Thickness of a Politician's Skin
Okay, time for a review, students. Dissent is bad for democracy.
Well, that's the message we've been getting for about five
months, isn't it?
That may be the message, but that's not the reality. Too
many politicians of all stripes have been telling us dissent
is bad. It might harm them in their efforts to protect the
country from foreign attack. First, our legislators passed,
without reading the bill, the USA PATRIOT Act. Then, the President
and his cabinet member, John Ashcroft, began to take a few
liberties that the Act didn't exactly explicitly state, such
as military tribunals, which more or less told countless hapless
violators of minor immigration laws that their collective
ass is grass, etc., ad infinitum.
Gee, maybe the feelings of legislators and the President
and his administrators is at issue here. Nope. Let's back
up a minute. To run for public office these days, one has
to have a skin at least as thick as a rhinoceros. Criticism
rolls off a politician like water from a duck's back. Just
ask Henry Hyde.
So, it's not about protecting the feelings of the legislative
elite. It's about getting them re-elected. Each and every
one wants to be re-elected. Most of them don't deserve to
be, but they're going to do whatever they can to be, including
telling all of you to be patriotic in time of war.
Okay, next question. What war? The war against terrorism
you say. Oh, the one which, in limited fashion, Congress authorized
Bush to wage against members of bin Laden's Al-Qaeda and the
country which harbored him? Oh, that one. Isn't it over? Nope.
Still going on. Now, our forces are bombing the hell out of
any target a half-assed warlord says harbors the enemy. Huh?
Did Congress tell Mr. Bush it was okay for him to do that?
Nope, but what the hell does Congress have to do with anything,
once they cheered Dubya on?
Truth is, not one whit. Administration officials are now
planning to make a TV series out of the war on terrorism,
and we all know that television hates repetition. New wars
mean better ratings (and let's not forget that Michael Powell
has a lot to say about TV and patriotism these days). On to
Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, the Philippines, Indonesia,
Pakistan (when they stop being our buds), India, Colombia,
Peru, Chile and parts unknown, as long as the military and
TV carries the momentum through the 2004 elections.
More seriously, maybe it's time for most Americans to ask
if they are getting from the current administration exactly
what they expected. The anti-abortion folks can say, "yes,"
but did you also want, as a package, mass slaughter around
the globe, denial of basic human rights, a badly-concocted
refutation of the Geneva Convention, and a parade of business
whores from Enron and Arthur Andersen before Congress, doing
bad imitations of Sgt. Schulz, saying, "I know nothing!" Those
of you on the fringes of the far right are saying, "yea, amen!"
The rest of us are puzzled.
Most of us won't benefit from the endless war on terrorism.
Some of us will lose sons and daughters to that cause. Some
of us will lose friends and family and work associates in
future terrorist attacks, because we're led by an administration
that thinks the best way to fight the problem is to piss everyone
off, at home and abroad, abrogate rights arbitrarily, and
bomb the hell out of anyone who disagrees. Afghanistan now,
In the meantime, hey, if you didn't notice, that park you
really liked, back to nature and all that, is going to fill
up with nuclear power plants and oil wells. The administration
says they really like the idea of renewable and alternative
energy sources, but, hey, their friends in the oil, coal and
nuclear industries don't own much of that, so... the Federal
budget for other energy research gets slashed in half.
It's time for the America public to listen to what a long-time
Bush watcher like Molly Ivins says about Dubya: "don't listen
to what he says. Watch what he does."
That pretty much says it all. Want a theocratic government
in which the greatest virtue is profit? We're well on the
way, in a rocket-powered handbasket. And, to make this an
equal-opportunity diatribe, Democrats who take money from
corporations and help with Dubya's efforts, instead of steadfastly
supporting the people get a raspberry, too. I haven't forgotten
that the vote in the Senate on the changes to bankruptcy legislation
was 85-15. A lot of politicians, that day, for instance, as
with the USA PATRIOT Act, told the people, we know better
than you. Most of them didn't read that legislation, either.
If our legislators won't take the time to read the legislation
on which they vote, we're all screwed. If that's what you
all wanted and voted for, fine--I'll hopefully find a decent
job and life in another country. I don't think it is, though.
At least, I hope not.
If you don't agree with what's happening to this country,
at the behest of elected politicians on your purported behalf,
then get a bad case of the bejeesus and tell them so, and
tell them to fix it. The only way to get back at a politician
is not to attack them (remember, skin like a rhinoceros),
but, rather, to vote them out of office.
Tell your state parties that lack of open primaries are essentially
undemocratic, and tell your elected officials you won't support
them if they don't support full campaign reform and don't
support open primaries. Tell them that if they're the best
candidates for the job, then they have nothing to fear by
supporting such reforms. And, tell them that if they don't
think of the ordinary guy before they think of who gave them
money to get re-elected, they're gonna be out on their ass
sooner or later.
Cheers, all. Don't forget to write.
punpirate is a writer and curmudgeon living in New Mexico.