Regarding Evil and American Identity, Part 2:
The line between incompetence and evil is thinner than you think. The Rude Pundit had a friend who worked in a state-run nursing home in Red America in the 1980s. Sometimes the Rude Pundit would head over to the home to meet this friend - call him, oh, what the hell, "Jasper" - to pick him up so they could go out for the evening. The place had passed all its state inspections, but it was one of those last stop hellholes for old people you've heard about or, if you're incredibly unlucky, seen. The hallways were lined with Alzheimer's-ridden or disabled elderly people in wheelchairs, wearing hospital gowns, all reaching out to you as you passed by, imploring, crying, people with sores and wounds that would never heal, people with feces leaking out of their diapers and catheter bottles filled with dark urine.

Jasper hated and loved his job. Sure, it was shitty and depressing, and it gave him a gallows sense of humor (he couldn't stop laughing at a story of one elderly man who got an erection when Jasper changed his diaper). But he felt like he had a purpose. Like most of the people who worked there. They were underpaid, far, far underpaid, working in a crappy building with people who smelled and were going to die. Soon. Still, there was a sense of doing something, perhaps even something good.

Jasper pointed out a few of the nurses and attendants on visits there. One or two of them sometimes slapped patients, Jasper said, although nothing was done when they were reported because there was no evidence and the old lady with dementia wasn't going to talk. The rest, they were fuck-ups, who wouldn't do their jobs right, leaving patients unwiped, unturned, unmedicated, only kicking into high gear when supervisors were there or when an inspection was imminent. Jasper could excuse them, saying they were untrained, they weren't trying to hurt anyone, they just wanted to keep their jobs.

The Rude Pundit didn't buy it. Sure, maybe if they were working the fryer at Buger King. But not here. See, he told Jasper, if you can't do the work that you're supposed to do where lives are at stake and you keep fucking it up, then at some point you cross a line from being a functioning idiot to simply being cruel. Whether you like it or not. And if you're the one doing it, you don't get to fucking judge it. In other words, Nurse X might say she didn't mean to let someone's bedsores get infected with bacteria from shit, but if her neglect, both passive and active, allows it to happen again and again, then she isn't just stupid, but mean, working only to maintain whatever power and money the job gives her.

And that's not to even get into the system that allowed Nurse X to continue, which has more to do with ass-covering by superiors than anything else, who themselves wanted their power and salary. Because, when you get right down to it, the problem was the system, the endemic fucktardery with which great and glorious America treats the elderly and the rank cruelty of our health care "system."

Apologists for the Bush administration and its policies have clung to this notion: that it isn't the policy itself that's the problem - it's the incompetence of individuals running the policy. The Bush White House uses that notion that it's the stupidity, stupid, as a way of distracting from something that Americans, at some point, are going to have to admit: that they are being led by actively evil people, not just people whose actions do us all harm, but people who are engaged, consciously, in destructive behavior. It's both the blithe evil of error and the concerted evil of deeds.

What leads the Rude Pundit to such strangely Manichaeistic ideas? Walter Reed, yes, and also the attorney firings. How?

Let's go there tomorrow, shall we?

Note: Part 1 of this was written back in September 2006.