Democratic Underground  
You're Either With Us, Or You're Whacko
October 15, 2002
By Maureen Farrell

"I was talking to a Congressional office," Bob Novak reported on Crossfire. "They told me that the phone calls coming in were 571 against the war, 3 for the war. You got that? [The unnamed congressman] is going 100 percent for George Bush, not saying a word of criticism, because he knows it's the nuts calling in and that the real people are supporting the resolution."

As one of the "nuts calling in," I was taken aback. Did a congressman actually say that? Is that how America's representatives feel? Given the arrogance of the congressman's assertion, it seems some of us need to hightail it to the Land of Leahy and Jeffords to get the representation our taxation is rumored to buy.

A couple days later, on Resolution Day, my senses were similarly assaulted; this time, via e-mail from MSNBC's Hardball. "Of course Byrd went on another tirade this morning," it read, and I wondered how Byrd's "tirade" could possibly be an annoyance, considering what's at stake. "I know what you're thinking," the e-mail assured. "'Stop having all the anti-war folks on!' Don't worry, we're gonna have some Hawks on too."

So, great. While Congressman Gough-Tohell says I'm crazy, MSNBC thinks it is reading my mind. "We know you want war," Hardball implies, taking "manufacturing consent," to a whole new level. Well, thank you very much, but does anyone really believe there aren't enough hawks on TV? A day without Richard Perle is a day without sunshine! And dissenting generals aside, why did Hardball's email say that "everyone's for war?" Didn't they get the memo about anti-war protests? Tens of thousands, and countless others, marginalized, just like that. "You're either with us or you're whacko." Yessireebob.

I tried to imagine who might be among Bob Novak's nuts. Not the folks at Hardball, that's for sure. "Maybe Jimmy Carter?," I mused. After all, didn't he say Congress was wrong to pass its resolution on Iraq? And what about George Tenet, who says Saddam won't attack us unless we attack him first? And could the 50,000 citizens who e-mailed Sen. Byrd last week be whacked-out, too? Or what about the 20,000 who called him in support? Those people have been radicalized by the lies they've been told, and the helplessness and voicelessness of it all, I bet. Congressman Gough-Tohell's constituents, perhaps? And what, pray tell, separates the "nuts" from the "real people?"

New York Daily News reporter Lars-Erik Nelson would have made Novak's list, I think. Because while other Americans were congratulating themselves for so being reasonably impotent during the 2000 brouhaha, Nelson deemed the Bush campaign's post-election ploys "a mugging." Outraged and outspoken, he drew attention to the blatantly undemocratic shenanigans in Florida. "If you want to know the truth, I blame the Bush campaign for the death of Nelson," New York Observer columnist Ron Rosenbaum wrote. . . . "[He] saw what was going on in Florida early on, and he didn't see it with any equanimity: One of his colleagues at the Daily News called him on the day of his death, the afternoon of the televised Florida Supreme Court argument, and recalled Nelson crying out, "I can't believe they said that!" over some outrageous assertion by the lawyers for Ms. Harris and Mr. Bush. A few hours later, he was found in front of his television set, dead of a stroke. No one will convince me it was unrelated."

That kind of caring can be deadly. Yes, it can.

Filmmaker Steve Tesich might be another Novakian nut. Best known for films like "Four Friends" and "Breaking Away," Tesich died of a massive heart attack at age 53. "America killed him," his sister Nadia claimed, which, admittedly, sounds extreme. But like brilliant writers before him, Tesich served as a lightening rod for the rest of us, especially in his outrage over the soulless propaganda perpetuated on TV. Awakened by "the deadly display, advertising of weapons, and destruction during the US war on Iraq," Steve was appalled by the "lack of opposition in the media." So he wrote to combat untruths and dilute the propaganda. His essays went largely unpublished.

"My brother suffered," Professor Nadia Tesich wrote, "Silently most of the time. He suffered because he thought he was an important writer, whose voice ought to be heard. He suffered because most of the people around him, even old friends, appeared brainwashed, brain-dead. He suffered more than I because he loved America once. That love turned against him. Yes, it can kill you.

"He suffered because he woke up and with amazing speed and brilliance he saw what the USA did to us, and to their own people, and to the rest of the world. It was easier for me. I was immunized from before -- Vietnam, Chile, Panama, Guatemala -- the list is long.

"He was only a writer, romantic, sweetly naive, full of optimism until 1990. He was unprepared. His awakening was deadly. He could not imagine his future in this new world order, faster, more deadly every minute as I write. He feared the day when his work will be censored entirely, the way it had happened to me. Here in Amerika. He wrote to expose, to bear witness against this era, this monster without an adequate name or a real face, so people will know many years later that someone objected."

Yes, he objected then and we object now - no matter how many congressmen or pundits pooh-and pooh our concerns. America is on the eve of waging an unconscionable preemptive war, with murky motivations, and, as more of us see this, more will object. Because we too are waking up "with amazing speed and brilliance." We see what Lars-Erick Nelson saw and what Steve Tesich saw and what Mark Twain saw, even as far back as 1905.

Casting a Novakian nut as the centerpiece of his anti-imperialist tale, "The War Prayer," Twain took on the hypocritical righteousness of pious warmongers. Arriving with "a message from Almighty God," Twain's hero, his unearthly "stranger," dramatizes the duality in praying for God's blessing, which, conversely, calls for others' hardships. The climax occurs when Twain's messenger recites this uncensored prayer:

". . . . O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it-- For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, strain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who us the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen. "

"It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic," Twain wrote, "because there was no sense in what he said."

So, yes, even though FOX has replaced Twain's altar as our propaganda podium and though lengthy sermons are now found in the "Gospel According to 'Showdown With Saddam!,' the message doesn't change. Because the fiercely anti-imperialist Mark Twain understood where Bob Novak and Congressman Gough-Tohell were coming from. He understood, all to well, the sickness that equates sanity with soulnessness, and approves of ends justifying means. After all, this sickness gave smallpox to Indians and root to slavery; it bred hatred towards abolitionists and killed four at Kent State. Echoed in "Heil Hitler," and Coliseum cheers, it's a sickness writers like Twain, Nelson and Tesich sense early on. And though they warn us, they are dismissed and vilified by the likes of Congressman Gough-Tohell, until Truth wins out, and the folly in ignoring them is acknowledged.

As the pre-fabricated Bush, Inc. war approaches (alongside the ridiculous fašade that the president wants peace), we'll soon learn which side is crazy. But, in time, Bob Novak and his congressman may very well wish they'd listened to the nuts. After all, History is on the nuts' side.

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