Wednesday, March 16, 2011


March 16, 2011

As feel-good experiences go, they don’t get much better than this. A rousing we-won-the-war flick that had bottoms perched excitedly on the edge of the seats, the audience cheering our boys on
The leader was American, the rest British, Australian, and they were all aboard Von Ryan’s Express with Colonel Frank Sinatra at the helm. They chuff-chuffed their way out of a Nazi prison camp through Italy to eventual freedom.
Every German soldier who got in the way was duped or eliminated, and, boy, were they all imbecilic blockheaded squareheaded dunderheads who couldn’t shoot straight. A bunch of veritable dummkopfs.
They bumbled, they fumbled, they stumbled. And as their pathetic attempts to stop that train failed we enjoyed every minute of it.
The astounding thing was that this appreciative young audience was German. I was watching that film at a theater in Frankfurt in 1965. World War Two had ended only 20 years earlier, so they were mostly the sons and daughters of those who’d fought and lost.
These people were rooting for the other side: the Allies. Against their parents and against their own nation.
And I thought “funny”, I thought. How easily folks allow their emotions to be manipulated. The immediate follow-on is: what about the Indians. Our native Americans. When they sat in a theater in Tahlequah or Bryson City or Sioux Falls in 1939 and watched those western films who did they applaud? Was it John Wayne and the other palefaces in Stagecoach as they scythed down the inelegant savages in droves? And did they also despise Geronimo, portrayed as a barbaric murderer by one of their own, the actor Chief Thundercloud?
The victor writes the history so the story becomes one of civilized white-eyes versus the feral red man. An ugly distortion. Ugh!
Everyone loves a winner, but when he’s your enemy do you still cheer him on? If your sympathies have been cunningly hijacked you most certainly do.
I was looking for another example of folks encouraging the very people who’re kicking their butts and I found one today and right here in the USA.
Yes I’m going to get political at this point. It’s because I see people around me who’ve lost their jobs, their homes, their health – their hope. And yet they still troop off to the voting booth to bring in the big banks and the pharmaceutical vultures and the giant multinational corporations who made all their misery possible.
Of course none of us elects these predators directly, just the politicians who channel them: more Republicans than Democrats, but both guilty. So where can one turn?
Enter the Tea Party.
Born of the very sentiment I share, a revulsion at the greed and dirty dealing of the representatives we choose and then have to fund, this movement was indeed a loose-knit gathering of the people to begin with.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the election. No clear leader emerged until, like some grotesque jack-in-the-box, up suddenly pops one – in the familiar personage of Smarmy Dick Armey, big time corporate lobbyist and extremist Republican. He’s not our friend.
There’s no good, solid, trustworthy colonel in charge of the freedom train now; instead we get this dubious pied piper with his deceptively-named Freedomworks and its just-as-ugly sister Americans For Prosperity. And it should come as no surprise that the only Americans they want the prosperity for is themselves. Why would they ever want the rest of us to prosper?
Look behind these two front organizations that fuel the Tea Party and we find Koch Industries and the Mellon Scaife outfit, both vast oil baronies, and they’re shunting us, the ‘little people’, straight down Poverty Lane.
Such a simple trick, too. Had they allowed the movement to flourish on its own the loathing would have been aimed at them and their kind, so the answer was: take control. Now they can force that train to jump the switch-points and head along a different track.
Folks like myself no longer hate our crooked political system because now we can despise, er... Obama. He’s what’s wrong, not those greedy oilmen. Oh how easily we’re led, even those of us who think we’re smart. There’s always someone smarter, or rather more devious, more dishonest, more ruthless.
I know I’m stirring up those sweet Tea People. And I’ll be getting hate mail from the low-information crowd who don’t know or don’t care that their movement is paid for and controlled by the filthy rich oil and other major businesses including Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Philip Morris.
So I’ll ask these questions: Who caused the 2009 economic crisis if not the big banks? Who turned us out of our homes? Who preys on the sick by driving drug prices and insurance costs ever higher? Who took away all our jobs and gave them to the work-for-peanuts peasants of China, India and Mexico?
The ones who put profits before people aim to keep it that way, while we others need a leader of strength and vision who’ll help us back to work and back into our homes. Von Ryan where are you?

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.