart of a vital city of bars, restaurants, universities, concert halls, museums and businesses can't help but look to those selfsame troops like that disgusting, cowardly practice of cannon-feeding generals through all of human history, Leading from the Rear.

Let's put it in terms that never fail to evince dewy-thighed Neocon sighs:



Matt said...


Akatabi said...

The TSA makes you take your shoes off Because They Can. Harry S. Truman, in times no less parlous than our own, used to go out for walks around the naborhood.

H. Rumbold, Master Barber

Neil Shakespeare said...

The "dewy-thighed Neocons" should love that! I was watching Frontline's piece on private security armies in Iraq and there was film of the "Enduring" bases over there. Everything lines with TWO layers of concrete barriers, the inside of which is all you can see from the 'barracks'. Cities of Fear, in fact. Kinda like those 'Gated Communities' we have over here only uglier. Helluva way to live.

XTCfan said...

C'mon Ned, are you going to tell the story of how we almost got shot, or are you going to force me to?

dzyorg (military speak for the Mickey Mouse contractors providing services in Iraq)

Neddie said...

Blindfolded, tied to posts in the Zocalo, enjoying a courteous last cigarette before Santa Ana's firing squad did its dirty work, I turned to XTCFan and murmured, "It is a good day to die, and I am glad I die with you by my side, my faithful compendium!" Just then a crackle of gunfire on the village outskirts gave us new hope that Lieutenant Bob Lee's rescue attempt had been successful after all....

I stepped into an ambiguously marked Forbidden Zone. A siren whooped, and some punk-assed stormtrooper lectured me over a bullhorn: "The fences are there for a reason!

People ask me, "Where do you get your ideas?" Well, now you know.

For the Parlouos State in which we find ourselves, there is no qfxjkx.

Sluggo said...

what Matt said, and, to be even more emphatic, indeed.

blue girl said...

Great essay Jeddie.

Cheney's new *house* in MD, $2.9 million is..."(an) estate that goes back to 1930 and was said to be built by one of Thomas Edison's daughters...

The nine-acre lot includes extensive gardens, ornamental pools and spectacular views of the water behind it. Deer and osprey can be seen."

But the airspace above it is shut down. A no-fly zone!

Ugly barricades in DC -- no fly zone over the VP'S new palace -- but, soldiers in Iraq are not allowed to buy better armor for themselves or they will get in big trouble.

"The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action."

I'd give you the link, but I can't for some reason.

Be safe, Jeddie! Be safe!

Kevin Wolf said...

Great post, Neddie. I was in that area for the first time in decades about 14 months ago. Disgusting. As you said, a more appropriate symbol, etc. And all to protect Mr Prez-nut. He's so resolute, so brave, he doesn't even look out the windows.

ocenpnvw - Yes, Blue Girl, Cheney's place has an ocean (partial) view.

Bob Dwire said...

Good going Ned. I wish The Squeeze were here to tell what happened to her when she and a girlfriend accidentally turned into a Pentagon car park a month or two back.

We have all become pionsc

Anonymous said...

Yo good! Shit! Another great blog to read.

Anonymous said...

It was not that long ago that people would pull on the North Portico seeking refuge from thunderstorms. Apparently presidents used to have larger balls as even after that "American Cousins" show on 10th street they could be seen for years walking around town. It ain't called Taft bridge for nothing. Hell, even after Garfield. Must be evolution gone awry.
That must be why Bush always does the puffy chested Turkey strut. Trying to look cocky when in reality he ain't nothing but a punk. With a big stick. And hard walk.

Employee of the Month said...

An elaborate network of barricades made up of plastic turkeys and flight suit cod pieces.


Lance Mannion said...

I won't take my kids to visit Washington until those things come down. Does Philadelphia still have Independence Hall caged in? We were in Boston in May. Walked right up to the Bunker Hill monument. Strolled aboard the Constitution pretty easily---there's a little plastic roofed shed you have to walk through with a metal detector inside. In New York City is there anywhere you can't go?

Once upon a time a citizen could walk up to the White House front door and knock. That had to change when those guys went up to the front door and tried to shoot their way in, I guess. But maybe it shouldn't have.

Marisacat said...

Drop dead brilliant post. Thank you.

The first graf is close to unparalled for swift evocation of a complex time.

Stupid Country said...

Fear has been one of my favorite running themes lately and Gore nailed it. So did you, sir. Consider yourself linked.

cd said...

Same damn thang happened to me when I tried to climb one of the Pyramids of Giza, only a rifle was pointed at my head and I was ordered down. Guess I should have learned Arabic before I went. Next time.

The Fat Lady Sings said...

He opened his mouth and roses fell out - replete with thorns. Bravo.

Comandante Agí said...

Don't forget that Nicaragua is still only a two day's drive from Harlingen, Texas.