As I write I listen to you speak of poll taxes and voter suppression. I wish to share my story in respect to my personal reality and the fear that I live with. Decades before the Barack Obama long-form birth certificate, I realized my own fear. Unlike the persons in your account, I am not a senior citizen. I am a permanent resident of the United States and have been for all of my life. While I have never crossed a border into another country, I have great apprehension for what might occur.
May I provide a bit of background? For the last six years, I have lived in the State of Florida. I trust that the Florida situation, and thus mine, is familiar for more than a few. Millions of Americans have found, or will discover, circumstances have changed. The opportunity to cast a ballot, early, easily, or to merely to be part of the electoral process is no longer theirs.
Viewing the current attacks on voter access as a whole, several key points emerge:
• Fourteen states enacted a total of twenty-five measures that will unfairly and unnecessarily restrict the right to vote and exact a disproportionate price on African-American and other voters of color. Dozens more restrictions have been proposed nationwide, in a coordinated assault on voting rights.
• Several of the very states that experienced both historic participation of people of color in the 2008 Presidential Election and substantial minority population growth according to the 2010 Census are the ones mounting an assault to prevent similar political participation in 2012. These states include those that experienced the largest growth in total African-American population during the last decade (Florida, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina), and three states that saw the highest growth rates in Latino population (South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee).
• The restrictive measures adopted by these states include:
• Tightening the requirements for voter registration or making the voter registration process unnecessarily difficult by imposing severe restrictions on persons who conduct voter registration drives or requiring individuals to produce documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.
§ Increasing disfranchisement of people with felony convictions.
§ Substantially reducing the opportunity to vote early or by absentee ballot.
§ Erecting barriers to participation on Election Day itself The heart of the modern block the vote campaign is a wave of restrictive government-issued photo identification requirements.
In a coordinated effort, legislators in thirty-four states introduced bills imposing such requirements. Many of these bills were modeled on legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-a conservative advocacy group whose founder explained: “our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
• According to one estimate by the Brennan Center for Justice, these block the vote efforts could impede as many as five million eligible voters from registering and/or casting ballots in 2012. While the sheer volume of the affected eligible voters is alarming in itself, the threat is compounded when you consider that the effects will not be felt evenly throughout society. In the context of state photo identification requirements, for example, an astonishing 25% of African Americans (over 6.2 million African-American voters) and 16% of Latinos (over 2.96 million Latino voters) do not possess valid photo ID. By comparison, only 8% of whites are without a current government-issued photo ID.
However, the trepidation I feel existed before my move here. It began when I first realized that my birth certificate and proof of my lineage were in question. More than once, I have been asked to produce what I can do, only in part. While I am not visibly a minority, other than being a woman, which may be both a majority and among the marginalized, I may not be among those characterized as a fully documented citizen.
My Mom is my birth mother. My dad adopted me when I was thirteen. My natural father as well as each of my parents is no longer present in the physical world. Even when they were here on Earth, I was concerned. Being adopted while living a thousand miles away from my birthplace; indeed, even being adopted while in Middle School, on many occasions I have been asked to present my papers!
Since the age of seventeen, I lived on my own. I also began my career as an extremely committed and regular voter. In Wisconsin, if you were seventeen during the primaries but would be eighteen by the time of the general election you could as I would, cast a ballot in the Spring.
When I was in my late teens or very early twenties, my mom gave me my hospital birth certificate, the State papers, as well as the revised, post adoption documents. I know not how, or when, I only know that I proceeded to lose every record.
Thankfully, I had studied the three before these disappeared. I know the name of the hospital I was born in, the city, the county, and the State. I am well aware of the time of birth. My Mom always told the story I love. I know the tale of how and where I was conceived. Still, for all these years, I have been unable to secure copies of my original birth files.
The hospital changed hands. The State of Pennsylvania, a score ago, sent me the altered copy of my short version birth certificate. On it, my adopted Dad and Mom are listed as my parents. Funny or not, today, I know not where that document is either. [I have moved too often and from State to State.] Were I asked to produce a long form file, or required to furnish more forms that speak to the specifics, I could not.
Perhaps, having been asked for my papers on many occasions in my five decades on this planet, in this country, shades my reality. In truth, that is why Mommy bestowed the certificates. Schools, professional pursuits, medical circumstances, and much more in an American life, at times, necessitates that I produce documentation.
Aware of the current political environment, and where I now live, my apprehension increases. While I believe I am still able to retrieve a copy of the altered post-adoption short-form certificate, were there a need for me to actually present verification of my birth, complete with the names of my natural parents, the hospital and time at which I was born, I cannot do so.
No Rachel, I am not Black, Brown or any color other than the Caucasian pink. I am not elderly. I am not an immigrant. I was born in a hospital, one that still stands. I also was born in a very large city! Produce my official papers? Currently, I cannot!
I strongly suspect I am not alone. Might a Tea Party person share my truth? I often wonder. Could a Conservative too be without the documents he or she is certain someone has? Independents too, in America, do not live on an island. Any of these might experience as this Democrat does. I am without documents
I thank you Rachel for reading my story. I hope my veracity will serve to expand the story. The disenfranchised could be you, and very easily me!
So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind-it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen… ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior
“Only you can choose whether the Earthly weight, the gravity of circumstances holds you down. You have the power to decide if you are one with the whole of the elements. Wind, air, fire, and water are yours for the taking . . .
Fly freely. Breathe deeply. Ignite or inspire with intensity. Drink the joy of living with gusto. Learn. Grow. Glow Greater!”
On the eve of President Obama’s birth date, thoughts turn to his time in office. As a man, countless admire the person, Barack Obama, and yet, feel that they cannot fully celebrate his performance. Hope has all but disappeared. Audacity appears vanquished. Still, some are sure that there is reason to believe. People ponder potentials not fully realized. Prospects for change loom large. Several may be shared in the sentiments offered on this auspicious occasion.
Dreams have yet to die. The desire to write to the President on the anniversary of his birth or converse with him personally is strong. Most will only be able to meet Mister Obama circuitously. Nonetheless, millions will try to talk to the man in the White House. People, such as esteemed Educator, Doctor Cornel West has addressed the President profoundly though the airwaves. “One of America’s most provocative public intellectuals,” West speaks of what is needed for a genuine success. The Princeton Professor ponders aloud; if only President Obama advanced classlessness.
The obligation of a citizen, in a democracy, is to speak to truth. Silence secures a society ruled by the few. Those who serve power, the elites well-endowed with dollars, will do the bidding if the people let them. In a society established on social parity, it is vital that each of us acts on the values avowed in the Declaration Of Independence, advanced in the United States Constitution, and a G-d-given veracity, “all men are created equal.” A President, in the United States, is not exempt from this truth.
A Commander-In Chief is not meant to be more royal or right than Jane or John Doe is . . . or at least that is what our forefathers intended. If a citizen chosen individual authentically thinks to serve society, he cannot lose light of the purpose articulated in a campaign.
An elected official is selected to represent us all. This should not be a promise, but a pledge. As a President, a man or woman is designated to officiate only for a term or two. This person is not donned with a crown. Nay is he or she bequeathed supremacy over others who inhabit this nation. The individual, who we the people place in the Oval Office, be it Barack Obama or whomever is selected in the future, must think of him or herself as a fellow civilian first and foremost. Yet, often, as Americans witness today, this is not what occurs.
Doctor Cornel West of Princeton University aptly observes; big finance and big business are in bed with the government. Our current President and his Cabinet make love to manufacturers. Producers of petroleum are closely connected to today’s policymakers just as others were in the past. Persons in White House, from their actions, seem to pay deference to companies that take advantage of the common folk. A concerned citizen could easily construe profiteers are in power.
Authority resides in affable relations with an Administration. After all, as we saw months earlier, before the BP well explosion, energy plans benefited an industry that wished to grow earnings. The Treasury too was given over insiders, intent on furthering financial strength for his fellow investors.
Philosophically and in principle, it is not the place of an elected Chief Executive, to act as a corporate Chief Executive. To be truly effective, an American President must embody the people. He or she must remember the reasons supporters cast a ballot. The electorate does not merely vote for an individual; constituents also vote for the institution we call democracy.
Mister President, as we honor you, please honor as the people originally requested. Exasperated and exhausted, the electorate expresses our birthday wish in the form of a plea. A President needs to perform as though he/she is, as she/he actually is, one of us! Mister Obama we await your awareness and acknowledgement. Please recognize that your role is to speak to truth, not solely converse with tycoons on act on their behalf.
Barack Obama, please remember as you had stated; the power of a President is profound only when the President works with and for the people. Please do not forget what the electorate cannot; your words on the campaign trail. “This campaign is not about me, it’s about the issues in your daily lives. It’s about how am I going to make this country a little better. If you help me, we’ll change the country. We’ll change the world!” Mister Obama you once knew; in a democracy, the President is but a partner, a citizen amongst the populous. On your birthday, may we begin anew. Together, let us keep hope alive.
Great News! The good life will soon return to America. Auspiciously, months before the holiday shopping season began, Americans were told that after more than a year of fiscal recession, or what some have characterized as akin to an economic depression, consumers were optimistic. The confidence index and other indicators were much improved. Manufacturing executives assured the public, the engine that drives the free enterprise system was in a “sustainable recovery mode.” In the very near future, products, and people’s sense of need, would be fabricated again. Everything will be right with the world, economically. Few feared the threat that, long ago, Americans had come to accept. The foundation of a democratic system had eroded in favor of consumption.
Egalitarianism had been so swiftly and subtly replaced by free enterprise, only a small number observed what had occurred. Mostly, Americans were out in the marketplace, the malls, or in the halls of their homes contemplating what else they might buy. The Declaration of Independence, the document that calls for equality could not be seen amongst the clutter. People in this Capitalist country do not necessarily ponder the contradiction. Satisfied and secure in the belief “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The purpose of government is to protect these rights. Perhaps not, In the United States the population acts as though there are more important concerns to consider.
Citizens are certain the core issue is, “How might I retain my right to buy goods and services?”
The oft-heard answer: manufacturing. American industry and individuals must invent and invest in expansion. The United States must produce products to sell. People to serve the needs of purchasers are also indispensable. The need to fabricate an adequate supply, and the staff vital to support it, will increase employment. Jobs will provide workers with greater purchasing power. Expenditure will generate profits. Proceeds provide a gain that can then be invested in manufacturing. The only missing component in this cycle is perchance the most crucial, promotion. In America, we, the people, have allowed our selves to be manufactured. Citizens are no longer the government; they are customers.
Toddlers, teens, twenty, thirty and forty something’s are taught just as earlier generations were, for an industrialized country to thrive consumers must “feel” confident. An apprehensive public needs to be convinced it is safe and sane to buy. Thus, patrons are told they can pay later. No money need be placed down. Credit can be arranged. Long-term loans are available, and why not take advantage. Americans have been given ample confirmation; debt will not destroy them or our “democracy.”
Besides, banks built empires on binge spending and received billions in bailouts. The country and Capitalism did not collapse. The economic crisis was but an ephemeral blip.
Fiscal institutions and financial advisers assuage Americans; there is bad debt and good debt. Borrowing has its benefits, a new sofa, a sweet set of wheels, and a sensational home. Damn democracy, social equality, the homeless persons alongside the road, and those without health care coverage. Full speed, or better said, a shopping spree ahead.
As a barrage of information built on the argument, the economy is stable, buyers began to believe. Indeed, faith in the American free enterprise system was born long ago.
Birth of a Notion
Adam Smith introduced an idea. “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.” Later Economists expanded on and extrapolated from the original theory. Then, early in the twentieth century, Edward Bernays, the father of Public Relations maximized the maxim, much to the delight of American manufacturers., such as the architect of the assembly line, Henry Ford, and the originator of the premise, “planned obsolescence,” Alfred P. Sloan.
Together, this team of 20th century tycoons converted what had been the crawl, from a reluctant consumer, to an abundantly content and avid trot. In America, babies were not born, shoppers were. These gents understood that if companies were to create a commitment to covet, it would take time, talk, and constant titillation. Consumers are as children. Advertisers must hold the hand of potential customers. Marketers will teach them the lesson; what you think is only a want is truly a necessity.
Radio and television broadcasters must also encourage expenditures. Periodicals must print the message. Peers will surely support Capitalist principles, as will those Representatives who are well financed by free marketers. “As consumption goes, so goes the American economy.”
Economic Expansion Energized
By Thanksgiving eve, with Black Friday just round the bend, bargain hunters had become sufficiently encouraged. There were signs that consumers and the Commerce Department were sanguine. Buoyed by the numbers the Labor Department released, retailers trusted there was reason for holiday cheer. “Unemployment benefits slid to 466,000 last week”, the lowest in more than a year, from 501,000 the prior week. It was the fourth straight weekly decline. The first time since January that claims dipped below 500,000.”
The evidence was in. U.S. durable goods orders were up in August. Granted, the government’s “cash-for-clunkers” program spurred consumers to spend more on major purchases. Similarly, the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers helped revitalize housing sales. Nevertheless, what truly drove the American people was manufactured and purchased long ago. Citizens are nothing but customers. The American people have come to resign themselves to a manufactured reality. Government is not of, by, or for the people; it is the rival. Today, the population professes, Administrations do not protect our rights. The public protests. Imposed rules and regulations deny the common folk their birthright to acquire.
History; Democracy on the Decline
It all began back in the day, in 1776, to be specific. Not only did the acclaimed Adam Smith present his political economic essays in The Wealth of Nations, at the same time the American Declaration of Independence was signed, sealed, and delivered. Author Adam Smith, the oft-acclaimed engineer of a free market system, or more fully his followers, gave birth to a notion that self-interest is a superior mission. Hence, whilst our forefathers worked to give birth to a democratic nation, one in which egalitarian principles are prominent, those who espouse entrepreneurial ethics endeavored to ensure that free enterprise ruled.
Indeed, tis true; Adam Smith advocated for independent thought and actions. He, however, was also a believer in the greater good. He understood and advanced a need for government. Yet, free-trade Economists such as David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, as well as tempter Edward Bernays, and tycoons Henry Ford, and Alfred P. Sloan promoted a further cultural shift. Businesses must manufacturer consumers, and so they did.
Purveyors pursued the public. People were persuaded to purchase. The American populace became nothing but pawns. The common folk are not forced to buy; they are only constantly coaxed to believe wants are needs. Equal representation and freedom to choose has been converted to Capitalism. Adults have been infantilized. Mature Moms, Dads, men, and women say, “Give me. Give me. Give me.”
Shoppers Succumb. Economic Strength Expands Again
Buyers trust; they can have all they want. Prosperity was the dream, the undertaking, and indeed, in America, affluence is the way of life. We ponder it, produce it, and protect policies that will promote it.
Educated elders, Economists, and elected officials expound; if businesses are bestowed with the freedom to bring in new revenue, bliss will be ours today, tomorrow, and for time in eternity.
Wealth will be shared equally amongst all our citizens, or at least the opportunity to acquire; to aspire, to ascend, towards the American Dream will be possible. We only need to begin to buy again. Economic experts, just as everyday commoners trust in the Capitalist system of consumption, and why not. In this country the constant refrain is “Capitalism is the worst economic system . . . except for all the others that have been tried.”
With this thought in mind, it is easy to ignore history. We need not reflect upon the seventeen recessions and world crises since The Great Depression. In this North American continent, forever, we have faith; we are constantly “turning a corner” Perhaps we are. Americans have moved back to the future.
Back to a Boom and Bust future ‘
‘Without regard for the existing recession, nor the threat of a deeper Depression, citizens brush aside the words of woe and warning. Mindful of the messages massaged by the powerful few, who control the media, the former Vice President Albert Gore observed television covers trivial excess. In his latest book, The Assault on Reason, Mister Gore acknowledged American democracy “is in danger of being hollowed out,” as are the brains of buyers who know what they want. Good news?
The summer doldrums gave way to greater news. Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke affirmed there is raison d’être for bliss; “Even though from a technical perspective the recession is very likely over at this point.”
Finally, Americans can muse once, twice, or thrice more; assembly lines with accolades to Henry Ford, will hum again. The nation’s most powerful tool, mass manufacturing, will ensure near full employment. “Planned obsolescence,” a tribute to Alfred P. Sloan, will still serve as the old reliable economic engine. The “need” for newer, better, or the best will bring mighty manufacturers new business. The time to consume is once again upon us.
Indeed, Edward Bernays ensured that the free enterprise system would be easily assimilated. Adam Smith while the originator of the theory did not implant the seed of shopping as well as later Economists did. David Ricardo with assistance from John Start Mills enhanced, and would create an American culture of coveters.
In 2009, we witness the outcome. As US Novelist William Faulkner observed “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” What was is ever-present in our lives.
The economic downturn has required reflection. Americans think to adopt a paradigm, which is difficult for those, accustomed to endless shopping sprees to accept, self-control, and a sense of being part of a broader society. While from appearances, in the near term, it would seem the people have been easily able to reduce spending in truth, consumers lie in wait, hopeful that this recession too shall pass.
Economic Past is Ever Present
For a short while, Americans were given an opportunity to ponder the predicament, people began to save., The electorate believed that economic debt and emotional deficits could no longer be endured. Fiscal frugality had become the favored fashion in America. “Reluctance to spend became the legacy of the recession.” Citizens said, countless decades of spending in excess of earnings must cease. Protests could be heard; government cannot continue to print more paper to cover corporate creditors arrears. Our countrymen must no longer rely on credit.
During the height of the fiscal crisis, Americans looked to the country’s core value. Social equality, as delineated in the Declaration of Independence, was finally thought to be the more attractive commodity. However, its appeal was short-lived. Democracy could not compete with more tangible temptations. Ultimately, citizens, consumers, surrendered to their concrete desires.
News reports served to reassure restless shoppers. Advertisers did as well. Earlier in the year, whilst mechanized factories stood silent and still, merchants remained hard at work, Businesses continued to manufacturer customers. Commercials sustained America’s shared awareness. “Buy. Buy. Buy!” The people confidently did.
Capitalism; The Credible Crucible
Indeed, for the first time since the recession began more businesses planned to hire workers rather than fire employees. There seemed to be ample reason to hope.
Some Economists stated there will be strong growth in 2010. Existing Home Sales in the United States Jumped. Prices fell. Home Depot announced profits were better than analyst estimates. Luxury retailer, Saks Fifth Avenue, whose clientele was once thought immune to severe recessionary slumps, beat the street. All around, earnings were surprisingly strong. Principles planted firmly in Americans’ collective consciousness assure us we will be fine.
It is as Adam Smith proclaimed. The notion of the free enterprise system, works. Every individual is led by an invisible hand to achieve, and ,to do the best with his or her abilities. However, poverty is not necessarily reduced. Prosperity does not consistently or evenly grow, Innovation is and is not encouraged’ and social and moral progress is evident only for the elite and entrepreneurs.
The numbers make obvious the need to save. Nonetheless, consumers covet and cling to the idea that what they want is truly what they need . Accolades to Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mills, and most assuredly to Henry Ford, Alfred P. Sloan, and the maestro Edward Bernays, the mastermind behind a Century of Self.
With thanks to these theorists and tycoons, consumers are happy to ignore Unemployment rates of 10.2 percent of Americans in October. Certain that the economy will rebound, consumers will just shop until they drop.
Black Friday, the holiday shopping season will be blissful. Customers will remain confident and content. All will be right with the world. Capitalism will be stable, secure, and the economic system of free enterprise will endure. Only the underlying principles of Democracy will be lost. What a small price to pay.
I recently heard that there are an estimated 250 million guns in the United States. There are an estimated 111 million households in America. Using these numbers that would mean there are 2.2 guns for every household in America. That seems like a lot of guns to me. As I began to ponder these numbers I wondered with all of these guns are we a safer nation? Have all of these guns provided us with the security many of us are seeking?
??I began researching the facts concerning gun violence in America in relation to the rest of the industrialized world. What I found was shocking not in what it said about guns but what it said about our culture. With or without guns we live in a violent culture. Confrontation and violence seems to be ingrained in our national psyche. In America, violence appears to be the first remedy to situations both by the government and its people. Do I believe there are too many guns in America? Yes I do, but I don’t believe that the problem for all the violence in America is guns.
I believe in trying to reduce the number of guns not because I believe it will make us less violent of a society but because guns make killing and violence too easy. Guns make killing too quick and too efficient. People kill today without thinking and without remorse and with guns you can do that. Imagine if there were fewer guns killing would become more difficult. Guns make killing too detached. Without guns you would have to face down your intended target and it would be messier.
I want to provide some figures to illustrate but the problem with the NRA and other gun lobbyists is that any talk of restricting guns is immediately met with hyperbole and demagoguery. The problem with not considering the arguments and opinions of others is that you begin to seem irrational and foolish. By the way the armed militia argument being necessary to prevent tyranny is wrong on many levels. We aren’t providing arms to minutemen soldiers but to any idiot that can get one.
Also an armed society has proven to be no safer a democracy than a non armed society. The US has 90 guns for every 100 people making it the most heavily armed country in the world. (1) The second most armed nation is Yemen, that bastion of democracy. Are the people in England, Canada, or Greece more in danger of losing their democracies because they are not as armed as the US?
On the list of murders per capita in the world the United States ranks 24th. We rank higher than any of the industrialized nations except Russia. We trail countries like Columbia, Mexico, and Zimbabwe; not bad company for the richest nation on earth.??· In 2005 there were 30,694 gun deaths in the US. (2) In 1998 gun homicides in the rest of the industrialized world were as follows (3)
373 – Germany?
51 – Canada?
57 – Australia?
19 – Japan?
54 – England?
11,789 – US??
More guns have obviously not made us safer. However guns alone are not the problem. We must begin to adopt ways to reduce the level of violence in our culture and in our society at large. This will be extremely difficult in a society that glamorizes violence and disseminates it through all forms of media. The economic crisis and the election of Barack Obama have led to an increase in the number of requests for background checks for gun purchases. In November they were up 40% over the previous year and in December they were up by 25%. People are feeling less secure about the future and showing this unease by purchasing more guns.
We have made killing too easy in our country and have not addressed the underlying culture of violence. You cannot glorify violence and then have easy access to guns. Somehow we must tone down the aggression and teach our children that violence is not the answer to all of life’s challenges and difficulties.
We must develop a responsible and comprehensive way of reducing the number of guns or none of us will be safe. Just as the drug kingpin Carlos Escobar was held responsible for flooding our streets with dangerous drugs so the gun manufacturers must be held accountable for flooding our streets with guns. We can no longer decide arbitrarily which dangers we seek to address and which ones we don’t. Where there is arbitrary power, there is tyranny.??
Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people.
Millions in America were focused on the future. Billions, worldwide, anxiously awaited change. On January 20, 2009, the Presidential Inauguration was broadcast hither and yon. Barely a television, radio, computer monitor, or big screen was turned off. Most all tuned in to see Barack Obama take the Oath of Office. Nary a one were as moved as they were on that occasion.
Even several Republicans said they were excited. For countless, it seemed a light was turned on. Finally, the American people, our allies, and those who are often characterized as adversaries, had hope. We, collectively, believe it was possible to walk through the din that had been our doom and envision an Earth united.
The world was wowed with thoughts of what would be, as were many Constitutional scholars, concerned citizens, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Yet, there remained a persistent thought; our potential would not be fully realized. Several understood, as Senator Whitehouse so solemnly expressed in a speech presented on the Senate floor, a day after the festivities, As We Look Forward We Must Also Look Back. Few had an opportunity to see or hear an oration that was perhaps as honest and historic as the Presidents.
Sheldon Whitehouse too saw the glimmer of light. He spoke to, as Barack Obama did in his address the day before, a democratic republic, deeply scarred, cannot heal without a shared commitment to the principles that guide our country. The Rhode Island representative, reflected on the notion, just as the Chief Executive had hours earlier, what was sanctioned in the past would not be wiped away by a more hopeful and ethical Administration. He noted, no series of endeavors would expunge past misdeeds. Nor could a solitary earthly being erase the clouds that now covered the Constitution.
The Rhode Island Legislator succinctly and eloquently expressed the concern others had hoped to communicate. He said, As the President looks forward and charts a new course, must someone not also look back, to take an accounting of where we are, what was done, and what must now be repaired.
For Senator Whitehouse, as for many legal scholars, Conservatives, such as Bruce Fein, and Journalist, Author, John Nichols, it seemed too clear; Americans, in Congress, and on the streets in every community have yet to learn from history. Even the newly elected President, Barack Obama, did not wish to tread on traditions that obfuscate the thread, the United States Constitution, that for centuries has allowed America to prosper.
The President, the Obama Administration, and most of America, has expressed a desire to bury the past. Yet, there is reason to reflect if we are to see “that brighter day; forward to what Winston Churchill in Britain’s dark days called those “broad and sunlit uplands.” To ponder the past does not mean to punish others for misdeeds. A penalty cannot be the priority. Reprimands will not realize a nation’s rebirth.
Indeed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse reflects, “Our new Attorney-General designate has said, we should not criminalize policy differences. I agree.” The Rhode Island representative continues, “I hope we can all agree that summoning young sacrificial lambs to prosecute, as we did after the Abu Ghraib disaster, would be reprehensible.” Sheldon Whitehouse asks only that “We hold this unique gift in trust for the future and the world.”
Please peruse the prose that might move us to provide a little bright, healthy sunshine and fresh air, to citizens of the world. The children of today, and those who will survive Seven Generations from now need us to strengthen our democracy. If we are to be, an educated population, empathetic to those who inherit the Earth we must, as Sheldon Whitehouse avowed, “show where the tunnels were bored, when the truth was subordinated; what institutions were subverted; how our democracy was compromised; so this grim history is not condemned to repeat itself; so a knowing public in the clarity of day can say, “Never, never, never, again,”
I thank you Sheldon Whitehouse for the wisdom and the words that break through the silence, and secure a brighter day.
I rise as we celebrate a new President, a new administration, a new mode of governing, and a new future for America.
Even in the gloom of our present predicaments, Americans’ hearts are strong and confident because we see a brighter future ahead.
President Obama looks to that future. Given the depth and severity of those predicaments, we need all his energy to look forward to lead us to that brighter day; forward to what Winston Churchill in Britain’s dark days called those “broad and sunlit uplands.”
But, as we steer toward this broad and sunlit future, what about the past? As the President looks forward and charts a new course, must someone not also look back, to take an accounting of where we are, what was done, and what must now be repaired.
Our new President has said, “America needs to look forward.” I agree.
Our new Attorney General designate has said, we should not criminalize policy differences. I agree.
And I hope we can all agree that summoning young sacrificial lambs to prosecute, as we did after the Abu Ghraib disaster, would be reprehensible.
But consider the pervasive, deliberate, and systematic damage the Bush Administration did to America, to her finest traditions and institutions, to her reputation and integrity.
I evaluate that damage in history’s light. Although I’m no historian, here is what I believe:
The story of humankind on this Earth has been a long and halting march from the darkness of barbarism and the principle that to the victor go the spoils, to the light of organized civilization and freedom. During that long and halting march, this light of progress has burned, sometimes brightly and sometimes softly, in different places at different times around the world.
The light shone in Athens, when that first Senate made democracy a living experiment; and again in the softer but broader glow of the Roman Empire and Senate.
That light burned brightly, incandescently, in Jerusalem, when Jesus of Nazareth cast his lot with the weak and the powerless.
The light burned in Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Cordoba, when the Arab world kept science, mathematics, art, and logic alive, as Europe descended into Dark Ages of plague and violence.
The light flashed from the fields of Runnymede when English nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, and glowed steadily from that island kingdom as England developed Parliament and the common law, and was the first to stand against slavery.
It rekindled in Europe at the time of the Reformation, with a bright flash in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his edicts to the Wittenberg cathedral doors, and faced with excommunication, stated “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
Over the years across the globe, that light, and the darkness of tyranny and cruelty, have ebbed and flowed.
But for the duration of our Republic, even though our Republic is admittedly imperfect, that light has shone more brightly and more steadily here in this Republic than in any place on earth: as we adopted the Constitution, the greatest achievement yet in human freedom; as boys and men bled out of shattered bodies into sodden fields at Antietam and Chicamagua, Shiloh and Gettysburg to expiate the sin of slavery; as we rebuilt shattered enemies, now friends, overseas and came home after winning world wars; and as we threw off bit by bit ancient shackles of race and gender to make this a more perfect union for all of us.
What made this bright and steady glow possible? What made it possible is not that we are better people, I believe, but that our system of government is government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Why else does our President take his oath to defend a Constitution of the United States of America? Our unique form of self-government is a blessing, and we hold it in trust; not just for us, but for our children and grandchildren down through history; not just for us, but as an example out through the world.
That is why our Statue of Liberty raises a lamp to other nations still engloomed in tyranny.
That is why we stand as a beacon in this world, beckoning to all who seek a kinder, freer, brighter future.
We hold this unique gift in trust for the future and the world. Each generation assumes responsibility for this Republic and its government, and each generation takes on a special obligation when they do. Our new President closed his Inaugural Address by setting forth the challenge against which future generations will test us: whether “with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generation.” There are no guarantees that we will – this is a continuing experiment we are embarked upon – and a lot is at stake; indeed, the most precious thing of man’s creation on the face of the Earth is at stake. That is what I believe.
So from that perspective, what about the past? No one can deny that in the last eight years America’s bright light has dimmed and flickered, darkening our country and darkening the world.
The price of that is incalculable. There are nearly 7 billion human souls on this world. Every morning, the sun rises anew over their villages and hamlets and barrios, and every day they can choose where to invest their hopes, their confidence, and their dreams.
I submit that when America’s light shines brightly, when honesty, freedom, justice and compassion glow from our institutions, it attracts those hopes, those dreams; and the force of those 7 billion hopes and dreams, the confidence of those 7 billion souls in our lively experiment, is, I believe, the strongest power in our national arsenal – stronger than atom bombs. We risk it at our peril.
And of course, when our own faith is diminished at home, this vital light only dims further, again at incalculable cost.
So when an administration rigs the intelligence process and produces false evidence to send our country to war;
When an administration descends to interrogation techniques of the Inquisition, of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge – descends to techniques that we have prosecuted as crimes in military tribunals and federal courts;
When institutions as noble as the Department of Justice and as vital as the Environmental Protection Agency are systematically and deliberately twisted from their missions by odious means of institutional sabotage;
When the integrity of our markets and the fiscal security of our budget are opened wide to the frenzied greed of corporations, speculators and contractors;
When the integrity of public officials; the warnings of science; the honesty of government procedures; and the careful historic balance of our separated powers of government, are all seen as obstacles to be overcome and not attributes to be celebrated;
When taxpayers are cheated, and the forces of government ride to the rescue of the cheaters and punish the whistleblowers;
When a government turns the guns of official secrecy against its own people to mislead, confuse and propagandize them;
When government ceases to even try to understand the complex topography of the difficult problems it is our very purpose and duty to solve, and instead cares only for these points where it intersects with the party ideology, so that the purpose of government becomes no longer to solve problems, but only to work them for political advantage;
In short, when you have pervasive infiltration into all the halls of government – judicial, legislative, and executive – of the most ignoble forms of influence; when you see systematic dismantling of historic processes and traditions of government that are the safeguards of our democracy; and when you have a bodyguard of lies, jargon, and propaganda emitted to fool and beguile the American people…
Well, something very serious in the history of our republic has gone wrong, something that dims the light of progress for all humanity.
As we look forward, as we begin the task of rebuilding this nation, we have an abiding duty to determine how great the damage is. I say this in no spirit of vindictiveness or revenge. I say it because the thing that was sullied is so, so precious; and I say it because the past bears upon the future. If people have been planted in government in violation of our civil service laws to serve their party and their ideology instead of serving the public, the past will bear upon the future. If procedures and institutions of government have been corrupted and are not put right, that past will assuredly bear on the future. In an ongoing enterprise like government, the door cannot be so conveniently closed on the closets of the past. The past always bears on the future.
Moreover, a democracy is not just a static institution, it is a living education – an ongoing education in freedom of a people. As Harry Truman said addressing a joint session of Congress back in 1947, “One of the chief virtues of a democracy is that its defects are always visible, and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected.”
Entirely apart from tentacles of the past that may reach into the future, are the lessons we as a people have to learn from this past carnival of folly, greed, lies, and sabotage, so that it can, under democratic processes, be pointed out and corrected.
If we blind ourselves to this history, if we pull an invisibility cloak over it, we will deny ourselves its lessons. Those lessons came at too painful a cost to ignore. Those lessons merit discovery, disclosure and discussion. Indeed, disclosure and discussion is the difference between a valuable lesson for the bright upward forces of our democracy, and a blueprint for darker forces to return and do it all over again.
A little bright, healthy sunshine and fresh air, so that an educated population knows what was done and how, can show where the tunnels were bored, when the truth was subordinated; what institutions were subverted; how our democracy was compromised; so this grim history is not condemned to repeat itself; so a knowing public in the clarity of day can say, “Never, never, never, again;” so we can keep that light – that light that is at once America’s greatest gift and greatest strength – brightly shining. To do this, I submit, we must look back.
Democracy is in play. Politicians take their positions. The people ponder as powerbrokers decide. The stage is set. Tickets are for sale, but only for a select few. Thus is the scenario. Consider the scene. New Yorkers contemplate who might fill a probable vacant Senate seat. Should their representative, Hillary Rodham Clinton, be approved to serve, as Secretary of State, Governor David A. Patterson will appoint another to fill her chair. Therein lies the problem for many of the people in the Empire State. The Constitution allows a State’s Chief Executive the authority to assign a seat to whom he, or she, thinks best. People, prominent and prestigious, such as Caroline Kennedy and Andrew M. Cuomo, vie for position, and constituents have no real say. She is the daughter of much beloved and laudable President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He is the son of the former nationally renowned Governor of the State, Mario Cuomo.
Each has enthusiastic support from voters. If they two were candidates in an election, the race might be close. However, constituents will never have an opportunity to cast a ballot for the Senate seat. The consensus is the cost of a special election is prohibitive. Meanwhile New York Republicans revealed today, January 13, 2009, they are ready to pay the price for such a move.
For the Grand Old Party the expense would be far less than the fee paid for another Democrat in the United States Congress. However, the Progressives intend to hold the line. In New York, just as in Illinois, where the Obama seat must be filled, budget concerns during a recession, one brought on by lobbyists, who influenced lawmakers, who then limited regulations, dictate a need for frugality. Those on the left of the aisle remind the public of circumstances they cannot escape; we as a country must consider the cost in this economic crisis. Monetary issues must take precedence . . . and it does for those average Americans who are not eligible for a bailout.
The populace observes the performance of each of the esteemed entries; and they can do nothing. Some amongst the common folk think the persons who have insider access to the New York Governor are less qualified, or merely legends. Yet, these individuals are able to court the lawmaker. The public understands how persuasive power, prominence, and pay for play might be. New Yorkers cannot forget the folly that is the current circumstance in Illinois.
It was a cold December day when, embattled, and some might even say ethically challenged, Rod Blagojevich, announced his selection for the Illinois Senate seat. Before the January House impeachment of the perhaps, brilliant, and beleaguered Blagojevich, the President Elect stated: “The assembly should “consider the issue and put in place a process to select a new senator that will have the trust and confidence of the people of Illinois.”
However, that was in days of old, when Barack Obama was bold and principles were more prudent. Currently, it would seem, cost conveniently counters a need to hear citizen voices, as do concerns that a political Party might lose power.
Today, it is accepted; politics is but a game, a show. The audience, in the cheap seats, looks on . Republicans and Democrats of authority are the actors. Policymakers have dominion given to them by the American people who wistfully worry they are no more than pawns. The public is aghast; citizens rights, privileges, and permissions to speak, are held hostage. Yet, the electorate continues to stand by and watch the cabaret. People willingly pay the price for government malfeasance. They accept that they have no power. They gave it away. Rulers, otherwise known as Representatives, have convinced the commoners; “practical” truths are the cost of democracy. The price is exorbitant.
Days ago, United States Commander-In-Chief, George W. Bush reminded us of the need to remain vigilant. He admonished anyone who might think to talk with those who politically, philosophically, or perhaps physically have the potential to oppose “us.” The President of the world’s superpower ‘wisely’ proclaimed “”Some seem to believe we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.” America’s leader addressed Israeli lawmakers and said, “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.” As a protective parent might alert an easily frighten child, the Mister Bush forewarns his citizens. “Do not speak to strangers.”
US policy under Bush is to attack or alienate. The Administration insists we will not appease or engage in diplomacy with what we identify as rogue nations. Persons classified as terrorists are to be threatened, and possibly killed. The President of the United States wishes to ensure he protects the public. Punitive measures multiply in a nation once defined as democratic.
Citizens in a country founded on the principles of equalitarianism no longer practice as they preach. Americans or the Administration ignore what is too often real; statistically, evidence shows those we know may be more dangerous. Close associates can harm “us.” Those we have yet to encounter in our daily lives are not scary; they are unfamiliar. Hence, frequently, much to our own chagrin, people follow the lead of penal persons, just as we have in the United States. Today, American citizens are easily appeased, and willing to attack. We are willing to alienate our allies and all others. We spread democracy only to destroy the tenet.
People whose names, faces, customs, cultures, and skin color differs from “ours” are classified as aliens. Those who we do not speak with are considered adversaries, for “we” have not taken the time to become acquainted. “We” assume the people who are foreign to “us” are antagonistic. Americans, seem willing to dismiss the accepted wisdom; friendships are formed. Foes are those we do not know, and thus, fear.
That said, the defensive stance adopted by the paternalistic President presumes that “we” just as little children, are less learned. Therefore, we will give all our toys to another tot, or to the big-bad-boogie-man, he vehemently told “us” not to play with. The word “appeasement,” as referenced in Mister Bush’s speech does not speak to diplomacy, a skillful communication between countries; it connotes the giving of gifts.
Britain and France pursued a policy of appeasement in the hope that Hitler would not drag Europe into another world war. Appeasement expressed the widespread British desire to heal the wounds of World War I and to correct what many British officials regarded as the injustices of the Versailles Treaty.
Guilt motivates many a parent who realizes, in the past, they were overly punitive. A child, who chose actions that were combative and cruel may not learn to be kind, if a guardian slams and damns the young person, and then confines the lad or lass to a barren room. An adolescent starved for love, stripped of all possessions, severely reprimanded, and forced to submit reparations will not thrive. When a tot or a teen is stripped of a sense of self, as well as deprived of any dignity survival is a struggle. It is no wonder, upon reflection, the parents or persons in power were remorseful. The Versailles Treaty denied the German people all that made life whole.
This treaty held Germany solemnly responsible for WWI. Germany was forced to pay reparations totaling 132,000,000,000 in gold marks, they lost 1/8 of its land, all of its colonies, all overseas financial assets, a new map of Europe was carved out of Germany, and the German military was basically non-existent. To the German people they were being ruthlessly punished for a war not only were not responsible for but had to fight. The main terms of the
Versailles Treaty were:
(1) the surrender of all German colonies as League of Nations mandates
(2) the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France
(3) cession of Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium, Memel to Lithuania, the Hultschin district to Czechoslovakia, Poznania, parts of East Prussia and Upper Silesia to Poland
(4) Danzig to become a free city
(5) plebiscites to be held in northern Schleswig to settle the Danish-German frontier
(6) occupation and special status for the Saar under French control
(7) demilitarization and a fifteen-year occupation of the Rhineland
(8) German reparations of £6,600 million
(9) a ban on the union of Germany and Austria
(10) an acceptance of Germany’s guilt in causing the war
(11) provision for the trial of the former Kaiser and other war leaders
(12) limitation of Germany’s army to 100,000 men with no conscription, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no poison-gas supplies, no aircraft, and no airships
(13) the limitation of the German Navy to vessels under 100,000 tons, with no submarines
Germany signed the Versailles Treaty under protest. The USA Congress refused to ratify the treaty. Many people in France and Britain were angry that there was no trial of the Kaiser or the other war leaders.
The treaty devastated Germany politically and economically. Because of the treaty, many Germans were desperate to find a new leader to get them out of the Great Depression, which they blamed on the extravagant reparations they had to pay to the Allies.
A chastised child ultimately will not sacrifice their soul. They will rebel and revolt, as Germany did. Perhaps, Neville Chamberlain and those who chose “appeasement” overreacted as parents, or as people often do. Too often, an abusive authority figure will engage in one extreme behavior or another. Penalties and presents do help a youngster to learn. Neither deed will deliver a child from “evil.” Calm, careful conversations help create a union between mother, father, and child. When Moms, Dads, or government officials love the other and self enough to empathetically listen reverent relationships grow. The same is true when we speak of nations. Negotiations are necessary if peace is to become a possibility. We do not war with those who work well with “us.” Composure cultivated in conversations evokes cooperation.
Notwithstanding, the veracity that talk can educate and place a distressed child at ease, country or diplomat, Americans are asked to avoid discussion with those our “leaders” deemed dictators or terrorists. “We,” the people are expected to forget, as George W. Bush expressed not too long ago. On February 13, 2006, just over two years earlier, Commander-In-Chief Bush avowed his desire to resolve disagreements with Iran in an irenic manner. The President of the United States proclaimed the potential nuclear crisis need not be a cause for confrontation. After talks in Washington with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the decisive Mister Bush said the allied leaders agreed; the issue must be solved “diplomatically by working together.” However, as is evident, for persons who dominate, the definitions for “diplomacy” and “peaceful” are fluid, as is the description of democracy. Merriam-Webster offers . . .
1 a: government by the people; especially: rule of the majority
b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2: a political unit that has a democratic government
3. capitalized: the principles and policies of the Democratic Party in the United States (from emancipation Republicanism to New Deal Democracy– C. M. Roberts)
4. the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
5. the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges
What may be thought odd is, in a nation founded on the principles of social equality, there are elite ‘leaders.’ These elected officials believe they must assure the common folk, it is best not to speak with our “enemies.” In the United States, in practice, it seems democracy is a disciplinary dictum. The President envisions himself as a penal parent might.
Might we also muse of the contradiction? In a country of equals the race, religion, or social rank of an individual might reduce the presumed significance of a fellow citizen. Here in America, too often one neighbor is the nemesis of another. How could that be? We might ponder another paradox. If every individual is worthy, one of no more value than any other, why are there privileged people who have power over the populace? We may know not why; nonetheless, we are aware those in authority tell average Americans, ‘Diplomacy would be pernicious.’ The incongruity of the situation does not escape observant historians.
Academics who study the democratic system note Americans have less social equality than we like to think we do. Citizens of this country are as those in a family where retaliatory parents rule. The word “family” connotes a connection. Yet, when guardians are not caregivers and are instead castigators. “family’ is but the facade.
Yet, just as in a dysfunctional home where the relatives wish to believe all is well, in this “progressive” nation, we may wish to believe the system works. Americans firmly assert the present is far better than the past was, and the future will bring greater improvements. We reassure ourselves with charts and graphs. We watch market reports and read research that validates what we wish to hold as truth.
Admittedly, the average American accepts that in this affluent and democratic nation problems persist. Income inequity has always been a constant; it remains pervasive in the States. Here, in the richest country in the world, in a nation where people are taught to believe everyone is equal, opportunities are not. Most dismiss the imbalance as temporary. Certainly, the prospect for change is plausible. Shortcomings are the effect of economic growth. Corrections will come, sooner or later. Perhaps tomorrow will bring a better day. Of course, it will. Americans know how to grow an economy. With expansion, earnings increase. People prosper, equally.
Most of “us” believe that democracy has survived each trial and tribulation, and a government of the people, as we presume ours to be, will continue to thrive. Yet; perchance, we have been persuaded to have faith as we do. Democracy is best. Nothing functions better.
This is a powerful assumption. It may be tested by reflecting upon the fact that, despite American progress, the society has been forced to endure sundry movements of protest. In our effort to address the inconvenient topic of protest, our need to be intellectually consistent — while thinking within the framework of continuous progress — has produced a number of explanations about the nature of dissent in America. Closely followed, these arguments are not really explanations at all, but rather the assertion of more presumptions that have the effect of defending the basic intuition about progress itself. The most common of these explanations rests upon what is perceived to be a temporary malfunction of the economic order: people protest when “times are hard.” When times stop being “hard,” people stop protesting and things return to “normal” — that is to say, progress is resumed.
Unfortunately, history does not support the notion that mass protest movements develop because of hard times. Depressed economies or exploitive arrangements of power and privilege may produce lean years or even lean lifetimes for millions of people, but the historical evidence is conclusive that they do not produce mass political insurgency. The simple fact of the matter is that, in ways that affect mind and body, times have been “hard” for most humans throughout human history and for most of that period people have not been in rebellion. Indeed, traditionalists in a number of societies have often pointed in glee to this passivity, choosing to call it “apathy” and citing it as a justification for maintaining things as they are.
This apparent absence of popular vigor is traceable, however, not to apathy but to the very raw materials of history — that complex of rules, manners, power relationships, and memories that collectively comprise what is called culture. “The masses” do not rebel in instinctive response to hard times and exploitation because they have been culturally organized by their societies not to rebel. They have, instead, been instructed in deference. Needless to say, this is the kind of social circumstance that is not readily apparent to the millions who live within it.
The lack of visible mass political activity on the part of modern industrial populations is a function of how these societies have been shaped by the various economic or political elites who fashioned them. In fundamental ways, this shaping process (which is now quite mature in America) bears directly not only upon our ability to grasp the meaning of American Populism, but our ability to understand protest generally and, most important of all, on our ability to comprehend the prerequisites for democracy itself.
Perhaps, the words of Professor Lawrence Goodwyn help to explain why Americans believe people elsewhere are complacent. In the United States, the public presumes people abroad will not create change on their own. They must be taught to do as the American Administration thinks wise. This assessment of what occurs within our homeland may expose why “we” believe democracy can be forcibly imposed on other nations. The theory Goodwyn offers helps illustrate why in a “democratic” nation the deciders dictate policy for one and for all planet wide. However, the hypothesis may not be accurate.
In other territories, protest may not have been trained out of the populace. Perchance, residents in other regions were not appeased with material goods meant to buy love and obedience? We cannot be certain for there is so little that Americans are allowed to know of the persons our power elite wish to remain estranged from “us.”
Nonetheless, it seems apparent from accounts, in other parts of the globe, dissent is not defined as terrorism. Discontent is not considered destructive. The voice of the people is not pernicious. Possibly, in some places governments are not as powerful as prohibitive parents might be. Oh, those who reign may try to exert absolute rule; however, the people are less easily “appeased” or patronized.
Many a Persian person may describe a situation different from Americans trust to be true in the Middle East. Numerous would share, in Iran, were it not for America’s invasive input the inhabitants may have eliminated what the United States considers evil. Indeed, Iranians were working to end the reign of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, American intervened, and all changed, for the worse.
The confrontation between Iran and the West has developed a new dimension over the detention of several Iranian scholars, journalists and political activists who have been living in the West for years and have recently traveled to their homeland.
What is the root cause of these events? Part of it is the deep unpopularity of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Internal opposition to his government is becoming increasingly louder as Iranians are recognizing the danger in his foreign policy and his failure to improve the economy.
In December, university students forced him to stop his speech by shouting “death to the dictator.” Iran’s Parliament has severely criticized him. In recent municipal elections, candidates backed by Ahmadinejad received only 4 percent of the vote.
The conservatives who rule Iran are also badly fractured. The radical faction led by Ahmadinejad is bitterly opposed to the more moderate, pragmatic faction led by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who advocates accommodation with the West.
The recent arrests should be seen partly as a reaction to these events. Unable to address Iran’s mountain of social, economical and political problems, the hard-liners are trying to create a new crisis with the West in order to distract attention from their problems.
Possibly, this scenario demonstrates that American Administrators have much in common with those they emphasize are part of an “axis of evil.” The need to divert attention dominates policy among world leaders. A desire to subvert the masses moves many decision-makers, just as it drives many a punitory parent. When authority figures wish to govern, not of, by or for the people but for the love of power, they subtly and successfully suppress the sensible among us.
Engineer, and Author David Brin may have said it best, “It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.” Control is a costly endeavor. Perhaps, the price is too high for the average reasonable American, or possibly those who no longer view protest as wise, do not realize the expense is not only imprudent, it is counterproductive and detrimental to our own “Homeland Security.”
Some of the $75 million has been devoted to the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, as well as to VOA satellite TV, which are beaming Persian programs into Iran. Other portions have been given secretly to exiled Iranian groups, political figures, and nongovernmental organizations to establish contacts with Iranian opposition groups.
But Iranian reformists believe that democracy can’t be imported. It must be indigenous. They believe that the best Washington can do for democracy in Iran is to leave them alone. The fact is, no truly nationalist and democratic group will accept such funds.
According to the Algiers Accord that the United States signed with Iran in 1981 to end the hostage crisis, noninterference in Iran’s domestic affairs is one of Washington’s legal obligations . . .
Thus, Washington’s policy of “helping” the cause of democracy in Iran has backfired. It has made it more difficult for the more moderate factions within Iran’s power hierarchy to argue for an accommodation with the West . . .
The Bush administration should put an end to its misguided policy and immediately declare which organizations and public figures have received funds from the $75 million. This will make it clear that the scholars, journalists and other figures who travel to Iran have nothing to do with Bush’s policy on Iran.
We can hope that one day soon, Americans will find the courage to clarify what is more insidious. The principles that currently guide American democracy are not egalitarian. In this nation, appeasement and punishment dominate the dictums. The Administration, the elites, the influential do not speak for the people; nor do they engage in diplomatic relations that might bring persons of the world together as one.
If the United States government continues to aggressively assault our “enemies’ as an abusive parent might if they perceive the “stranger” as a threat, then we can expect to be attacked. Should the powers-that-be in the States invoke embargos, again the risk is, this reactive behavior will incite attack. “Appeasement” will not bring bliss. Gifts given to lessen the weight of guilt will not gratify or garner good graces. We cannot buy love; nor can we grow fondness when engaged in a feud.
Thus far, “we” the people have seen what occurs when “our’ government does not act in best interests of the people here or abroad. The Iranians who seek to enrich society are correct. A democratic system cannot be instigated from the outside. Fairness grows from within. Equanimity must evolve naturally if it is to be real, effective, and everlasting.
Might Americans work to cultivate the principles we espouse and yet have never established before we attempt to shift the paradigm elsewhere. Let us find a way to make democracy doable here at home. Perchance, diplomacy will build a bridge. If only Americans talked among themselves and to each other. We must speak to “strangers.” Perhaps we will discover similarities. “We” the people cannot allow ourselves to be treated as children. We must acknowledge the people who claim to protect us are our abusers. The power-elite have the authority “we,” the little people give them. America, it is time to stand up. Let us not fear the foreigner. With eyes wide open, let us consider those that cause us great harm live in our house.
These are troubled times in this United States and around the globe. Our citizens face economic distress. The administration admits to the use of torture in questioning detainees. News of hidden prisons and unidentified prisoners (detainees or enemy combatants our government calls them) continue to surface on a near daily basis. The Congress is twisted in knots over an intelligence bill that may allow further erosion of privacy in our nation. The writ of habeus corpus is for all intents and purposes lost to the so-called Patriot Act. What ever is a person to do to survive?
In the past, and still today, the citizens of our great nation have risen to the fight and accomplished what many may have failed. We survived the Great Depression of the late 1920’s. We as a nation fought two World Wars without losing sight of our basic foundations. We survived the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War bloodied but unbowed. We will survive once again.
Others have observed the basic substance of the United States. Paul Tillich
The typical American, after he has lost the foundations of his existence, works for new foundations. This is true of the individual and it is true of the nation.
The greatest asset of the Americans, so often ridiculed by Europeans, is his belief in progress and his profession of democracy.
Today we find our nation on a downhill slope. For the time being all we are managing is to slow the fall. We need more. We need to find ways to reach deep inside ourselves and to reach to touch others to move the nation to new heights. Our history is replete with instances of great leaders finding ways to stir the populous to action. Today we need one more such person to inspire and to show us the way.
We must continue to believe in our nation and in our founding principles. Our nation was born in ideals of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The foundations remain in place to this day. We need not search for a new scenario upon which to build. We need only return to our roots and continue the idealism our Founding Fathers held. Those men may not have been perfect by any means but their ideas have held this nation together for more than 200 years. The last thing we should consider today is any great modification of our Constitution or any of those great ideas of so long ago.
We must regain our thoughts of progress and of true democracy. Too much has been sacrificed to the fear card. We have lost privacy and individual rights. Too often those who sacrifice privacy for security end with neither. We must take back our government. We must insist upon our rights as they were set in the Constitution. We have a fine basis for our existence if we are able to regain our hold on those ideals.
Action is required. Every person in the nation today must reach out to every person in their corner of the world. We are all first and foremost human beings. We are a population of men, women, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, children, and adults. If we see our humanness as the most important part of life all the other characteristics lend strength to the collection. Our differences must not be allowed to be used as divisive pieces. Our nation is like a fine salad in which the collection of individual pieces makes a whole so much better and yet each piece retains its own individuality. As an entire nation of people we stand together or we fall apart.
We must not lose faith in the basic strengths of our nation. We can hold on to our founding principles as an anchor or a life preserver. If we keep our belief in the nation intact and work hard enough to bring about the renewal necessary, we will leave a heritage for future generations of which we may be proud.
The work will not always be easy. The way will be blocked at times by those who wish to disagree or to impede progress. Yet we must prevail. We will win by moving off our sofas and out of our safe and warm onto the streets. Outside we meet people and we tell them what must be done. We can demonstrate. We can hold the vigils that keep the flame of protest alive. Whatever each of is able to do is a contribution to the overall effort. The only unacceptable action is no action at all.
In this a Presidential election year, citizens of this country are intensely aware, every vote counts. The world witnessed, in State after State people scrambled to the polls. Voters of every age have turned out in large numbers. The sprint to the White House is on. Most every electorate wants to join in. the people wish to return to power. Much is at stake. The people want to participate in the process.
In America, in a democracy, government is defined as organization that operates of, by, and for the people. The people choose who will represent them in the Executive and Legislatives Branches. Executives appoint persons to occupy Judicial seats. Supreme Court Jurists may serve the public for a lifetime. Legislators also have infinite influence. Members of Congress make laws and approve nominees. Thus, those who speak and stand in for the common folk have much power.
Hence, it is essential, before the average Joe or Joanne casts a ballot they must be very well informed. When the American people vote they place their lives in the hands of a few. Access to the candidates is vital if people are to make an informed decision. During a Presidential election year, it is imperative that the people, one and all, be given an opportunity to meet and greet the hopefuls. A President of the United States is the single most important being on the globe. He or she is superior to all other officials who reside in this region. Since the United States is considered the world’s only true Super Power, the President of this nation is virtually omnipotent, or at least some often act as though they are.
It is for this reason the electorate must choose wisely. Each adult needs to ponder, who is the person who will best represent my interest? Which Presidential hopeful will serve persons in every community equally? Who will work for the common good of the people and not for personal fame and fortune? There is much to research. Reflection needs to be deep and thoughtful. The public must ensure that a Presidential aspirant knows of and wishes to honor the desires of his or her constituents. However, this determination is difficult to make.
Moreover, the internet has now become a leading source of campaign news for young people and the role of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook is a notable part of the story. Fully 42% of those ages 18 to 29 say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet, the highest percentage for any news source. In January 2004, just 20% of young people said they routinely got campaign news from the internet.
[T]he proportion of Americans who rely on traditional news sources for information about the campaign has remained static or declined slightly since the last presidential campaign. . . .
By contrast, the proportion of Americans who say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet has more than doubled since 2000 – from 9% to 24%.
While it may seem that mainstream media has less of an influence of the electorate; indeed, the reverse may be true. When we assess the sources of information accessed on the Internet we realize, corporate control still speaks volumes.
People who rely on the internet for campaign news turn to a wide array of websites. The most frequently mentioned online news outlets are MSNBC (at 26%), CNN (23%) and Yahoo News (22%).
Few constituents know more than the media allows. What the press makes available is extremely limited. Independent-minded persons believe they know more. Yet, these persons are also influenced. Chant as the indies might, the media is hostile to anti-establishment candidates, John Edwards, Ron Paul, and Mike Huckabee, the three barely-acceptable do appear on stage. Corporate controlled columnists recognize it is important to appear unbiased.
Americans must wonder of those whose exposure is eliminated. Perchance, constituents might consider the plight of Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich. Presidential aspirant Kucinich was excluded from the American Association for Retired Persons [AARP] debate in the Hawkeye State. In Granite country, ABC News declared Dennis Kucinich would be barred from the dialogue. Silver State voters were not able to see the profound Presidential hopeful on stage. He was relegated to the streets allowed to speak only to the neon lights. The Palmetto State decreed, “Dennis, this is not your kingdom.” Indeed, you are locked out in this land of liberty. Texas told its tall tale. Dennis Kucinich would not be the hero in the Lone Star State. Ultimately, the only Presidential hopeful who is a member of a Union, endorsed an authentic Universal Health Care program, a Single Payer, Not For Profit plan was forced to withdraw his name from the ballot. Perhaps the lack of press coverage played a role.
While Congressman and Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich was ahead in many Progressive surveys, among the general public the candidate remained an unknown. In August 2007, the aspirant was heard to say “Polls are a function of name recognition, not a function of whether people support your ideas. As people become aware of my candidacy, the evidence of that support is going to rise.” Yet, sheltered from view few voters ever knew who Dennis Kucinich was or is. Fewer still know when or where they could cast a ballot.
The problem? Florida had its presidential primary Last week.
February 5, 2008
Millions of Americans in 24 states are turning out vote to in Super Tuesday presidential primaries from Georgia to Alaska today. Meanwhile, some dedicated if confused Florida voters are trying to, as well.??
Elections offices across the state are reporting hundreds of calls from voters wanting to know where they can vote today. The answer is that Florida already had its presidential primary — last week.??
“We’ve had over 100 calls at least over the last two days,” said Kathy Adams, a spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Election Supervisor.??
Closer to home, Orange County elections officials say they are dealing with a combination of confused voters from Florida and California.??
“One of my staffers has figured it out,” said Orange County Election Supervisor Bill Cowles. “They are California voters going online and looking for the Orange County [California] election office and calling us instead.”
Of course that doesn’t explain the man who showed up at a polling site this morning in Orlando wanting to vote, Cowles conceded.?
Nor does this story enlighten the electorate as to why, in this the Information Age, so little is known, or shared with expectant voters. If people do not know to ask, instructions are not given. Votes, as important as they are, in 2008, are not counted. In this the Twenty-First Century, not only is Florida a foible, California has come to encapsulate election fraud, folly, or failures.
Last Friday members of the nonpartisan election group, CourageCampaign.org, were surfing the Web when they discovered a blog posting noting that Los Angeles County voters faced what organization spokesman Rick Jacobs calls “bubble trouble.” In order for any of the county’s 776,000 voters who have registered Nonpartisan to vote in the open primaries for the Democratic or American Independent parties, they would have to mark an extra bubble on the ballot naming the party for which they wished to cast a cross-over ballot. After a weekend of research, Jacobs says, CC.org contacted the office of L.A.’s Registrar of Voters on Sunday and were told it was true — an extra bubble had to be inked, and, yes, it could prove to be a big headache on election day. The bottom line: If the “declaration” bubble is not inked on a Nonpartisan ballot, the voter’s presidential preference would be voided, though not the part pertaining to propositions.
By noon election day, CC.org’s worst fears were realized as voters began complaining that poll workers hadn’t pointed out the extra bubble. The registrar’s office has tried to get word out to its workers about the issue but at this point, it’s impossible to know how many votes have been lost. One thing is certain, however: It will be impossible to conduct a recount of the cross-over ballots because voters were handed both Nonpartisan and Democratic ballots and there are cases where the bubble numbers for candidates from different parties overlap.
Common characteristics, the overlap, be it in bubbles, ballots, or the barrage of disinformation is unavoidable. The public peruses multiple sources, seeks infinite references; nonetheless, little of what the people know is untainted or from an independent and genuinely reliable source. In this global village, we are all connected, interconnected, on the Internet, near the television, or scanning the periodicals. Each is owned by one of the six, General Electric, Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp, CBS, or Viacom, all of whom are friendly with the others. Internet users say this matters not to them. However, in truth it does.
Well, you might comfort yourself by thinking about cyberspace. Think again. The dominant Internet service provider, America Online, is combining with already-number-one Time Warner- and the new firm AOL Time Warner would have more to lose than any other corporation if a movement grew to demand antitrust action against media conglomerates.
Amid rampant overall commercialization of the most heavily trafficked websites, AOL steers its 22 million subscribers in many directions-and, in the future, Time Warner’s offerings will be most frequently highlighted. While seeming to be gateways to a vast cybergalaxy, AOL’s favorite links will remain overwhelmingly corporate friendly within a virtual cul-de-sac.
Hype about the new media seems boundless, while insatiable old hungers for maximum profits fill countless screens. Centralization is the order of the media day. As Bagdikian points out: “The power and influence of the dominant companies are understated by counting them as ‘six.’ They are intertwined: they own stock in each other, they cooperate in joint media ventures, and among themselves they divide profits from some of the most widely viewed programs on television, cable and movies.”
So, Americans please take no comfort. Do not think you made an informed, independent choice. All that you read, all that you heard, what you viewed was influenced. The decision was made before you knew you could have had a choice. This, the United States, is not a democratic system.
Cast A Vote, Give Voice To Your Needs. Pray for a Democracy . . .
Millions of Americans awoke to the news; Benazir Bhutto was killed in an attack. The daughter of a former Prime Minister, and twice Prime Minister herself, Bhutto, months ago returned to her homeland, after a self-imposed eight year exile.
The Harvard graduate ventured forth with a hope and a dream that she might unite her mother country. The scion and scholar arrived in Pakistan amidst much fanfare and furor.
Western-educated and charismatic, she presented herself as a moderate, democratic force. As such she was widely courted in the West. The United States hoped she could restore popular legitimacy to President Musharraf’s failing war against Islamist militants.
But she was widely seen as having misused her office for her own financial gain and faced a number of court cases, both inside Pakistan and outside the country. Islamist militants hated her for her pro-American views.
Earlier this year, Ms Bhutto and Mr Musharraf had been working on a power-sharing agreement. The talks failed, leaving Ms Bhutto as the biggest political threat to President Musharraf, rather than an ally.
Therein lies the question many citizens of the United States ask. Who, among the leaders in Pakistan is a friend to America and who is the foe. Benazir Bhutto was our lover, devotee, and we her enthusiast. Yet, for years the White House has happily courted the current President of Pakistan.
Despite talk of terrorist encampments and anti-American sentiment within Pakistan, the Bush Administration spoke of General Musharraf as a friend of the States. Oh, the President of the United States and President, General Pervez Musharraf had their differences. There was a time when the leaders aired their angst aloud. However, ultimately, the two kissed and made-up as couples often do. The world powers then walked off into the sunset, hand-in-hand. Each, revels in the joint venture to fight against Islamic insurgents.
Granted, there were other rifts. Commander-In-Chief, the American military commandant demanded that the General take off his uniform. After Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf imposed martial law and suspended that nation’s Constitution, there was fear within the White House. Federal officials stated our ally had gone too far. His decision to wear military garb exacerbated the situation. An elected official cannot be considered militaristic. During a telephone conference with the Middle Eastern Head of State, President and Commander George W. Bush expressed his distress with the man who supported the United States in its endeavor to spread democracy.
“My message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform,” Bush said.
Perhaps this derision was the last straw. It was time to move on, move forward, or stay the course with a new face at the helm. Certainly, there is no need to imagine; were Benazir Bhutto Prime Minister of Pakistan, she too would have joined US in combat against “terrorists.”
The U.S. has long supported a return to power by Bhutto, who was perceived to be a moderate willing to work with Washington on the war on terror. She was also seen as a democratic leader who would serve as a counter to the plummeting popularity of Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 military coup. It was thought that a power-sharing deal between the two, in which Musharraf stayed on as president while Bhutto lead as prime minister, would promote stability in this nuclear armed nation of 165 million. But from the day of her arrival in Pakistan after eight years in exile, Bhutto’s return has been marred by violence.
We can only surmise that the hostile environment did not worry the Americans, the Bush Administration much. After all, aggression is the way of this White House. It matters not who leads or lends a hand as we go into battle. As long as the war continues, a surge strategy is maintained, and fear is sustained. Then, the hawks win. All must inquire; is that not the most important aspect of this New World Strategy.
We can peruse the Pakistani papers. We can read the rhetoric of the Right and the Left in America. Candidates can recount their experience of Benazir Bhutto. Still, there is reason to believe we know nothing of what really happened and why. The common folk are not even certain they understand how to care for a tragic event that has now become a campaign battle cry. Americans listen to the words of woe, and the warnings. Again we are told, in the name of democracy, we are at war . . . and do not forget it!
With the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses just a week away, U.S. presidential candidates also swiftly condemned the killing and stressed the need to fight terrorism.
The assassins who killed Bhutto “must be brought to justice,” Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said Thursday.
“Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred and violence,” said Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is trailing fellow Democrats Clinton and Barack Obama in polls, said a leader has died in Pakistan “but democracy must live.”
“It is in the interests of the U.S. that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists,” Richardson said in a statement.
Campaigning in Florida, current Iowa-caucus Republican frontrunner Mike Huckabee said he is “deeply troubled” by the news of Bhutto’s killing. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, said the U.S. must stand with moderate forces across the Islamic world “and together face the defining challenge of our generation — the struggle against violent, radical jihadists.”
“For those who think Iraq is the sole front in the war on terror, one must look no further than what has happened today,” said Romney, a Republican. . . .
Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack that brought down the World Trade Center, said Bhutto’s death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere “is an enemy of freedom.”
“We must redouble our efforts to win the terrorists’ war on us,” Giuliani said in a statement.
“This is devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them as we follow developments regarding this dire situation,” Huckabee said in a statement.
Once again, Americans must acknowledge that purposely, we are not fully informed. As long as war remains in the wind, we cannot and will not speak of peace. In an era where faux-Progressives stress the need for global tranquility, as they plan to wage war for at least another term, we must remember that when conflict is the cause of strife, it will also be the effect.
Americans and citizen worldwide can only hope that we, as a world will decide not to focus on assignations and the aggressive demeanors that lead to these. We might dream of the impossible, harmony, and create it.
Together let us take a moment and rest in peace. Perchance, we might listen to the words of the one Presidential hopeful from either nation, Pakistan or the United states, who wishes only for serenity planet-wide. The aspirant that believes we can achieve the impossible, what same think absurd offers his words of wisdom.
U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) issued the following statement after learning of the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi, Pakistan in a suicide attack following a campaign rally.
“This is a very dangerous moment for the world,” Kucinich said. . . .
“The United States must change its policy direction in the region. It must stop adding fuel to the fire.”
If we truly wish to establish world unity, Americans and Pakistanis alike cannot condone combat, in any form, on foreign or domestic shores. If we are to authentically invite and work for peace, we, as a nation, as individual people must live our lives in harmony. We must be calm when in the company of our neighbors, strangers and genuinely care for our selves.