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The People's State of the Union Address
October 24, 2003
By punpirate

Good evening, fellow citizens.

Each January, the President of the United States has the Constitutional obligation to come before the Congress and make an assessment of the condition of the country, to delineate its problems and to describe how the Executive plans to solve those problems, to list the successes of the prior year and the reasons for those successes. Most importantly, though, the implicit demand by the Constitution of the President is for an accounting of the health of our government and whether or not it has met the goals set by the Constitution on behalf of the people represented by the government.

Since this accounting by the President has become, with the introduction of radio and television, decreasingly factual and progressively more a staged political event, rather than an honest appraisal, the people feel compelled to reply. We have had some time to assess the President's words this past January.

It is with great sadness that the people must report that our government has failed us, utterly, in this past year and in many others in the last few decades. This past year has been one of, particularly, tumult and divisiveness and great physical and Constitutional danger.

Moreover, the people must report that we have come to these dangerous shoals by the hands of our own elected officials, who have not navigated our ship well, nor with the safety of its passengers, we the people, in mind.

Despite glowing reports, the status of the economy is not good. For the people, what truly counts is steady employment at a reasonable rate of compensation. More than three million of us have seen our jobs disappear permanently, and millions more have been unable to find new work or have given up actively looking for work. Many more us of have been able to find only part-time work or are chronically under-employed. We are besieged by continuing attempts in legislation and by Executive Order to roll back rights to organize and to be adequately compensated for overtime. The federal minimum wage remains unchanged, even though its purchasing power is only about two-thirds of its value at time of the enactment of the current rate.

Poverty continues to a significant problem, and is growing as unemployment grows. Our leaders even look positively on paying welfare-to-work clients less than minimum wage, and fight bitterly in welfare legislation against the twin cures for poverty - education and opportunity. The number of people without health care coverage has increased. College students in need of loans for education have discovered that the administration is making loans more difficult to obtain at a time when tuition rates are going up precipitously.

Trade agreements continue to threaten the sovereignty of states and local communities, and jobs continue to be our leading export. Increasingly, the only beneficiaries of so-called "free" trade agreements are multinational corporations and their stockholders. Calls for fair trade agreements fall on deaf ears.

We see mounting deficits, and, this year, yet another concession to the wealthy among us in the form of further tax cuts demanded by the Bush administration, which have greatly contributed to those deficits, at the same time that the President lectures Congress that it must show some fiscal responsibility.

Our Constitutional rights continue to be threatened, from hastily-enacted and ill-advised laws such as the Patriot Act, and by currently-considered legislation meant to strengthen that act. We continue to discover new means of the suppression of dissent by limitations on our ability to travel freely such as watch lists and by means such as the expanding use of so-called "First Amendment Zones" which are employed to prevent our dissent from ever reaching the eyes and ears of our leaders.

We continue to see, increasingly, the corporate control of government, in ways which in times past would be have been seen as outright graft and corruption - open-ended contracts to corporations such as to that previously led by the current Vice-President, obvious instances of buying legislation via corporate donations to campaigns and by progressive favoritism of the multinational corporation in tax law, government and, indeed, in foreign policy.

Even watered-down campaign reform has been under attack by those vested interests which believe money is free speech.

We have watched the administration ignore millions of our individual requests for restrictions on the media's ability to consolidate control of power, and watched a few people in Congress thwart legislative attempts to undo bad rule-making by the FCC.

We have seen a progressive and sustained attack on our environment through the implementation of rules favoring polluters, and through policy changes designed to increase the profitability of corporations. We have seen rule changes to exempt certain industries from filing environmental impact assessments and have watched, horrified, as our government ignores our wishes with regard to wilderness areas and their protection.

We have seen xenophobia, jingoism and McCarthyism become part of the national landscape once again.

Increasingly, we see this administration and its friends in Congress operate by means of intimidation and the President exert his will by executive fiat.

One small segment of one party has chosen to use the government of all the people for its own corporate and geo-political ends. That group of ideologues has hijacked this government in no less demonstrable a way than nineteen terrorists hijacked four airliners on the morning of September 11, 2001, and has implemented a program of fear and intimidation to control not only the public, but its political opponents, as well. We, the people, have listened to this group's representatives shout down opposing views as "treason" for so long now that we have become inured to it.

Treason is a serious charge, and should be levied only against those who act, whether for political or personal gain, in ways which indelibly harm this country. We have seen this administration do just that, time and again, by lying about the reasons for war, to leaking the identity of covert agents of the government for purposes of political revenge, to the adoption of policies, often by fiat, which have seriously impaired our country's image with the rest of the world.

We have even seen fit to publicly and diplomatically interfere in the domestic affairs of our nearest neighbors. While Canada supplies peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan, after a war of revenge and political strategy started by the United States, the Bush administration derides the Canadian government for its judicial rulings on marriage and drugs and complains that it does not spend enough on defense.

The diplomatic battles with France, Germany and Russia are well-known, and stem from the persistent belief of that small group of ideologues in the value of force, rather than true diplomacy.

The leaders of several countries, including Great Britain and Australia, are now facing public and political disgrace for repeating the lies of the Bush administration. Never before has raw greed so easily managed to brush aside diplomatic necessity.

In order to gain a veneer of legitimacy for the imperial ambitions of the few, our government has resorted to outright threats of retribution and to bribery to engage the tacit support of some of the poorest countries on earth, simply to make the word "coalition" seem plausible.

We have, collectively, wrecked two countries in less than two years. Warlords control all of the countryside in Afghanistan outside of Kabul, opium production there is back to pre-war levels. Women and children are no safer outside their homes than before Americans arrived, but a deal for a pipeline has been struck.

In Iraq, we are in the midst of a war of attrition, trying to make the country not a democracy, but rather a corporate playground in which to experiment with privatizing an entire government, with our soldiers placed in the uncomfortable and dangerous position of providing security for corporations, rather than for Iraqi citizens. We have become occupiers, and will remain in Iraq as occupiers until the Bush administration is voted out of office or the Iraqis push us out. Our government, which devised and supervised the magnanimous and highly effective Marshall Plan after World War II, has now become in the eyes of the world little more than the military arm of multinational corporations.

We have seen, in less than three years, our country reduced to the status of schoolyard bully in the eyes of the world, our economy damaged, our environment threatened anew. We have seen adopted by this administration an unparalleled passion for secrecy, a secrecy which extends even to official independent investigations into the worst act of terror in the country's history. Only a few days ago, the Commission on Terrorism was forced to depend upon subpoena to extract documents from the Bush administration about events as they occurred on that day. Indeed, this administration quietly fought to prevent the establishment of that independent commission, just as it fought for new legislation to carry out the detention and prosecution of its enemies in secret, far from the eyes of the courts or the press.

This unnatural passion for secrecy has been spreading throughout our government. The President's Attorney General advises all departments that the Department of Justice is there to help agencies resist Freedom of Information Act requests made by the public. Papers necessary to political scholars are not available because Mr. Bush has signed executive orders preventing their release. Americans sense, even if they do not express it, that this secrecy is distancing their own government from them, making it less responsive and more autocratic.

This secrecy even extends to important domestic issues, such as energy planning. At a time when other countries see the Kyoto agreements on global warming as both sustaining the human race and offering the potential of new jobs and markets in renewable and alternative energy sources, our own government not only hides its energy planning from its citizens, it has ignored the Kyoto protocols and has launched an ambitious plan to subsidize with tax dollars industries which harm the environment and which will increase our dependence on questionable technology and upon fossil fuels.

What most Americans long for, once again, is not war, and not revenge, but a return to normalcy, in their daily lives, in their jobs, in the way their government is conducted, domestically and internationally, in the political discourse of their leaders.

Instead, this administration has created a system to keep American citizens in a state of fear. Mr. Bush himself, in his public speeches, asserts a dangerous world in which we are under continual threat, and his agencies have devised color-coded alerts to remind us, daily, that we are besieged. The administration has implied that only it can save us from terror, and yet, promises no end to that terror. Mr. Ashcroft assures us that anyone disputing the administration's wisdom in this regard gives aid and comfort to the enemy.

The people, however, are weary of such political parlor tricks. We know the great harm done to us by terror attacks. We know that our government must be systematic in its opposition to terror. We also know that this administration has used terror to its own political advantage.

More than at any time in this nation's history, we are on the cusp of radical change. Computer technology has given the government and corporations the means to track us as individuals as never before. Indeed, computer technology and current law may conspire to hide from us or even erase the physical evidence of what makes us a democracy, our votes.

By our current government and the press, we are encouraged to isolate ourselves from opinion outside our country, to ignore the growing isolation of the United States in global affairs. We are expected to find our militant posturing reassuring. It is implied by the Bush administration that there is something holy in the wars we fight. Our legislators continue to put more of our national resources into war and the preparation for war and to reduce taxation on the wealthy, both corporate and individual, and this will eventually starve not only us, but our government, as well. Indeed, this is the intention of the current administration.

Unlike the current administration, captured as it is by a small group of neo-conservative ideologues, we, the people, perceive at this cusp in history two paths of action. The first is to continue to pursue a course of fear and privation and war which has the potential to cause a descent into global distress. Indeed, the United States is, corporately and militarily, powerful enough now to exact that horrible price on the world and its citizens, and on us.

Another course of action is equally possible, if we, the people, exert our collective will. The immense power of this country could be used to arbitrate international disputes, to provide the intellectual and financial resources to address the true roots of terrorism - inequality, poverty, disease, feudalism and ignorance, to cooperate internationally in those matters of mutual and global concern, to return the United States to the community of nations, and to return our own internal political debate to reasoned discussion.

It is the current state of the Union that we, the people, are not afforded by our President and our leaders any meaningful choice in the direction we shall take, except the one we shall make on November 2, 2004. It is the fervent wish of the people that the country and its government survive, intact, until then.

punpirate is a New Mexico writer who, like the people, knows we as a nation can be better than what we have lately become.

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