We've been traveling in Europe since early June. I'm writing this in Amsterdam, latter July.
And man, has it been wonderful, being away from America. Away from the news, from the blogs, from the politics 24/7. Sure, I've snuck a scan of the Herald Trib in a hotel lobby or two. But mainly this has been one big dreamy Sunday-lunch break (my girlfriend's a food critic) from the state of the USA. I'm surrounded by foreign papers, and the only lingo I try to decode is the soccer headlines. Oh, may it never end.
But it did. Libby got commuted.
And it all came back, more acute than ever: blogs-news-politics-24/7. On a tide of American Nausea.
It's multi-edged, this Nausea (as it were). From some distance of space and time, Bush & Co's hostile takeover looks so egregiously vivid, so outrageous, so, I dunno, contemptibly beyond belief. The Nausea comes in from the causes of this outrage and disbelief continuing unabated.
Nausea as in Burned Out. Soul sick and beyond getting well. Existentially gone.
Is it simply without bottom or end, the vat of offenses against the Constitution that this clown prince of a Pres feels free to spoon from?
Post-Watergate, post-Contragate, does Bush just get to zipper up in broad daylight anyone who could implicate him or his crew in clearcut felonies? (Libby, Harriet Myers, Sara Taylor)
Does he? [Update 7/26: Congressional contempt citation for Myers? No full vote till fall]
Does this Smirker in Chief just get to stand in the Rose Garden and lie his delusional incompetent head off, lie after lie after gaping catastrophic lie, him or his minions... and then just strut away into the '08 sunset?
Is Cheney still at large, still not cuffed and forcibly medicated in the basement of a home for maniacs somewhere?
Can Alberto Gonzalez TRULY STILL BE Attorney General or even a member of the bar, here in July?? [Update 7/26: ???]
Are the Democrats in Congress still so feckless and fearful, such field mice flipflapping their teeny paws and baring their teensy teeths? (Ok, they pulled an all-nighter)
Has the Republican Party not yet been indicted as the organized crime syndicate they so blatantly are? A racketeers' ring of fat cats, bad-faith goons, and heaven-offending hypocrites.
And the Supreme Court--oh, let's just not go there. (For how many years and years will one have to be saying this?)
And the media, and their non-stop hours of one burning automobile, their delirious icons shrieking THE TERRORISTS ARE COMING!!! Their fake universe of inanities and personalities while democracy and the world sink into flames.
But this is new? No, it is so endless still; so old old old.
Here in Amsterdam we drink kriek cherry beer at a "brown café" (what they call the cozy ole bars) by canalside of an afternoon. Lisa, a young aspiring Dutch writer, asks, "But if, as you claim, Bush has such low approval with most Americans, shouldn't you be having a revolution or something, like Russia in 1917?"
I shrug. I mumble. "Yeah, it's hard to understand..." And then I order another yummy canalside kriek (a Belgian beer, by the way, like most of the good beer in Holland.).
Back in Barcelona two weeks ago, a guy said: "America is about to have a nervous breakdown." He said this in a sharp Boston "townie" twang. His name is Steve, he lives is Rome, he moved there from the North End a while back to take orders as a Franciscan. He's now an ex-Franciscan. He used to share an apartment right behind Bernini's Colonnade at St. Peter's; he could have thrown a rock and hit Ratzinger. (He smiled) (Natzinger, they call the Pope in Rome). "Americans are living dual lives," declared Steve. "You have the government telling you things over and over, and you live the actual reality and it's all completely different."
After 9/11 Steve flew back from Rome to visit his family. At that time he had a goatee, which gave him a slightly "dark" look. So he was pulled aside and searched extra, getting on the plane; and then getting off the plane, he was pulled aside again, and third-degreed by a very young US agent with a gun. Doing what in Rome? How long? And then:
Why would you want to leave the United States and live somewhere else?
At this, Steve lost it and told the kid with the gun to effectively shove it. "Call those other agents over, I want to speak to them. And it's Father Steve to you!" he added, as he was still using his Franciscan passport. ("Wow," I murmured). There was a big how-do-you-do; but he prevailed.
As he told this story his voice flared with outrage and emotion; at one point he was suddenly almost roaring. All too familiar to me. It's been my tone too, since Bush arrived, this crescendo of roaring and ranting--at dinner parties, at cocktail parties, at gatherings of any kind. My girlfriend has taken to pretty much banning me from "talking politics" when she's around.
That's another edge of the Nausea. Talking politics, writing politics, reading politics: to what end?
Back in June we were in Turin by the Italians Alps, the city that Fiat built (along with the Savoy royals). Here vermouth was invented; the local ornate bars and cafes feature lavish spreads of free snacks at the "aperitivo" hour. Turin's favorite son author, Cesare Pavese, was a fan of these "aperitivo" palaces. He was a 1940's existential type, who famously committed suicide for love (of a minor American film actress) ; and from political despair. Over a glass of vermouth (too strong, I forgot to have it cut with soda), I pondered one of Pavese's lugubrious maxims:
"One stops being a child when one realizes that telling one's trouble does not make them any better."
But what then to do? Sign another petition? ("Dear Harry Reid....") Support another Congressional candidate? Vote in one more election?
Scott Ritter contends (somewhere) that America must find a way to graphically renounce all that Bush has stood for. De-Bushify. Indeed. But how, exactly? Fill the streets until impeachment? General strike until Bush & Co are shipped to the Hague? Do what, realistically?
"Realistically"...what a word.
We went on a sloppy, nerve-wracking boat ride along the Amsterdam canals (I steered). It was terrific. There was a Dutch girl aboard, from the Hague ."We hope Bush gets a visit to your city," I yelped. "For a long unhappy time!"
"Hey, we don't want him anywhere near us," she laughed back. And raised her big green can of Heineken.
It's been a rainy summer in Amsterdam. Nothing new in that--except these days the rain comes hammering down in monsoonish torrents. And this astoundingly lovely, drizzly city huddles under blasts of ferocious, tropics-like thunder. "Our Global-Warming Summer," they call it.
Thanks to UBER.COM, where this piece first appeared on my new blog Brain Flakes.
Also at Smirkingchimp.com