Saturday, October 23, 2010

All Too Far

All Too Far

Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly,
The Spiders from Mars.
He played it left hand, but made it too far,
Became the special man, then we were Ziggy's Band.

Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo
Like some cat from Japan, he could lick 'em by smiling
He could leave 'me to hang
Came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan.

So where were the spiders while the fly tried to break our balls
Just the beer light to guide us,
So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands ?

Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were Voodoo
The kids was just crass, he was the naz
With God given ass
He took it all too far but boy could he play guitar.

Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band

The US currently suffers from a crisis of identity.  Since the end of WWII existential threats from the Cold War resulted in the creation of a façade that does not reflect America’s true character.  In adopting the role of “Enforcer” the US seems to have lost sight of the principles that enabled it to enjoy the respect – almost veneration – of much of the world for developing the Marshall plan, taking a leadership position in the establishment of the United Nations and, of course, standing firm against the Soviet Republic.

 Throughout the post-WWII era, the US seems to have become so intent on projecting power it has blurred the lines over itself and its “Enforcer” alter ego.  America’s predicament is reminiscent of British rock legend David Bowie, who created a persona known to all as Ziggy Stardust.  Ziggy was based on a Bowie song of the same name, which appeared in the album entitled, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.”  Bowie began to perform as Ziggy and, in time, was unable to distinguish himself from Ziggy Stardust.  But Ziggy provided Bowie with the ultimate high as fans were so enamored of him, their adulation intensified into hysteria.  Bowie’s downfall was his consumption by this hysteria, so when Ziggy died, Bowie himself fell apart.

Like Bowie, the grandiosity stimulated by the US’s “Enforcer” role enabled it to feel powerful in the face of the Soviet threat. But the US’s reaction to its vulnerability caused it to take its duty as global policeman too far, leading to several foreign policy disasters during the Cold War.  As the bipolar conflict chilled in the 1950s, the US overwhelmed itself by focusing on short-term victories at the expense of producing fiercer long-term menaces.  The CIA overthrow of Iranian leader Mohammad Moseddegh, for instance, created the conditions for the 1979 Revolution and the ascension of Ayatollah Khomeini. 

With the ousting of governments in Iran, Guatemala and Chile, the US marginalized the opinions of its smaller, less powerful allies. Just as Ziggy had disregarded his band (The Spiders) the US became the “fly” that dominated the political goals of the western hemisphere.  Like the rest of Ziggy's band, there were no “spiders” to protect those countries that were coerced into supporting the US's policies.  And then, suddenly, in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.  Countries previously constrained by the impracticalities of Communism - China in particular - began to rise.  America’s economic and political dominance began to be challenged in a multipolar environment. 

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, America received the goodwill of leaders across the globe, both friendly and hostile.  Even Libyan autocrat Muammar Qaddafi said, “Irrespective of the conflict with America it is a human duty to show sympathy with the American people, and be with them at these horrifying and awesome events which are bound to awaken human conscience.”  But in launching a war against a benign Iraq, the US squandered much of the patronage it had received.  Melding into its “Enforcer” alter ego allowed the US to experience a front of virility that curtained its underlying impotence.  And just as Ziggy became the victim of the very fanaticism he created, the US began to suffer from the frenzy surrounding its own doppelganger. 

 The more the US has tried to exert its power against the “forces of evil,” the more it has made itself vulnerable to the very threat it seeks to quash.  Nuanced reports indicate that hundreds of well-trained soldiers from the Iraqi army are now rejoining Al-Queda.  Human rights abuses in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have fueled extremism in the Muslim world, as the hypocrisy of America as a defender of human rights has been exposed.  Recent Wikileaks documents describing torture of civilians in Iraq will exacerbate the situation.  Yet America continues to fuel itself on the fumes of the international exaltation it once enjoyed.

Like Ziggy, America has ignored the Spiders from Mars - the cadre of nations that were instrumental in enabling the US to become the sole surviving superpower.  While publicly agreeing to improvident US policies, they privately curse America.  Disgruntlement with the US is based on the fact that its foreign policy agenda is, oftentimes, detrimental to the community of nations.  The overarching concern of reluctant allies may be that the hubris of one can lead to the downfall of all.  Paradoxically, the “spiders” cannot go forth without the US.  They know that their prosperity requires concord with America.  Indeed, it would be contrary to a nation’s best interest to break from the US.  For The Spiders, going along with Ziggy, however exasperating, at least offered the fleeting chance that Ziggy would regain some sanity so that the group could be reborn.  

The Spiders were in a codependent relationship with Ziggy.  They couldn’t get through to him because he had simply “sucked up into his mind,” but at the same time could not leave him. In a similar way, many US allies contend its warmongering will only fuel the flames of Islamic extremism. The US is trying to keep the world enamored of it but, like Ziggy, the hysteria of its fans is fading.  To avoid the same fate the US must recognize its greatness does not stem from assuming some façade, but rather from embracing the principles of freedom, diplomacy and  multilateralism that have enabled it to be the great nation it has always been.

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