Saturday, March 25, 2006

An uncharacteristic rant

Condemn me for being part of the "angry left" if you will (the whole 'leftist' smear is so 20th Century anyway--there hasn't been a real relevant "leftist" movement in this country since the 1930s), but I'll be damned if I'll let you accuse me of being angry without a reason.

In the past twelve years the Regressives have attacked our whole system like a pack of rabid rats tearing bloody chunks from the body politick and washing it down with the blood of the patriots who died to give us our freedom in the first place. Would be tyrants, each and every one of them, so caught up in the fever of greed for money and power that the foundation on which this country was built, the ideals that it claimed, are as meaningless to them as the history of the rest of the world they scorn.

Damn right I'm angry. I'm angry every time one of the shrieking pundits accuses me of being a traitor because I believe in the original vision of America as a shining beacon of hope for the world. I'm angry every time I hear a lie come from those we elect to tell us the truth. I'm angry every time another young man or woman falls in a hot, dusty place across the ocean because our 'leaders' have neither the moral courage nor the decency to stand up for them and us alike.

I'm angry because the media has failed to do its job, leaving it up to people like me to try to reach out to those who will listen. I'm angry because this abandonment has left me faced with people who say "where's your proof?" when it should be as plain on the nose on their face. They swallow lies as if they were wines of the finest vintage, and choke on truth as if it were the bloated, maggot filled corpse of a rat left on the doorstep by the neighbor's cat.

I still debate them on occasion, simply because it behooves us to spread truth whenever possible, whenever the attempt doesn't put your very sanity in danger. Because, make no mistake, the world teeters wildly every time you put forth the truth only to have some oblivious fellow citizen declaim your words as those of a fool or, worse yet, 'partisan hack.'

They say "you offer me opinion with no proof to back it up.""How much goddam proof do you need?" I want to yell. "Why the HELL are we in Iraq? Huh? Because they had WMDs? Because Saddam was an asshole? Because we wanted to give Democracy to people who've never shown they had any real interest in it? Do you even KNOW?"

The regressive agenda is to eliminate all those things that has made America a land of opportunity...slashing wildly at anything that might improve the lot of the less fortunate. For the regressive movement seems to be made up of two kinds of people--those who are already rich, and those who wish fervantly to become the type of person who can grind another human into the dirt just for the shits and giggles of it.

There is NO such thing as bootstrap levitation, you assholes! People find success in life through the support and encouragement of their neighbors. A person who looks out for him or her self first belongs to no community--for those who would call that person brethren would be the type to knife him or her in the back the very moment it becomes more convenient than guarding that same back, and steal even the fillings out of his or her teeth just to make a quick buck in the process.

They who despise their fellow man, and seek only to gain advantage from them, deserve nothing more than scorn. For they steal not only THINGS, but also the very dignity that lies behind the definition of humanity.

The regressive agenda is the very epitome of that which is anti-human. It is like a cancer in our midst, a destructive force that turns our very being against itself. And it feeds on fear and hatred and greed. Fear of the unknown, of the strange, hatred of those who are in some way different, and greed...not only for money, but for power, and fame, and respect that is not earned, but forced from those who cannot afford not to give it.

All I have to say now is GIVE ME BACK MY FUCKING COUNTRY. You don't deserve it. You don't even know how to appreciate it. You've turned it into a rapacious villain, a diseased mockery of itself, and act as though you've buffed and shined it into a bright shining beacon. Your coat of day-glo paint isn't fooling anyone but yourselves.

Educate our young. Feed our hungry. Provide shelter for those who are lost. Cure those who are sick.

If you can't, or won't, do these things...get the fuck out of the way so WE CAN.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Time Traveler's Dilemma

I was just listening to the audio book of Spider Robinson's classic "Callahan's Crosstime Saloon" (which is a collection of short stories put into novel form detailing the lives and experiences of a group of people who gather in a rather unique tavern run by an Irish gentleman of mysterious origins) and I was struck by a realization.

The story itself is that of a man who was imprisoned for 10 years between 1963 and 1973, cut off from all accounts of the outside world. He is a time-traveler of sorts, who has been left adrift in a world he does not quite understand, a world that saw the horror of the Vietnam war, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the moon landing, and Watergate.

I was left WOULD a time-traveler fare going from 1963 to 2006? Would anything be comprehensible to such a person? Nearly half of Americans who have lived through the past several years and decades don't 'get it.' Imagine if you somehow missed everything that had occured in the past four decades. Would you understand ANYTHING of what's going on now, or would it just seem like an alien world?

Future Shock, they call it.

We are a product of our times--not only us, but the Neocons. They act, in part, in retribution to what was "done to" Nixon. An amusing line out of the story talks about how this man, this missionary who'd been jailed, being taken to meet the President after his release and being surprised to find Nixon--especially considering the last HE'D heard of the man, he'd just lost the Governor's race for California and had petulantly told the Press they'd "no longer have Dick Nixon to kick around."

This all brought me to the revelation of how little sense any of what's happened would make to someone who hadn't been brought up in it. Imagine. The Beattles, the sexual revolution, the Civil Rights movement, the "Me" generation, the Reagan Years, the 1st Gulf War, The Clinton Years, The Contract With (On) America, the "Revenge of Bush."

Wow.What a ride these four decades have been.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Take a left!

Don't panic. Yes, I know there's a detour sign up ahead, but it's a fake. It was put there by a band of criminals who are trying to rob the armored car marked "U.S. Treasury." They set up the same detour back in '04, and, when the truck went right instead of left, they were waiting to ambush it and steal everything in the truck.

I know they're telling you there are "Godless Communists" lurking to the left, but they're just scarecrows set up to frighten you. The REAL "Godless Communists" are so ineffectual that they're little more than a running joke anymore.

What's REALLY around the bend if you take a left turn? Well, let's see.

-A way out of an unpopular war. Rather than appointing ideologues that base their decisions on what they'd LIKE to be true, the Democratic Party will listen to people with real world experience in dealing with actual warfare.

-Affordable Healthcare for all. Americans have admitted they'd like to be able to get medical care without going deep in debt in the process.

-A budget that makes sense. Yes, rather than spending billions of dollars we don't have, the Democratic Party will put a cap on spending and return some fiscal sanity to the government by cutting back on corporate welfare and making sure everyone pays their fair share.

-A TRUE coalition of the willing. With the Democratic Party in control, we'll be able to actually make and keep valuable connections to other countries to help track down, capture, and prosecute terrorists.

-Sound environmental policies. Instead of granting big corporations more power to poison us and our children, the Democratic Party will work to ensure that the water we drink and the air we breathe is clean and safe for everyone.

-Clean, renewable energy. The Democratic Party will create a new "Apollo Project" to seek new sources of energy to release us from bondage to the Oil Cartels and the profiteering of the oil companies.

-Self respect. America will finally be able to stand proud and say "we did away with rendition, torture, illegal wars of aggression and held the people responsible accountable."

-Privacy. The Democratic Party believes that the Constitution should be respected, and the 4th Amendment shouldn't be ignored on a whim.If all of this sounds good to you, please ignore the detour signs and take a left in November. If you truly want what's best for America and Americans, it's the best turn you could make.

Our 21st Century Civil War

Nearly any liberal is perfectly aware of how unreachable some people are. They will support the President and this administration come Hell (Iraq) or high water (Katrina). They question our patriotism because we dare to question their Great Leader's.

Just a few short years ago we watched them tear into a sitting President like a pack of starving hyenas, for nothing more than a human failing. Was what he did wrong? Of course. Was it the worst thing a President could have done? Hardly.

Now we are looking at perhaps some of the worst crimes ever perpetrated against the American People by a sitting President and many--too many--are willing to shrug and overlook them, because they foolishly believe he's keeping us safe. A complacent, complicit media huddles in the corner, only speaking out when it's deemed unavoidable.

I don't feel safer than I did. Quite the opposite. I'm fairly certain that his actions have emboldened those he wishes to subdue, and we are in much danger, if not more danger, from his rabid followers than from foreign terrorists. There are voices on the radio and on TV who are calling us 'traitors' and worse. Again, simply because we dare to point out that, despite the rhetoric, there is no reason to believe we're any safer than we were.

Have not the right wing radio hosts called for our imprisonment? For our deaths? Has not the rabid, emaciated creature known by some as 'Annthrax' called for our extermination? For the alleged crime of having a different viewpoint and having the nerve to speak out about that viewpoint?

We live in dangerous times, my friends. When people who have the ear of a large segment of society are (not so subtly) trying to provoke their listeners into violent actions against another segment of society, we stand on the brink of a whole different kind of conflict.

Am I worried? You bet. Not necessarily for myself, however. I fear for my fellow liberals who live in the hinterlands among those who would hate them, not in the city as I do, surrounded by people who either feel similarly, or who do not believe I'm an enemy because of my political views.

Be vigilant, friends. For I fear that the first shot of the 2nd American Civil War will not even be recognized for what it is. And that scares me more than I can say.

Be vigilant.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Get Up Stand Up

I hear it all the time. “All politicians are the same. They don’t represent me.” Or, better yet, “I don’t do politics.”

“That’s okay,” I tell them. “Politics will do you.” Then I might add. “Got lube?”

There’s a strong swelling sentiment in this country that the politicians don’t represent the people, a sentiment reflected in the increasingly low voter turnout on Election Day. We can debate the reason for this for days on end, but the truth of it is unmistakable.

We can blame them, rail against them, condemn them for their attitude, but none of these things are likely to do any good. Some want to make voting mandatory, like Australia. Personally I think that’s a stupid idea. Forcing people to participate in something they don’t give a rusty rat’s ass about? Not a good idea. I can’t see how anything positive can come out of it.

I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

So how can we reach these people? How can we get people to actually vote? A radio caller once mentioned an idea that we have a voter lottery. A chance to win money for casting your votes. Well, on the surface it sounds pretty good, but…well…I’m sure we’d rather find a way to encourage informed voting. I’m not sure this would be the best way to do that.

So what is?

Well, first we have to determine which demographic is least likely to vote. Maybe we should sponsor a survey, try to figure out why they don’t vote. Get a consensus rolling. Where are we failing? We’ve got “Rock the Vote” “Rap the Vote” and who knows what else, trying to get the youth out there involved in the system. These things have seen a measure of success, but there is a great untapped resource of voters out there that just don’t connect with the system.

I think part of the problem is that we’ve allowed the whole electoral process to devolve into a mass of soundbytes, where the politicos aren’t so much talking TO the people as talking AT them. A lot of it is obviously manipulative, and, I’ll bet if you did do a survey, you’d find that most people dislike being manipulated by either side of the political spectrum. They don’t need slogans, they need solutions.

The media isn’t helping, of course. The mass communication medium that has sprang up over the past sixty years has done nothing to improve the connection between people and their “representatives.” Only in the last ten, with the advent and expansion of the internet, have we seen a way to reach the people as individuals actually arise. But only a few politicians and campaign people have tapped into this.

The RW has tapped its base, and I’m willing to bet that nearly all of the voters out there who don’t vote now are more attuned to the Democratic message, if it could only reach them effectively. Clearly. And attached to people they can believe will try to make a difference.

They say that “all politics is local.” Howard Dean is building a grassroots financing campaign for the DNC and doing a remarkable job of it. But it’s only half the battle. Getting the money from those who are already interested isn’t the hard part. Getting the votes from the people who aren’t is.

We need strong, charismatic leaders on the ground, in all our communities. Not just talking at the media, but walking around, shaking hands, and being real people. Listening to other people. Because we know that liberalism is about real people…their hopes, their fears, and those things they’d like to see to make their lives better.

It takes real people to connect to real people. So who’ll stand up and be that real person the voters can get to know?

Is it you? Or is it someone you know? Someone who’s willing to go out there and glad-hand, not politicking for any particular candidate, but for our Cause in general. Because that’s a part of what we need.

We already know that the majority of folks support Roe v. Wade and don’t want to see it overturned. We already know that the majority question the Iraq War. We already know that the majority of people want serious healthcare reform.

We need to let it be known that we want the same things they do, and we’re willing to work hard to give it to them.

Democrats. Neighbors helping neighbors. That’s what it’s about.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Here's another fine mess you've gotten us into, Dubya.

A lot of people are criticizing the Democrats for not have a coherent message about Iraq. Should we stay or should we go? Either way there's rough seas ahead. Or would that be rough sand? Anyway... The question shouldn't be, at this moment, whether the Dems should advocate staying or leaving, but whether the Dems should be pointing out HOW we got there in the first place.

"Iraq was never a threat...and they damn well knew it. Now we're there and don't have the faintest idea how to extricate ourselves. The President says "stay the course," but doesn't tell us what "stay the course" means."

"What the heck are we doing there in the first place? Because they were a threat? We know that wasn't true. We REALLY need to figure out why we were led into war against them.

"At first it was because Saddam was a threat, he was trying to get WMDs. Maybe he already HAD WMDs. Then it was just because he was a crazy lunatic jerk and we needed to get rid of him. Then it was to bring Democracy to the Middle East.

"Why are we there? Well, frankly, because our President and his advisors decided we needed to be. And that decision has killed over 2300 hundred American men and women so far, with who knows how many more to come. And what has it gained us? A ballooning deficit, the disdain of most of the rest of the world, and a lot of pissed-off Arabs.

"This wasn't OUR idea, though we were arm-twisted and 'misled' into it. Sure, we've got egg on our faces now. We were neo-conned.

"Do we need to get out of Iraq? We sure do. And as soon as we figure out how to do it without creating a bigger mess in the process, without causing even more innocent people to suffer for our arrogance, we'll be leaving.

"Just remember. We may look as though we went along with the plan, but we didn't write the plan and we didn't really know what the plan was. We still don't. But we know what the plan wasn't. It wasn't smart and it wasn't rational.

"So are we to blame? Partially. And we'll accept that. But we'll also accept that we have a responsibility to try to fix our mistake. To fix a mistake, you have to first acknowledge you made one. That's one thing you're not hearing from the President or the Republicans in general. They want to pretend that there wasn't a mistake. It's a Pee-Wee Herman moment for them. They're looking at the whole mess and saying, "we meant to do that."

"If they did, we've got even bigger problems than we realized."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I Aim to Misbehave

The America in which I grew up believing is supposed to include everyone. Yes, I realize that the America I grew up believing in never really existed, that it was an ideal that we never quite managed to achieve.

But in many ways the America That Never Was became a shining beacon of hope for the whole world. Behind the commercialism of Coca-Cola, Levi's jeans, and so many other American products that people across the world clamored for and fought to get, lies a belief in the dream that America used to represent.

America was the world's big sister, represented in iconic fashion by the lonely statue standing in New York Harbor, arm upraised. The big sister that didn't spy on its neighbors, but held the torch that lit the way to freedom and equality for all of mankind.

We've lost sight of that thanks to this administration and its flunkies. We turned a cynical eye on the rest of the world, the world that grew up looking at America and saying "we want to be like THEM when we grow up," and collectively spat in the faces of those who said out loud "that's not what America is supposed to be about."

On 9/11 we were struck a devastating blow and, as we reeled in shock, the rest of the world stood up and said "hey, you can't do that to our America!" People all over the world, even in those countries labeled by this administration as part of the "Axis of Evil," marched in protest at what was done to us.

When we went into Afghanistan after Osama Bin Laden, the will of the world went with us. "Catch that murdering bastard," they said. "Put him on trial and let us all show evil what we think of those who would do such a thing to our big sister."

They were our allies, our friends, and our little brothers and sisters.

But when we turned our attention from Bin Laden and went after Saddam and Iraq, the rest of the world paused a moment and looked at us, wondering what we were thinking. They knew that Saddam, though hateful himself, had not attacked us, was not the person who they wanted caught and punished.

In our arrogance, we turned our fury on our allies and friends, and said "if you're not with us, you're against us."

Though that was never true.

We slapped them down and turned our ponderous might against a tiny nation that never had the power to resist us.

Now the same meme echoes within the United States, pressed with ever increasing volume and force upon those who would question this administration and its policies.

We are told that we are traitors, and that only by supporting everything that they're doing can we hope to win the "War on Terror."

I disagree. You cannot fight against an idea, against a concept, with the power of military might. You can only fight an idea with another idea. The idea of the America That Never Was, the idea that was abandoned by this administration, is the best weapon we could have leveled against the threat we faced. That America believes in Truth, and Justice, and Hope for the world.

I stand by this assertion, and if people think it's wrong, if they think that by somehow not supporting this administration's wrong-headed policies of death, destruction, secrecy, and cynicism means that I do not support the soldiers that have been callously thrown in harm's way, I cannot change their minds.

But if you ask me to support this fiasco, this abandoning of America's ideals in the name of fear, hatred, and rage, I can only say with a resounding voice "NO!"I will not turn against the America I believe in. I will not accept an America in which only the powerful have a voice, and in an America that thinks that might makes right. I will not abandon America in its hour of need just because they think I must.

If they think that being a good American means going meekly along with the plan, I have news for them.

I aim to misbehave.

Everybody Matters

From the tiny child laying in its crib, burbling in happiness, or wailing with hunger, to the arthritic fellow making his way to his mailbox to look for a letter from his grandchildren--from the young woman on the bus taking her from her childhood home to a dream of greatness in the city to the old woman sitting on her porch, cat in her lap, calling cheerfully to the neighbors tending their garden. From the homeless child sleeping on the school steps to the woman walking down the university steps, diploma in her hand.

From the guy standing in the unemployment line, trying to find another job after his was eliminated or outsourced, to the CEO who gave the order. From the long haired, bearded busker playing guitar at the market, voice raised in a song of hope or despair, to the slick haired concert promoter hob-knobbing with the stars.

Everybody matters.We are all participants in what was once considered a grand experiment, a society in which we, the people, were all considered equal before the law, that insisted that each of our voices could be heard by those we elected to represent us.

It wasn't always true, of course, but it was a work in progress. One by one, the barriers were torn down and each segment of society became yet another to join their voices in the song of freedom. We believed that by working hard we could make a better world and a better life for our children.

When we stood and opposed the robber barons, fighting for the right to workplace safety, and the right to see our children to go to school rather than being forced to work alongside us, we did it for everyone. We did it for our children, and the children of our neighbors, and the children that would be born to them as well.

When we went off to fight the tyrant who tried to consume Europe, we did it for those who were dying, and those who were not yet born, because the hope of the future deserved it.

When we stood up against the war in southeast Asia, it wasn't just for ourselves, but for the children of all Americans, and the people there who also deserved to live in peace, to try to determine their own fate. We didn't do it because we don't believe in America, and what it's supposed to represent, but because we do.

When we protested the dumping of toxic wastes into the earth, the rivers, and the sea, it wasn't just to protect ourselves, or our own children, but to protect ALL of us, and all our children. When we fought for clean air, it wasn't to ensure our own breaths, but to ensure that all of us could continue to breathe air that didn't make us sick. When we stood up against the decimation of forest land, it was so all our children could enjoy the wonders of nature as we had. As our ancestors had.

America is more than a land mass, more than a nation of people. America is an idea. The idea that everybody matters, from the lowest to the highest, that everyone has a right to a decent life, and has a right to watch their children grow up in a world better yet than the one that they themselves remember.

Isn't that what everyone wants? That their children inherit a world in which more things are possible, in which they have every chance to succeed no matter where they were born and into which walk of life?

That's the one thing we liberals have been trying to say all along. That the farmer's daughter in Ohio, or Kentucky, is just as deserving of a chance to succeed in life as the CEO's son in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. That's why we stand and fight against those practices and policies that make it that much harder for them. Because if we didn't, who would?

We believe everybody matters.

Don't you?