On Cutting Out

by Ryan Sanford Smith

In a journal entry in 1940, George Orwell remarked not so much presciently as eternally on a stupefying tumbrel remark of the day:

Apparently, nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99% of the population exist.

Telling, in light of recent events, no? What I love about Orwell’s statement is the same thing I love, at least to an extent, of the Occupy Wallstreet movement as a whole, as well as similar movements through history: the at times dumbing level of frustration one grapples with as one attempts to articulate a rage against an injustice that seems incapable of existing throughout increasingly modern and self-aware points in history. At least, I find myself thinking, the injustices might continue, but there should be no bafflement at the resulting outrage–how can it be anything but the epitome of what it means to be self-evident? But this disconnect–a word that seems somewhat inappropriate, implying that these folks were ever indeed connected to the lowly plebes to begin with–separating off the 1%  is the bedrock of every tumbrel comment.

Genuine revolt-inducing tumbrels are a bit hard to come by in the looming, brutal potentiality of the 24-hour news cycle and relatively media-savvy campaigns, though they still slip out now and then.

What we tend to see is a more nuanced manifestation, chiefly in the current climate of what has been boldly called class warfare. Bold as in, say, a kidnapper calling up not to declare his terms of ransom but to beg to be released from his alleged charge. The 1% sit behind their walls and moats and legions and so lamely and predictably assume their defensive stance. Not so strange, perhaps, how often the powerful and the dominant flinch at the slightest sign of resistance among the peasantry, as if sharing a playbook with the persecutors, so often theocratically based, unofficially or no, who are so quick to claim they are in fact the persecuted. I can’t help but think of this recent ad by Rick Perry, thankfully derided, that contains among a large trove of dubious moments the repeated assurance that he is an unashamed, unapologetic Christian. One must wonder who Rick Perry thinks would be shaming him, or asking him to apologize, in this country? There are of course some of us who are all too willing to do precisely that, but to say we’re the minority is to understate the arrangement and to ignore how fatuous it is for him or anyone else to claim to be evincing any kind of courage in their pious claims.

But if the cliche holds that actions are stronger than words, the current GOP hamstringing of the payroll tax cut (& etc.) legislation is the tumbrel action of our current moment. As this Wall Street Journal opinion piece puts forth, during a time when approval of Congress as a whole and the Do-Nothing GOP mentality specifically are taunting the wisdom that hitting rock bottom incurs any kind of sobriety, the Party of ‘No’ might be managing the goal of disallowing any legislative movement carrying President Obama’s fingerprint, but their political currency as a result is non-existent, and, actually, they seem good and deep into debt–a consideration drenched in its own dull irony. One would think they had learned a lesson from the debt ceiling fiasco, during which polling consistently revealed the increasingly aggravated American  people weren’t focusing on the incumbent administration but rather the GOP obstructionists.

But to truly invoke tumbrelity, we need a good and righteous moment of anger and disbelief; something, in this case that might smell a bit of 1984, or perhaps something we might expect out of Wodehouse’s imagination.

Ah, and our cup overfloweth. The GOP literally walk away from their duty, refusing their middle-class hostage even a short reprieve, and then attempt to deny any visibility of the pathetic, stilted process; who’s watching, anyway? We’re not even here. Big Brother snaps off the feed. The question of why the Speaker of the House commands any control over a strictly non-partisan bit of media coverage should be a loud one and on the mind of every thinking citizen in the coming days.

When the GOP is doing the hamstringing and we find them cutting at their own leg, we might almost be tempted to pity them. Consider that only seven Senate Republicans voted against the measure–or, to frame it in the reverse, only seven seemed willing to vote for what has been termed, appropriately enough, as a tax increase on the middle class. Even this Congress could come together, we might assume, to avoid a tax increase for at least two short months so that they might all have the luxury of even more time to bicker. In assuming this we forget too readily, perhaps at the cost of rich jokes about burning a Boehner at both ends. The same Wall Street Journal piece notes his reversal on the matter in less than a day; one almost feels they can see the strings of the marionette maddeningly tugged in one direction and then another. This is the same ‘brave’ Speaker that famously complained at being put in stark opposition to the president. He shrivels from the spotlight he claims to proudly accept while being spurred and smoked from the hole he’d love to take refuge in by Tea Party conservatives that continue to display their ignorance at playing the political chess game.

What I’m repeatedly reminded of as the months pass is that the Republican philosophy seems very seriously to comprise of ignoring the public, ignoring the president, and hoping the latter will go away by way of the former showing up on their side. Cut the feed, exit stage right, surely this’ll all be looking better for us tomorrow, right? We’re not actually assuring President Obama of a second term by our childish, brutish, artless gestures, right? Hello? Is anyone still out there?