Crimes of Aspiration
And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine - Bob Dylan
Around the time of the 2002 Academy Awards, a screenwriter somewhat estranged from Hollywood told me he felt like flying a plane into the Kodak Theatre. (Whoopie Goldberg was hosting, so he probably wasn't the only one.) He had no flight experience, no access to an aircraft, no history of violence. He wasn't "operational" - just some guy who happened to be pissed off and briefly indulged in a dark fantasy. But by the seeming logic of last week's Miami arrests, Whoopie and the motion picture establishment don't know how close they came to becoming a stain and a ruin among smouldering Bob Mackie originals.
It's a stretch to call the Miami 7 amateurs. Like even mediocrity requires talent, being an amateur takes avocation. If they had been true amateurs, they would have sought explosives and weapons' training from their make-believe "contact," rather than new boots and uniforms. These guys were playing paintball al Qaeda. They were no more amateur terrorists than a daily regime of lip-syncing and air guitar might make me an amateur musician.
Miami and South Florida, of course, do not want for terrorists, but they are the amateurs who have been made operational by the true professionals who dream the dark fantasies of empire into being. It is these deadly amateurs who become the empire's tactical expression. Robert Parry does a nice job detailing US national security's hypocrical embrace of mass murderers such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada. (Though "national security" means very little when nations are essentially meaningless.) And after the Cubans have come others, like Atta and Al-Shehhi, who landed in the old Iran-Contra milieu and helped supersize it into the "War on Terror."
The case of the Miami 7 also implies the domestication of the terror threat - we have seen al Qaeda, and it is us - but as with Katrina, which saw resourceful whites "scavenge" supplies while blacks "looted," race and poverty remain defining characteristics of the ruling class's scaremongering. It can no longer be said, even fallaciously, that "we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here," because they are here already, and they're looking like the poorest and darkest of us.
Just as America's policy towards the Middle East and the Muslim world has not been composed of false steps but rather calculated provocations, so too it's war at home, with the disappearance of the middle class and the ongoing projects of disenfranchisements. That the sharpening of tensions breeds resentment and violence should surprise no one, least of all those wielding the sharpener. And the violence needn't be more than an impractical thought to be treated as a credible threat.
In the June issue of Harper's, Ben Metcalf wrote:
Am I allowed to write that I would like to hunt down George W. Bush, the president of the United States, and kill him with my bare hands?
Let me be clear that I have no wish to perform such a deed in fact, nor do I want anyone else to destroy bodily what is, at least in the technical sense, a fellow human being. (Let me be equally clear that the above qualification, although true, is intended primarily as a legal ploy and should in no way be attributed to my claimed pacifism, which today's prosecutor might find a way to use against me. I would also like excused from the proceedings my personal feelings for George W. Bush, embarrassment and rage, as they could probably be turned to my disadvantage as well.) In truth, I bring neither a message nor a promise of violence. I seek only to gauge what level of discourse is still acceptable in this country by asking, in the hope that I might someday participate in that discourse, whether I am free to posit that it would probably be great fun, and a boon to all mankind, if I were to slaughter the president of the United States with my bare hands.
Ben Metcalf was allowed to write that, and it probably didn't hurt that his name is Ben Metcalf and his magazine is Harper's. Someone with another name, writing farther afield from the mainstream, might have had the knock on the door by now. America's affluent white liberals may feel better entertaining the fantasia that their thought crimes make them enemies of the state, but it would appear they are still far too comfortable to make the enemies' list.
By the way, my family and I are moving to a new home over the next couple of days, so while we pack-up and unpack my time online will be disrupted. I hope not by much.