by "Time and Circumstance"
Free speech and the war on terror
The 11th of September, we have been told ad nauseum, changed everything…perhaps the neoconservatives were subconsciously warning us of the coming assault they would wage against our Nation and the World. Of course, the neocon dream of pursuing “regime change” in Iraq - come hell or more terror - has come to glorious fruition. It has truly been one of the most fascinating chapters in history to watch as a nation that once held exalted status in the minds of most of the world’s populace and almost unanimous sympathy in the wake of 9/11 bludgeoned its way to war. The neocon dream come true has turned into a political nightmare for them - though you would be utterly the fool to expect them to admit to such regrets - and a very real torn flesh and spilled blood event for thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of our own sons and daughters. Current circumstances have led to some strange reactions if one can pause long enough to explore implications to any depth. Consider: those who support this administration also claim vocally and with flag-and-ribbon bedecked SUV’s to support our troops - implicitly advancing the notion that those who don’t support George W. Bush or his policies don’t support the troops either. Strange that a man who ostensibly supported the earlier Viet Nam conflict but found ways to avoid serving in country during that war has managed to conflate his own office with those who serve and die for his elective war. So, somehow, at some point in time, supporting our troops has evolved into supporting their continued placement in harm’s way at the pleasure of a man who was overeager to put them there for no more reason than he wanted to; and to hell with anyone who questions his right to do so for anything as petty as his own unwillingness to serve when he had the chance. Perhaps, if this present civilization survives these chaotic times someone will study this obvious aberration in the American psyche and make some sense of it: I can’t.
One is also left to ponder “whither our Government?” Of course neocons, being true to their nature if almost nothing else, have radicalized US policy in numerous areas. It was to be expected - and was - by a few who were familiar with their agenda. But what is truly surprising is how quickly they have been able to wrench our lumbering ship of State on a completely new tack. The neocons are radical but they are relatively few, even at this late date, and their power in government seems out of all proportion to what should be possible in a tripartite system of checked powers, as ours is: it would appear that Al-Qaida is not the only organization with a few well placed sleeper cells. There has obviously been an abrogation of duties by the more moderate members of both parties which, combined with the present climate of fear in this Country, has allowed the more radical elements of our government to move out of the shadows and into the light. These “radicalists” are not so secure however as to baldly state their true intentions of fundamentally altering our system of governance which has held true through many years and myriad challenges. They frame their outrageous policies as what is “best” for us in these dark and frightening times, and no one will speak up to challenge them. Politicians are by nature followers of trends and shift with the winds of expediency; good of the nation be damned. Their shifting has left this Nation exposed to an onslaught from within. What then of Senate staffers and career civil servants; those who are the real “nuts and bolts” of Washington? These are the people who actually implement policy and they are always there: through prosperity and peace, war and wanting they are the constant. I can only wonder if any in their ranks have begun to have misgivings at the course that they find themselves pursuing. “Only doing their jobs” will be cold comfort in the aftermath of our approaching decline. Still this Nation continues on its ill-fated course, perhaps for no more reason than the wounded pride of a handful of men who hold the reigns of power and the allegiance of those too ignorant or apathetic to have even a notion of what is being done in their name.
So it would seem that it is left ultimately to those citizens who care enough to know enough about what this administration’s policies are doing to our freedoms, our environment, our economy and our security at home and our diplomacy, humanity and consistency abroad to speak out and try to correct the course of this nation before it is too late - although, in truth, it may well be too late already. But defeatism is already defeated, so we trudge on - feeling isolated in the present climate but resolute in our belief that this is what is required to save our nation. Dramatic? Perhaps; but in the face of an undeniable radicalism with so much power at its disposal, moderation has no place. Those of us who have consistently spoken out against this administration rationally are gleefully lumped together by them and their acolytes in the corporate owned media with the most marginal anti-government elements and conspiracy theorists, as though any dissent by its very nature is indicative of a compromised intellect or moral turpitude. Time and again when I have debated those who see no wrong in absolutely any action this administration has taken I am struck by how often these people speak of feelings and what is right and proper behavior as though what they and their President believe is right is the be-all and end-all of what America and the World should be. Their arrogant self-righteousness is one of the most frightening aspects of this whole period. I fear that large swaths of our populace, through gentle and not-so-gentle prodding by the media and this administration are falling, unaware, into a cult of personality built around a fool and a bumbler. It would not be the first time a weak and severely flawed individual was given more power than any one man should have. Things didn’t turn out well that time either.
“I just don't think it's the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, we do it this way, so should you ....but I think one way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying, we do it this way, so should you…..I think the United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values, but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.”
George W. Bush
Second Gore-Bush Presidential Debate
October 11, 2000
As the election approaches and the media does its usual exemplary job of providing virtually no real substantive information on the issues, it is time to make a choice. Right now political polarization is more pronounced than it has ever been and there are about five people in a suburb on the north side of Des Moines who will decide the Leader of the Free (sic) World. How do I know this? Because they said so on the news. Seriously, I find it extremely disheartening that the modern day spin/opinion fest that serves as serious news is what informs the opinions of the bulk of the electorate in this Country. All of us who find ourselves somewhat - or severely - enraptured by the drama and absurdity that is modern American politics have an essential duty to inform those who approach the subject more casually. Speak up. Speak out. The time is now to educate those who have been too distracted by the compelling drama that is “Fear Factor” or have decided, somewhat counter-intuitively, that all politicians are crooks so let’s just let them have their way with our most precious possession: our Nation (it does belong to us, you know…). Yes, absolutely, when one speaks against what has become the “conventional wisdom” of these times: Bush and the Republican party are tougher on security issues, Our Nation can “go it alone”, Every Nation is just waiting, impatiently, for us to bless them with the gift of Democratic government, you will be ridiculed. Count on it. Hell, embrace the notion, for nothing worthy has ever been accomplished easily. Today, I will say without a hint of self-consciousness, that we are engaged in a battle for the very future of this Country and as a consequence, the World. Yes, there is polarization here. There does exist in this land large segments of the population who will remain fiercely loyal to their preconceptions and - in some cases - utter delusions regardless of the facts. Challenge them anyway. Don’t let the propaganda that they have absorbed through uncritical media exposure infect others around them. Don’t allow the neoconservative meme of inherent American superiority lead us down the path of self-destructive arrogance. The War on Terror, although trumpeted by this administration at every half-opportunity is more than what they would have you believe. It is self-evident that it is as much a bungled hunt for the perpetrators of 9/11 as it is a lost opportunity in Afghanistan for a long suffering people and an abomination and a crime for the chaos that we have wrought in Iraq. But the War on Terror is also a battle here at home. It is a battle between those who believe in what this Nation has always aspired to be: a land of opportunity, freedom and justice and those who have allowed their fears - the fear of uncertainty in a World that has always been uncertain, the fear of those who are different, the fear that just maybe what this Nation is, is not quite enough in such a hostile World - to make them willing to abandon all of the things that have given the United States of America a special place in the World. Without even realizing it, through their frantic, misguided and ineffectual efforts to remake this Country, they have already conceded defeat. In their estimation and in their actions they pay homage to the men who struck fear into our hearts on September 11, 2001. If these fear mongers have their way, if we allow them to turn this Nation into something else - something fearful that lashes out blindly at the slightest hint of danger, then the terrorists truly, truly have won. Perhaps someday it will be the Marginalized Man who says: “Mission accomplished”. Perhaps, if we allow events to continue on their present disastrous course, he at least, unlike our putative leader, will be right.