14.1.08

American Gangster

In Saudi Arabia, George W. Bush sat in the royal palace swaddled in a floor-length fur robe and adorned with a gold necklace studded with emeralds, rubies, and diamonds enough to make Ghostface blush.

Heavy lies the crown.

This is the Tony-Montana-in-the-fancy-Miami-restaurant moment of the Bush regime: “Is this it?... Eating, drinking, fucking, sucking? Snorting? Then what? You're 50. You got a bag for a belly. You got tits, you need a bra. They got hair on them. You got a liver, they got spots on it, and you're eating this fuckin' shit, looking like these rich fucking mummies in here...”

We should all be waiting for the inevitable bad guy speech: “You don't have the guts to be what you wanna be. You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin' fingers and say, ‘That's the bad guy.’”

Could there be regret on Bush’s mind? He doesn’t read newspapers, but somehow he must recognize the media is engorged by the thought of a new president. Do fewer journalists show up for Bush press conferences now? Do most just prefer listening to Ron Paul talk about dissolving the Federal Reserve?

George Bush is a gangster. The defacto kingpin of the most dangerous group of thugs in the world; Neoconservatives. Bush fits into a mold forged by other great gangsters of the 20th and 21st centuries; Jay-Z, Tony Montana, Tony Soprano…

The Montana moment is the most legendary – flush with cash, drugs, women, “The world is yours…” Montana bottoms out. Montana gives morality a try when, as wheelman, he kills a Colombian assassin whose target included as acceptable collateral casualties, a mother and child. As Rza writes in The Wu-Tang Manual, that change of course is the harbinger of Montana’s death. A life lived immorally does not easily adapt to morality. Bush doesn’t seem in danger of, say, exxing the King of Saudi Arabia and calling for an end to American support of tyrranical middle-eastern regimes. But on his first trip to the Middle East (after seven years in office) did he ever stop and think, “Look at this, this blood is on my hands, too.” (Probably, no.)

In a gesture worthy of King Hamlet, Tony Soprano – whose self-loathing was always on display, unlike the more guarded Montana – sits in Dr. Melfi’s office and curses his blood for infecting his son’s mind with the same depression as the father; “It’s in his blood, this miserable fuckin’ existence…my rotten fuckin’ putrid genes have infected my kid’s soul…” Soprano continues, “Therapy- this- I hate this fuckin shit! Seriously, we’re both adults here right? So, after all is said and done, after all the complainin and the cryin, after all the fuckin bullshit, is this all there is?”

We never saw Soprano reach a conclusion with his depression. The series end brought us inside the mind of Tony – sitting at that diner, wondering who would pull a piece and whack the Big Guy – and we saw and felt what he saw and felt; his anxiety that any person who walked into that diner could be the one that ended his life. That was our Soprano mind-meld and as close as David Chase would come to a cathartic conclusion. In the end I have more sympathy for Tony, the guy who pulled the triggers, than I do for Bush, who ordered someone else to do it.

Who is the Dr. Melfi of the Bush Regime? Condi? Laura? Tricky Dick? They don’t quite fit the bill. Pouring out sentiment to Cheney seems about as productive as doing so to Montgomery Burns – his shriveled black heart gives a feeble thump, and collapses again. Condi has no sympathy for Bush, and Laura isn’t smart enough to say anything helpful. But maybe with that pendant around his neck Bush confided to King Abdullah, “Is this it? After seven years, is this my work? Two subprime daughters, an economy with cirrhosis, 4,000 dead American children, 200,000 dead Iraqis, a legacy my people can’t wait to sweep under a rug…” Perhaps the old King, who has a vault of American cash that he throws around like the biggest dick in a pissing contest, leaned over to Bush and said, “In my book, you’re alright.” And then went back to his illiterate harem.

Paradoxically, it’s Jay-Z – with whom Bush has the least in common in terms of personal history – that I would say gives us a close-up of what I’d guess rattled around in W’s inner-thoughts on his flight back from the Middle East. On the American Gangster track “Success” Jay raps; “I used to give a shit, now I don’t give a shit more/ truth be told I had more fun when I was piss poor/ I’m pissed off, and is this what success is all about?/ a bunch of ****as acting like bitches with big mouths/ All this stress, all I got is this big house.”

Truth be told, Bush couldn’t say he had “more fun when I was piss poor,” ‘cause he never was poor. Jay-Z’s lines bemoan the same angst that Montana and Soprano did, but how Jay deals with it is different from either Montana or Soprano’s approach and more Bush-esq. Jay ends his verse on the track with, “****as said Hova was ova, such dummies/ Even if I fell I’ll land on a bunch of money/ Ya ain’t got nothing for me.”Jay gives us the vicious circle; quick success, the dissatisfaction that follows material wealth, then defends the external criticism that hits his personal anxieties by defending himself with the very material wealth that he knows to be hollow.
This is the cylce in which Bush trapped himself. Surrounded by constant reinforcement of his magnitude – the jewels, hotel suites, power, influence, pandering – Bush can see his faults, talk about them in his head. But he is too insecure to allow the probing of Dr. Melfi. He is too cavalier to give in to the emotional spillover of Montana. So, like Jay-Z, he wraps himself in his success – which is not actually success but rather resembles what succesful people sometimes acquire materially when they become succesful – and trudges towards the day he can just give up.

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