"Nature is somebody's science project"
We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
- Robert Frost, "The Secret Sits"
It is a legitimately demented phenomenon, all the more so because it all started with a joke. Not even a funny joke, either, but a sad and threadbare thing I told only to myself, and no one else. When the clustered elements of our collective national burden erupted in masterfully synchronized bedlam, as they so often seem to, I had that joke to tell myself, and it may not have helped much, but it was there.
Every time another cacophony of freshly minted lunacy was unleashed - lunacy regarding Iraq, the NSA domestic surveillance program, White House defiance of subpoenas, timorously flaccid performances by the Congressional majority, or merely when enduring the repeated "nukyalur"-ized butchery of public political rhetoric was required by my employers, all of which emphatically pegged the needle on my Pandemoni-O-Meter - I had that joke to tell myself.
The joke is spherically terrible, i.e. bad in every possible direction in three dimensions and across 360 rounded degrees. It isn't even a joke, really, which may be why it went so abruptly and bewilderingly sideways on me months ago. The joke, to be embarrassingly honest, is more like some half-bright mantra than anything else. As I came to discover, however, it managed to settle my mind when the needle was in the red. Perhaps the thing is best described as my self-generated Zen koan; though it did not actually stop my mind in proper koan fashion, it kept me from putting my head through the wall, and that made it valuable indeed.
The joke: people say Bush and his people want to raze the core nature of the country itself by wrecking the Constitution, and they're correct. People say Bush and his people are enriching their friends beyond dreams of avarice at our actual expense, by way of war-inflated oil prices; war-captured Iraqi oil infrastructure; the orgiastic plunder of Treasury money through calamitously unsound tax cuts for Bush's pals; and through an Iraq war profiteering scam so unutterably corrupt that it bends the very light. That, and more besides, is what people say, and they're correct.
But all that, along with everything else the Bush crew has done, just isn't enough for them. What Bush and his people really seek, at bottom, is to destroy the basic definition and literal existence of reality itself. They want to destroy reality, rebuild it according to their own blueprint, so the sum and substance of this new reality will accept as axiomatic the idea that lying, stealing and wholesale carnage are badges of integrity and moral clarity. In other words, our comprehensively understood reality today would be replaced by whatever madcap anti-reality currently exists within the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I warned you.
As bad as that chaotically crossbred joke/rant/mantra thing is, it wasn't meant to be anything other than a harmless sliver of wordplay, something that settled my nerves and gave me a private little chuckle - that alone, and nothing more.
Things are different now. It isn't a joke anymore, at least not to me. The premise that the Bush administration has literally been trying to shatter elemental reality on planet Earth has steadily gained traction in my mind. It started as that sort-of joke, then it became an idea, and then it became an actual hypothesis, a working theory requiring research and evidence and argument so that, someday, I can prove it to be an unassailable bone-basic truth.
And yes, the fact that I'm quite serious about this has me quietly yet legitimately concerned for my own mental health. What worries me the most, however, is a freshly minted suspicion that it is already over, that the deal already went down, but almost nobody actually noticed when it happened. I think these Bush folks may have successfully pulled it off right in front of our noses over the course of this past August. I think they may have actually broken reality, cobbling together a chaotic replacement, and I think I can back up that supposition all the way down the block and back again.
Bear with me.
The process began in earnest more than a year ago with a publicity campaign that deliberately made no sense whatsoever. Day after day, statements and declarations came from all manner of White House officials that were little more than bags of over-the-moon nonsense - all patently inaccurate to nine decimals, yet spoken shamelessly into cameras with bare faces hanging out.
With this, the Bush folks laid the mental foundation of the new reality to come; that foundation had to transmute lies into facts while still stuck in the old reality, but they had an edge that may have proven decisive: trust. If the American people hear the White House repeatedly claim that water is not wet and Godzilla is real, many of those Americans will believe it after a fashion.
The rumored totality of America's cynical scorn for politics and leaders notwithstanding, this country has many citizens who still believe, even after what has happened, that if the president of the United States says it, then it must be true. This isn't a conscious thing; it happens way back in the slushy part of the brain, where unpleasant facts or disquieting fears are submerged and drowned like rats in an applesauce vat. Bush and his crew counted on that, using TV news messaging to furrow the field in preparation for seeding time, and their trust in the trust of Americans was shown to be well-placed.
When the serious push came, it came fast and furious. Dick Cheney declared that the Vice President's office no longer existed within the Executive branch because he didn't want to give any of his documents to the National Archives as is required by law, and actually went on to defend the legitimacy of his astonishing, arrogant, galactically mistaken declaration, and he got away with it.
Bush's lawyers put forth a claim of Executive Privilege that was the very living essence of overheated hubris run amok - a claim that for all intents and purposes declared Bush and his people to be fully and completely above the rule of law, and he got away with it. Subpoenas issued by Congress were either utterly ignored or smugly slapped aside, and the lawyers got away with it.
Another piece of draconian surveillance legislation aimed at shattering our remaining rights arrived in Congress, so the Bush folks brazenly bullied the majority into passing it by threatening to blame them for the next terrorist attack to come, whereupon the majority instantly wilted like orchids in a snowbank, the bill passed with room to spare, and once again they got away with it.
Cheney's chief of staff was convicted for lying about lying about lying about outing a deep-cover CIA agent and sentenced to federal prison, initiating the single most observably crooked bag-job in modern political history: Libby took the bullet for his boss, got rewarded for his service with a presidential get-out-of-jail-free card, and they all got away with it.
All of this was deployed in rapid succession, presenting the American people with a sudden feast of gibberish that has redefined incoherence across the board: the VP is not in the executive branch, and the executive branch is above the law, and the majority in Congress is actually the minority, and obstructing justice to protect Cheney from being prosecuted for annihilating a CIA operative isn't anything to get in a snit about. If that is not prima facie evidence that a new reality has been imposed upon us, then I don't know what is.
After all that came August, and if I'm right, the process was brought to a successful conclusion. In a way, this was the greatest challenge for Bush and his people, because they all had to argue time and again that Iraq was doing fine, that the whole thing was about freedom, that there was no civil war, that the "surge" worked, that the American people truly supported the whole bloody carnivorous process, and be damned with poll numbers and pundits and contradictory facts. General Petraeus was rolled out on cue, he hummed his bars and faked it at the same time, and as far as the mainstream press was concerned, the White House won the argument and that's that.
Think about it. The weapons of mass destruction were not there, connections to 9/11 and Osama bin Laden were not there, the hearts and flowers were not there, thousands upon thousands have been killed, billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars have been translated into the bank accounts of administration allies, a civil war is raging beyond any semblance of control there, Iraq's much-ballyhooed democracy is almost as chaotic as the streets outside Parliament, and the entire disaster has become a Quantico training ground for scores of bomb-makers looking to ply their trade in the wider world beyond.
And they got away with it. If that is reality, I want no part of it.
It must be clearly understood, however, that I do not discount the very real possibility that I have, finally and for all time, gone insane because of all this. My theory is not proven beyond doubt; my suspicions grow stronger by the hour, but I could simply be this barking madman no longer able to recognize reality even when it is staring me in the eye. I'm pretty sure of my footing, but the truth is that if I did go over the high side somewhere along the line, I'd be the last person to figure that out.
Therefore, I'm going to wrap myself in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, if only to replace what once was my comforting little joke before the metamorphosis flipped everything upside down on me. "The test of a first-rate intelligence," said Fitzgerald, "is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
I make no claim to any sort of first-rate intelligence, but I'm going to try to hold these two thoughts in my mind for as long as possible. One thought says reality itself has been detonated with calculated premeditation by Bush and his people. The other thought remembers what it was like before anything like the first thought was even remotely conceived of. Each thought, I think, will nurture and protect the other once the three of us are all settled in, and I will continue to retain the ability to function.
Meh. Reality is overrated anyway.