Friday, January 02, 2009

Would you like fries with your Disunion?

My wish list really works out well for me and my family, bridging the gap between my "wants" which can change from one millisecond to the next and my family's utter incompetence trying to figure out what the hell to get me. Random placement of soon forgotten wish list worthy items often results in me receiving some gifts that are genuine surprises. It was my good fortune to receive Shelby Foote's Civil War, A Narrative for Christmas.

I love history, but never devoted much time to reading about the US Civil War or US history; I've always found ancient & world history much more interesting. Although I may be the only person to have read a book devoted to Lincoln's time in the US House of Representatives -- a book whose title and author I am now unable to find. I followed that up with Trefousse's fascinating bio of Andrew Johnson. Last year I started "Team of Rivals" but it can be very dense and I have not found the spark to pick it up again.

Foote's three volume tome is certainly intimidating, but I am very pleased at how smoothly his narrative style and pacing have drawn me me in. But what kept occurring to me as I read are the parallels between what Lincoln and the nation faced then and what Obama and our nation is facing now.

As we wind our way through vagaries of the Wall Street ponzi scheme and the dreary, bitter, final dregs of the fiasco brought to us by George W. Bush, Corporate America, the Washington DC village idiots, et al., I can't seem to shake the overwhelming sense that this country is seriously, seriously effed up way beyond what even I, the eternal pessimist, can imagine.

Lately I find there are many more things that used to not bother me so much, like the complete and utter trash that most of our culture consists of, that now frequently makes me nauseous. If a Genie gave me three wishes right now, one would be to gather up all the fuckers who make a living selling Extenze and put them on an inflatable raft off the coast of Patagonia in the middle of a winter storm.

I have always been somewhat of a political junkie, but the fact that our political discourse now consists of little more than monkey's merrily heaving molotov cocktails at each other and each other's institutions while proto-Oligarchs and would be Anarchists wait in the wings hoping everything will go to shit just so they could say they were right all along, makes me wonder if we are really capable of tackling the huge problems looming before us.

Reading Foote's description of the political mindset and attitudes in the US, circa 1859, seems eerily familiar to our current political and economic landscape.

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