Wednesday, May 16, 2007


WORD is that in the Republican debate last night on Fox, presidential candidate Ron Paul said some contentious things. Such as that he would close the Department of Homeland Security, and that ten years of bombing Iraq and other features of our involvement in the Mideast were contributing factors to the onset of the "War on Terror." He also questioned the building of a U.S. embassy in Baghdad "larger than the Vatican."

It's true that there's nothing conservative about spending nearly a trillion dollars of the nation's treasure, and thousands of American lives (as well as the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis) fighting an overseas war. This is not a cautious, "conservative" foreign policy. Neither is it fiscally responsible. It's the path of Empire, and will divide us and bankrupt us, as it's doing.

Rather than expend immense wealth on war the last six years, we might have instead used the money to completely retool our economy to end our dependence on oil and cut off ties to the Mideast-- defunding our enemies; evaporating their money. This would have invigorated our economy as well as the nation.

Supposedly the war is a price to be paid for the alleged benefits of the global economy. But how beneficial is it? I note that Chrysler Motors, one-time industrial giant which once had scores of factories employing many thousands of workers at living wages, was bought the other day by an individual financier for around $8 billion. It's a sign of where we're at as a society when individual plutocrats (Bill Gates the notable example) are wealthier than our chief industries. It's a road to economic disaster for the bulk of the population.

Why should any of this matter to writers? Because it's the context within which we live and write. It's part of a dividing America, a divide making itself obvious also in the literary scene. Nowhere is it more visible than in Philadelphia with its mighty Overclass, the well-educated gentry centered around the University of Pennsylvania with its boutique stores and air of monied entitlement, set amid a background of extreme poverty. It's merely another "green zone" itself rivalling the Vatican for display of hierarchical wealth, power, and privilege.

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