mercredi 19 janvier 2011

We're at a Moral Crossroads

It's a dilemma, a dichotomy. And we have to make a choice soon.

Rep. Gabby Giffords was almost killed two Saturdays ago and six other people near her did die. Over a dozen more were wounded. We did the proper thing and deplored the violence and heated rhetoric that almost surely caused Jared Lee Loughner to shoot up a shopping center in Tucson.

If you've been paying attention these last couple of years, you'll know this was merely the latest example of extremist violence that had claimed the lives of dozens of innocents. There was Dr. Tiller's murder, Joe Stack flying his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. Three Pittsburgh police officers murdered by a neo Nazi. Another neo Nazi shot up the Holocaust Museum, taking the life of a guard. Two people were killed in a Unitarian church in Tennessee by a homophobic right winger whose home contained right wing hate literature that was published by major, mainstream publishers. A Glenn Beck fan was stopped just in time by California Highway Patrol officers before he could kill members of the ACLU and the Tide Foundation. A Rand Paul staffer curb stomped a liberal activist, dislocating her shoulder.

The list, tragically, goes on and on.

Violence, we piously say, isn't the answer. We mourn the loss of rational political and social debate, wring our hands that so many of us had lost our faith in the ballot box, that we've forgotten the noble art of agreeing to disagree.

Violence is not the answer.

But then we read about the stunning turn of events in Tunisia, in which the stupendously corrupt government was toppled after a few days of mass protests. The President fled to Saudi Arabia and the Prime Minister smoothly stepped in, promising an end to rule for life and an all-inclusive coalition government that guarantees all political factions in the small North African country would have a say in their governance.

The people of Tunisia, a flea-bitten country with a George Lucas-based economy, took to the streets and dozens died protesting the lack of jobs and the government's corruption. Time and again we see this: Violent protest spilling out into the streets and young men throwing rocks when all peaceful avenues have been blocked. Sometimes, as in Tunisia, it works. Other times, as in Iran and Mexico, it doesn't.

So where does that leave us? For every Alan Grayson we elect, we elect literally about 500+ crooks, multimillionaires capitalizing on and thriving in a system that cuts off access to government to anybody who isn't or doesn't play ball with the big boys. They schmooze with lobbyists and special interest groups and are licking their chops and rubbing their hands at the prospect of the SCOTUS's Citizen's United vs the FEC decision that will allow any US-incorporated group, foreign or no, to contribute unlimited sums of cash and can do so in secret.

Lobbyists have so infiltrated our government, they're the unofficial 4th branch. They attend the weddings and baptisms of lawmakers, are their landlords and, eventually, their coworkers. The current political system is so staggeringly corrupt that a complete cleaning out of all corporate and special interest influence would hollow out the government and Washington, DC would be a ghost town.

The ballot box, if the 2010 midterms are any indication, is no longer the answer to our problems, let alone the solution. A CEO, Chairman or high-ranking lobbyist is a person who will never be put on hold when they call a Senator while the rest of get short shrift if we write that same senator with a legitimate concern. If we're lucky, we'll get a form email thanking us for contacting them.

A subverted Golden Rule applies: Whoever has the gold or money gets to make the rules and automatically gets access. Only a tiny handful of lawmakers care about bringing jobs back to America. Your president doesn't care. He created about a million and a half jobs with a half-assed stimulus bill and archly pimp-sticked liberals time and again for saying that wasn't enough. He had undermined the power of the unions who'd backed him. He has broken every major campaign promise from Iraq, to closing Gitmo to a public option to disclosure of torture photos and videos.

He saddled us with a health care "reform" package that essentially amounts to a massive bailout of an industry that was already wealthy enough to spend tens upon tens of millions of dollars and sent an army of 3300 well-paid lobbyists that protested that massive bailout because they wanted more.

We're spending over $700,000,000,000 annually on war and war profiteers while undercutting public education, ramping up Afghanistan, dragging our heels in Iraq, killing innocents in Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere, have ramped up extraordinary rendition and now, in direct contravention of the 4th amendment, our persons can now be groped in the most intimate of places while our electronic devices are confiscated, often without being returned.

To the last administration we willingly gave up all of our civil liberties and constitutional protections in the name of national security. In return, they set up a neofascist dictatorship that has only gotten worse with time, one that Obama has absolutely no intention whatsoever of dismantling. He is as arch, churlish and as defensive as the last idiot who occupied the Oval Office and, while making us all criminals and suspects, he instead protects the corrupt and bloated war criminals of the last junta before him.

They have met the enemy and it is us.

And no one, to my knowledge, had ever hit upon the irony that the Constitution that granted us those sacred liberties and rights was written by the Founding Fathers at a time when our national security was at its most tenuous and vulnerable, certainly a time in which it was far more vulnerable than when the PATRIOT Act that replaced the Constitution was ratified.

Does that sound like people who can be dealt with in a civil, rational way?

So here's our dilemma: Do we continue pretending this government will listen to us when we vote, when we mass once a year or so at the Capitol a couple of hundred thousand at a time with signs, that they'll actually take under serious advisement our concerns about joblessness, the deteriorating economy, the nation-hollowing wars we finance decade after decade?

Or do we take a cue from Tunisia and topple the whole rotten, dog-eared deck of cards with blood and rocks and not care how history judges us?

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