Friday, May 19, 2006

We're going the wrong way...

Republican politicians and their beltway spinners are intent on showing you that they are a strong bunch. If there's a problem in the house, they'll take care of it. Who wouldn't want a strong father figure around to watch out for them?

Most of us would fight to defend our homes and our families. If someone attacked your child, you would defend him, right? Of course you would. There's little question about that.

On 9/11 our house was attacked. A small group of madmen crashed through our welcoming front door and murdered members of our family. They violated us. Americans felt the touch of terror on their shoulders and they didn't like it.

A response had to be made, justice served.

Our home and the entire neighborhood needed to be made safe again. We looked to our president to lead us. Democrats and Republicans, Independents and Greens, Christians and atheists, all showed they would support the president, if only he would truthfully and honestly lead us.

We started out on the right path.

We went into Afghanistan with a mission. We were going to find those behind the attacks and bring them to justice. Brave men went into the hostile territory and sought out the madmen that attacked us, our values and our way of life. Some of these advocates of terror were found and justice was swift. And, although the key figures remained alive and untouched, we were getting closer to them every day. Our soldiers courageously vowed to risk their lives to bring us justice and safety.

Instead of staying true to our goals and remaining committed to making our home and neighborhood safe again, we were led astray by the Bush administration.

While cooler heads moved closer to punishing those responsible for hurting our country, the Bush administration chose to squander lives and resources to get back at anyone they didn't like.

Instead of finding the murderers who attacked us, this administration thought it more important to get the guy who shook his fist at them when they drove by his house.

Their first claim was that he had a stockpile of bad things that he was going to use to attack our house again.

Trusting the word of the president, many Americans believed what he said. Democrats and Republicans stood behind him when he choose to ignore our neighbors' calls for reason. We were lied to and we found that out when we burst into the Iraqi home and found no weapons.

The administration declared the neighborhood a better place, a safer place - but the murderers of 9/11 are still roaming the streets.

While rational voices pointed back to our original path, Republicans and the Bush administration wasted time and resources seeking ways to dole out billions of dollars in corporate welfare checks. And even that wasn't enough. They wasted more resources and time pushing large government handouts to the elite few and millions in small handouts to the rest of us.

And still the murderers of 9/11 stalk us.

What has been accomplished in the last half a decade?

Instead of bringing sure and firm justice, we've chased around the world, diverting troops from their true mission. We've sent brave men and women into a conflict with poor equipment and no plan for their return. Instead of strategy, we've allowed this administration to ignore the need for setting a goal and left our troops to take fire and face death because of weak leadership.

Despite having the strongest military in the world and the most well-trained troops, this administration's lack of planning and disregard for voices other than their own has allowed our sons and daughters in uniform to be killed and maimed by insurgents armed with bombs made from nail polish remover and detonators made from garage door openers.

And still the murderers of 9/11 are roaming the streets.

The Bush regime has set us on a course of spying on each other and distrusting our neighbors. It has become more important to check library records, make lists of who calls who, and find out if Hester Prynne is still dancing in the woods than it is to return to tracking the killers who planned the attacks on our country, our home.

Republicans have doled out billions to cronies and pals and left real Americans to foot the bill. Oil companies are reaping record returns and the rest of us are looking at record gas prices at the pump.

Our ports are still wide open. Our government has been distracted with the need to keep nail clippers off of airplanes and has neglected to find a way to ensure that the billions of tons of cargo entering our country every year is safe.

We've managed to alienate our neighbors and create an environment where many in the world fear the instability caused by the United States more than they fear terrorists. Our unfettered spending of money we don't have has most of the world afraid of what might happen to the world economy and our unilateral uses of military force have many afraid of the terrorist breeding grounds we've created.

Too much time has been wasted with petting bickering over who should get the bigger room and the keys to the Lexus. Most of us don't care, we just want our home to be secure, our family safe, and our future secure. And since the Republican elitists with the reins of the House, Senate and the White House can't be bothered to balance the check book, secure our home and improve the neighborhood, it's time to remove them from office.

The right path is over there... Let's elect people who can see it, stick to it and lead us along it. We can't afford to wander aimless anymore. It's time to show real strength. It's time for real leaders.


tshsmom said...


Laura said...

Wow... Seriously, you should look into writing professionally. That is an excellent analogy and a way to bring "home" the events that seem so much larger than ourselves.

I'm in, now what? :)

innaquandry said...

Bingo! You pretty much said it all,and said it damn well. The only thing that bothers me is who to vote for? I am so disgusted with the Democrats for being so wishy-washy and most afraid to speak up and have the courage of thier convictions. I'm still looking for a few good candidates so I can feel as if I have choice instead of just voting against the Rebublicans. *sigh*

Shawn said...

Well, funny you should ask. I've got a couple of things for you to do.

First, read these two books - 'Crashing the Gate - Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics,' by Jerome Armstrong and Marko Moulitsas Zuniga, and 'Don't Think of an Elephant!' by George Lakoff.

'Crashing the Gate' tells a lot about the processes that allowed Republicans to take over government and the resistance of the old-guard Democratic party to adapt to those changes. It's also a call to take back the party by crashing the gates. The two authors are guys who started blogs to vent their frustrations and found out there were many more like them. Armstrong started and Markos started the largest blog in the world, Daily Kos.

Lakoff is a linguistics expert that sets out a pretty understandable treatise for engaging in both conversation and debate with Republicans. He also has a good explanation of the two different world views that Democrats and Republicans often have. He goes into how language frames arguments and defines the focus.

Both books should be easy to find at the store, or go to the publisher.

Second, check out sites like PDA (Progressive Democrats of America). They're a group that is pushing the Democratic party to face the fact that there are millions of people like innaquandry who just want to hear ideas they can back. They want to hear their voices represented in our government. They are also committed to helping to the Republican corporate welfare machine.

A couple of other good ones to check out are Democracy for America, D.I.Y. Blog, and Blog for America.

Then sign up.

Or...anyone is welcome to help my candidate, Bryan Kennedy, who is running against Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R, WI)! He could use all the help he can get, be it a $5 donation or a call to a relative in Milwaukee asking them to vote for him.


Debby said...


I can't think of anyone who could of said this better.

My son-in-law flew in two days ago for his two week leave from Afghanistan. I'm behind him all the way (we have a very strong military tradition in our family) but for the life of me I can't figure out why he is still there!

dbackdad said...

Bravo Shawn. Wouldn't change a word.

gregg said...

Since we are putting out suggested reading material, I think a good start would be Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism. Great insight into how the left (and Berman IS a lefty) and to some extent the right ignored this, or marginalized, the Islamic radicalism, being cultivated. My belief is that the current administration ie. Rummy, Wolfowitz etc, were on top of this before even the first Bush Presidency, their plan has been in circulation under the title "The Project for the New American Century". Anyway, here is an excerpt from an interview with Berman, someone I consider one of great left thinkers of recent memory.

Q.Had you been interested in Islamism and Baathism before Sept. 11?

No. Yes, in a general way, but I hadn't paid special attention to it. Then it became obvious to me on Sept. 11 that the giant screw-up by the FBI and the CIA and the Pentagon was also a giant screw-up by the journalists and intellectuals and everyone else. We too hadn't been paying attention.

Q. Why do you think it was easy for all of these people to miss the idea, which becomes the central argument of your book, that these Arab movements are extensions of totalitarianism?

A lot of people have misunderstood the nature of Islamism for a whole series of reasons. The biggest and most important of those reasons is Eurocentrism, which prevented people from looking at these movements at all. And the Eurocentrism has a flip side, a soft-headed multiculturalism in which movements in other parts of the world are regarded as hopelessly and wonderfully exotic and not to be judged or analyzed. In the last 20 years literally millions of people have been slaughtered by these movements and the wars they've begun. All of this has received a shockingly small amount of attention.

Another reason that these movements have received very little attention has to do with anti-Zionism, the true origin of which is anti-Semitism, the assumption that the Jews are the center of the world and therefore the center of the world's evil. So the problems of the Muslim world in the Middle East can be located in the tiny issue of a border dispute in a place the size of Connecticut. Across the world people are convinced of this. It's a preposterous idea, but this idea is really widely shared. Anybody who holds this idea therefore has carte blanche to ignore the fact that the Iran-Iraq war killed a million people or that Islamism in the Sudan has killed between 1.5 million and 2 million people, or that 100,000 people have been killed in Algeria.

So you're saying that we're likely to ignore these forms of Islamist violence because we're consumed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

No, I've outlined three reasons. These series of attitudes have flowed together to make it respectable or normal for intellectuals and journalists to pay no attention at all to these vast tragedies deploying across huge parts of the world. Only when these vast tragedies came and hit us in the face did a lot of people wake up. Among those people was me.

It seemed to me that what's different about Islamism is that there isn't a country really leading this fight. There's Osama bin Laden, but that's quite different from Hitler.

That's true and it's not true. Islamism did come to power in Iran in 1979, and the Islamic revolution in Iran was a real world force. Then Islamism came to power in the Sudan and Afghanistan, so for a while it was looking like it was advancing quite well. The Iranians are Shi'ite and the other countries are Sunni, so these are different denominations of Islam. But, still, this was a movement that until recently looked like it was advancing in a traditional way -- that is, capturing states.

What's happened with al-Qaida is a complicated situation in which Islamism as a political force capturing states is on the decline because the Taliban was defeated militarily. Also, we can see the beginnings of a liberal revolution hopefully taking root in Iran. Islamism in the Sudan fell. But in spite of that, al-Qaida represents an extremely powerful institution with multiple social bases and banks and charities and great intellectuals behind it, although it doesn't control a state anymore. Still, it's become obvious that al-Qaida's been supported or semi-supported by a variety of states and ruling elites.

And you see the same desire to rule the world in the way that Hitler or Stalin wanted to?

The desire is absolutely to rule the world. That's not a great secret. A great philosopher of Islamist radicalism, Sayyid Qutb, who was hanged by [Egyptian president] Nasser in 1966, said that all plainly. The goal of Islamism is to recreate what Muhammad did in the seventh century, which was to found an Islamic state and bring that state to the entire world. The goal of Islamism is not to resolve some particular social problem here or there, it's not to straighten out some border conflict between Israel and Palestine or between Pakistan and India or Chechnya and Russia, although those are genuine issues. The goal is absolutely grandiose and global.

Shawn said...

Okay, Gregg, I'm game. I'll follow the diversionary rabbit...

The problem with the concept of holy wars is they are seldom really about religion and are never holy.

For example, the Crusades were not brought about because Islam directly threatened Christianity, but rather because the rise of Islam undermined the worldview of the Christian west that they were guiding force in the world.

And while there was true religious zeal shown by hundreds of thousands of Europeans as they marched off to retake the Holy Land, it played a secondary role to the overarching need to defend their worldview. Religion was merely a part - albeit a large part - of that worldview.

The same can be said today.

Our current foreign policy is being driven by the conservative worldview that, simply put, believes in a firm father model. It pervades all levels of conservative thought from religion to economics. It's also what they mean when they talk about family values.

For conservatives, family values mean a family with a firm father figure who is able to protect the family from the many dangers of the world and is able to compete in a competitive world to bring home the bacon.

In this model, the father is the natural authority. Children are born bad - that is without control of themselves and their desires. It is the firm father's role to teach them discipline and obedience. When they learn these things, the children will be rewarded.

Also inherent to this worldview, is the need for the firm father to punish disobedience. This punishment must be swift and must create enough pain that it makes an impact. It has to be remembered so the child will internalize it and ultimately learn to be disciplined and obedient. It's for their own good.

It's not hard to see how this worldview is applied to international relations. It's one of the driving reasons that we're in Iraq right now. Saddam Hussein was a disobedient child who challenged the authority of firm father Bush.

Bush has lost support of fellow conservatives not because they believe the war was wrong, or that he lied to the American people. He has lost their support because he has betrayed the American trust and shown the inherent weakness of his administration.

Instead of being the firm father, he's left the family weakened and vulnerable. Those are unforgiveable faults. Hell, he's not only failed to protect the family, he's shown himself the coward by letting the children of his administration fall on their swords and by trying to feebly pass the blame for his poor planning and foresight onto everyone but himself and his administration.

But that's not the only reason for the Bush administration's failures.

Our foreign policy has been flawed because the firm father model doesn't really apply to the world stage.

Progressives understand that military force is needed to maintain a country's strength - you must be strong enough to defend yourself and to prevent being attacked in the first place.

They also understand - and conservatives have a hard time fitting this basic reality into their worldview - that offensive military force isn't an effective way to retain America's role as the world's pre-eminent power and perceived moral authority.

The communist regime of the Soviet Union didn't fall because we sent in tanks and bombers, but rather because, ultimately, the people of the Soviet Union wanted to be like us.

In short, our prosperity and freedoms are a much stronger weapon than anything else in our arsenal.

The Bush administration has been undermining both.

Instead of continuing to invest in our vital infrastructure - the American people - they have choosen to run up the deficit and dole out corporate welfare.

And you need look no further than the newspaper on your front step to see the ways they're striving to strip away liberties. You see, in the conservative world view, liberties are not rights, but rewards you have to earn from the firm father who controls them.

But, getting back to the assertion that it's Islam that's threatening us. The thing that Berman is neglecting is that Islam isn't the driving force of these extremists, it's the cloak they're wearing. This is a clash of world views.

The firm father foreign policy we're forcing on the world isn't working because countries aren't children, even though they sometimes act that way. Schoolyard bullying doesn't work beyond the schooyard - if it even can be said to work there.

I could go on for days...but I need coffee.

Jurgen Nation said...

Excellent post, Shawn.

greatwhitebear said...

Shawn, both your post and your reply to Gregg were brilliant!

Laura said...

Bravo again Shawn... we're going to give you a big head.

A couple of counter points for Greg:

Yes, actually I was interested in Islamism before 9/11 - as were many, many scholars - including John Esposito who tried to warn the world of the growth in these movements... No one listened, not even conservatives. They were too busy fueling the flames in the region by being a silent partner in the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s and in the Afghan/Soviet war in the late 70s.

Does anyone question HOW these powers got a foothold in these countries to begin with? Our foreign policies - that's how.

God forbid we allow a leader in Afghanistan to ally with the Soviets no, we feed a war by funding the Mujahideen - a group we KNEW to be Islamist and ultra conservative and fundamentalist. But our Great Game of the cold war took precedence over any fallout our actions might cause in the region.

God forbid we not have a US Ally in Iran, so we have the ousted Shah who oppressed his own people forcing them to live in squallor, put back into power. No WONDER Khomeni was able to feed anti American sentiment.

Islamism did not rise out of a vaccum. The US and other world imperial powers take much of the blame, as do the totalitarian regimes our foreign policies continue to support in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

thephoenixnyc said...

Beaitifully put. Unfortunatly 9/11 was simply the excuse the Bush oilmen needed to start a war for resources. It was a nked grab.

The Zombieslayer said...

Wow, Shawn. Your writing never ceases to amaze me and it's weird that our political beliefs aren't that far off from each other.

I've lost Bush awhile back. I tried to like him. I really tried.

The nail clippers thing is classic. Yeah, that will make us much safer, taking nail clippers from an old lady.