Friday, June 30, 2006
Do We Deserve a Democracy?
Well, the fourth of July is coming up. And me, I haven’t been able to keep up my synopsis of the news the last couple weeks because the headlines alone have been enough to make me want to:
2. climb into a closet and read a book on logic for the rest of my natural life, never speaking to humans
3. scream at the top of my considerable lungs. (The smoking doesn’t even diminish my lung capacity!)
4. kill myself
5. shoot somebody else
The world, and this country in particular, seem to have gone completely Jonestown-crazy, and my mind is boggled beyond belief. I don’t want to stew in this alone, so yeah, I’m gonna spew some of these headlines, and whatever else comes to mind. Maybe you’re one of the not-so-crazy ones, or why would you even be taking the trouble to read this diatribe? But the ones I need to scream at just now are the ugly patriots, the ones whose common sense and common decency have fled, who are willing to tightly shut their eyes to what’s really going on, to sell their souls (along with the bodies of other innocent people) for the scrap metal of being called “American,” a matter of being born within certain geographical boundaries that supposedly makes you smarter and more virtuous than other people.
Do you have the guts to consider what’s really going on right under our noses? (Smells a bit like death.) Let’s take a peek at only about two weeks’ worth of this sewage.
Well, while our elected political “representatives” have been spending time hysterically discussing flag-burning (when was the last time you saw that, or heard it to kill anyone?), and gay marriage, and the dangers of video games, there have been some very real problems going unattended.
One thing that has seriously bothered me greatly, because I’m a citizen of this country and therefore partially responsible, is all the rapes and murders of innocent Iraqis going on. So one story of multiple civilian murders (including little kids, in Haditha; the charged Marines’ lawyer says they were following procedure, which may sadly be true) gets coverage in Time, and then what do you know, suddenly several other similar incidents arise. Two US soldiers rape a 15-year-old Iraqi girl and kill her and her entire family to cover it up. Our military tries to say she was 25 cuz that doesn’t sound so bad, but the Iraqi mayor and others say no, she was 15—who you gonna believe? Come on, get real! Then our military waits to indict one of these soldiers for his actions after conveniently discharging him for having a “personality disorder.” That’s also when they announce it to our press. The other soldier-rapist—and all their buds who went along with the pretend attack of “terrorists”—aren’t charged at all.
In another incident, three soldiers were indicted for letting three Iraqi civilians go, only to have a chance to rifle-hunt them, all with a cover story for it. And soldiers killed fifteen “terrorists” supposedly, while Iraqi witnesses and a Parliament member say they were unarmed civilians, including two kids. Eight GIs were also charged with kidnapping one man and killing him. And a couple other stories like that. My god, how many of these murders do you think we haven’t heard about? And these are US soldiers supposedly under our laws. What about all the mercenaries we hire, who are not answerable to anyone or to any laws at all? Truth is, our torture-loving, Geneva Convention-tossing administration has set the tone for brown-skinned, foreign-language-speaking people as being quite dispensable. I mean, it’s not like these people are Americans or anything!
Do you suppose that atrocities suddenly became contagious over there? No, with the Haditha coverage there was suddenly a tiny opening for the media to cover a bit of the realities of war, which made military brass afraid about being caught and charged with cover-ups. This shit always goes on in wars, people! You either stand up to it and give the glorious soldiers trials and prison sentences or you cover it all up and basically tell them to carry on as is. And this administration has repeatedly shown that all it really cares about is covering up or distorting the realities. That and dramatically waving around the imagery with which to manipulate us, to keep us complacent, to keep us believing that all born within our geographical boundaries are virtuous, that even if they aren‘t virtuous to begin with, putting on a uniform will make them so. They are always “good” and anyone they kill is always “bad.” And questioning this simplistic, idiotic thinking is supposedly “unpatriotic”?? If we care more about our image to ourselves than the reality, or more about keeping the image shiney than taking responsibility for the real harm we inflict on others, we do not deserve a democracy.
Getting tired of reading this? Man, I haven’t even come anywhere near the major stuff. I dare you, DARE you to keep on with this, right along with me. Come on, take the test! Do you really want a democratic country or not?
Three longtime Guantanamo prisoners hanged themselves. They were checked on every two minutes, too, and painfully force-fed when they went on hunger-strike, tied to chairs with tubes forced down their throats. We didn’t even grant them the dignity of the most basic of human choices. We stole their very personhood. And many of them were guilty only of being at the wrong place in the wrong time. Remember how many prisoners we used to hold there without hope of charges or trials or communication with anyone in the outside world? Over six hundred. (Two thousand total were detained without rights by the US after 9/11.) Now it’s less than 400, and only ten have been charged with anything. Where did the others go? They were quietly let go. Very quietly, without any media coverage even. Why? You can figure it out, go on! Get out that rusty brain of yours! As far as the suicides, the TV tried to ply our rusty consciences by telling us that it was a public relations ploy to get sympathy. Well then, damn, we’re not gonna feel sorry for them, are we? And the Supreme Court just told us what we all already knew, cuz it doesn’t really take a law degree, just the most basic knowledge of the Constitution: Guantanamo breaks our laws! International laws we've signed, too, yes, but even our constitutional laws. We all already knew that, we just didn’t care. If we won’t even guard our own Constitution, we don’t deserve a democracy.
Did you know that we’re the only industrialized nation that has refused to sign the international landmine ban? In both Afghanistan and Iraq, dozens of “IEDs” blow up daily, many of them manufactured by and/or planted by us. They maim and kill many civilians, especially children out playing. Afghanistan, the “success story” Bush claimed in the last election, has actually become the main heroin producer of the world since we took over, their troops are highway robbers, and the Muslim insurgency is growing there as well as in Iraq.
A study comes out showing that the image of the US has deteriorated significantly all over the world. Anti-American protests in the Ukraine force our soldiers to leave there. (What? Is it the rest of the world that’s gone crazy, or is it us?) In Lebanon, many Muslims have become so angry at us that they've gone to Iraq to fight to throw out the American occupiers. You think we’re liberators? The country’s in shambles and chaos, with no employment, medical clinics, or electricity, despite the many billions thrown to Republican buddies for rebuilding. (And we recently told the Iraqis we’re done with the rebuilding stuff, wanna concentrate on more important things now . . .) Women and children rarely leave their homes because of the kidnappings for money, and the violence. The Iraqi cop-soldiers we’ve been training have become the same kind of terrorist assassins that Saddam had. They’re involved in kidnappings and hits right in the open, in full public view. All the middle-class Iraqis are leaving. Billions went missing with the interim Iraqi government and our government and media just shrug their shoulders over it, ignore it.
Our soldiers primarily stay safely cooped-up in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Our president goes there for a photo op so secretively that only several of his own people know of the visit beforehand. For some reason, a lot of folk apparently want this dude dead. Huh. While Bush was there, Iraq’s president and vice-president asked him to set a timetable for withdrawing. No go. We’re still building our permanent bases up. Few Iraqis still see us as liberators; most see us now as occupiers. Only one percent say they’d trust US troops with their safety. (Think this is just because they hate our freedom? Or because they've seen what's been happening around them, in their own country?)
Even though sixty-some percent of US citizens want us out of Iraq, and ninety-some percent of Iraqis want us out, our Congress just voted to keep us there indefinitely. We’re NINE TRILLION in debt—a record deficit— much of it because of Iraq, and our great-grandchildren will still be paying for this war. If we’re willing to believe the blatant lies of our politicians as they injure our standing in the world, and our economic future, and we can’t get them to listen to us or seriously even consider what most of us want, we don’t deserve a democracy.
One retired CIA guy says he tried to warn his superiors that the single Iraqi man who gave the info about bio-weapons in Iraq (prior to our invasion) was obviously full of it, but that’s not what they wanted to hear, so they didn’t hear it. Let’s see . . . We refused to give the UN inspector time to finish his search for “WMDs”; refused to listen to the UN assessment that Iraq probably didn’t have any; knew at the time that North Korea, on the other hand, DID have some; followed almost exactly the plans for invading Iraq that Paul Wolfowitz wrote ten years before, under the first Bush oil-president; when no WMDs were found, we changed the reason for war to freeing the Iraqi people from Saddam, while totally ignoring the genocide going on in the Sudan; upon invading Iraq, our soldiers immediately guard the oilfields, ignoring the historical and cultural museums of one of the oldest civilizations on the planet (which are then looted); and I could go on and on but you get the drift . . . If we still believe we were not deliberately misled about this war, and don’t act to stop the hoodlums in power—who obviously seek only to feed the greed of their cronies, we don’t deserve a democracy.
Remember that Congress not long ago voted for John McCain’s bill to outlaw our military using torture? Remember that our president, while signing it into law, also signed one of his “statements” (as usual), saying that he didn’t have to abide by that law? (He's done that over 700 times now.) Well, the army has been trying to decide whether or not to include a secret section in its handbook with the details for illegal torture methods.
Our federal government has been breaking our laws by keeping records of our private phone calls, and now we learn that it has also illegally, without warrants, been keeping track of the financial records of millions of citizens. The Republicans go on the attack, charging The New York Times with "helping the terrorists” for letting the American people know what their government is doing illegally. (Probably won't go anywhere legally, but it puts other media back into their frightened little places.) This attack on free press is similar to their PR stunts just exposed in a 74-page memo to all their people, saying to attack the Democrats as wusses basically for their position on Iraq. (What position anyway??) At the same time that our leaders flagrantly disobey our laws, and as we smilingly forgive them for doing so (believing they must have oh such good reasons for doing it or why would they ever do that anyway; we are all such good, good GOOD Pollyannas in the good, good, GOOD ole US of A). . . At the very same time as they brazenly and repeatedly break national laws, our leaders fling us a highly ironic distraction:
Horror of horrors! Haven’t you noticed what’s been going on for decades? We have got too many of those brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking immigrants coming here to work for cheap and keeping our products competitively priced. They are the enemy. They are . . . criminals! They are . . . breaking . . . our . . . laws! Just by being here! Well, yes, it's true that about half of the illegals get regular paychecks and W-2s, and that the Bush admin only prosecuted three employers in the entire nation last year for hiring them, but that's because it's good for our economy. Don't you get it? Like, we have to allow them here to help rebuild New Orleans. But you must understand why that’s different. I mean, you can see why we had to scrap the minimum wage there, don't you? And no "American" is gonna work that cheap! The blacks? Oh, sure, maybe they needed the jobs, but we're trying to clean up the area with this opportunity, know what I mean, wink, wink?
Oh, don't we just love the drama of all the rallies and counter-protests, and walls being built! And we get to feel . . . what's that word? Oh yeah, we get to feel superior again, damn Mexicans!
No, wait, don’t go yet! At least, not unless you already know all this stuff. (And if you do, what a genuine rarity you are, congrats!) We don’t know yet if you really and truly want a democracy. . . . But if you don’t know all this stuff and don’t want to read further, we know the answer anyway, don’t we? Well, I do, despite your rationalizations.
Should we look closer to home a minute? Even closer to the people we know, the ones who matter to us? Well, as it turns out, all this messy, illegal, costly trouble our country has chosen to engage in is not actually for our benefit. Is that what you thought? (Oh, you sweet, naïve dear!) Well, unless you’re in the top two to ten percent of money-makers anyway. Then yes, some bones are being thrown your way in the form of tax cuts. Some dinosaur bones, actually. OK , yes indeedy, with lotsa meat on them, $70 billion worth of meat in fact (recent additional tax cut for the rich passed). Let’s see, the top ten percent economically in the country have a greater share of wealth than at any time since we began accumulating this data during WWII. At the same time, middle-class neighborhoods are shrinking, down from 58 percent in 1970 to only 41 percent of the 100 biggest metro areas now. (Yes, because of poverty increasing, you stirring minds!) Congress just refused to raise the minimum wage from $5.15, which it's been at for nearly a decade. That's the lowest wage by far (adjusted for inflation) in at least half a century. But that's only so we can stay competitive in a global market, right? Oh, yeah, that thing about us having the biggest discrepancy between the average worker and CEO salaries in the whole world, forgot that one . . . But hey, what the hell do want? Some kind of socialism?
This trend is actually some mysterious process happening naturally, without human intervention. In fact, it’s probably all God’s divine will in play. Pay no attention to the massive amounts of money, trips, and other perks that global corporations have been giving to (mostly Republican) politicians. Never mind the “pork” bills giving our tax money to ridiculous projects and corporate criminals, or billions in no-bid contracts to Cheney’s Halliburton, and other corporate players who know the D.C. rules.
Even though we have a mind-staggering deficit and our schools and social services are all severely bleeding, even though we’re spending a billion dollars a day in Iraq alone, Congress just voted to very drastically cut the estate tax. (You won’t find this info readily available to you in mass media, but do some research: this bill costs us $1 TRILLION over ten years. But hey, the happy rich people will give moola back to those what did this for ‘em.) Now, less than 3,000 wealthy estates in the nation will have to pay any taxes at all. That way we can keep the class system in place, keep the ruling family dynasties in their natural position of authority and responsibility. The rich know better than anyone what’s good for our people, of course. Where, oh where, are the good old days when people knew their place in society? We’re just getting back to the system God intended us to have. I mean, why would He give some of us money and power in the first place, unless He intended us to rule? Right? It’s such obvious and easy logic! So we’re using our money and power to keep and increase our money and power—and it’s all God’s willy-nilly Will, you see?
Hey, where do you think you’re going? So you don’t like sarcasm? It’s not nice to be angry? You think we can keep our democracy just fine without entering into any unpleasantness? Do you realize that all you’ve been doing so far here is nibbling at the White Wonder Bread crust of it, that you haven’t even taken one bite of the meat yet? No, not one. Go run off now, watch the nightly news and see what you can gather from our corporate media. (But I do know you’re one of those who can’t handle a real democracy, which is only for real people, solid people, not phantasms who live and breathe illusions. Go on now, don’t look back.)
Closer to home on the world stage, too, South America has been throwing off US dominance—mainly by throwing off high-rate loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which then can dictate burdensome policies to these countries, once they’re in our jaws. And what do these countries like Venezuela then do? They begin programs for their poor! They—horror of ghastly horrors!—nationalize their resources, renegotiating rates with other countries’ companies, paying off other countries’ interests, so they get more of a reasonable return for their own goods. Do the rulers of our country like that? No, of course they do not! It’s not fair! Sure, we can talk about “free trade,” but you know that’s not what we really mean! Extra money is supposed to flow to the US! God wants it that way. That’s why He made us so superior, gave us so much power! Is South America going . . . communist? What? Isn’t communism and socialism the same thing? That’s what they taught us in high school! What? You can have a democratic socialist country? Why are you talking about Europe and Scandinavia? They’ve never been socialist, aren’t socialist. Are they? Whatever do you mean? They never taught us that in high school! Anyway, so yes, surprise! Our leaders are beginning to verbally attack South America, which keeps adding more countries to this dangerous trend! Condaleeza is spitting fighting words! Our media is beginning to use language in that cute, sneaky way, suggesting this, hinting at that, none of it exactly quite lies. But if we had to economically isolate, or even bomb some South American country, you’ll know by then that it’s for our own good. Oh, so sorry, typo; I meant for THEIR own good! You understand.
Hey, be patient! I’m coming up on some real meat now! Almost there. But first some odds and ends of things I want to get rid of . . .
Karl Rove, that hard-boiled-egg-headed White House chief of staff? Who was quietly moved to the back of the room a couple months ago, in case he was indicted? Remember? His top aide was indicted for lying to a grand jury—about punishing a guy for saying Intelligence knew before the war that Saddam never really tried to buy uranium, as the president and Cheney had declared . . . And so, as punishment, the Administration immediately outed his wife as a CIA undercover agent. (Yes, that meant her long career was over and lives may even have been endangered.) Well, Rove’s not gonna be indicted after all—not enough evidence. No, not being indicted doesn’t mean he’s innocent. In fact, we know he was involved in this punishment of Joe Wilson for telling the truth about the war.
The 1965 Voting Rights Act? Remember that one? It’s designed to legally uphold the right of all people—including POC in the South—to vote. Well, the Republicans decided that, despite their promises to extend this law, it isn’t really necessary. I mean, most people of color don’t vote Republican anyway. And an oopsy embarrassment! Congress held a photo-op celebration on the Capitol steps for extending this vital law for democracy—just before a closed-door session of some Republican leaders decided nope, no go, put that Act back on the shelves, way in the back of the closet.
Have you noticed that they’ve been playing up the “terrorist” shit again? Yeah, “Intelligence” found a few young guys trying to make themselves important—who should’ve known better cuz they were black and partly Muslim—and so some federal guy goes in and plays on their stupid egos, gets them to talk about al-Qaida (which they’d never even mentioned prior), and supposedly they were gonna blow up the Sears building in Chicago with nothing but talk. Man, I was a teacher, and you can find kids like this at almost any high school. Now they’ll probably get thrown into prison for decades, where they’ll learn to become REAL criminals! But the administration’s got its way with us again—eeewww, oh-ohhh, scare, scare! Puh-leez, Mr. Bush, save us! We’ll do anything you want!
If we buy into this kind of obvious manipulation, let others do our (little bit of) thinking for us, we truly do not deserve a democracy.
I’m losing my stomach for all this again. There’s just too damn much, too much of it. Yeah, I was gonna end with big splashes about the Israeli lobby here in the US (so big we can’t even see it). And remind the few who ever even knew about the Israeli spies caught red-handed right before the last presidential election—with one right in the White House—and what the hard-line Israeli goal was/still is: for us to take out in some way Iraq, Iran, and Syria. (Yes, in that order.) We don’t even need Israel’s strategic location for bases anymore, like we did during the Cold War with the USSR. But we can’t even have a discussion about this whole situation, because anytime someone brings it up, the U.S. pro-Israel lobby screams: anti-Semitism! And of course, our media goes along with it. They don’t give us credit for having any brains at all! Like if someone doesn't like the policies of the Rwandan government, that means they're racist against black people? Give me a break!
You been watching what’s going on with Israel and Palestine? Palestine DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED Hamas, which we and Israel call a “terrorist group.” Wanna know why they’re considered terrorist? Cuz even though they’re poor and don’t have big fancy weapons like Israel, they still won’t lie down and die! Cuz they STILL want their land and their rights back. Cuz though Israel kills FIVE TIMES as many civilians as Palestine does, and treats them in every way as much less than second-class citizens—denying them water, access to hospitals, employment, and punishing them as though they were one entity with bombs from the sky (compliments of us) or razing homes that have been in families for centuries (because some other Palestinian did something)—they STILL won’t acquiesce to Power!
They recently bombed a Palestinian family at a beach, and then said no, that was a Palestinian IED (international human rights groups say otherwise). Well, the Palestinians got upset, just like Americans would, and now Israel is willing to kill every last Palestinian in order to get back one Israeli soldier who’s been taken captive. Because, to their government’s mind, one Israeli is worth many thousands of Palestinians (military or civilian? oh, that doesn’t matter). Israel is one example of what I consider a victim turning into a perp. And oh, that country is good at it! I could see Israel above all countries on this planet starting a nuclear showdown that ends uh . . . Very Badly. And yes, almost all of their power (and nukes) come from us. Something that most Arabs and Muslims know, but most US citizens don't,is that it's pretty hard to differentiate between Israel and the US on the world stage. Israel does nto want us to close our extremely generous money and weapons channel to them!
Then there’s that little matter about democracy at home. Nine people decided the 2000 election, and two of them should have recused themselves from that vote because they had family working for Bush and Republicans. (Guess which way they voted?) And there’s a new article in Rolling Stone by one of the Kennedys with strong evidence that Ohio was tampered with in the last election. And in California, the Democratic Secretary of State had forbidden the Diebold voting machines made by Bush’s buddy, that can be tampered with by a middle school student, and that don’t have paper trails. But the Republican Secretary of State has put them in now. And the Republican Secretary in Ohio has done the same thing. Only about half of our states have passed laws insisting on paper trails. Republicans are generally fighting to keep that from happening. International groups say they can’t oversee our elections even, because our systems are so antiquated and diverse.
Want to know who the real enemy is? Follow the money and the manpower. It’s not going to protect our shores or to help our citizens in crisis. During Katrina, we learned (though the fact came and went rapidly), that FEMA had been stripped of almost all its money and power already, that it was just one more agency being absorbed by Homeland Security. (Consolidation of power in a way this country has never seen! And mostly under the federal power... hhhhmmmm, executive branch?) In fact, we’ve been told now that in case of a national crisis like avian flu, we’re on our own. The ones at the top? Oh, they’ll be taken of care of just fine. Always. But isn't that OUR tax money? Sure it is! That is OUR MONEY! Not theirs!
LOOK AT WHERE THE MONEY IS GOING, AT WHAT IT’S BUYING, AT WHO IS BEING WATCHED! AND THINK A LITTLE BIT FOR YOURSELF!
Yes, there are real enemies of democracy in power in this country right now. They're quite real, and they are not us, and not like us. They're powered by greed. But then, when you ask yourself who the real, bottom-line enemy of democracy is, take a look in the mirror, too, with great unease. Because people who won’t work for a democracy, or fight for one, can never keep it.
FIGHT FOR IT if you really care. Don't think, "That doesn't mean me." Yes, you are exactly who it means. You are democracy and you are our hope. Come on! We're rising up! What can you do? Small things add up. Individuals add up to movements. Do whatever small things you can. Stay informed, communicate with others about the issues, don’t let the media do your thinking for you, and get active in whatever way you can! Check out the list of subversive activities below. VOTE! There is still hope! Give some out to others, so they'll act, too!