How Gonzales Destroyed the American Dream
by Roberto Lovato, New America Media - Posted on September 4, 2007
Alberto Gonzales went down dreaming.
While announcing his resignation earlier this week, Alberto Gonzales deployed one of his most powerful and romantic rhetorical weapons. "I often remind our fellow citizens that we live in the greatest country in the world and that I have lived the American dream," he stated. "Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days."
More than any public official in recent memory, the often smiley and sometimes smirking Gonzales -- and his supporters -- consistently framed his story as a brown embodiment of the American dream.
Viewed from the optic of elite political and corporate interests, who know better than anyone of the death of the American dream (they are, after all, the ones who created and killed it), Alberto Gonzales did his job.
He may have left too much evidence of state-sanctioned torture and lying and malfeasance and corruption (he may also still be put on trial for perjury in the attorney firing scandal).
But he did what he was supposed to. More than anyone, he was responsible for securing the legal systems necessary to better control a citizenry that was increasingly angry and frustrated at big government and big business for destroying the American dream. his saga provides an object lesson in how to hide elite interests behind a dreamy haze of real-life ethnic success stories.
While many of us were debating whether or not the son of migrant workers was or wasn't the embodiment of the dream, he worked loyally -- as fiercely as his farm worker parents -- to lay the legal foundation to make it easier to snoop on, arrest, prosecute and jail a population growing less and less patient with the status quo.
In the time it took most of the country to admit that it no longer believed in the dream -- a July poll by veteran pollster Celinda Lake found that only 18 percent of people in the country believe they are living the American dream -- Gonzales prepared for the fallout by helping fashion the Patriot Act. This made it easier for government to define as "domestic terrorists" those who choose to speak out against the Iraq war and other dream (and budget)-killing policies.
While Hollywood and Washington tried to keep the global dream machine working, Gonzales crafted the legal rationale for the global nightmare exemplified by Abu Ghraib. As more and more people joined the ranks of the uninsured -- 9 million since Bush was elected in 2000 -- Gonzales facilitated the government's ability to access intimate medical, financial and other personal records.
What the ultimate moral of the Gonzales story becomes depends on whether we are ready to not just to accept the death of the American dream, but to take part in dispelling whatever illusions of it are left.
Despite the tragedy and comedy of it all, Gonzales' scandalous story offers us an opportunity to dispel obsolete notions, like the dreamy idea that government is looking out for the little guy -- or that ethnic politics can only be played one way -- and other dangerous ideas rooted in the American dream he embodied.
Roberto Lovato former director of CARECEN, representing Central American immigrants and refugees, is a New York based writer and an associate editor at New America Media.
'Ya gotta wonder who the idiot-in-chief will nominate to protect his sorry ass now that "Smiley" is gone . . . .
(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)