Friday, April 15, 2005
What Really Worries Me
It is no more surprising to be born twice than it is to be born once.
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.
A general in ancient China came to see a Zen master. He drew his sword and pointed it at the teacher, and announced: "Don't you know that I am a man who can run you through without blinking an eye?"To which the Zen master responded instantly: "Don't you know that I am a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?"Deeply impressed, the general sheathed his sword and remained for the teaching.
My wife sends me a few emails every day. More often than I like they are about how I can become a better husband for her than I am already. But sometimes she finds a political item or entry as she browses the Net that nails the direction our nation is taking right to the wall. When that happens I find little alternative but to put aside everything I am doing...and really take an inventory. I'm sure she'd like it if I did that with the health and diet articles she sends too, but that is a different essay.
I know people who feel politics deeply. They are my friends. It may surprise you they are on "both sides of the aisle," so to speak. In fact, I often enjoy discussion with a conservative more than a fellow liberal. We all agree on two basic principles: 1) the polis, being humans striving to maintain community, is the best idea the species has come up with for getting along with each other, and 2) open and free political debate is the only way to resolve disagreement.
Since the Election of 2004, which maintained President Bush apparently, I feel that healthy political debate is quieting down among my friends...and being furiously discouraged in the public arena. I sense whatever the political leanings and convictions of my friends that they are troubled by questions they have and a distrust of the world that is growing. And they are suffering this anxiety in silence and maybe denial.
Let me give you a very public example of what I mean. Last weekend Senator Kerry made the following remark before a meeting of the League of Women Voters: "Last year too many people were denied their right to vote, too many who tried to vote were intimidated." Here we have a serious concern. The more tainted with corruption a nation's election process becomes, surely we know the more horrifying existence for those citizens becomes as well. We scold other nations and move our armies to spread democracy and destroy tyranny.
What response did the remark of the former candidate for the presidency of the United States inspire? In an article on Monday entitled "John Kerry tries out a new whine," Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt is quoted as saying, "While President Bush and members of Congress are working to move our country forward, it's disappointing that some Democrats are focused on rehashing baseless allegations more than five months after the election." http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_6563.shtml
Apparently Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto went even further with 2 columns that brought us into the middle of the week. He surmised that Senator Kerry's sources of concern were actually leftwing satirical pieces...and that the poor candidate couldn't even tell that his own people were joking with him. http://mediamatters.org/items/200504130001
I suspect what is wrong with this picture is the same thing that accounts for the increasing silence among my friends, liberal and conservative. There is neither respect shown to the man who conceded the close election, nor quiet deliberation regarding his concern. He is deplored and mocked. His very grasp of reality is questioned. Now honestly, if you are an American reading this, have you felt anything like a questioning of your "attitude" among acquaintances if it is known you have similar questions? Is it better for your popularity at work and sense of job security if you conceal and deny your questions? How healthy is a society that allows itself to get into such a fix...if that is what has happened?
It is at this point that my wife introduced me to a new columnist. I should have bumped into him before because the same piece Dana sent me was referred to last week at The Brad Blog...but I didn't quite see it. The guy's name is Chris Floyd...and he writes regularly for a publication in Moscow...Russia! Now wait a minute, this isn't the Cold War anymore...and their leader and ours have looked into each other's souls and like what they see. But still...there's bound to be a stigma in there somewhere. I think the essay is very well written...and is a good, although alarming, summary of the United States' political path these past 6 months. If you like, see what you think. It begins...
"Let's face the facts. The game is over and we -- the 'reality-based community,' the believers in genuine democracy and law, the heirs of Jefferson and Madison, Emerson and Thoreau, the toilers and dreamers, all those who seek to rise above the beast within and shape the brutal chaos of existence into something higher, richer and imbued with meaning -- have lost. The better world we thought had been won out of the blood and horror of history -- a realm of enlightenment that often found its best embodiment in the ideals and aspirations of the American Republic -- is gone. It's been swallowed by darkness, by ravening greed, by bestial spirits and by willful primitives who now possess overwhelming instruments of power and dominion.
"A gang of such spirits seized control of the U.S. government by illicit means in 2000 and maintained that control through rampant electoral corruption in 2004. The re-election of President George W. Bush last November was a deliberately shambolic process that saw massive lockouts of opposition voters; unverifiable returns compiled by easily hackable machines operated by avowed corporate partisans of the ruling party; and vast discrepancies between exit polls and final results – gaps much larger than those that led elections in Ukraine and Georgia to be condemned as manipulated frauds. Indeed, a panel of statisticians said last week that the odds of such a discrepancy occurring naturally were 959,000 to 1, the Akron Beacon-Journal reported."
There is a crummy picture of Mr. Floyd here http://www.peacearchive.org/floyd.htmand a writeup of his history and credentials here http://www.globaleyefloyd.com/about.htm
When I went to junior high and high school, the debate team was among the most exciting extracurricular activities in which to involve oneself. I went to college on a debating scholarship. During political campaigns in my small city in western New York, we had whole school assemblies in which the candidates appeared and debated their views. The hallways were full of imaginative and original posters made by students, who were encouraged to learn to express themselves in a rational manner. I remember an election season in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I went to graduate school in the early 1960's, in which citizens were out on street corners talking politics. It is one of the great memories I have of what America is all about.
I work in a junior high school. I won't say political discussion and activity is stifled there...but it certainly isn't encouraged either. There was no mock election for the students...and the one political poster I saw in the school was taken down. What does any of this tell us about the health of political freedom as we have moved through 50 years? In our time of positively athletic patriotism, how is the actual inventory in our political warehouse?