Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to completely misinterpret the news

As all of you know, a recent development in the Middle East has been an upsurge of popular revolt. In addition to the rampant use of psychotropics among Libyan teenagers, popular revolts have ended the long-standing regimes of Tunisia and Egypt, seem to be on the verge of extracting major concessions from the king of Bahrain and toppling the presidency in Yemen, and have emerged in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, and now even Saudi Arabia.

What always tends to follow in the wake of such geopolitical trends are people claiming that "things would have been different IF" their advice had been followed by the people who ruled such nations and apparently were neither as enlightened or commercial as the little world within the DC Beltway. This rambling discourse is one of those claims. It's titled "A crisis of legitimacy". Unfortunately for the author, the only question of legitimacy is the one aimed at his own grasp of history over the past 100 years.

1. Demographics: He cites a population explosion based on "reduced opportunities for women." Of course, opportunities for women have never been widespread in some of these regimes, going back centuries. There's also an easy counterpoint to this cultural claim in that one of the largest population explosions in US history accompanied a steady expansion of opportunities for women in the 1950s and 60s (the so-called Baby Boom; perhaps you've heard of it, often spoken of in dreadful tones concerning the impending implosion of the US economy given our farce of a public pension system.) But I'm just quibbling here.

2. The so-called "resource curse": Here's where we really get rolling with the Western-centric viewpoint. According to the "resource curse" theory, nations with abundant natural resources are more prone to corruption and a lack of economic, social, and cultural development. Smith is quick to tag the "Ruling Elites" (why is it that so many social entities or theories that are intended to be targets of repugnance are capitalized by conservative writers? Must be an insidious form of Socialism...) with the lion's share of the blame for this phenomenon. Said elites are the type of heinous criminals most Westerners assume must inhabit all of the Middle East, as they keep their downtrodden people impoverished and powerless to prevent their rulers from extracting whatever resources are available and enriching themselves and only themselves with the sale of those materials. But, of course, sale implies having a customer. One doesn't just pump oil from the ground and ship it off to a Swiss bank account. And once you have customers, they're going to be interested in getting the sweetest deal they can find for those resources in order to further the growth of their own economies and enrich whichever corporation is "in theater" (to borrow his phrase) and fomenting this joyous transaction.

Now, which entity has been the largest customer for the primary resource of the Middle East for most of the last century? Which customer has been only too happy to support various despots and dictators to ensure a free flow of that substance to its shores; that support usually being comprised of cash, guns, and the training to use those guns? Which customer has acted swiftly to deter any forces of change within these various crudely drawn states, presuming (rightly) that said forces might not be so pleased to be giving the milk away so easily and might actually have an interest in developing their own nations? Let me think... Oh, yeah...

That last link is to a page written by my friend, William Blum, a former employee of the State Department who has spent much of the last 40 years detailing exactly how the US has gone a bit farther than the "fledgling wannabe-Empire" that Smith claims. From Chiang-Kai-Shek to the Duvaliers and Noriega, the US gladly supported strongmen and vicious criminals around the world. From Mossadegh to the Sandinistas, the US moved quickly to destabilize, isolate, or outright overthrow popular and legitimately elected regimes that conflicted with US economic and private corporate interests. The Middle East is, of course, one of the foci of this global effort, since most of the people living there have the misfortune to have settled on top of our oil.

Those Ruling Elites have existed at the behest of the US to keep their populations in check and to keep the oil flowing. El-Zein? Turned a blind eye. Mubarak? $1 billion per annum in military support and training. The Gulf states and the Saud kingdom? We're the biggest guard dog you've ever seen. Saddam Hussein? Our fair-haired boy until he exhibited a little too much pride. The lone real exception is Qaddafi, but since Libya doesn't really produce that much oil and wasn't invading Egypt, those people could just do without any of that liberty stuff. And now they're using drugs. Degenerates.

The idea that cultural trappings or a weak-willed populace or any of the other speculative answers implied by Smith's essay are what kept the Ruling Elites in power and have ensured the "backwardness" of their respective nations is one put forth by someone who may never have set foot outside the United States. The tepid response by the current administration to the transformations taking place is indicative of changes in that policy brought about by the public's waning interest in conducting extra-national adventures in the name of "national security" (read: Chevron's profits) and the fact that, uh, we have some issues here in Der Vaterland that are more prominent than usual.

But this is my favorite part:

Regardless of their purported ideological flavor, the ruling Elites all relied on the same system of governance: offer a simulacrum of public purpose to the world and the populace, and ceaselessly pursue private confiscation of national income and resources.
Huh. Where have I heard that before? Oh. The iron fist of Empire has, indeed, been covered with the attractive glove of freedom, but not where Smith thinks.

Oh, and his presentation of Pakistan as an example of colonial interference creating unstable new nations is patently ridiculous, given that the British argued to keep the dominion of British India whole, but unimportant people like Gandhi, Nehru, and Jinnah knew that would be impossible. You can blame the British for a lot of things (including Mossadegh, in part) but not that. It's all here. He clearly knows of the existence of Wikipedia, but obviously not for even cursory research.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sonnets to Telemann, part I

(in the manner, but without a shred of the talent of, Bill the Bard):

About the dark and empty night you float
Amidst the cold and silent reach of mind
The piercing sound of horn and string to note
Your face and form and eyes I yearn to find
Beyond the reach of hand or form or grasp
Within the hope of dreams to play a part
I cannot cling to mist or breast yet clasp
But 'plaint the ache and yearning of my heart
The song gives rise to thought of what could be
The empty space at hand belies that ghost
Your shape and warmth and soul I cannot see
No tune brings forth the light your heart might host
As I but wish to feel the touch of hand
The music fades and leaves but Morpheus' sand

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cue the shivers

I don't play any instruments. I kind of doubt I have the talent for it but I've never made a concerted effort so I can't verify it one way or the other. My parents felt it was necessary to put my sister through the unwanted travails of piano lessons but never subjected me to it/gave me the opportunity. I suppose they thought that excelling in school was sufficient to get me through life, devoid of other talents, or some such thing. The more likely reason is that they just didn't care and I, in turn, didn't either.

But music became really important to me in my early teen years, in part because it was one of the ways that I could more easily associate with the older people in my classes in the process of skipping two grades. If we could all relate via music that we liked (and that our parents likely didn't), then we could all be part of a group, as opposed to Them and Me. But mostly because something in it simply, uh, sung to me. I could see and appreciate the energy and effort that went into it and that it consequently produced. I've met few people that can get through life without music at some time, but I found a need for it pretty much all the time.

I jumped into the music world with both feet, as I am wont to do with most things, and had music playing around me as often as possible. Worked with it, studied with it, slept with it. I began to learn things about the musicians that I was hearing and started noticing tendencies and styles and genres and techniques. I especially began to notice moments that simply worked for me; that I could pick out and remember even apart from the surrounding sound and almost cringe at the force or delicacy or precision with which it was played. Just as an example, here's Bitch from the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers:

Keith Richards' counterpoint chord from the very beginning of the song is played in tight fashion, so the driving beat by Mick Taylor concentrates the energy and Keith releases it with those little twangs. It's at 2:10 where he starts one of the great solos in all of rock and 2:50 where he takes it to the next level. Both of those moments still make the hair on my arms stand on end. There was someone totally immersed in his craft and speaking volumes with one or two notes.

I became deeply enthused with the punk scene. It's what was "now" for when I was coming of age and the politics of the movement in general spoke to me. One of my favorites was Bad Brains because of the primal energy they retained in everything they did (even when they were just doing reggae.) In fact, for the famous "what one album would you have on a desert island?" question, Bad Brains may be it (or Mozart's clarinet, oboe, and bassoon concertos.) This is the track that pushed me over the top with Bad Brains:

Just the growl of Dr. Know's guitar at 38 seconds in makes my chest fill with energy because the band is about to explode with it, as well, and I can feel that. That's communication on a very basic but still very elevated level. They're letting you know that they're about to take you on a ride and you'll enjoy every minute of it, while H. R. yells at you about the loss of your basic liberties and how you're ignoring it.

Mozart's work is rife with little (big) messages of all kinds. For all that he's regaled for the technical precision of his work, Mozart was first and foremost a storyteller and often communicated through his work even when it wasn't accompanied by a libretto. The second movement of the Sinfonia Concertante that I spoke of a couple weeks ago is a perfect example of that, with the plaintive wails of the violin and the viola. But another favorite piece with what seems to me to be a constant driving message is the Rondo of the Haffner Serenade (no. 7, K. 250):

The lead violin (which was largely Mozart showing off, as serenades were traditionally supposed to be background music) propels the entire piece and keeps the listener rolling from one stanza to the next and at 4:20 briefly carries the tone to an even higher level that always keeps me hanging in anticipation (even though I've probably heard the piece a couple hundred times.)

I'm not much for country. I like a little bit of Johnny Cash and my stepmother was a big Jimmy Buffet fan when I was a kid so I have some of that imprinted on my brain (and I know he's not strictly "country" by most estimations) but it generally takes some blues mixed in to really find favor with me, be they Memphis or Irish. Steve Earle does the trick:

That's a piece sung with so much soul it could almost raise James Brown from the dead. You can hear him barking to the band when they come together between the verses because he's so immersed in delivering this story that it just bursts from him.

You may notice a dearth of whatever the current musical rage is (Lady Gaga, Glee, et al.) Despite the fact that I enjoy many types of music and just in the above have traveled from the 18th century to the 00s of the 21st (and the fact that I'm fond of many acts still performing in the last decade, such as Cake and The Crystal Method), I have zero interest in studio-processed crap that relies on the presence of programs like AutoTune to make it function. It has no soul. If you want to make music, make it. If you want to let the computer do it, let it. And get off my lawn.

By the way, while I was writing this, in addition to the tracks above that generate some kind of deep reaction from me, I was also listening to Mastodon's Blood and Thunder, Mos Def's Know That, The Orb's Toxygene, John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom, the flamenco theme from 3:10 to Yuma, Jimi Hendrix's Machine Gun, The Pogues' Sally Maclenanne, and Ice Cube's Wicked, among others. They all engender that same response from me: they're saying something and I know they are because some part of my body tells me that they are on a level that delves deeper than whatever lyrics may be present. If we could find a way to encapsulate that into words, the world might be a very different place.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dramatic pause

I'm an unusual movie buff. Some people just love movies. They'll watch all kinds with enthusiasm, even though they have their favorite genres, actors, directors, and time periods. I'm only enthusiastic about good movies, which is an awfully arrogant way of saying I'm a really picky movie buff. I find it very difficult to countenance the idea of wasting two hours of my life on the next Too Fast Too Furious (even though I thought Vin Diesel's (godawful Hollywood name) performance in Pitch Black was decent), even if I have absolutely nothing better to do (I may be dead; check if I ever say I'm going to do this.)

I have my favorites, of course: early Ridley Scott and John Carpenter, anything by Akira Kurosawa, the Coen brothers, or Stanley Kubrick, every other Kevin Smith film (1, 3, 5, etc.); I could watch Salma Hayek stand in a phone booth for two hours... But most people will look at a movie listing, think to themselves "That sounds OK." and agree to see it if friends or family are going or if they're just sitting in front of the TV. I can't do that. If my thought is "It sounds OK.", I'll probably want to turn it off/walk out halfway through it because I'll start rolling my eyes at the performances or blowing holes in the script or whatever.

Obviously, in life and relationships, you sometimes have to go along to get along. On this, I just can't. It's just alien to me and not in the good Ridley Scott way. A former girlfriend once remarked on it as the most obvious example of how I'm expecting to be around someone(s) who are in tune with (or at least tolerant of) the way my mind wanders, 24-7, and how it will never happen... which is probably one of the sadder statements of my life but, there it is.

So, every year around Oscar time, I spend more time than usual at the nearest theater to see just what is in the running for the little statue and why. Here's where other movie snobs lift their noses and decry the Oscars as "biased", "out-of-touch", and a "popularity contest." All of that is true, but they also tend to spotlight many genuinely good films and are evidence that the American film industry hasn't completely imploded in the way that the music industry basically has. (You couldn't pay me to watch or listen to the Grammy awards. It's all crap.)

This year I ended up seeing True Grit, Black Swan, The Fighter, and The King's Speech all in the space of a few weeks.

True Grit had the advantage of being a Coen brothers production to begin with. I've seen everything they've ever made and show no signs of stopping. Critics kept harping on how they told the story "straight" without their "trademark quirkiness", but those critics must have forgotten the brilliant No Country for Old Men, which was pretty straight, not to mention films like Miller's Crossing and Blood Simple. Most of them are fixated on classics like Fargo and The Big Lebowski (with some justification) and forget that the Coens know how to tell a story as well as any other mainstream dramatist(s), even if no one in it even approaches saying "Yah!" to some hotdish.

Speaking of Lebowski, I thought Bridges was excellent in this role; almost as good as he was in Crazy Heart last year. In the latter, his performance earned him the trophy because he lost himself in it. He basically became Otis Blake and showed me the first time I could look at him and not assume that he was about to spout a line like: "Well, that's just like... your opinion, man." Seriously, when he was on stage, staring at the statuette in his hand, saying: "This is really great.", I completely expected him to follow with: "This is totally gonna tie the room together, man!" Once again, in True Grit, Bridges managed to lose himself, turning the typical drunk cowboy routine into a fascinating character to watch. Matt Damon's performance was good enough to make me fail to recognize him for the first couple minutes he was on-screen and people have been raving about Hailee Stanfield for good reason. She took command of every scene that she was in (aka all of them; how do you get "supporting actress" from someone who's in every shot?) and was the foremost reminder of the excellent conceit that the Coens used concerning the dialogue, in which every occupant of backwoods Texas and Arkansas spoke the Queen's English as if they'd just stepped out of Windsor. It worked well for many of the roles in Deadwood and works perfectly here.

The Coens hewed more closely to the source novel than John Wayne's original did, as well. I'd never seen the original (I'm not a Duke fan, except as a rapper), so I had nothing with which to compare it in that respect. My preference for Westerns aligns pretty closely with the presence of a Man With No Name (who actually did have a name in all three films...; someday soon I'll do a post about Westerns) and movies like those. But I think I agree with my friend, Rodger, who summed up this version of True Grit by saying: "It was just a great film- story, characters, direction -beginning to end."

Black Swan fell short of my expectations. That's not to say that it had any particular failing, but I suppose I went in with a mixture of seriously high expectations for a film with Natalie Portman (a favorite) and Darren Aronofsky (director of the The Wrestler) but little knowledge of or affection for the dance world. As it turns out, I suppose I was expecting something that carried more personal impact with me. I enjoyed it, but once it was over, it was gone. The Wrestler was so poignant and well-done that it stuck with me for weeks afterward, as scenes like Randy's tantrum behind the deli counter would come back to me. Black Swan didn't do that at all.

Part of my lack of enthusiasm had to do with the way in which the "thriller" was delivered. In most movies that carry that label, a certain set of ground rules are established as "normal". Then, the abnormal begins to intrude and, in many of them, begins to mesh with the normal until the audience has difficulty distinguishing one from the other. One film that did this really well was Jacob's Ladder. It set the ground rules of normal in more than one place and then started displaying fantasy in glimpses and then in full scenes, until the viewer is totally lost and wandering as it all fell into place. Black Swan, on the other hand, never established normal. From the first scene, there were elements that seemed real but were then revealed to be fantasy, so we never knew what the rules of the game were.

That being said, I still enjoyed it. Portman, Mila Kunis, and Barbara Hershey were all excellent and Vincent Cassel did a decent job in the first role I remember him doing since the sadly often-overlooked Eastern Promises. Again, holding almost no knowledge of the dance world, I was a bit out of my element, but that didn't stop me from appreciating the commitment neé obsession of many of its inhabitants. I've been in communities where the bonding activity was lived and breathed and I can understand that kind of motivation and I think Aronofsky did, as well; perhaps even moreso than the wrestling world.

I knew the story of Mickey Ward, as I'd kept an eye on his trio of fights with Arturo Gatti back in the early years of the previous decade, so the film was fairly predictable (and probably would have been for many people even if they hadn't followed the real life events.) But it still had a couple elements that really made it sing.

One of these was Christian Bale. I'm a fan of Bale's work. As much as I enjoy the Batman films for their departure from Tim Burton campiness, I'm even more of a fan of things like American Psycho, The Machinist, and 3:10 to Yuma (the latter film even quieting my normal Russell Crowe aversion.) Those were all very affecting or intriguing roles. I think Bale at least matched them all here. In fact, there's room to argue why this was supposedly a film about Mickey Ward, when Dicky Eklund (Bale's role) was far more interesting and went through much more of a traditional transformation than Mickey did. Bale is an actor who maintains his character off-camera and you could really see that in this role, as he really climbed inside Eklund's skin and made it part of himself. The director commented that "Dicky has a music to him" and Bale hit the tune.

The other element was the septet of women playing Mickey's sisters, who played the role of a Greek chorus on PCP; always announcing to the audience when tragedy was about to strike and usually creating or participating in it themselves. You've never seen such detestable and somehow vaguely endearing characters as the Seven Irish Harridans. The movie maintains a pretty serious tone, but they end up somehow delivering most of the comic relief.

Not to be left out are Amy Adams, in a serious departure from her very milquetoast roles in the past, and Melissa Leo, as Mickey's manipulative and passive-aggressive mother (Jack McGee gets a mention in a solid performance as Mickey's harried father, too.) In fact, most of the performances were so strong that they carried the film, turning what was a typical "hard-luck kid makes good" story into an interesting character study. I almost think it would work better as a play. The one letdown in this respect is really Mark Wahlberg, as Mickey. His performance isn't bad. It's just burdened with his trademark woodenness (the only movie in which I've seen him escape this tendency is The Departed) and a role that didn't really give him much to work with, in my opinion, especially when standing next to roles like Bale's and Leo's. It was still a very worthwhile film.

The King's Speech was flat-out brilliant. I admit some hesitation, even after hearing gushing reviews from opinions that I trust. I mean, how interesting can someone learning not to stutter (or stammer, as the English call it) really be? But it was excellent. The script was fantastic, the performances were great, and the very slowly-paced movie kept me totally engrossed from beginning to end.

I'm not familiar with most of Colin Firth's oeuvre. When I first heard his name, the only thing that came to mind was Shakespeare in Love and I completely missed A Single Man, so it was kind of surprising to hear him being lauded so much for this role, but he deserves every bit of it. He pulled off the rather difficult feat of playing the formal British royal while also expressing the deep frustration of his condition without having to chew the scenery like a latter-day Pacino or Nicholson probably would have. You felt the genuine sympathy of some of the bit players in the film, almost gesticulating in trying to draw the words out of him as he struggled to voice them. Geoffrey Rush was his usual adept self. For all that he's lauded for things like Shine, I think these slightly off-kilter roles (yes, that was a Shine joke...) such as Lionel Logue and Casanova Frankenstein (in the subtly hilarious Mystery Men) are the ones that really let him do his best work.

My two very tiny criticisms are that, first, Helena Bonham-Carter was totally wasted in her role. Her range is so great and expressiveness so prominent that having her play the staid, royal British matron is a waste of her talents. The fact that she could pull it off is a testament to her ability and might have been part of the attraction of the role for her. It just struck me as an incredibly confining situation. The second is that I think director Tom Hooper lingered just a bit too long on some of the interactions between Logue and Bertie. That was, indeed, the focus of the film; that their connection enabled the future king to get over his impediment, but it began to get a bit trying near the end, where one more deep exchange of meaning was traded in their lengthy stares (I'm reminded of the incessant crying that took place in the otherwise excellent Lord of the Rings films that had me fearing that all of Middle-Earth might drown by the time we reached the middle of Return of the King.) But those are really minor. It was a genuinely great movie.

So, awards. I'm placing my bets on:
Melissa Leo for Best Supporting Actress (The Fighter)
Geoffrey Rush for Best Supporting Actor (The King's Speech; even though I really think Bale should win.)
Colin Firth for Best Actor (The King's Speech)
Nicole Kidman for Best Actress (Rabbit Hole)
The King's Speech for Best Screenplay
The Social Network for Best Adapted Screenplay
Tom Hooper for Best Director (The King's Speech; I'd favor the Coens)
And the King's Speech for Best Picture.

Back to the real world next time.

Friday, February 4, 2011


My assumption (a safe one, I think) is that you'll never hear the title word used except as satire: "That's unEgyptian, man."

By contrast, one can hear or read the word "unAmerican" on a regular basis here in the homeland. The offending action or opinion varies based on the speaker's homegrown determination of what does and does not qualify, but it's often employed to designate anything that doesn't conform to the "common man's" idea of national identity, firmly (and commercially) delivered to him as something along the lines of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

Nowhere else in the world is national identity so twisted together with self-identity and, consequently, national government. Consequently? Yes. Because despite all the rantings of Tea Parties from every corner of the country, Americans tend to self-identify with their government moreso than almost any other nation. This is something that's been drilled into the collective head of the American public since the late 18th century. They've been told that they are the government and, since the government is them, it not only embodies them in dealing with other nations but also creates a peculiar stumbling block that other nations aren't burdened with.

No one would suggest that the course of events in Egypt (and Tunisia) over the past couple weeks was "unEgyptian"; as if some sacred principle of the Egyptian state were being violated by people demonstrating in the streets of Cairo and demanding the dissolution of state bodies and offices in order to create a brighter future for themselves. On the contrary, they tend to call it something between "democracy in action" and "chaos in the streets", often depending on their socioeconomic status. (As an aside, nothing is more entertaining than watching the US State department's dance over the past two weeks, always one step behind the music, as they attempt to keep up the facade of the scion of liberty and democracy, while not wanting to completely step away from the strongman they've contributed to keeping in power for 30 years. Both the hypocrisy and the US media's willingness to turn a blind eye to it are as hilarious as ever. A friend asked me at one point: "How does this make us look?" I replied: "Like Satan, but retarded.")

But it's not completely reviled in the way that it would be here, because it's not considered to be "unEgyptian." Egyptians are not tied to the state in the same way that Americans are. Egyptians are largely tied to each other moreso than to the bureaucracy that identifies the nation of Egypt. Consequently, when conditions deteriorate to the point that they have and people have reached a sufficient level of anger, they pour into the streets and demand redress from the government for the lack of basic freedoms, from the security apparatus that has kept many of them cowed for 3 decades, and from the rich that have helped keep a vast chunk of the population in dire poverty for just as long. No one will accuse them of violating some enshrined philosophy that says that the people (of whatever nation) simply do not do this because it's unEgyptian, unFrench, unRomanian, unMalaysian.

Why is that?

One answer might be ethnicity. With a largely Arabic and "Egyptian" population, it's more difficult to blame the neighbors for one's problems rather than the rich and government-supported persons that are really at issue. In the US, you can convince poor white people that poor black or Hispanic people are causing their problems, rather than the government which is owned by the wealthy and, thus, serves their interests. It's tougher to convince poor Egyptians that other poor Egyptians are the reason that wealthy people have all the opportunity and the rest of the population can simply suffer.

Another possible answer is that Egypt does not have a national identity based on sanctified statements from 230 years ago. The Egyptian state is a system that is imposed on the people. They have no philosophical attachment to it. But Americans... Americans are taught from birth that they are the state and the reason they embody the state is because a couple pieces of parchment say so, despite all evidence to the contrary. Consequently, to revolt against the state is to revolt against oneself, even in the face of one of the primary figures behind those pieces of sheepskin, Thomas Jefferson, stating thus:
"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.
The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is
wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts
they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions,
it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...
And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not
warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of
resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as
to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost
in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from
time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure." 
What he meant was that the people should never become too placid about the state; that the latter entity should always remain within their direct control and, if it were ever to escape it, "it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it". Somehow, people always seem to forget about that line in the Declaration. But Jefferson was largely alone in those sentiments (James Wilson of Pennsylvania being one of the few delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 who was of like mind.) Most of the other learned men with whom he associated to start the whole mad venture were convinced of the same thing in the thirteen colonies that the US government is convinced of now on the streets of Cairo: democracy is bad.

Democracy lets people actually make choices. If they can do that, they'll often make choices that the people who own them don't like. The US Constitution was written with the express intent of denying actual policy-making choice from the citizens of the United States. US culture has since perpetuated the idea that whatever the government, as an edifice, does is in the name of and to the benefit of the citizenry. That's why it's unAmerican to criticize US foreign policy. That's why it's unAmerican to consider trashing the whole construct and starting anew. That's why it's unAmerican to consider the idea that other nations may have made some improvements on the model (since, y'know, we did it first and, therefore, best.) That's why the TV told you that America's favorite cars were shitty Chevrolets and you believed them because there was a guy selling hot dogs in the stands at a baseball game somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania.

Despite all protestations to the contrary, most people swallow it whole. Check out the slogan of the majority of the Tea Party movement: Take back our government. They're not offended by the fact that the government serves only those people who've bought and paid for it (read: Goldman Sachs.) They're not offended by the idea that the government was designed to exclude them unless they fell in line with whomever the approved "representatives" were and are. They're offended that people inside said edifice aren't spewing the right platitudes and making life better for them by making it worse for the black people or the welfare queens or the atheists or whomever shouldn't be enjoying the American dream by dint of being "unAmerican".

The Egyptian poor revolt against the state and the rich people that benefit from it. The American poor (granted, relatively speaking in the face of the poverty that afflicts much of Egypt) revolt against particular figures within the state or the mythical beneficiaries of those bureaucratic criminals who are manipulating the perfect system that would otherwise make life a Caribbean cruise for the average Tea Partier. You know, if things were right and American with the world and all. Egyptians revolt against the sham government they've been under for 60 years? That's OK. Americans revolt against the sham government they've been under for 230 years? That's heresy.

And if America has been supporting that sham government since Sadat agreed to play ball? Well, that's OK. See, Egypt is sitting on top of (some of) our oil and protecting the western border of the satellite that keeps a US toehold in everything happening there, so if US foreign policy has helped deny basic liberties to Egyptians... maybe that's OK and maybe it should keep happening, too. After all, we wouldn't want the Muslim Brotherhood to come to power and create another overt enemy of the US in the Middle East. Consequently, it's a wise idea to perpetuate the torture and imprisonment of Egyptian citizens who dare to speak out against the state for the sake of preserving the American way of life, principle be damned. Such is the message that has occasionally spewed from CNN and Fox when the daily limit of fear and paranoia had not been reached and viewers were encouraged to apply good ol' American pragmatism to policy. This is how the population continues to embody the government and its associated hypocrisy. Anything else would be unAmerican.