Quote of the Day:
No. 1, it’s not going to work, No. 2, if it does work, it’s not reliable. No. 3, it may not be legal, ethical or moral. No. 4, it’s going to hurt you when you have to prosecute these guys. No. 5, sooner or later, all of this stuff is going to come to light, and you’re going to be embarrassed.--Col. Brittain P. Mallow, the commander of the Defense Department’s Criminal Investigation Task Force from 2002 to 2005, talking about the use of torture and/or extreme interrogation techniques on detainees.
Terry McKenna has a rather arch commentary on Bush's "National Character Week", which we briefly mentioned Friday. Terry brings his extraordinary view of history into this discussion, so I recommend you follow it to the end, and without bothering to focus on whether this message is coming from a liberal, a Democrat, a disaffected Conservative, or an old-style Republican. The main feeling I always get from reading Terry's material every Sunday is of that rarest of breeds in modern America, an individual.
The right's lockstep forced march—you're either with us or with the terrorists—is well known by now; but the left is also coloring itself with a dubious taint. We have mentioned before the irrational (and self-defeating) demands of a certain advertising broker that Daily Rev identify itself as "liberal" before they'd do business with us; now comes news of a "liberal manifesto".
My only question to such proponents of groupthink is, "can we afford division any further, and what has it brought us anyway?" Everywhere you look on this earth, there is either war, corruption, genocide, or the threat of a nuclear armaggedon. I suggest, therefore, that if the next generation is to have a chance at survival, let alone prosperity, the time has come when we must all speak clearly from the heart, as freethinking individuals tied to no label, party, or in-group. I'll have a little more on this point at the end of this post. But now, then, Mr. McKenna:
Remember when the big issue was Bill Clinton’s character? That’s right, it once seemed almost more important to have a president who was earnest and honest than to have one who was smart. I didn’t vote for George Bush in 2000, but I believed he was more honest than Bill Clinton. Boy, were we ever wrong!
Of course, it turned out that with George Bush didn’t have the sort of character that a great president needs in times of trial. Yes, he is persistent, but his is a stubbornness removed from any deep understanding of world affairs.
Character is necessary, but it turns out we need strong public character – not private character. Thus, despite his smarmy personal life, JFK was a model of public deportment. He admitted his failure in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, wisely choosing to let the operation fail quickly, rather than escalate. With the Cuban Missile Crisis he overruled his military advisors, electing instead to pull back from what would surely have been World War 3. (Yes, I know that some say the missile crisis was managed by luck and nearly bungled, but the available material suggests that Kennedy was an involved thinker making up his own mind – and able to move away from the cold warrior ideology that he brought into his presidency).
Still Kennedy’s sexual indiscretions were profoundly disturbing. A better model of character is his immediate predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower. Until fame selected him, his was an entirely uneventful middle class life. During WW1, he trained troops and even in WW2, he was relegated to staff work – thus, he never commanded during battle. The Normandy invasion was the biggest single event of his military career. The plan was his, as was the final decision to go forward on June 6th, despite marginal weather.
These words were found on a scrap of paper in his shirt a few weeks after D-Day (they were reportedly found by his naval aide):
Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
Had the invasion failed, troops would have been withdrawn, and Eisenhower would have accepted blame. That’s how men of character behave.
His presidency was a mixed one; but as time passes, his administration looks better and better. He made a few tough decisions. One was these was to oppose Israel, Britain and France over the Suez Canal. Another was to use federal troops to enforce desegregation in the South. Liberals have long castigated Eisenhower for his backwardness regarding civil rights, but for a conservative man from a rural state, it’s hard to imagine him being more progressive than he was.
He also closed his presidency with a prophetic warning to the nation about the military industrial complex. Here's an excerpt:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
While most of the threats from Eisenhower’s day have disappeared, the military industrial complex remains a powerful force to this day. In fact, the Bush team is a monument to the military industrial complex, with Vice President Cheney being for all practical purposes, an “embed” from Halliburton.
Let’s end with a few tidbits about Bush’s lack of character. Even as he acknowledges ever so slightly the need for a course correction in Iraq, his pose on the stump remains that of a warrior – though much like Eisenhower, George Bush has never fired a shot in anger. But that’s where the similarities end. GW plays at being a military leader but he lacks the guts to accept blame for his many failures.
Even the White House website remains a monument to evasion. In their home page, they hide the war in a link “renewal in Iraq” – what the hell does that mean?! (click the graphics for larger views).
Click on the link and you get more bullshit. A picture of a child in a head scarf looking out at us, smiling shyly.
But the true story of Iraq is of families huddled in family compounds, fearing all but members of their own clan.
And however the president may soften his words for the sake of this campaign, his surrogate, Karl Rove, continues to preach staying the course. In a speech delivered in Ohio, October 20, 2006, his vision of victory remains that of a democratic Iraq able to defend itself, and ready to assist the US in the global War on Terror. Iran as democratic, puhleez!
The Republicans just released this web ad. It won’t be broadcast anywhere, its sole purpose is to draw attention from pundits and thus a lot of free airplay on TV news programs. To that end, it has succeeded. Please watch it. It is this decade’s equivalent to the infamous “Daisy” ad used by Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 campaign against Barry Goldwater.
After you’ve watched it, ask yourself – what exactly are we as Americans being asked to do? Do we want to spend the next several decades sending our legions around the world in an interminable battle? Can we afford it? Does anyone think we can win?
It's tough to see the clarity hidden amid the mud; but it is there. It is painfully frustrating to seek light in the squalid darkness that now covers our world; but it can be occasionally felt. It is especially agonizing to see truth recurrently repressed amid violence; but truth can never be tortured or hated into total silence.
One of the wiser philosophers of our age has urged us to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. This is the spirit that informed the creation of this blog, and its continuance these past two years.
Now I have a message for our small community of regular readers (our deepest thanks to you all!): I'll be scaling back our postings for at least the near future, and you will no doubt notice this. I simply don't wish that you draw a hasty conclusion from it.
The reasons are many: static or decreasing traffic; no revenue stream (as strange as this may sound, it's hard to work at something every day for nothing, even if you love it); and demands from other regions of life and responsibility are all involved. I'm working on another book (writers know that books must be written, even if they will not always or widely be read); and both Terry and I do have full-time jobs, families, and even the occasional human need to spend an evening at a tavern, with no keyboard or newsfeed in sight.
It may seem like pretty stupid timing, gearing down a political blog two weeks before the mid-terms. But if you're not sure which way you're likely to vote this year, then you're probably not reading this blog anyway. Its message would mean nothing to you, after all.
It's been an amazing experiment, daily blogging; and for those of you who write and have contemplated trying it yourself, I have some ideas which I'll be sprinkling into future posts. The lessons of the creative life are simple, whether you're a famous teacher like Ken Wilber (who I quoted above) or a common web hacker like me. The most precious treasures in life are truth, health, and love; the greatest wisdom is to be found not in a group or a party platform, but in yourself; and the genuinely universal truths and ideals of humanity are to be realized through the autonomy of the individual.
As I have mentioned before, the time for fear is long since past, because the worst that can happen has already begun. The single lights that glow the brightest in the years to come will all be distinguished by their fearlessness, no matter their individual differences. Fearlessness, in every age, has been both the answer and the tonic to deceit and violence. I would ask that you look for it amid the various candidates and issues that you will have to vote upon in two weeks' time; this, indeed, is of great importance. But perhaps of even greater moment is that you seek to discover and to nurture the fearlessness within yourself. Every day, if only for a few minutes, turn quietly inward, and look for your own sense of fearlessness: you will know it when you feel it.