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No One To Beat But Ourselves
April 30, 2003
By Joseph Vecchio

There's been a lot of stuff going down the last few days. The admissions that "weapons of mass destruction," which has been added to my personal list of silly euphemisms, may have been "destroyed" or "will take time to find" would under normal circumstances make an administration look bad, but of course the way the press is now, if George W. Bush were to push someone off a building in broad daylight they'd spin it to say he was simply tryng to help and the man jumped.

I doubt if we'll ever really know the full extent of the crimes of the Bush regime. I figure if Reagan & Co. could get away with selling weapons to our enemies, then Bush & Co. can do pretty well anything they like. The obvious double-standard, where we on the left are lectured endlessly about "personal responsibility" yet the blatant disregard for the law by the right and their refusal to accept responsibility for their own actions ought to sicken Americans, but people just seem to take all of this in stride, as if it were perfectly reasonable for some people to break the law and perfectly reprehensible for others.

Consider this: the biggest accomplishments of the Bush regime thus far have been two "wars" fought against virtually defenseless nations, and those were preceded by the worst terrorist attack ever perpetrated on American soil. Note: we still don't know where Osama bin Laden is, and I'm doubtful we'll ever find out where Saddam Hussein is, either. The economy has been a wreck, and the US has become the ultimate rogue nation, disdainful of, and in some cases blatantly ignoring international institutions that we helped to bring about. There is nothing that has happened since George W. Bush took office that could be in any way remotely called a success, yet he is supposedly an unstoppable force in American politics. Why is that?

It would be easy to blame the Democratic Party for sleeping on the job, but you have to understand exactly what it is they're up against. The GOP leadership is motivated, organized, and most importantly, well-funded. They have a vision of a country unhindered by a federal government, where corporations can enjoy the blessings of citizenship but suffer none of the consequences. To be blunt, the Democrats were blind-sided. They, and a few moderate Republicans, believe in the rule of law - and because they believe in it, they find it hard to imagine that people would break both law and tradition without even batting an eye. What we're seeing from the GOP is power politics, pure and simple, and they excel at it, and no one here knows how to deal with it. So while they share some of the responsibility for allowing the right to take over, the fault is not totally theirs.

It would also be easy to blame the entire media which is covering up for the crimes: I'm sure that far more journalists would be willing to begin to report the truth of what is happening if it weren't for the fact that they knew they could lose their livelihoods if they did so. While we might sneer at a lot of them, I imagine the pressure for some must be very difficult. That's not to say there aren't those who gladly accept the thirty pieces of silver, but I'm sure there are others who are simply afraid to do the right thing if doing so means they have to destroy a career they took so long to build. So while they, too, share some of the responsibility for what's been going on, the fault is not wholly theirs, either.

If, as the Declaration of Independence states, governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, then the governed also share the ultimate responsibility for the actions of their government. This is less true of countries like Iraq, where they are raised without the idea of individual freedoms, and have never really had a role to play in government to begin with. But in our case we have to take much more of the blame, because frankly we ought to know better.

The hard truth is that we are very, very bad citizens. We're people who love the blessings of liberty but refuse to share in the responsibilities of citizenship. In some cases, we take great pride in destroying the social fabric that binds us together, laboring under the false impression that anything that can be done can be done without that fragile infrastructure that so many have worked so hard to build. We're people who worship the soldiers that protect our freedoms yet who threaten to kill those who use that freedom to say things that make them uncomfortable.

In sports, an individual or a team will occasionally be put into a position where they are far superior to any opposition. They can only beat themselves, the saying goes. That's the position we're in now. But this is a sports season that never ends, and sooner or later something will happen to make us stumble, and in this sport, the price for failure is very high indeed. We could have been something special: we cold have been the greatest nation among free nations, leading the world towards unity and peace, instead we've chosen arrogance and "unilateralism." The rest of the world may not have a lot of say about it now, but underneath they're fuming and waiting for the opportunity to slap us down, just as there are those of us in the US who would love to dismantle the power of the GOP leadership, but are unable to fight back.

But in the end, the decision, and the responsibility, belongs to the American people. I think they need to start asking themselves if this endless war scenario is what they really want, and if it is, let's stop all the pretense about liberty and equality. If we're going to be an Empire, then let's be one and get it done with. Let's reinstate slavery and tear up the Constitution. Rights? Rights only belong to those who have the force to back it up. Laws? Laws don't mean a damn thing, they're just useful tools to categorize how we're getting rid of our opposition. If this is what we believe, let's just do it.

But if that's not what we want, let's take these people out at the ballot box and let's get back on the path we were on before all of this: the path of rights and laws, of shared responsibilities and earned liberties. A path that is walked by individuals but is greater than any single person. A path that leads towards a bright future and not a bleak past.

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