A Coal Miner's Death
January 11, 2006
R. D. Kushner
Every once in a while, the geometry of life organizes itself into the simplistic pattern of a ceramic tile floor. In moments like these, order appears obvious and self-evident when only moments before there appeared to be only chaos and random motion. All at once, deliberateness prevails and ideas are clearly delineated and comprehended as distinct puzzle pieces within a richer, more complex tapestry.
James Frey, the author of a book endorsed by Oprah Winfrey's book club, has been accused of lying about the content of his best-selling autobiographical book, "A Million Little Pieces." Readers feel betrayed that the author would lie, or distort events in his life for dramatic impact; and in this betrayal, they scrutinize the content of the book and seek to uncover the truth about the reality which the author has hidden among prose and literary allegory.
On January 10, 2006, The New York Times covered this story with the intensity of a Ritalin-induced deliberation (link); neither the author nor the publisher seeming to show the least bit of embarrassment that the primary source for the article was a glorified blog, The Smoking Gun (www.thesmokinggun.com). After poaching the scoop [with a footnote of course] the author goes on to state, "The discrepancies and Mr. Frey's reported admissions of falsifying details of his life raise questions about the publishing industry's increasing reliance on nonfiction memoirs as a fast track to the best-seller list."
This is the moment of clarity. The obvious alignment of ceramic floor tiles laid out in a predictable and repetitive grid, flashes as brilliantly as a thousand suns.
"The falsifying of details raises questions about the publishing industry." This is irrefutable. The suggestion is that making money on best sellers is more important to the publishing industry than being honest about the content of its authors' books. There is a conflict of interest between profits and truth. Lies are acceptable as long they result in profits. The publishing industry is nothing more than a microcosm of the American government. Substitute power for profit and the game is played by exactly the same rules.
In Today's America, scrutiny over the truth contained in a literary work of autobiographical nature is deliberated in the New York Times, while blatant and repetitive government lies and distortions are ignored or discussed as minor political inconveniences. George Bush lies to Americans and then offers both a rationalization for his lies and then a condemnation of those who would seek to uncover his lies. David Copperfield or the great Houdini himself could not offer better examples of slight of hand.
Hiding behind a flimsy façade of national security and stoking the flames of fear, the President of the United States says that he will continue to spy on Americans without a warrant, because he doesn't think that to do so is breaking any laws. At the same time, a Republican Congress begins an investigation to find the source of the leak which uncovered the fact that the President and his administration were performing wire taps without warrants; something the president previously said would not be done. This is akin to telling a police officer that there is a rape in progress down the block, and then getting arrested for reporting the crime. Congress should issue a medal of honor, not an indictment, to the person who leaked this wire-tapping information to the New York Times.
This isn't about being a Republican or a Democrat. This is about the rule of law, and the extent to which a politician can get away with lying in order to consolidate power. George Bush is the Random House of American political reporting. He publishes what he wants, when he wants; no matter what the content, no matter how thick the lies, regardless of the paucity of fact or the immorality of the content. President Bush continues to act as the arbiter of truth, performing feats of wild west lawlessness, as a means to consolidate power and turn a political profit.
As President Bush continues his magnificent contortions of miscreant politics, his shareholders - the Republican party - watch excitedly as their stock in government continues to grow. As long as the President keeps that smile on his lying mouth, and his business-party constituents in their Congressional seats, Republicans throughout the country trust his judgment and sing his praises. This is the great moral divide of the 21st Century. Power is a political commodity to be acquired at any cost; and those that seek it will do anything to keep it. The rule of law is bent and twisted by forces greater than gravity; the human mind becomes an echo chamber for magnifying the great American corporate ethos.
The corporation is the canary in the coal mine. The corruption exhibited in the corporation's search for profit is the result of a lack of laws and a lack of oversight from the government. As Mayor of New York City during the 1990's, Rudolph Giuliani can be credited with lowering crime rates and cleaning up the city. He did so with draconian laws and relentless law enforcement, not by asking criminals and miscreants to voluntarily abide by the rule of law. Giuliani did not simply ask politely for voluntary lawfulness and then pretend he wasn't responsible for crime; he demanded lawfulness at all levels, even threatening to punish lawbreakers for crimes as banal as jaywalking.
The Bush administration isn't following this playbook. In their greed for power and control of the American Government, they have unleashed the corporation on American culture without providing the proper oversight or protection from the malfeasance of this psychotic entity - and then, the administration attempts to dodge all responsibility for the deplorable results. In return, the corporation provides the American government with the huge sums of money needed to sustain political campaigns; which results in further political benefits for the corporation at the expense of the American public. Profits must increase. Power must increase. Political growth follows economic growth; and economic growth leads to political growth. The ends and the means are interchangeable; and laws are written to protect the few instead of the many.
The Republican monikers of tax cuts and deregulation are the carbon monoxide in the coal mine; they create an atmosphere of mass irresponsibility, voluminous immorality, and myopic selfishness. In the wake of this new, noxious, anti-culture, the growing disparity in wealth between the richest Americans and the poorest is at an all time high, and corporate and government corruption have resulted in enormous scandals affecting all Americans: Enron, Ken Delay, Congress, Jack Abramoff, WorldCom, Bernard Ebbers, Tyco, Dennis Kozlowski, Adelphia, John Rigas, Arthur Andersen, Joe Berardino, Qwest, Joseph Nacchio, AIG, Maurice Greenberg, [just to name a few].
Most Republicans refuse to acknowledge any connection between deregulation and corporate corruption. This lack of insight condemns Americans to suffer a coal miner's death; a slow asphyxiation due to lack of oxygen. It is tragic, like the story about a young coal miner from West Virginia clinging to life against the odds. As sad as Randal McCloy's story is, and as frenzied as the media has become, this single tragedy is overshadowed by the larger calamity engulfing all of America. All the signs are in plain sight. The canaries are lying dead all around, and yet nobody is doing anything about it.