A couple of weeks after the 9/11 attacks, sometime-comic, sometime “political/social commentator” Bill Maher delivered pontifically one of his more trenchant (and probably more honest) observations: “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”
Such Phil Donahue-type honesty redounded immediately in the kind of excoriation that Donahue himself suffered. Sears and Fed Ex pulled their advertising, and Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” show was cancelled.
Since that attack of impromptu candor, Maher has cleaned up his act (or, dirtied it!), and with the appropriate begging and cajoling managed to weasel his way back onto HBO. I generally avoid the show, but, a few days ago I saw that Naomi Klein would appear on it, and, being a fan of hers and her ideas about “disaster capitalism,” I decided to overcome my reservations.
Klein spoke about the challenges of Global Climate Change, how these challenges might actually unite our world. Maher was respectful, nodded appreciatively, and I thought, “all’s well that ends well.”
Unfortunately, the show did not end there. After chatting with his usual assortment of guests—one white Republican, one black Democrat, General Zinni, and the buoyant documentarian, Alexandra Pelosi (whose main purpose there was to effusively urge us all to vote!)—Maher transformed voice, manner, appearance into his this-is-important mode; he then proceeded to retain on screen for about 3 minutes a color photo of a young man kneeling in front of a praying, brightly attired Jesus—the photo configured in such a way that it appears that Jesus is performing oral sex on this “kid.”
“Kid” is Maher’s term to describe what would have been called in my youth “a juvenile delinquent.” Words change, times change, but stupidity we have always with us! The point Maher wished to make was that this “kid” (late teens? early twenties?) was being hassled by the local authorities in small-town, USA for this kind of profanation. Some good Christians had objected! (Titters from the audience here!) Now Maher cuts to the chase: that a “kid” can do this in the US, and not get his head cut off, is a sign of our “liberalism”—and this is what we have to fight to defend! This is why we are at war with the Muslims! (Yeah, he’s generalizing like mad, and there’s no attempt to make distinctions between, say, good Muslims and bad Muslims!) All Muslims hate any kind of sacrilege and they punish offenders—even kids—in the most atrocious ways! Now—getting even more serious, forehead furrowing—Maher exhorts his audience: If you support “liberalism” this is what it’s all about—the right of a kid to be a stupid kid without getting his head cut off!
I think I could have happily buried this 1 hour in the murk of my subconscious, if I had not heard similar drivel from the mouth of the Prime Minister of Israel, speaking before the UN today on 9/29, adding to the odious secretions from the mouth of President Obama, interviewed by Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes” the previous evening! First Obama (from Business Insider):
“Obama was asked why the US is contributing such a significant portion of the military coalition against the jihadist group known as the Islamic State or ISIS. Obama responded… ‘When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s the deal,’ he quipped. When CBS’ Steve Kroft pressed Obama on the relatively small contributions from some of the US’ coalition partners, Obama insisted… “That’s always the case… We are the indispensable nation,” he said… “Our military is the best in the history of the world.”
“Indispensable nation!” Where have I heard that phrase before? Ah yes, Secretary of State Madelyn Albright finessing the deaths of some 500,000 Iraqi kids—for lack of medical supplies—during the Bush I-Clinton years of sanctions. “Was it worth it,” Stahl wondered. “It was worth it,” Albright responded stiffly. “America is the indispensable nation.”
I think I could have happily buried Maher's harangue in the murk of my subconscious, if I had not heard similar drivel from the mouth of the Prime Minister of Israel, speaking before the UN.
Really? How about hubristic? How about recalling the words of Horace during the reign of that other epitome of indispensability with “the best [military] in the history of the world.” Mole ruit sua, the seer-poet wrote: “It falls of its own bigness.”
Out of respect for the recently departed Joan Rivers, I’ll omit mentioning her recent rant against the 2100 newly minted corpses in Gaza. (Oops!) “Comedy legends” like Maher or Rivers set the social tone for those with their dirty, bloody hands on nuclear weapons and other WMDs—people like Obama (the “hope and change” guy who was really just the “more of the same” guy) and Bibi Netanyahu!
Speaking before a near-empty UN assembly on 9/29, Bibi declares (roughly from my notes): “Militant Islam is the threat. Its ultimate goal is to dominate the world. It is a cancer that metastasizes everywhere.” And, after a couple of minutes of this haranguing intro, we hear: “ISIS and Hamas are the same… All share a fanatic ideology. Women are treated as chattel.”
(I try to recall at this point exactly how many US female soldiers have been raped or assaulted by their fellow officers and service members. I seem to recall that one out of four American women will be assaulted during their lifetimes.)
Barely catching his breath, Bibi now compares “Militant Islam” and Nazi-ism! Having blasted the stage with his scatter-gun rhetoric, he now launches into his attack on Iran (which, I note, hasn’t started a war in over 300 years!) “Don’t be fooled by Iran’s charm-offensive,” the charming Bibi counsels. This “charm offensive” is only designed to remove sanctions… and will lead to Iran acquiring nuclear bombs. (It is no secret that Israel has about 200 such bombs!)
Now, channeling the “comedy legend”—oops!—Bibi defends the recent massacre in Gaza: “We use our [US-supplied “Iron Dome’] shields to protect our people; Hamas used its people to protect its rockets!” (Apparently, Israel’s “shield” worked very well. The vast majority of its 70 deaths  were the soldiers that invaded Gaza, not civilians!)
Now he takes a swipe at the UN Human Rights Counsel, which had the effrontery to hear out democratically elected Palestinian President Abbas when he, with equal effrontery, called for an end to the near-7 decades’ long occupation of Palestine, and an investigation of “war crimes” (committed on both sides!) in the recent wars on Gaza!
Enough chicanery! Let’s end with the wise words of a true “comedy legend,” Groucho Marx: “Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.”
Let’s close on a serious note and recall the words of Samuel Huntington, who wrote in the 90s, foreseeing our present “clash of civilizations”:
“The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion […] but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.”
Gary Corseri has published & posted articles, commentary, fiction, poems and dramas at hundreds of venues worldwide, including, L.A. (and Hollywood--) Progressive, The New York Times, and The Village Voice. He has been a professor in the US & Japan, has published 2 novels, 2 collections of poetry, edited literary reviews and anthologies. He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, and his dramas have been produced on Atlanta-PBS and at US universities and high schools. Contact: email@example.com.