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Bridges to Nowhere

“War Erupts in Georgia,” was the headline on page A3 of the Centre Daily Times, August 9, 2008. Joseph Stalin flashes immediately into educated people’s minds as soon as Georgia, formerly a state of the Soviet Union is mentioned. Stalin, a native Georgian, was, as every school child ought to know, Communist dictator of the USSR from 1924 to 1953, during which time he murdered countless millions. Following the example of English prime minister Neville Chamberlain, Stalin signed a mutual non-aggression pact with Hitler, another nasty; then after Hitler betrayed him, formed an alliance with England and the United States. Thanks to Roosevelt’s Lend Lease Act, called military Keynesianism, and with the aid of Detroit’s assembly lines, and the United Auto Workers, Stalin crushed the German armies on the eastern front. The Lend Lease Act was the beginning of the military industrial complex, which pulled America and the rest of the world out of the Great Depression. Stalin and the Western Democracies then agreed to the partition of Europe into Eastern and Western blocks. Georgia remained part of the “evil empire,” until Gorbachev and Yeltsin dismantled the Soviet Union, after which the United States aggressively sought to bring formerly eastern block republics, including Georgia, into the North Atlantic Treaty organization, know as NATO.

“We do have to remind ourselves what this is all about,” said the announcer on National Public Radio one morning. Indeed we do, I had already resorted to Wikipedia, where I was reminded that “On August 7, 2008, Georgian forces heavily shelled the city of Tskhinvali and entered South Ossetia, which is situated on the border with Russia, in an attempt to bring the region under government control” Tskhinvali is an ethnically Russian city and it is not surprising that, as Wikipedia reports, “Russian military forces retaliated by entering South Ossetia and allegedly launching a series of airstrikes against Georgian forces.” The Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2008, provided the following statement, useful for its succinctness, as well as its rhetoric: “Georgia, a staunch U.S. ally, launched a major offensive Friday to retake control of breakaway South Ossetia. Russia, which has close ties to the province and posts peacekeepers there, responded by sending in armed convoys and military combat aircraft.”

Some professors tell their students never to use Wikipedia; others tell them to ignore the New York Times. I always cite the Rupert Murdock-controlled Wall Street Journal, as my authority of record, anticipating and seeking to avoid accusations of liberal bias.

The Wall Street Journal of August 8, featured an article reporting on China’s relationship to the disputed state of Taiwan, which “continues to await Washington’s approval for the purchase of some $11 billion of U.S. military equipment that the island’s government is seeking. Some political observers in Washington believe an apparent freeze on the deal will be lifted after the Olympics, when such sales will be less politically sensitive. Others say President George W. Bush may prefer to defer decisions on the matter to the next administration.”

But, of course, Tskhinvali and Taiwan were not at the top of the weekend’s TV news. The right wing media, along with the more moderately conservative conglomerates such as CNN and the three NBC manifestations focused on the Olympics, or the personal problems of former Senator and erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, whose sexual affair of earlier this year reportedly disqualifies him from any future in American politics.

Americans ask their politicians to embody virtues that we do not practice ourselves, whether that relates to household economics or sexual chastity. We run up debt while demanding the government to balance its budget and stop “building bridges to nowhere.” Congressman Barney Frank is apparently the only American politician who sees any connection between the inflated prices of our real estate and our $53 trillion national debt. Hypocrisy is not confined to economic values; Americans run freely through a chain of sexual partners but expect politicians to be like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion.

In sexual politics, just as in geopolitics, “we have to remind ourselves what this is all about. ” There are troublesome differences in the interpretation of territorial rights and responsibilities when it comes to sex. Americans like to think of themselves as monogamous, but really subscribe to serial polygamy, which means that people are allowed to have sex with as many people as they wish, although, ideally, one should only have sex with one partner within the same time-frame. Thus, reactionary Mormon sects are persecuted, while divorced and remarried people are considered perfectly respectable. Reagan and Ford are respectable; Elliot Spitzer is not. Gays and straights alike, expect public rewards, including tax breaks, for being in “committed relationships.”

“Serial polygamy” is what we practice, but that sounds nasty, so most people prefer the term “serial monogamy.” Pragmatically, both amount to the same thing. You can have as many sexual partners as you wish, but once you are “in a relationship,” you are expected to practice fidelity, at least for the duration of the relationship. The once useful sociological term “significant other,” has come to mean whomever I happen to be sleeping with in this season of my life. “Marriage” and “family values” have become relativistic terms. “Whose marriage,” asks the unbigoted person, “whose family values?”

Modern Americans seem to believe that everyone is entitled to at least three or four sexual partners in a lifetime, and most people conceal sundry aspects of their sexual histories from their sundry partners. Who wants to reveal to a lover that they have been dumped? Who wants to admit that they are someone else’s hand-me-down? That someone has abused their love or once used them as a sex toy or a convenient receptacle for their nocturnal emissions? We don’t like to see ourself or our beloved in that way.

Nobody passes through life without experiencing the humiliation of another’s infidelity or rejection. Sooner or later most people experience the pain of an inconstant lover or inflict that pain on someone else. The struggle over break-away provinces is an unavoidable part of the human condition. In love and in war, in politics and in economics, it is our nature and our destiny that we sometimes erect “bridges to nowhere.”

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