October 26th, 2002

abstract butterfly

a time in which being an ostrich will not work

"So let's skip the news boy (I'll go and make some tea)
Blood on the rooftops (too much for me)
When old Mother Goose stops--and they're out for 23
Then the rain at Lords stopped play
Seems Helen of Troy has found a new face again".

The recent news highlights the twin dangers. On the one hand, complacent inaction will not succeed, unless we want to acquiesce in a world in which the barbarities of the past are enshrined by force. On the other hand, headlong rushes into unilateral adventures threatens to engulf this country in yet another round of war without an exit strategy. I find myself longing for our country to find a middle course, based on integrity, democracy and pragmatism, rather than the extremes from both right and left I see today.

On the political question, I'd love to see this country become a supporter of democracy, rather than a supporter of merely its own corporate economic agenda. Contrary to the most dovish among us, though, this will not mean that we can refrain from all conflict.
We will face conflict, whether military or terrorist, even if we pull back within our own borders altogether. This is because our pluralistic way of life is anathema to some of those who oppose us.
A concerted effort by democratic nations to deal with those who deny all human rights to dissidents in general and women in particular may be required in the long run no matter how many banners we fly to the contrary. Although I am in agreement with those who march in Washington as to this current US policy, we must always be ready to intervene when basic human rights are being denied, even if this involves military commitment of resources and loss of life.

Contrary to our current policy, however, we must learn from the mistakes of the Cold War. In our quest to preserve our way of life, we must not support regimes which are anti-democratic and anti-human rights. The Saudi regime is an oppressor of women and denies democracy to its citizens. Saudi citizens actively fund terrorist cells. Yet we maintain our "close relationship" with Saudi Arabia because we have pursued an energy policy amenable to corporate America which places us at the economic mercy of despotic regimes. Although this president campaigned on engaging China on its human rights record, in fact, this administration curries favor with China through economic concessions in order to pursue our current wartime agenda. Our allies in Israel now raze the homes of non-combatant family members in direct violation of international human rights conventions, and yet we do not stint in our support of that nation.

I'm not naive enough to believe that we can always have allies with perfect records on human rights and democracy. I'm not naive enough to believe that we can refrain from all conflict except those in which we are pure as the driven snow. But while the war on terrorism began with a difficult but laudable goal--rooting out the perpetrators of those acts of which 9/11 was only the most palpable, we are now badly off course into pre-emptive adventure.
We need to redefine everything in our lives to work to create a more just society. This will mean not only idealistic notions, but the elimination of foreign oil dependency, pragmatic efforts to promote justice and equity among our allies, and dramatic efforts to battle our own internal national security issue--the disenfranchised in our society. As the bubble bursts from our economic boom, we see the sorry run of greed and law-flaunting that has become the norm rather than the exception in so many corporations. I am a big believer in our nation's economic model, and not a knee-jerk fiscal leftist. But it's time to get integrity back into our system. I'm bored of pious platitudes about Heaven, from right or left, by people lacking any form of integrity.

But the odd thing is the war and anti-war effort become just one more television program, which flickers by between commercials.
The election is in less than fourteen days. We are not seeing the polling numbers match what I believe is the true national mood. Although I am firmly convinced that over one half of our electorate does not want a foreign pre-emptive war, the anti-war people don't turn up at the polls. We elect far too many hawks and not nearly enough doves, because the hard core hawk voters vote, and the peace-loving people don't vote. We saw the left in our last national election permit the right to take power, by pulling the critical margin to Nader's Green campaign when a concerted effort on behalf of the Democrats would have defeated Bush. We are now reaping the fruits of this folly.

Do we really want to be marginalized into marches, when we are the majority and we have the economic and political power to change our nation's course? I pray not.

In Congress now, the margin of Republican majority is razor-thin in both houses. The problem is that people are willing to march, but they aren't willing to vote. They aren't willing to write their congresspeople. They aren't willing to fund liberal candidates at the grassroots. All we have to do to have a world more like Paul Wellstone's vision is to elect more Paul Wellstones. We don't have to be "on the outside" on these issues. We just have to vote. We have to take seriously the fact that this country is not living up to its highest ideals. We need to move beyond the failed sloganeering of the left and right and work for a society that takes seriously the problems of equity at home and abroad.

I live in an area in which my vote will only be token because Republicans are a clear majority. I have always been a spotty voter on by elections, although I did vote for Gore. But this latest set of political events makes me realize that I must be active for my values, so that the pendulum will swing left again.
It's just too easy to turn off the news and turn on ESPN and look to see who is the cute actress featured on my on line service entertainment hyperlinks today. But no more. No more.