March 1st, 2010 10:19 EST
Have Americans forgotten what made them individualists?
One of the things I learned about bullies in boarding school is that you have to throw the table over and spill the game on the floor to deal with them, because the system, the game, is loaded in favor of giving bullies cover.
Not surprisingly, it strikes me in my old age as odd that America, which prides itself on its individualism, should be willing to provide bullies so much cover as long as they fly a corporate rather than a government flag.
Perhaps the apotheosis of this cover-up is the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals and are therefore free to bribe our elected officials at will. This is not a license to corrupt, it`s an improved license to corrupt.
What I learned the hard way in boarding school is that the establishment would go to almost any lengths to cover up bullying and abuse, including aggravated assault and molestation. But if I threw the table over, refused to play the game "became an outlaw, in other words "then some measure of justice might be meted out. It is passing strange that America, which loves its outlaws, should be so law-abiding when it comes to winking at institutionalized robbery.
Why are Americans so willing to countenance corrupt bankers, corrupt investment advisers, corrupt insurers, corrupt health care providers, corrupt pharmaceutical companies "while accepting the ad hominem notion that government is the root of all evil? Is it because so many of us aspire to become corruptors? Is it because Las Vegas is our spiritual capital? Do we know the dice are loaded and want in on the con? Or is it rather that the corruptors have succeeded in making government the scapegoat while the real culprits are celebrated as free-market entrepreneurs?
Surely our predicament comes from our distrust of government, instilled in us from the very start of our dispute with arrogant England. But how has our individualism become severed from our common sense, our street smarts? If we stick to the story that Jesse James and his gang were fighting a predatory railroad and its bankers, why are we so loathe now to see how these same predators have destroyed the middle class and excavated a chasm between rich and poor? Is it because we think Wall Street is the James Gang and government is the railroad?
And how has a country that prided itself on offering shelter to the trammeled scapegoats of the world become so willing to scapegoat its own government when the evidence so overwhelmingly suggests that we have transmuted from the project of creating an enlightened, participatory capitalist democracy to a corporate kleptocracy?
These morose thoughts came to me yesterday as I read a story about Harry M. Markopolos and his lonely and courageous pursuit of Bernard Madoff, the Ponzi crook who ruined trusting investors. Markopolos says the Madoff scam was the tip of an iceberg. He and his colleagues are taking a hard look at health care and pharmaceuticals.
What will it take to convince Americans that their taxes are a pittance compared to the ways our corrupt and thieving corporations "helped by our bought and paid-for Congress "are screwing them?
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com