What does Charlie Wilson have to do with dry rot? What about Jim Jordan and Tajikistan? MAGAites, fungus, and the Taliban??!! What the hell am I talking about? I don’t even know, but I’m feeling very irritable and hostile about the corrupt, rotting parts of our government. I’m especially crabby because one of the best ways available to encourage the government to unfuck itself is to spend time and money paying attention to what it’s up to. So I responded to a text pitch from Jaime Harrison, former (unsuccessful) opponent of Lindsey Graham and current chair of the Democratic Party. And I gave the Democratic Party money for the first time in my life. Sheesh. Fortunately I took a shower right afterwards.
So what about dry rot? Mostly, we don’t want it. I mean it’s not toxic and unnatural like PCBs or some shit, but it’s detrimental to a number of structures that people living in groups find valuable and convenient. Like houses. Dry rot isn’t just detrimental. It’s a fungus that looks pretty gross. In German it’s called Hausschwamm: house-sponge. I am married to a wood decay scientist who occasionally likes to invoke fungus and will say “Hausschwamm” or its German kin “Pilz” for fun. I like this about my spouse, but yesterday when he said “Hausschwamm”, some of my pent up hostility erupted and I said “I’ll show you a Hausschwamm!” and displayed a picture of Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan.
Jim “Pedo-adjacent” Jordan is a House member, former wrestler, and raving Trump arselicker. To say he is a decay agent of flat, spongy, and detrimental character is to do a disservice to the kingdom of fungi. Having him in the United States House of Representatives, along with Steve King, Madison Cawthorn, Marjorie Taylor Green, and their sleazy ilk is a form of destructive rot that will make our house fall in on itself. It might start simply, with just some powdery weakness and discoloration, but it’s gonna get grosser and uglier.
There’s a lot of things that go into rot: temperature, humidity, upkeep, etc. The House doesn’t just go to shit overnight. [Frank Capra narrator voice and upbeat music] Let’s look at our House 40 years ago. Forty years ago there was a House member named Charlie Wilson. You can read a lot about him in a 2007 book called Charlie Wilson’s War. He was one of those boozy horndog white male politicians who had actual thoughts and policy objectives, despite being gross human beings. Wilson played a key role in funding the Afghan anti-Soviet Mujahideen. (The Pakistan intelligence service played a key role in training them). Wilson and the United States wanted to fuck with the Commies, so they poured money and weapons into the Afghan insurgency. The Afghans in turn made the Soviets’ lives hell in various unpleasant ways, and when the Soviets were like FUCK ALL Y’ALL and went home, the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Turkmen, Uzbeks et al began bombing the living shit out of each other. And for the last twenty years those same fellows have been the Taliban, killing and injuring U.S. troops with glee and abandon. Charlie Wilson’s War sure turned out great didn’t it.
The Charlie Wilsons of the world were the successors of the British Empire, which spent two hundred years carving up, undermining, stripmining, and pillaging everything from Sri Lanka to the Himalayas, and from Myanmar to Iran. “Afghanistan,” like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Palestine is largely a creation of English, French, and subsequently American colonial wrangling. The Anglo Imperialists gave zero fucks about the ethnic, territorial, or religious interests of the indigenous people. The century since the end of the World War I has been a meat grinder of conflict much of which is attributable to the arbitrary geopolitical line drawing that a few rich European men decided best served their mutual rivalries for mineral revenue.
Charlie Wilson’s War depicts the Mujahideen as rough and ready warriors, cunning but uncouth, charming in a childlike but still very masculine way. This suited their place as weapons against the Soviets. Brutality to Soviet prisoners, each other, or the hapless mules furnished with U.S. funds was all just part of the local color. Flash forward a few years, and the exact ingredients make a totally different stew.
In the twenty years since 9/11 the Taliban have largely been depicted as savage, toothless zealots, given to barbarity, beastiality, and inflexible ignorance. They are unwashed terrorists who blow up world heritage archeological sites, oppress women and children, and demand conformity to a simplistic, self interested interpretation of the Koran. Clearly such behavior is a menace to democracy, world peace, and public hygiene. It clearly justifies waterboarding and suspension of due process.
What does this have to do with Jim Jordan. Well, from what I can tell Jim Jordan has teeth and access to shower and laundry facilities. Other than that, Ohio is clearly not sending their best people to Washington. Besides being an enabler of sexual abuse and religious extremism, he is inflexibly ignorant and a menace to public health, education, and culture. Even if he is brain damaged due to being choked out or clobbered in a wrestling match, that doesn’t excuse trying to deprive Americans of health care, enabling corruption, and interfering with lawful elections.
Jim Jordan is one of 535 people the Legislative branch of our government. One of only 435 in our House. And he spends his time eating away at the foundations of democracy, battling accountability every step of the way. As a country we’ve cultivated our own destruction through short sighted, predatory, and greedy policies. And by “we” I mean crusty, horny oligarchs like Charlie Wilson. Globally we bankrolled the Taliban and equally dysfunctional, antidemocratic, and/or violent regimes in South and Central America, Africa, and East Asia) in order secure oil and brandish iron at the Soviets. At home we have fed religious extremism and terrorism, and turned a blind eye to torture and death squads to protect the 1%. After the Soviets left, the Taliban turned their U.S. supplied rockets on their own capitol. On January 6, a rabble of off-duty cops, military veterans, and conspiracy theorists assaulted the seat of United States government while actual elected officials cheered them on.
And what about Jaime Harrison? That’s the tough part. Thirty years ago, when I was first old enough to vote, I had no idea who Charlie Wilson was, but he was still representing the 2nd District of Texas in Congress. And he was a Democrat. Democrats and Republicans were different from how they are now in a major respect: they were much, much more like one another. For the longest time I resented Democrats because they were sleazy, backroom-dealing serpents lubed up with lobbyist spittle and dirty money. I hated having to vote Democratic because in a two party system I didn’t have a choice and Republicans were solidly on the side of reproductive slavery, pollution, and some other unambiguously bad shit.
Here’s the thing though. I still kinda hate Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, my own Senator Ron Wyden, Diane Feinstein, and that mob are out of touch, mealy mouthed, and self-dealing. The few congressional representatives I have ever met are really off putting people: pompous, fake, and surrounded by handlers. I’m sure some of them (particularly the younger ones these days) are nice people, but mostly I regard elected officials as a necessary evil to be personally avoided. (I’ve been a civil servant for the past five years, which has done nothing to change that opinion).
HOWEVER (!!!) there is absolutely no fucking doubt in my mind who is going to shoot a rocket into a building full of people. Steny Hoyer is not Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar was a Pashtun and Islamic traditionalist who received considerable resources and support from both the U.S. and Pakistan to fight the Soviets. To grossly oversimplify, he turned his own country into rubble as soon as the Soviets left because he wasn’t a big fan of either the U.S. backed government or Ahmed Shah Massoud, a Tajik Mujahideen leader. Lauren Boebert, a gibbering conspiracy theorist who basically wants Second Amendment Sharia is almost certainly Hekmatyar.
Mitch McConnell et al, whose whole being is focused on amoral accrual of power and servicing the oligarchic interests of hedgefunds, tech billionaires, and fossil fuel barons has validated a heaving mass of raging sectarian wack jobs, given them weapons, training, and legitimacy, and turned them loose on the rest of us. In their slobbering quest for power, the Republicans have not just corrupted government, they’ve created a guerrilla army of ideological extremists. Democrats have just been lazy, disorganized, and short sighted. That’s not a small difference.
So, here we are. We’ve fucked everything up. But a Black man, descended of people who were trafficked and held in bondage, challenged an incumbent Republican in state where the population still reflects the dynamics and demographics of slavery. The Democrats, said hey, we want more of that, let’s put him in charge. The Republicans are still validating Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. Harrison’s is a voice I’ll listen to. Even if I’m suspicious because it has echoes of Schumer, and the ghost of Wilson, he’s not aiming an RPG at me. He’s not creating a wet, nasty, creeping pelt of hatred and insinuation that will weaken the very foundation of government. If we elect a few more Democrats, some of them will be nigh useless, but some of them might be fierce, outspoken women like Katie Hill and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Even if Jim Jordan is still there, Scwamming up the Haus, there will be a little more light, and a little less rot.