The Disgruntled Dylanologist

All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.

A Dylanesque Adieu: “It’s All Over Now, ‘W'”


You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.

But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun.
Look out the saints are comin’ through
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

On Thursday, January 15, 2009, at precisely 5:03 pm EST, a middle-aged man wearing a dark blue suit, white button-down shirt and a power blue tie stepped through a doorway, and walked down an elegant carpet-lined hallway before stopping behind a waist high podium bearing the emblem of an eagle, its wings outstretched against a royal blue background.

After taking a moment to acknowledge the appreciative crowd, the man smiled, cleared his throat and uttered the following opening salvo, “Fellow citizens, for eight years it has been my honor to serve as your president.”

Exactly 13 minutes, thirty-one minutes later, the man in the dark blue suit with the white button-down shirt and power blue tie turned and walked back down the hallway then passed through an unseen door. And just like that, it was over.

9/11, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Katrina, a collapsed economy—suffice to say, George W. Bush has presided over one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

You’d have thought the networks would have given him more than 13 minutes. Frankly, many pundits were surprised he even got that.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a recap of 2008 in which I paraphrased Bob Dylan’s enigmatic, surrealistic, ‘Desolation Row.’ Considering how well received the piece was, for the last week I had been toying with the notion of using another Dylan diatribe, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,’ to bid farewell to our 43rd president.

When I sat down to write my postscript to the Bush presidency, however, I realized my intended Dylanesque adieu had already been written:

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you.

In those two verses, taken from the first and last stanzas respectfully, resides all the angst, all the anger, not to mention a good dose of mournful lament that American has experience for the last eight years.

But the connection between Bush’s farewell and Dylan’s acerbic adieu goes deeper than the lyrical parallels. Dylan recorded “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” in Columbia Studio ‘A’ on January 15, 1965—44 years to the day of Bush’s final official appearance before the American public.

The saddest part, of course, is that it didn’t have to be this way.

Bush began his presidency with a 50% approval rating. Not bad considering he received less than 48% of the popular vote. But it only got better for Bush. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed to over 90%. It was an unprecedented moment in American politics—the highest popularity rating of a sitting president. Then something equally extraordinary occurred.

After only four months, Bush’s popularity began an equally unprecedented, unrelenting 7-year decline. It was truly as if someone had pulled the carpet out from under George Bush.

That ‘someone’ it turns out wasn’t so much the American public as it was the people Bush surrounded himself. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Brown, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, Carl Rove, Alberto Gonzalez, Hank Paulson: each pursued policies that not only eroded support for Bush and the institute of the presidency, they pursued policies that eroded our faith in virtually facet of the U.S. government.

In his defense, Bush has become the lightening rod into which all of America’s disdain and disgust has been directed. As the Administration’s point man, it’s to be expected that the president would take a jolt or two. Yet considering the unrelenting, unilateral affront the team Bush assembled has made on every aspect of the American experience, it’s amazing Bush has hung on to as much support as he has.

Earlier in the week, George Bush told the press corps, “When I get out of here, I’m getting off the stage… one person in the klieg lights at a time. I’ve had my time in the klieg lights. I wish [Obama] all the best.” And while it came from an honest place, there’s no question there was a Nixonian ring to the refrain, as if to say: “You won’t have old ‘Dubya’ to kick around anymore.”

And while it’s probably not the last time we’ll hear from “43”, it is the last time we’ll have to listen. And I’m not sure who’s more relieved, him or us. But one thing’s for sure— we’re both better off now that it’s all over for ‘W’….

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

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January 19, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Gone Wrong: Beyond Bushworld


We live in a political world,
As soon as you’re awake,
You’re trained to take,
What looks like the easy way out.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we live in a political world. The fact that we’re in the final throes of perhaps the most contentious presidential campaign in 40 years is a daily reminder that America is at a crossroads.

Those days are numbered, however. But before we pick a new direction for the country, it only seems fitting to review the signposts of the last eight years.

In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. And for the last eight years, we’ve been in a place called ‘Bushworld’.

Bushworld, a look back:

For a closer look at Bush’s world, click on the map above.

Divisive Politics. Bush has spent more money on focus groups than any other administration in U.S. history. In Bushworld, we don’t need to see or feel. Instead, we have polls and pundits to tell us what’s real.

Diminished
Privacy. Bush has signed more laws and executive orders amending the Constitution than any other president. As a result, wiretaps, surveillance, and undisclosed data mining are now a daily ritual. In Bushworld, we may live in a time where men commit crimes, yet thanks to a barrage of Bush lawyers the real criminal’s face remain hidden.

Eradication of Human Rights. Bush is the first president to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from both the elections monitoring board and human rights commission. In Bushworld, we throw the wisdom of the world’s nations in jail, and let those whose patriotism we question rot in a Cuban cell.

Destruction of Economic Markets. Bush’s economic advisers smugly presided over the highest number of bank failures and home foreclosures ever. In Bushworld, money doesn’t talk, it swears. And by doing nothing as the economic markets collapsed, Bush told the American middle class to go screw themselves.

Invasion of Sovereign Countries. Bush has dissolved more international treaties than any president in U.S. history, ensuring American is able to travel anywhere we want. In the months leading up to the removal of Saddam Hussein, Bush claimed that everything that was his was ours. In Bushworld, however, you run the risk you might hang yourself there if you bring enough rope.

Squandered Political Capital. In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush turned a nation in mourning into the most resented country in the world. In Bushworld, it makes more sense to close an open door than to have a world where peace is welcome.

For the last eight years, America has witnessed the systematic dismantling of our venerated 200-year old political system by George Bush’s brand of ‘come hell or high-water’ politics.

And while Bush’s critics have done their best to tag the pugnacious Texan as nothing more than a highly functioning moron, Dubya is hardly some run of a mill Tweedle Dum to America’s Tweedle Dee.

The Grim reality is that he’s actually a lot closer to Humpty Dumpty. Sadly, however, it’s America that’s taken the tumble.

The biggest challenge facing the man who steps into the Oval Office on January 20, 2009, won’t be whether he has the resolve to put American back together again. It will be the frightening realization that while Bush and his fawning, sycophantic advisers were trying to create a world in their image, they may have pocketed a few key pieces when they realized their idyllic worldview wasn’t coming together quite the way they had planned.

There’s no question we live in a world gone wrong. But just because things are wrong now doesn’t mean they can’t be put right in the future.

Let’s just hope the next president can reassemble a foreign policy that has been spread too thin, a financial system that’s been stretched too far, and a domestic agenda that has shortchanged freedom in the name of ‘liberty.’

Of course, that’s assuming the next president can actually find all the pieces. We all know what happens when the vandals get hold of the handle…

We live in a political world,
Where courage is a thing of the past,
Houses are haunted,
Children unwanted,
The next day could be your last.

October 26, 2008 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America in Peril: Someone said Dignity was the first to leave


Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade,

House on fire, debts unpaid,
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid,
Have you seen dignity?

America is angry. And frankly, we have every right to be.

Over the last eight years, we’ve been buttered up, talked down to, led down the primrose path. And in the process, we’ve been robbed blind.

It would be one thing if we’d been cornered in a dark alley, held at gunpoint and told to hand over everything in our pockets. But that’s not the way the deal’s gone down. It happened in broad daylight, right in the middle of the street.

Instead of having a gun shoved in our ribcage, we’ve had a knife slowly slipped into our back. And we could have only been so lucky as to have been asked to empty our pockets. After all, I don’t know how many Americans carry their entire life savings in their pant pockets. But that’s what the boys on Wall Street walked away with last week.

Estimates vary (after all the estimates are being provided by the guys who stuck it to us in the first place), but one thing’s for sure. Our pockets are empty. And so are our bank accounts. Which means mortgages can’t be paid, car loans can’t be paid, school loans can’t be paid. And just try to turn to your 401K plan for relief. Wall Street’s scorched earth policy burned all that up, too.

The irony, of course, is that while money may be the symptom, the real sickness is the disease of conceit. Sure Lehman is out of business; AIG is $85 billion in the hole; Wachovia is awash in a sea of debt. But the real crime here is that the people running these companies just walked away. The soul of a nation under the knife, and the bankers and politicians are the only ones who got a cut.

We’ve always been told that America is built on a single unifying principle: Hard work pays off. Looks like the old adage may not be true. Certainly not today. Truth be told, many of us are wondering if it was ever true.

According to a recent CNN Money poll, nearly six out of ten Americans believe our country is heading for another economic depression. Quite a frightening turn in public opinion from the halcyon days of just a year ago when the financial markets were at a generational high.

American is angry. But this isn’t some conspiratorial destruction of the American Dream. It’s much scarier than that. This is the real thing. After years of steady moral, ethical and financial decline, we are no longer just a distraught nation. We are a nation in peril.

In the last eight years, the fabric of this country has been torn to shreds. We are fighting an unpopular war abroad while we ship American jobs to China and India. At home, we cannot educate our youth, we cannot take care of our elderly, and animosity toward America has reached an all-time high.

“But don’t worry,” they tell us. “Be patient. Everything will be okay.” Sure, America will come back. We always do.

But who the hell are they kidding? It ain’t ever going to come back all the way. Not until we restore the thing that our leaders really robbed us of in the first place…

Lookin’ east, Lookin’ west,
See people curse, see people blessed
Asking everybody like a man possessed
Have you seen dignity?

October 12, 2008 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment