With the 1974 resignation in disgrace of Richard M. Nixon so as to forestall his impeachment, our nation had the opportunity to take a different course, to begin again the long struggle to give real meaning to the national myths we live by, among them “freedom and justice for all” and “a nation of laws”. But by 1981 all that had gone by the board. We entered a time, and are still in its midst, when people think that merely saying words like freedom, justice, equality, democracy denotes their already being fulfilled; that, in the words of Orwell’s novel 1984, “War is peace”; that the past has no relevance to what we do now; that we should be more interested in looking forward than righting the wrongs of the past that have, in great part and in fact, resulted in our present situation, both here and abroad.
In 2008, listening to Barack Obama speak, I believed that we as a nation had been given another chance to get back onto the right road. So, I voted for him; I was overjoyed when he was elected. I now know that I expected from him more than I should have, given the climate of fear, the disinformation in the country generated or abetted primarily by the so-called Republican Party, the grave economic situation – and his own imperfections and interests as well as those of both parties’ politicians and their paymasters, the Corporate Oligarchs, most of whom can only be characterized as suborners of a new kleptocracy.
By Autumn 2009, I saw that I should have abstained from voting altogether or voted for former Representative Cynthia McKinney on a third party ticket as I had originally planned. Though not a ‘perfect’ choice, she has proven to be – if nothing else – fearless in the face of obscurantism and injustice; she does more than give nice speeches – she actually puts her words into action; she puts herself on the line for her beliefs.
In the domestic arena, President Obama, on the other hand, if not pusillanimous, has been, and certainly remains, much too hesitant in taking on the underlying faults in many parts of our political life, government and economy. He can’t keep using the “bipartisanship” call to mask his preference for avoiding confrontation. At this point, he may have realized that seeking bipartisanship is, in the old saying, the same as beating a dead horse. And, he must also realize now that whatever he may do, he will still be maligned – simultaneously, and laughably – as a “liberal fascist”, as a “socialist”, as a “Nazi racist”, as un-American (whatever the hell that means.)
In regard to health care reform (a misnomer if there ever was one – it is really health insurance companies’ aggrandizement), it seems that the Obama Administration has managed to allow the corporate interests and their minions in Congress (and even some in his own Administration) to completely muddy the issues involved, and to confuse and alienate the very people who should have been brought into the process from the very beginning. Mr. Obama should not have turned this important matter over to the Congress first as he did. He did only near the end of the process (and that, haphazardly) what he should have done from the start – make the issue an educational process for the American people, including bringing citizens’ groups’ representatives into the process of finalizing a plan; laying out the parameters of a plan once completed in enough detail to forestall the confusion that has, in fact, resulted, and only then should he have presented the plan to Congress for the inevitable horse-trading. He not only did things bass-ackwards – he gave the corporate medical insurers and pharmaceutical interests even more power over people’s health and well-being than if he had pursued a single-payer health care system, or at least had not cravenly abandoned support for a “public option”. Faced with the labyrinthine manner in which “Obama Care” was arrived at, one can only conclude that Obama and his team, though filled with supposed political, technocratic, and financial “wonks” are actually nothing but a bubble of incompetents – or that the Administration’s manner of proceeding in this important area was in effect just what was consciously intended, and not an unforeseen outcome, forced upon them by circumstance.
Like many of my friends and family, I have become thoroughly discouraged with the course our government has taken under Mr. Obama in regard to the enforcement of our most important laws, and what seems to be an almost flippant approach to our Constitution itself. If he cannot proceed against incontrovertible evidence of willful malfeasance in the making of war, and its conduct; if he cannot seriously pursue bringing to account torturers and the people who enabled them; if he continues to treat “whistleblowers” as “enemies of the state” when they are in effect the last bulwarks of truth and of upholding laws against baseless torture, wanton murder and orchestrated mayhem; if he continually puts off the prosecution of those who knowingly committed massive financial fraud that beggared so many and brought our economy to near-collapse, he makes a final mockery of the belief that ours is a nation of laws.
In regard to our ongoing wars, the arrests in 2010 of alleged terrorists in New York City and Colorado as well as similar actions in other places in our country since then, point out once again, for all to see, the actual and only effective way to defend our nation from terrorists. Our government’s policies of dropping bombs on people in foreign countries and of helping corrupt, oppressive governments to stay in power only create more terrorists. Fighting terrorists is a police and intelligence activity, not a military one. We cannot afford any more murders of children and women in the night, whether at the hands of vaunted ‘special operations forces’ or by the secretive use of drones. We can’t keep creating the conditions that engender resentment, vengeance, and the consequent method for the weak to strike back – terrorism.
I think that President Obama and the President-wanna-be (I just can’t bring myself to say his name; doing so would be, for me, almost a profanity, for he is just so different from his late father, George Romney, a decent even though very rich man) – I think they both must now expect that people like me – who want true justice and freedom and peace, both here and abroad; who really believe that we must be a nation of laws and make every effort to show the world that we truly are such – will have to stand up, by the hundreds of thousands, in the streets of our own cities and towns, and in the nation’s capital, to make certain that the repeat President, or the new President, as well as the Congress, know that they must get back on that road we somehow strayed from over thirty years ago. The President and Congress must also be ready to accept that we citizens will do everything in our power as citizens to bring our politicians to finally become fearless in doing what they know has been right all along, but have deliberately suppressed in an effort, in the one case, to seem “middle-of-the-road” or, in the other, friends of the new incarnations of Know-Nothingism in our midst. As the Texas progressive, Jim Hightower, put it in his picturesque way: The only things in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos. And, also, as the late Senator Patrick Moynihan said some years ago: Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
The Occupy Movement is surely a good start toward getting back on the road to real democracy, yet it is still only a start. But, regardless of who is elected President on November 6th, or which party is in control of the houses of Congress, be assured that we citizens must and will come into the streets, drawn by both the President’s and Congress’s inevitably disappointing actions and unfulfilled words, to keep them – and ourselves – faithful to all those many promises made to us in fine speeches, and our own expectations and beliefs. It may take a long time to muster the numbers – after all, the demonstrations against the Kennedy/Johnson (and later Nixon) war in Viet Nam didn’t reach very large numbers until 1968. But the numbers of people drawn into activism will become ever larger as more and more wake up to reality and see there is no other conscionable way forward in view of the utter corruption of conventional politics and the almost endless duplicity of most incumbent politicians.
To fail to take up this challenge and move beyond the empty politics of today will mean, for certain, the end of our democracy.
I’ll conclude these musings with two quotations from the writings of our great revolutionary writer-patriot, Thomas Paine:
There are stages in the business of serious life in which to amuse is cruel, but to deceive is to destroy; and it is of little consequence, in the conclusion, whether men deceive themselves, or submit, by a kind of mutual consent, to the impositions of each other. That England has been long under the influence of delusion or mistake, needs no further proof than the unexpected and wretched situation she is now involved in: And so powerful has been the influence, that no provision was ever made or thought of against misfortune, because the possibility of its happening was never conceived.
And also this:
The case now is not so properly who began the war, as who continues it.
In the first citation, substitute “America” for “England”, and it gives, unfortunately, as good a depiction of our nation at this time as any.
The second citation needs no additional comment.
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(c) Gregory V Driscoll 2012