A conversation between a man of legendary fury and his son preparing to go to the barricades about the uses and abuses of Bush hatred.
Great article in New York Magazine by Norman Mailer and his son John Buffalo Mailer.
A few excerpts:
JBM: I don't know that we can make it through another four years of Bush.
NM: Oh, we'll make it through, although I'm not saying what we'll be like at the end. By then, Karl Rove may have his twenty years. Just think of the kind of brainwashing we've had for the last four. On TV, Bush rinses hundreds of thousands of American brains with every sentence. He speaks only in cliches. You know, I happened to run into Ralph Nader recently in Chicago, and I, like a great many others, was looking to dissuade him from his present course. He's a very nice man, maybe the nicest man I've met in politics - there's something very decent about Nader, truly convincing in terms of his own probity. So I didn't feel, 'Oh, he's doing it for ugly motives.' Didn't have that feeling at all in the course of our conversation. Still, I was trying, as I say, to dissuade him, while recognizing that the odds were poor that I'd be successful. At one point, he said, 'You know, they're both for the corporation, Kerry and Bush.' And it's true; both candidates are for the corporation, and I do agree with Nader that ultimately the corporation is the major evil. But in my mind, Bush is the immediate obstacle. He is a collection of disasters for America. What he does to the English language is a species of catastrophe all by itself. Bush learned a long time ago that certain key words, 'evil, patriotism, stand-firm, flag, our-fight-against-terrorism,' will get half the people in America stirred up. That's all he works with. Kerry will be better in many ways, no question. All the same, he will go along too much with the corporations who, in my not always modest opinion, are running America. At present, I don't see how any mainstream politician can do otherwise. Finally, they're working against forces greater than themselves.
JBM: Then what do you think will be the Democrats' tactics?
NM: I'd say they demonstrated their tactics during the July convention. They will look to catch the swing voters and those conservatives who are repelled by the Bush cabal but are still loyal to the Republicans. To do that, the Democrats will present themselves as the good, sensible, highly patriotic, serious party of the middle class, resolute about terrorism, strong for peace, reliable for war, and passionately loyal to the working class and the disadvantaged because - this may be their subtlest claim!- they are the true compassionate conservatives. These tactics do not fill me with joy, but given the brunt of my argument, I confess that I am obliged to go along. The Republicans, in turn, will do all they can to make the street protesters look like the disruptive, concealed, and explosive heart of the Democratic Party. You know, I can't remember an election when the stakes were so high. There has been, after all, such mendacity about the entrance into Iraq. It sits like an incubus over the first week of November.
JBM: Back to Seattle. Where is the protest movement going? Because it is not going to stop after the convention.
NM: It certainly won't. After all, how much can we hope for from this election? If Kerry gets in, he can repair some of the boundless damage Bush wreaked on foreign opinion. But Kerry will still be essentially pro-corporation. No major American politician can afford not to be. In fact, if you outlawed the corporations tomorrow, America would have food famines, a frightening loss of jobs, name it. They are installed for decades to come, and we can't look for quick results. The war against the corporation is profound, as it should be. They are deadening human existence. That, I think, is the buried core of the outrage people feel most generally. There is, after all, a profound difference between corporations and capitalism itself, at least so long as capitalism remains small business. The small businessman is always taking his chances. He leads an existential life. He's gambling that his wit, his energy, and his ideas of what will work in the marketplace will be successful. He can be a sonofabitch, but at least he's out there in the middle of life.
JBM: He's creating something as well.
NM: He could be creating something that's awful. But at least he's taking chances. Whereas the corporation is the reverse. The corporation turns capitalism inside out. The majority of them no longer give their first concern to the quality of their product. Since they have the funds to advertise on a large scale, that diminishes their need for a good product. Marketing can take over by way of language and image. Over the years this has produced a general deterioration of the real value of products for the same real money.
JBM: Well, I agree we're fighting a spiritual war against the corporation. And what we're missing right now is the ability to say, 'We can provide for you, we can make sure you have jobs and food.' What they're offering is stability. What we're offering is a deeper quality of life.
NM: There's one more point I'd like to make. I don't sneer at people who enter protest movements. At the least, it can be good or even necessary for their personal development. But I would like these kids to disabuse themselves of the idea that they are going to have some immediate, exciting political effect. If they have any, it could be negative. And if Bush wins, we're a most divided nation. Kerry can put it together better than Bush. Bush can't solve any of our problems. He never was able to. That may be the main reason he looked to empire-building. He had nothing to offer but world conquest. So, if he's reelected, what will he do if things remain bad in Iraq? You'll look back on the Patriot Act as being liberal and gentle.
NM: All right, but if we lose the election, it's going to be a very expensive spiritual education. I would be much happier if the protest movements could spread their activities over the next four years. I don't have a great deal of hope that most of the people involved are really thinking of this election so much as expressing the need to vent, to gain some self-therapy, and to express their outrage at what's been done to them, plus their need to gain power in the counterculture. There's all sorts of motives, some noble, some meretricious. But it's a poor time to exercise our most dramatic democratic privileges. What we do have over all the years to come is the confidence that we breathe a cleaner spiritual air than the greedbags who run our country, and so it is not impossible that over decades to come, much that we believe in will yet come to be. But I do not wish to end on so sweet and positive a note. It is better to remind ourselves that wisdom is ready to reach us from the most unexpected quarters. Here, I quote from a man who became wise a little too late in life:
'Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.'
That was Hermann Goering speaking at the Nuremberg trials after World War II. It is one thing to be forewarned. Will we ever be forearmed?