Monday, October 16, 2006

(not) Becoming the Enemy

What spares a group who see themselves pitted against an enemy (some other group) from becoming just like that enemy in order to win? What spares them is the questions they ask themselves. Because answers arrived at by partisans generally are predetermined from their questions, it is the questions that should be drawn up with care.

I sit for several hours a week in poorly airconditioned office space crammed with phones, rickety chairs and tables and determined volunteers. One call at a time, we are finding the seven to ten percent of all MoveOn members who think its so important to get out the vote that they will put aside a few hours of their week, brave the interesting wierdness of calling strangers and help us make the calls. There are few lulls so we don't spend much time chatting with each other but we can't help but try our pet slogans and pitches out on each other. That is how I have come to trust these volunteers have asked "What should we be fighting for?" rather than "How can we win?" In that choice is an opporunity to make a seductive mistake. Even at this foot soldier level, you can see that opposition to the corrupt and cowardly congress and the bush regime is spontaneous and multifacited. There are college kids here, a few gray heads such as mine and 30-somethings.

We now witness in the newspapers the unraveling of the unwholesome coalition of neoconservative and cryptofascist theorizers, corporate influence marketers and the narrow and biggoted excesses of the religious right wing. What put that tacky marriage together in the first place? Though that wedding of antidemocratic factions seemed to work, the source of their fears and desperation were distinct. It was brokered by folks like Karl Rove who would only ask this question: "how can we win?" There must be a war or some other metaphor that revolves around winning. No principle comes before winning. And so "winning" comes first and all its costs come later. Mr. Rove, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush: history has presented you with your tab and its time to pay up. You have taken far more freedom from us than Osama Bin Laden ever dreamed of. You have become the enemy and even your admirers see it.

The crush of things that must be done this month leave me little time to blog but there appears to be a theme so bear with a post that wads together what might better have been two or three short reads. My friend Shokai finds synchronicities but for me the coincidence of the several occasions for blogging is to be understood as arising from a common cause: the poisoning of many aspects of our lives by the pervasive reach of neoconservative policy: the starved arts and sciences, the life-wasting and money-wasting foreign policy, the pall of fear that dims political vision...all these taint a life we used to enjoy living. Everywhere, like rising vomit, we are soon going to try and heave out the poison.

Late last night [why oh why do such good authors get shunted to the deadest time slots] on C-SPAN bookenotes, I caught a wonderful talk by Thom Hartmann promoting his book "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class -- And What We Can Do About It". The guy taught more insight in to history in 40 minutes than Bush slept through in his years at Yale. It bothers me to be reminded that over 30% of my income is taken by the IRS because I work for a living while the dividend-funded lifestyle parts with only about 15% of its income...not to mention what obscene things are done and what vital things NOT done with that money.

The musical 1776 has just completed a run at the Lyric Stage in Boston. When we took in the show Saturday, the producer introduced the show with the news that it was the best attended performance this company's 32 year history. Ben Franklin's punchlines adorn a serious struggle to get the declaration of independence written by a bunch of men who could easily [and some did] have hoped to keep their comfortable station in life by appeasing King George. The audience gave it a standing ovation. It was not anti-war [probably why it beat out HAIR for the Tony award in 1969] but not too subtly anti-conservative. It sang of how the conservative urges among the continental congress provided all the resistance to declaring our independence. And then last night I was hearing Hartmann reminding me that G. Washington and Thom Jefferson were self identified liberals: the cummulative result of all this stimulation is that I awake this morning aware that our history is still alive, our great experiment is neither dead yet nor forgotten but needs to be defended from its internal enemies, the sightless selfish who find in true democracy a chaotic threat to their priveleges.

The time of separation between moral pondering and political action has passed. For too many of us that separation has meant that uninhibited greed, fear and xenophobia have worked their will on the character, policy and enterprises of our nation. We now witness the stinking debris in the wake of that will. Act. Act now. Get your face down to the party meetings, the candidate coffees, put a sign on your lawn and support the Get Out The Vote efforts. Act even though mistakes may be made, because systematic destruction of lives, human rights and the environment are not likely to be among those mistakes.

Yesterday I got an email via a fellow congregant from a group of rabbis against torture.

Vigil Mourning the Death of Our Most Cherished Values

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at 9 a.m.

Lafayette Square or at a Post Office Near You

"Don't mourn -- organize!" It's time to do both. On Tuesday, October 17, at 9:00 a.m., President Bush is scheduled to sign the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This is the much-opposed bill which eliminates the right to habeas corpus for detainees, allows them to be tried without access to evidence against them and places decisions about interrogation methods solely under the President's control. The Washington Regional Religious Campaign Against Torture (WRRCAT) is calling for a "vigil mourning the death of our most cherished values" and for signing a counter-statement to the one that President Bush will sign that day. Vigil participants will attempt to get this statement to the President.

RHR-NA is a proud co-sponsor of this event and we are writing to urge you to participate in this event or in solidarity events in your local area.

How frightfully inured we have become to Bush wiping his ass with the constitution. The dubious points in support of this act raised by Bush apologists would not be relevant even if they were legally sound: the man already pays far less attention to the laws than his enemies or even his toadies do. This one gives him further latittude.
Sad to report only a few of us from the congregation are willing to show up in with signs on a work day morning. It does benefit the Bush league that being in the middle class now means "working too many hours to show up for a protest". Sick as we are of Bush, it would benefit us all if a few more were ready to have America puke him and his congress out of office. We are looking to other synagogues and a local mosque for some show of solidarity. I have a costume in mind, if I can figure out how to hold my arms out straight for an hour:

I expect a few idiots to lean out of their pickups and yell "traitor" or such at us Tuesday. For them I have the same answer as for the question that begins this post:

Don't get mad. Ask questions.


Thivai Abhor said...

I would like to extend an invitation to you to join in on a collective blogging section of our upcoming winter issue of Reconstruction. The issue is the “Theories/Practices of Blogging.” In addition to the special section of posts on blogging there will be about a dozen essays on blogging.

The deadline is October 27th.

Our intent in this section of the issue will be to collect a wide range of bloggers and link up to their statements in regards to why they blog (something many of us are asked) and any statement they have on the theories/practices of blogging.

If you already have a post on this you can feel free to use it, or, if you are interested, you can submit a new one.

We will link to each statement from the issue at our site, with the intent of creating a hyperlinked list of statements on blogging that can serve as an introduction to blogging (or an expansion of knowledge for those already blogging).

If you are interested please contact me at mdbento @

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