Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's Not My War

Ever since I was a teenager, I have wrestled with the spectre of my country's armed forces, my nation's military might, with its trillions in military spending (at the expense of other programs and apparently lesser priorities), and above all, most of all, Amerian participation in (and now precipitation of) WAR.

WAR is an all caps sort of word, never lower case. It is the choice, by the President, to kill people.

Even as a teenager, I was a pacifist. Not passive -- I was outspoken, even at 16 -- but not a believer in the faith that aggression would ever solve cultural, societal or global problems. In college, I became an historian not of wars past and present but of all sorts of non-war things. But then so much is, at least indirectly in this culture, war-related.

We Americans don't export a heck of a lot anymore, at least not in terms of things you can buy on the shelves of your local big box stores. Our exports are fewer than in decades: namely, low common-denominator ideas, low common denominator movies, low common denominator music, the myths of the American Dream -- and our farthest reaching global export -- the military and WAR.

So how to come to terms with something so BIG in this country, so inescapable, so pervasive, so expensive, that is against my religion of Gandhi-esque, Thoreauvian pacifism.

The strife of this association tore me up for decades, and I am not over it, not be a long shot. But I am refining my thoughts on the matter and coming to new, more reassuring terms with this most physically and mentally violent of acts.

Meaning, I am not owning up to war, I am disowning it, divesting ever further. Others' wars are their own, their own win or lose, whether folly or futile or the way to a better future. Even if that, war is not my road. It's not my way.

It's not my war.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Foley Family Values

Government is for geeks. But sex sells -- especially if it involves hypocrisy, good footage, illicit documents and a public dressing down, so to speak. We lofty virgins love a good witch hunt.

Wonking doesn't do much for the American attention span, but bring in a cute girl or Congressional page, and people's ears perk up, lengthening millions of attention spans by inches.

This perky reaction is built into the species, in fact, built into all living animals and life itself. So this hunt for throbbing red meat isn't going away any time soon. Bill Clinton should have known or remembered that his particular pecadillo, his randy reputation, could bring him down no matter how statesmanlike he seemed with the cameras rolling. Clinton wasn't the first, but he was the first president brought down by sex. All promoters of family values take note. Sex is here to stay, so ignore your horny hormones if you want to get out unburned.

At least for him, Mr. Clinton was a hound doggish heterosexual. Buxom babes did it for him. Poor Mark Foley likes men and seems to love boys. In this country, as rainbow coalesced as we hope to be, there's not enough ground there to stand on. One you can grin and bear until impeachment, one you resign or get run out of town on a rail. In any case, the furor becomes such a circus that many onlookers lose any clear regard for what is legal and what is illegal. The biggest question, in a liberal society, should be: Did the suspect break the law? If that question gets lost in the hullabaloo, then we really are on a witch hunt.

And it's clear that Americans are much less comfortable with these worldly realities -- that sex and life go on in all their diversity -- than are many other cultures, which practice more of what they preach, more "live and let live." Americans are big on sin, which means that far too many of us both fear sin and love sin. Not a very realistic world view. We want to be pure, and that is a desire, yet we are natually prurient, and that's a fact. We want to feel superior and blessed, even as we feel the urge to be voyeurs, at least in public if not in private.

And the mainstream media is perplexic at this, chasing the scurrilous scents of sex scandals as if they were rabid dogs or space aliens. Oh, to lie while trying to seduce someone! Oh, to flirt with a junior! The short skirts of cheerleading squads and the high porcelain faces and virginal voices of boys' choirs, life goes on, and try as we may to be civilized, much less law abiding and honorable, some strains of us down deep, very deep, are on the hunt.

Once an alchoholic, always an alchoholic. Once sexual, always sexual. Being honest about this, as was Jimmy Carter, famously but in passing, in open "recovery," is better than playing one's crucial cards as a newly outed-gotcha hound dog.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

State of Denial? State of Deceit!

"State of Denial" is the title of Bob Woodward's new book, as if the current administration is merely, a la Reagan, out of touch with reality, as if the architects of our national politicies and actions, both foreign and domestic, seemingly public servants but really basement dwellers, are ignoring gravity or the obvious to build their farflung empire-building edifices, making things look like a western town movie set world, with fake fronts and gunslingers behind every corner and in every shadow. These guys don't want diplomacy, they want "High Noon", and they want that clock to keep ticking toward noon every day.

Bob Woodward is still being kind, treating the dark lords of the Bush administration as if they were merely putting on blinders, naive and optimistic, as opposed to what they really are: ruthless and even malicious liars.

Friend Jack has passed along an article by Juan Cole from his blog "Informed Comment" today. Cole rightly and pointedly shows that we've got a bigger problem here than our distressingly sluggish reluctance to run Bush out of Washington on a rail: it's NOT that they -- the BushCo Gang -- are in a state of denial. They are in a state of lying, and it's not passive or naive, much less altruistic or well-meaning at all. They are in this for themselves, and the press still goes along with the soft approach, as Mr. Cole says, refusing to call a spade a spade.

The mainstream press is filled with sheep who, even on a good day when a few of the not quite so complicit lambs smell blood and a good new headline, don't ask even the semi-tough questions I know a lot of us are coming up with. How come we're so much braver and more incisive than the pros? Maybe we aren't complicit. Maybe we are dangerous to a democracy and a government this corrupt. Maybe we -- We of the Tougher Questions -- are the real patriots after all.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Man with a Gun

Student punk plugs principal. Lone "English" shoots a class of Amish girls. Is there a new wave or pattern forming? Media awash in "copycat" mongering, looking to sell some more ad space for home equity loans, flab-flexers and floorwax.

How often does this sort of thing happen in other countries? What inner, isolated, brewing terror, what spooky sadness and what hungry spectacle.

Youngish man with childhood wounds thinks, years or decades later, that blowing other often younger people away will feel better than keeping it all bottled up inside.

Pretty girl, rich man, young man, man with a gun.

We don't see a lot of elegant diplomacy on TV. We don't see hardly any patience or perseverence. And random acts of kindness? Only on Sunday mornings. Mostly we see seemingly random acts of mayhem American style.

Most we see (and export) tough guys and tougher guys. Some shows the tougher guys are the good guys, and in other shows the bad guys are the tougher guys. On good days, the good guys just lean menacingly on the bad guys, and a little good wins after a lot of bad. But on the bad days before and after, in last week's and next week's episode, it gets down to guts, guts and blood. After the leaning comes the guts and gut busting and guns. The guns get the final words and the last smirks. These make up the language of our popular dramas on bad days, so it's no surprise it hits home full bore point blank.