Thursday, March 21, 2013


No, the title is not a misprint. I wanted a word that would be a short and convenient way to describe something that is both absurd and an obscenity at the same time. There are many things about American culture that are absurd, and there are also a few genuine obscenities, but these two characteristics present at the same time are not quite so common. Absurdities are so common it would be possible to argue that American culture is nothing short of a culture of absurdity, but that would be a much longer and more complicated topic. Genuine obscenities are far less common but are present none the less.
Consider what I regard as a genuine abscenity, the situation at Guantanamo. There are a large number of prisoners being held there, most of them for several years; they have never been charged with anything and are known to be innocents. Having never been charged they have of course never been tried. They are being held nonetheless, there seems to be no real effort to discharge them, and it appears they will apparently spend the rest of their innocent years incarcerated for no reason. I submit  this is absurd, and it is also certainly an obscenity.
An absurd situation exists with respect to assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. It is doubtful that laws prohibiting them will be passed, indeed, doubtful they might even come up for a vote. As there is no reason why civilians should possess such weapons or magazines, and good reasons why they should not (virtually every massacre has involved such weapons), this is, again, an abcenisty.
Take also the truly absurd situation that prevails in our VA health care. It is apparently the case that our veterans, depending on where they live, have to wait more than 600 days to receive any care at all, let alone the kind of care they need and were promised. I regard this as a true abscenity.
The fact that we now have privately owned and operated prisons is also a candidate for being an abscenity. Private prisons are operated for profit, thus the more inmates they acquire the more profit that can be made, and the fewer amenities the inmates are offered is also a source of profit. This is absurd on the face of it, and when you consider the obvious links to our ridiculous drug and immigration laws, and on the ethnic backgrounds of those more likely to be incarcerated, it also represents an obscenity. The profit motive itself, the main force driving our economy, could itself be considered an abscenity because of the harm it inflicts over time on the citizenry. No vital human needs should be privatized, not health care, energy, water, air, food, shelter, whatever. I suppose you could privatize things like cosmetics, jewelry, art, and such without doing undue harm to anyone but even that might be doubtful.
I guess perhaps the mother of all abscenities is the fact that Bush/Cheney are still free to walk around and boast openly of their blatant war crimes. While this might be understandable from a political perspective it is basically absurd, and given the irreparable and terrible damage and deaths they caused to so many thousands it is clearly obscene.  
There are also potential abscenities, that is, abscenities that may eventuate that are not yet full-blown cases. I suspect President Obama’s surrender to Bibi in Israel could be a case in point. After his rather obsequious speech praising Israel as such a wonderland we would defend no matter what (no matter how many war crimes and crimes against humanity they are responsible for year after year), and after receiving Israel’s highest civilian honor, and after claiming Netanyahu as his dearest pal, is anyone going to believe he can be an honest broker in bringing about a Palestinian state? I don’t believe it, and I doubt that many Palestinians believe it. Speaking of a two state solution with a viable Palestinian state is one thing, seeing it materialize is quite another. I wonder how close he’s going to be with Bibi when it comes to actually trying to get Israel to give up even an inch of their stolen land. This could prove to be a genuine abscenity as Obama’s surrender to the Israelis is absurd and the obscene treatment of the Palestinians will almost surely continue. I sincerely hope I am wrong about this but seeing will be believing and I am quite sure I will never live long enough to see a viable Palestinian state (and you probably won’t either).

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