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Commentary Last Updated: Dec 29th, 2008 - 01:51:46

Seven deadly absurdities facing the US in 2009
By Ben Tanosborn
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 29, 2008, 00:13

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It has been said and repeated ad nauseam that President-elect Barack Obama has his work cut out for him like no one since Franklin D. Roosevelt way back in 1933. A true understatement, if one is willing to unveil the current state of affairs, one that would make FDR�s problems seem almost manageable, mostly economy-focused, not dealing with peace or international affairs; at least not during his first term. Obama, in contrast, in order to take the right path to �remake� the world�s view of America, needs to recognize all the entrenched absurdities that must be overcome.

Followers of the Abrahamic tradition have acknowledged for millennia, in whatever form, the existence of seven deadly sins, or vices; while at the same time acknowledging seven forms of virtue to counter them.

In like manner, Americans end the year facing seven deadly absurdities, but they also have the knowledge in how to overcome them. Yet, it is likely that they will end 2009 holding on to the same absurdities which they now face as 2008 comes to a close and they succumb to �more of the same� instead of adopting, once and for all, change.

The seven absurdities, alphabetically and not in order of priority, relate to:

Afghanistan -- It�s more than likely that Obama�s administration in an effort to cater to bipartisanship -- which implies inclusion of militarists and ad hawk imperialists -- will trade exit from Iraq with a gift to warrior-America by escalating belligerence in the land where America is hated not just by the Taliban, but by people of other traditions who might accept change by way of outside measured influences, but never through forced adoption of what to them are foreign ways. 

American military presence, even with the addition of Special Forces and other troops, perhaps as many as 30,000 to 50,000, and reluctant but enabling NATO contingents, will do little more than maintain a cordon of �Western security� around Kabul, propping up a government that more than national, it�s municipal, with Hamid Karzai, less a president of the country and more a controversial �mayor of Kabul� at America�s beck and call . . . at least in the mind of most Afghans. The Russians, with perhaps a less corrupt and more humane approach, including a more trusty system of political/public relations, still failed miserably; yet, Americans are ready to throw unaffordable tens of billions of dollars borrowed from China at an absurd, senseless war!

Capitalism -- Americans are just beginning to acknowledge, if not accept, the dismal state of the economy, and the fact that prospects for a recovery, a return to the �good old ways,� is unlikely to be in the cards. Their trust in politicians, the Fed, and capitalism as a system is slowly melting away as they feel deceived by a predatory ruling class. Being in the early stages of a depression, they�re still unwilling to listen to the prophets of doom -- even if in this case �doom� is but obvious truth -- who are claiming a far worse situation than economists in the payroll of government or industry are willing to admit; such as Lawrence Yun, NAR senior economist, who hasn�t been right once on housing in the past three years, providing only �industry-hopeful� forecasts totally out of whack.

It has become patently clear that neither government, nor the Fed, nor anyone in a position of public trust, will tell the American people the truth, whether they are ignorant of it, or whether their preference is not to be emissaries of unpleasant or catastrophic news. Obama, even in his early moments of popular acceptability and glory, won�t dare tell the American people the truth: that their standard of consumption -- not to be confused with standard of living -- will permanently decrease from 20 to 30 percent; and he will be advised by his political circle against telling Americans that such a thing may actually be more coherent and relevant to their overall health, as well as that of the rest of the planet. Unfortunately, politicians� efforts to stimulate spending and burden future generations with the cost of unfair and long-term inefficient bailouts will prove American-style capitalism to work not for the many, but for the few.

A quest for America to export democracy to the world has become nothing short of self-mockery as exports have been relegated to poisonous warmongering and toxic made-in-America capitalism waving creative, worthless, financial instruments and thieving pyramid schemes, a la Madoff. A deadly absurdity promoting predatory capitalism!

Exceptionalism -- It is Americans� belief in this condition of uniqueness . . . that the US does not conform to the mold of other countries; that brings about self-denial and total apostasy to any evidence of truth. Politicians and others in power benefit from this myth to advance their ends. It may take this great depression to open Americans� eyes and clear this absurdity, although next year may prove to be too early for that to occur.

Ignorance -- As it happens with exceptionalism, Americans do not challenge what they are being told by a wimpy corporate press more interested in its economic survival than in bringing truth and open discussion to a clueless mainstream of their own creation. This is one absurdity in America soon to disappear, courtesy of an uncensored Internet.

Impasse -- If there is a cause c�l�bre in American foreign policy it is America�s unfair treatment of Palestinians because of wanton pressure from Israel, its powerful lobby, AIPAC, and an American Jewry that exerts great power and influence over every aspect of American life (academic, business, cultural, political and professional). If Obama is personally unable to break this political-diplomatic stranglehold, and the impasse continues, it will affect any trust the US may wish to reinstitute in Latin America or elsewhere, and not just the Arab/Muslim worlds. This critically pending issue of Israel-Palestine will determine more than any single other thing whether the United States is willing to join the world on impartial terms, or whether America�s imperial absurdity is a reality to stay.

Politics -- As Republicans and Democrats keep intact the entrenched monopoly of the right, little will change politically in the US; the absurdity of political mono-thinking will remain alive and well, other ideas continuing to be viewed as un-American. Only an ongoing worsening of the economy and rigidity in maintaining an assailable foreign policy will bring some fertility to the fields of political populism and a comatose left.

Religion -- Perhaps the greatest absurdity that confronts America these days, and one likely to remain unchallenged for years to come, is the power religion holds over the temporal affairs in the country. The a priori imposition of faith over reason beyond the confines of both spirituality and the constitutional separation of church and state, puts the US on par with the much-criticized theocracies of a less enlightened world.

Absurdities, like vices, may be overcome, but are Americans willing to so do?

� 2008 Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm. Contact him at

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