Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dissent is The Essence of American

The US has been through a lot of awful stuff over the past few years, but this week brought what I’d consider the most ridiculous government legislation so far, the condemnation of a MoveOn.org ad which criticized General Petraeus. There’s a number of reasons this really bothers me, more than all the other shit that’s been foisted on us by Bush and his crew, and this incident as much as any other sums up why the Bush team is still so powerful, and why the Democratic party is such a pathetic bunch of cowards who won’t really change anything if they’re elected.

Back in 2006, I wrote: “The critical thing after 9/11 was the construction of the idea that to not support American aggression was to be anti-American, to oppose Bush's policies was to be a traitor. This was evident in the Dixie Chicks controversy, how could having a difference of opinion mean being anti-American? Isn't the whole point of freedom having the option of doing and saying whatever you want? But as constructed by Bush, it's an us vs. them, the "free world" vs. the axis of evil.” Since then, there’s been a massive erosion of support for Bush, the vast majority of people are incredibly dissatisfied with the way the war in Iraq is going, yet no one is standing up to combat the Bush administration.

The Democrats got elected on the promise that they would end the war, however, they’ve done absolutely nothing. Now, the president’s veto power means they can’t do whatever they want, but that’s not an excuse to do nothing. They should be passing bills cutting funding for Iraq all the time, and forcing Bush to veto them, put the responsibility for every American death firmly on Bush and whoever voted for that legislation, where it belongs. Of course, the Democrats are so incredibly pathetic, they can’t even censure Bush for his execution of the war. It’s pretty sad.

But things got sadder this week when we got this condemnation of an ad. I don’t understand how people running a nation that was founded on criticizing exiting order can legitimately be angry at a group for criticizing the handling of this war through an attack on the man handling it. It’s absolutely perplexing to me, and I’d love to hear someone try to defend it as anything other than pure politics. The Republicans are absolutely shameless to call this ad disgusting, but have no problem with the tens of thousands of people that George Bush killed with his war in Iraq.

But, the saddest thing for me is that Democrats not only voted for the condemnation, but actually tried to expand its reach and further diminish free speech. It’s unbelievable hypocrisy to criticize MoveOn for attacking Petraeus after the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry, but condemning those attacks three years after the fact isn’t going to do anything. Where the fuck was the attack on Republicans then, particularly when Bush was attacking anyone who attacked his “military service.” That’s one the greatest testaments to their patheticness, even when their candidate actually fought in the war, they lose the military cred.

Now, I think running from Kerry’s anti-war record was a huge mistake. The protest movement in Vietnam was one of the proudest moments in our nation’s history, a moment when people tried to fight back and not just accept the will of the government. Kerry was a hero for that, not for his service in Vietnam. The soldiers in Iraq and Vietnam are not heroes, they are victims. Bush does not care about the soldiers, he does not support them and he does not respect them, nor do any of the Republicans who sent them into war for no good reason.

But, that’s just my opinion. Would I condemn someone who thought otherwise? No, and that’s why anyone who voted for the condemnation will never have my support again. I can’t respect someone who says it’s wrong to criticize the military because that is not wrong, sometimes it’s the only way to create change. No institution in this country is above critique because no institution is perfect, and they never will be, we always can be better and we should strive for that.

Inherent in conservative politics by its very definition is the notion that things should remain the same. Because so many conservatives believe our nation is going downhill morally and socially, they respond to politicians who talk about the good old days and traditional values. Guess what, the good old days never existed, the moments they lionize were marred by racial prejudice and suppression of groups based on their gender and religion. We’re still far from perfect, but I’d rather see politicians who imagine a better future, and fight for that.

It’s unbelievable that some of the people in power remain in power considering the stupid things they say. I hear people say evolution doesn’t exist, that’s patently wrong, I thought we cleared the issue up in the 1920s. How could you trust someone who denies the existence of evolution to run our schools? And, evolution and God are not mutually exclusive, the way I see it, evolution is the engine designed to make us all better. Look at 2001: A Space Odyssey, evolution is moving us closer to godliness.

Beyond that, it’s hard to believe that people making hate speech against gay people can remain in office. Humanity’s destiny is towards acceptance and unity, we’ve knocked down a whole bunch of divisions, and prejudice based on sexual orientation is the next to go. The politicians who don’t support gay marriage today are the ones who would have supported slavery and the oppression of women years ago. It’s the same belief in a new guise, and soon, this barrier will fall like others in the past have. We are destined for greatness, but need to overcome these temporary obstacles.

The problem is, the Republicans still control the game. That’s why criticizing the military is analogous to treason, it’s the same as the Dixie Chicks controversy from a few years ago. They want to make dissent with the party line un-American, when in reality, dissent is the essence of America, and even the essence of the Christianity they all value so. Jesus was a revolutionary who upended social order, just because something has become an institution doesn’t mean it must lose the spark of change that ignited it. That is the core American and Christian value, not the imagined values of a time that never was the Republicans present us with now.

But, because they control the game, everyone is pushing towards the right. Democratic candidates refuse to really oppose the war, when in reality they should be fighting it hard. People hate the war, but this small group of extremists has captured our government and the idea space in America. Democrats must define themselves in relation the Republican values because they don’t really stand for anything. I’ll freely admit that, but it doesn’t mean we can’t dream of something better. Hate and fear have possessed our politics, and no one is willing to fight it with love and progress. Republicans would have you believe they are an oppressed group fighting for mainstream values against a small bunch of extremists who control the media and cultural dialogue. That would be hilarious if it wasn’t actually being said, Bush and his crew are the extremists, completely out of touch with the mainstream.

Sadly, most Democrats don’t really do anything. They are cowered by the brilliant attacks Republicans threw at previous candidates. Bush ran in 2000 on responsible fiscal management and a refusal to go on nation building military expeditions, but it’s Kerry who was tagged as a flip flopper. Once that tag was on, there was nothing he could do to combat it because everyone has slight variations in belief over time, that’s evolution. But, that adaptation was characterized as weakness.

This inaction is enforced by the fact that it feels like average people can’t do anything to enact change. No march or petition is going to stop the war in Iraq, and I get the distinct sense people can’t do anything but laugh at the situation, hence the popularity of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. But, laughing at it isn’t going to make it go away, and until a really dynamic, exciting leader comes along, we’ll have to just wait for time to change the game and push the Bush agenda away. But, with ridiculousness like Rudy Giuliani’s sudden belief in guns for everyone and the constant use of 9/11 as justification for everything, that could be a long time.

5 comments:

Therealisttruest (aka RealTrue) said...

Your post really got me going, as I was reading it on blogcritics.org. I posted a lengthy comment there and traced it back here as well. I just thought I would post that comment here as well. Let's just say I disagree with you overall, but it was well written nonetheless.

Man oh man! I could go on forever with this article. I barely even know where to begin. In trying to remain civil in my dissent, I'll simply say that I disagree with almost everything you have said. Obviously I am a conservative, but definitely not aligned with any political party. I would consider myself an independent, but the one thing I can't stand is Bush bashing. Fine he isn't the greatest leader we've ever had. There's a big mess in Iraq. Everything that is wrong with the world is all Bush's fault and since Patraeus works for Bush, well he is a traitor isn't he?

Look we are at war! Like it or not we are at war in Iraq, we are at war in Afghanistan, we are at war in places that neither you, I, or even the government fully know about as well. The War on Terror is global. We have been at war with Islamists for a quarter century at least, but just started fighting it after 3,000 civilians lost their lives in 2001. Bush didn't figure it out until it was too late, Clinton didn't have a clue, Bush 1, and even Reagan never took a serious look at this quagmire that started years ago. The bottom line is that they all suck!

To win a war, we need some unity though. No running, like the Dems want to do, no calling our generals traitors like MoveOn.org , no spitting on our troops like in the Vietnam war. Dissent is perfectly fine. You can have unity and dissent at the same time, if only you keep it respectful. When our "leaders" act like stupid children, the enemy sees us as weak and they keep fighting us even harder (ie Vietnam and Iraq). Laws won't save us, running from Iraq won't save us, and going at each other's throats won't save us either.

When the surge began I was actually a bit disappointed, because we sent so few soldiers(not victims like you claim) to clean this mess up. I thought we needed to send enough troops into Iraq to lock that country down, finish the job, and then get the hell out of there. Instead we got 30,000 troops(which really isn't enough) sent into a still prolonged, bloody war. We need to finish the job, politics aside, and get our families home, period. Leaving early under any circumstance is a horrible mistake which I believe we will pay for with our nations blood and probably our children's blood one day.

Jacob said...

I'm sorry that "Bush bashing" upsets you. I'm sure that you leapt to the defense of Bill Clinton back in the 90s when crazy people were accusing him of murdering his friends and plotting to use Chinese troops in UN helicopters to take over America, right? Right? Right? Because otherwise you'd be a giant hypocrite.

Here is the amazingly simple concept that conservatives do not understand: someone isn't entitled to respect just because they're the boss. I work for my company because they pay me money, not because my boss is a better human being than me. And even so he is not entitled to my unquestioning obedience. "A slave obeys - a man chooses," as the game Bioshock recently told us, and it's absolutely right. I choose to follow people who earn my respect with their deeds, not because they hide behind a badge or a flag.

George Bush has, by his actions, failed to earn my respect, and has lost the respect of over seventy percent of the country. We don't owe him shit. What you don't get is that as a citizen of this country the president is my employee, not the other way around. And he's done a poor job. Bad employees get fired.

Therealisttruest (aka RealTrue) said...

Jacob - Bush bashing upsets me because it's irrational and illogical. People blame him for almost everything and the left exploits that for political gain. I support Bush, but only as our leader. I think he believes he is doing the right thing most of the time, but he just doesn't do a good job of explaining it to the American people and thus comes off as stupid and arrogant. Well there is no need to convince you of any Bush merits, since you feel how you feel. You don't like Bush and honestly I don't like him that much either, but as the leader of the nation I do respect him. He earned that position, and I have not.

Respect does not mean blindly follow, nor does it mean agree with everything. Respect means standing with him whether you agree or not. It means being civil in your dissent as well. That means don't call the man an idiot or insult him. I think almost every person deserves that amount of basic respect, especially an elected (that means we chose him :) ) leader of our nation. Earning respect by deeds is important, but there should always be a certain level of respect for the President just because of his position. Disagree with him if you want, just don't bash him. That makes you look stupid and uncivilized.

As for Clinton, well I was in high school and wouldn't have stood up for anyone but myself back then, so no I didn't care about the conspiracy theories of the time and still don't take them seriously now. I could say he is or was a philanderer though, because that is fact. Talk about reasons to disrespect someone... but as a former President I still respect him, and overall think he did a decent job. I disagree with his politics and his moral judgment, but still respect him because of the fact he once was our leader.

Patrick said...

I would consider myself an independent, but the one thing I can't stand is Bush bashing.

It's not so much bashing as an attack on the man's record. I don't think Bush is dumb, his oft quoted misspeaking is a logical consequence of having virtually everything you say recorded by the press. In fact, refer to this article: (Team) George Bush is a Genius for my feelings on why he was the perfect leader for the Republicans in that moment. I don't respect what Bush has done, but I do respect him for having an agenda, a vision for America, and doing all he could to make it a reality.

But, I would say that the mess in Iraq is entirely his fault, he lied to send us to war there, and refuses to take us out.

As for us being at war meaning a need for unity, there's where you get into tricky territory. Bush has created a "War on Terror" that will put us in a constant state of war, a constant inability to question our leadership. That is dangerous and leads down the road to fascism. That's what V For Vendetta, the book, is all about, using war to justify these awful, awful government acts. In reality, that means Abu Grahib and other awful tortures. For that immoral action alone, Bush and his administration should lose our respect and trust.

Why are we fighting the terrorists? Why did we go to war in Iraq? For freedom, right? The freedom to tell our leaders when they're wrong and try to move down another path. We the people have no agency when it comes to the war in Iraq, civil dissent hasn't done anything, and Bush is eagerly pushing responsibility for the war in Iraq onto his successor.

We need to finish the job, politics aside, and get our families home, period.

But at this point, what is the job? Is it finding the WMDs, is it ousting Sadaam? Or is it some nebulous notion of standing down when they stand up. Things are so messed up there, we can't do anything but place a straw man government that will tear apart when we leave. Bush tried to use Vietnam as justification for staying in Iraq, I think it's a better justification for leaving. We waged war in Vietnam for years, but there was nothing we could do to win. Ultimately, they had to sort it out themselves, find their own order, and that's what they did. There was some awful times, but staying there wouldn't have stopped them, much like it won't in Iraq. It's going to be bad either way, why not get out now before we do any more damage, and let the Iraqis find their own order.

Alexander said...

Even with vetoing power, Bush still can't prevent Democrats from cutting the funding and forcing him to end our involvement in Iraq. All the Democrats have to do is to not pass a war-funding bill. No veto pen or Republican minority can prevent congressional leadership from not passing a bill. (In fact, the Democrats could have ended the war even before gaining power in '06, as it only takes 40 votes in the senate to prevent a bill's passage.) So every time democrats say "We just don't have the votes to end this war," they are being disingenuous. And every time they follow that statement up with "What we need is a new president to end this war," they are giving off the impression that the reason why the Democratic congress won't fulfill its duty is the same reason why Microsoft won't ever release bug-free software: they always have a new product to sell.

Here is a clip of Rahm Emanuel, the influential Democratic congressmen (and a Sarah Lawrence alum, no less), defending the Democratic position of not cutting off the funding. He is given a well-deserved talking-to:

at 2:50 into http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51tMxGywsKc

"They say evil happens when good men do nothing. Well, the Democrats prove it also happens when mediocre people do nothing." - Bill Maher

(I don't mean to sound so anti-democrat. Dems in '08!)

Alex