Notable Text: The Great Derangement

Anyone familiar with Matt Taibbi's writing for Rolling Stone knows and should love the bitter, sardonic perspective from which he shoots round after round at the goings on in the U.S. political sphere. Taking an educated man's look at the whole process, he often pushes his personal agenda, being an agreeable and impassioned liberal, but his greatest strength is the way he pushes against both sides of the political spectrum. Neither Republicans, nor Democrats are safe from his critical eye and often-sharp tongue. Taibbi sees the corruption and banal hand-jobbery that occurs daily in Washington, D.C. and rather than pick a side, he takes jabs wherever the political machine forgets to guard with hilarious, and insightful results. His educated view of a system so often veiled in financed mystery is no more evident than in 2008's The Great Derangement. It's a well-paced and enjoyable text that juxtaposes the relative-blandness of actual politics with the extremism that has arisen within the United States since the beginnings of Neo-Con religious politics and 9/11 that brings both laughter, and solemn contemplation.

At the heart of The Great Derangement, Taibbi spends several months attending Cornerstone Church and observing the ways in which big, money-driven religious entities teach, form and control the people who, in their lost and frightened states of mind, come seeking love, faith and protection. Taibbi spends his time as an embedded journalist, attending camps, services and noting the ways that these new churches promote international policies supporting Israel as a prevention of the end of the world, and create large bodies of voters who believe that they're being actively persecuted and even battled by liberal policy. To his credit, there is a lot of sweetness in his writing, and though he is often dismissive of the obviously wackier viewpoints presented (including at one point a prayer for Scooter Libby in his "time of need"), Taibbi also grows friendships with his fellow church-goers and sees the fear and indecision in them that may be the very reason they attend in the first place.

Surrounding his time in San Antonio, Taibbi writes about his time in Afghanistan as a journalist with a military unit, and discusses some of the ways that American politics is corrupt, and disgustingly so, but also hilariously so. During the Bush administration, while the Republicans controlled Congress, most major votes were scheduled to occur in the middle of the night and early morning, knowing full well that most Senators and Representatives would not come in to contest an absurd bill at 3 am. He also notes that in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, that numerous bills headed by Republican members of Congress as "emergency relief" were actually just repeals of environmental restrictions that would do nothing to help New Orleans or gas prices. And the Democrats did little to stop anything, beyond going through the motions and halting extreme absurdity. Taibbi finally addresses the 9/11 Truth Movement, which has spent the last 9 years attempting to prove that the government caused, or allowed, the terrorists attacks to happen.

The Great Derangement, it turns out, isn't about religion, or politics, or fringe conspiracy theory. Instead, Taibbi attempts to show that the extremism of our lives is the greatest part of the problem. In the latter part of the 20th Century, on to now, we as a public have spent more time arguing about candidates personal lives than about what was going on in the country. We've broken down from a nation of people aware of our lives to a nation waiting to be scared or uplifted by big-budget speeches and dramatic battleship-staged victory dances. Even now, in 2009, as we turn toward the second decade of the 21st Century, we do not have universal health care, and instead of any intelligent, televised, real debate between Republican and Democratic interests we are presented with one slanderous ad after another. The logic that everyone should have health care is impossible to deny. And better that people who get sick and have insurance should be able to actually count on using it. Instead, health care stands as a group of distractions, abortion, murder of seniors, and other things that don't make ANY FUCKING SENSE if you actually think about them. What part of the United States' relatively great history would lead anyone to believe that our government would be out to kill senior citizens?

Taibbi's assessment is disgustingly accurate. When the Democrats recently lost two Gubernatorial elections, Fox News said that Obama was in trouble, and a lame duck. The Great Derangement is still going on, and unfortunately, as Taibbi admits, it doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. We are stuck, in this country, in an ideological loop. You have to pick a side to vote, and the people in power are more than happy to keep anything positive from ever happening while they can pad their pockets, and ensure generations of the same old shit. Taibbi's book is excellent, cover to cover, and it may well convince you to leave the system of American politics altogether. But, that's not the point. The better point is that we all MUST become more educated about our government. Voting along lines doesn't solve anything. Knowledge really is power, and many of our representatives are counting heavily on us not to have it, or to be too distracted with bickering over things that will likely never change, to use what we have. Reading this book is a good start, but reading more in general, and neglecting the definitions we're spoon-fed is essential.

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