Page Two: Light and Darkness

In the bright cacophony of black and white, a testimony of despair and an ode to uncertainty

Page Two
The air is polluted. Political conversation is dead; only argument is left. Reason has been orphaned – in the face of the current administration, its followers, and its apologists, any attempt at discourse is futile. I am weighed down by despair. Despair at those who claim to love this country while destroying everything that defines it. Despair that the word "patriot" has no meaning but is simply a weapon. Despair that lies work better than reason.

Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was attacked by his own party, not because by any stretch of the imagination he is a moderate, but because he wouldn't support tax cuts for the rich. Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman is attacked by some in his own party over his politics, and Vice-President Cheney is running through the streets, covered in ashes, decrying the death of reasonable discourse. If only the ashes weren't from his constant and not entirely unsuccessful attempts to torch the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, maybe he would be funny.

Before the invasion of Iraq, Austin Bay, writing in the Austin American-Statesman, compared Iraq to the nascent Nazi Germany. Forget that not one bit of the comparison was valid; it was still on the editorial page and not the comics page. Although all his pronouncements since then have been proven as worthless as such can be proven to be, it slows him down not at all. With complete confidence, he joins the administration in smelling out new blood that must be spilled. He is exactly like this administration and its followers: Being proven wrong again and again only testifies to how right they are.

Even in today's Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Aug. 16) is a book review that begins by describing our invasion of Iraq as a brilliant military attack. The most powerful nation in the history of the world invades a Third World power crippled by a dozen years of sanctions, and people seriously want to regard that campaign as sophisticated?

This column, as did many other sources against the invasion, pointed out again and again that conquering Iraq would be easy, but the post-invasion would be a disaster. It is. The voices that insisted – nay, that authoritatively stated – otherwise are the voices still being listened to and still in power. The voices that warned it would be so are given no credence.

I fear the November 2006 surprise might not be the one many folks are expecting. The Republicans and their sycophants have learned that the big lie, supported by endless armies of little lies, acts as political manna – if not exactly from heaven, then falling from some place. Read the letters this publication gets from strutting conservatives and would-be right-wing pundits, in which they mouth the pabulum being offered by the administration as though it were dangerous and original, radical ideology.

In the Middle East, unquestioning partisan support of any side is polluted support. There are those whose hearts bleed for the Palestinians, and so champion their goals and actions, who are as diseased as those who believe any action taken by Israel is right and true. The very minimum boundaries of common respect and acceptable human interactions have been drowned in blood and rhetoric from the right and the left, from humanists and fascists, from those who insist on treating any group as martyred and above the most basic laws of human interaction. I spit on the overenthusiastic Zionist with exactly the same contempt with which I spit on the apologist for any kind of terrorism. In a quest for heroes and villains, in fear of today and with a true horror at tomorrow, in a desperate need for distinct black and white in a world that offers precious little in the way of such clarity – this is how humanists and realists, militarists and pacifists, believers and atheists, Democrats and autocrats have joined together to embrace an ideology of contrived distinctions and perverted judgements. "We" are better than "they" are, as "we" are closer to God – the true God – than "they" are.

In modern American belief, God is subservient to the believer.

On talk radio, I listen to a young speaker, bursting with the confidence that can only come from determined ignorance, point out that the failure of liberals is that they can't see evil. The speaker, of course, can. Evil are those who believe in a different God than he does. Evil are those who have different priorities and different concerns than he does. Evil is what is different from him.

There are those who attack the idea of global warming, not with facts or theories, but because they don't like those they believe to espouse it. Let me caution all that a careful examination of that sentence, as with everything I've written on the topic, indicates no personal opinion; I haven't read and studied enough to have one. I just know that global warming is not made a fact because the administration denies it, nor is it false because Democrats are concerned about it – but those arguments are indicative of the level that many discussions have achieved. I also know the random and cherry-picked facts of certain know-it-all letter-writers indicate nothing but the architecture of argument as rendered by closed minds.

At a dinner party, I listen to a discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories and react more than rudely. Smug letter-writers assure us they know the truth of 9/11 – which is the truth of the Kennedy assassination, which is that the official version is wrong. No smoking guns, firsthand accounts, or concrete evidence are offered; rather, they construct a circumstantial case that makes the Tower of Babel look like a shrinking violet. I react to conspiracy theories in such a way because they seem to me to have much more to do with needing an ordered and orderly universe than a confrontation with the chaos of reality.

I wonder about those who support the Bush administration, and those who work for it, who have blood on their hands, and how they deal with that death and destruction, for which they bear direct responsibility – not just the human lifeblood of Americans and Iraqis, but the blood of diplomacy, of the Constitution, of this country, and of common human decency and ongoing political debate. To argue for one America – an America of the right or of the left, an America conservative or liberal, of patriots or traitors, of those right and those wrong – is to argue against the United States of America as established and envisioned by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

This column that I write every week is not one of truth, but of opinions; not one of facts, but of ideas; not one of conclusions, but of suggestions; not one from on high or down low, but from the ground we all walk upon. It is a column blessed by questions, not answers; imbued with ignorance, not knowledge – one that is at ease with humility and not too diseased by arrogance. In its telling, I am sure it has many sounds and seems to be in many tongues. But the one thing I insist upon is that, if nothing else, this columns lacks certainty. It is neither connected to a deity nor from the earth itself. It is all too human in its purpose and its lack of purpose, and it demands to be nothing else.

I have always treasured sleep – days of sleep, sometimes weeks. The noise outside is deafening; the only thing louder than the noise is its meaninglessness. What I once believed, I do not believe. I am sick of the smug certainty dripping from too many pens; I am made ill by the overflow of genuine contempt, and I am diseased by the prostitution of ideas. There is blood upon my hands and my heart, and finally my soul is hollow, throwing back echoes like a seashell. end story

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right-wing religion, despair, U.S. political climate, political debate, Bush administration, Arlen Spector, Joe Lieberman, Middle East

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