November 17, 2004

The highs and lows of America

Yesterday we reached up high. NASA flew the X-43 scramjet testbed at a speed of Mach 9.something, approximately 6,600 miles per hour at altitude - the highest airspeed ever reached by a jet aircraft. The scramjet is one of those technologies that might truly change the world again - imagine traveling from New York to Sydney in under two hours in a sub-orbital scramjet, for not much more fuel cost than a conventional jetliner trip. We're a long way from that, but in modern aerospace 'a long way' doesn't translate nicely into years - the Wright brothers to the Lunar surface was not so very many, after all.

Today, we seem to be reaching down into the depths. I see that the U.S. House of Representatives (Thank you Toby for correcting me) is considering amending its rules in order to allow members under indictment by their home states' legal systems to retain their posts in the national body. This is, as many have noted, a transparent 'thank you' to Tom Delay, who faces a threat of just such a penalty for his recent shenanigans but would (if the measure passes) be able to retain his Senate positions, a measure of payment for the recent Republican gains made during the recent elections from a grateful GOP majority.

This is not just disturbing, it is disgusting.

Without even going into a discussion of whether or not it would be proper for a Congressman to retain his or her positions in that situation, the very timing of this move, and the circumstances which surround it, stink of the worst kind of blatant and uncaring political 'machining' which I (for one) had thought confined to the histories of New York and Chicago ward politics, or perhaps the State Legislatures of more colorful history. I had assumed, especially given the lip service (for that is what it now appears to have been, and I am ashamed to have been taken in) that the GOP offered towards accountability and responsibility towards the system, ethics and leadership during their merciless pursuit of any and all minor transgressions (real and imagined) during the Clinton administration.

There are problems facing this country from without which defy our best efforts to date to solve them. There are problems within which beggar our resources. Handling these challenges will require not only wisdom, intelligence, perseverence and riches but a strong sense of what we as Americans believe to be right, held in each of our hearts. One of the amazing parts of the American system is that it works despite the fact (or because of the fact) that that vision of what is 'right' is not the same for each of us. What must be the same, however, is our commitment towards making things better for all, despite our differing opinions on what 'better' may mean. We have to agree that without our souls, hearts and minds, this experiment will fail.

This is where I take comfort when fights rage over religious beliefs, and over interpretations of the Constitution. I don't let it slacken my efforts in the struggles; not at all! That would be counter to the intent. However, I draw what comfort I can from knowing that that struggle, waged with words and printing presses and voices and even bullhorns and signs and, yes, lawsuits, is what makes us all win, because we don't fight it (mostly) with guns, knives, fists and clubs. We may hate, and some of us have become experts at mobilizing the hate, which is regrettable. However, no matter how close it has appeared to have come, that mobilization of hatred has not, to date, entered mainstream American political discourse as violence amongst ourselves - and to that small, tattered victory I will cling for comfort.

This is what makes the slow decline of our leaders' behavior even more repellent to me - leaders of both 'sides' if there can be said to be sides. In this particular case, the GOP majority (or a subgroup thereof) have decided to leverage the slim popular victory they have won, through whatever means legal or otherwise, moral or otherwise, divisive or otherwise, not for the good of the people of America, but for the rewarding of a crony by shielding him from due process. Mark that - not from due process of a 'blue state' even, or the 'national agencies' that the president seems to feel are full of 'disloyal' people - but from the efforts of his own home state to potentially enforce its laws against him. To, in fact, retain him as a national representative and officeholder, potentially against the 'will' of the Texas legal system - thereby disrupting the legal representation of the Texan citizenry.

This is wrong.

This is what must be stopped.

Couple this with a President who seems to be making more and more personnel and policy decisions based not on facts, on evidence, or even on argument but on 'personal loyalty' - and you have an administration of the United States Government, in both the Executive and Legislative branches, actively working to subvert the very principles on which the system was laid down.

I am a fervant believer in and defender of the United States, and of its system of Government. As such, I do believe that I would do whatever I was able to defend the President of the United States, his administration and the Congress from harm and to carry out their lawful orders, in the unlikely event I found myself in a situation where my actions mattered. As a consequence of being a patriot and defender of the United States, however, I am also a firm believer that it is my right and duty to point out and proclaim abuses and misbehavior on the part of those who hold those offices which I would and will do so much to defend - and thus, here and now, I mouth off.

I love this country. It's cheesy, but true. I weep for it, right now - I'm proud of it, I'm angry at it, I'm ashamed of it and more. I spend a great deal of time trying to determine what I can do to change things, a great deal of time not liking the answers I come up with (heh) and some more time mentally jumping up and down in frustration.

The Democrats lost the election. On the other hand, the Democrats have been so shredded by the recent turbulence in American political thought that it's hard to really even conceive of them as a coherent party, and the GOP obviously knew that. I do think that a large number of the people who voted Republican this past cycle are just frighteningly wrong about a large number of things; people I am ashamed to share my country with, and people I dearly wish I could make go away. On the other had, I also recognize that the large majority of those who voted Republican probably were simply those who felt that the Democrats didn't have a coherent thing to say, much less a better idea; and for whatever they felt about the GOP (like it or not) the GOP did have a single coherent message. Just because I don't like that message doesn't mean anything.

What to do? I think for one thing, the Democrats need to calm down a bit about the whole 'Red State Religious Right Conspiracy.' While there are no shortage of psychos in this country, and while Rove may have in fact won the election by mobilizing a fringe to tip the balance, that doesn't change the fact that the large majority of voters MOST LIKELY (<--note caveat; add 'I believe' to taste) are not radical conservatives, and are not 'blue haters' or the highly telegenic UberChristian psychopaths the media love to troll up and put on TV. They're just folks like us who didn't think our guy had it, is all. No big deal. But every time we mouth off about those few fringe nutjobs, and every time George Stephanopoulos puts one on television and lets him or her froth at the mouth on camera (yes, fuckwit, I'm talking about you) we go into a state of extended victimization where we suddenly believe that the only reason we lost is because the rest of the country is populated by people JUST LIKE THAT.

Bzzzzt. They're like us. A lot of 'em don't even like Bush. Hell, a lot of GOP politicians are heartily embarrassed by the microcephalic little pissant. But they won because that's their job, and because we, frankly, didn't.

So here's my assignment for myself. Not anyone else, because I don't have the authority to assign anything to anyone else (damn, I miss teaching). J.B. - think long and hard about what you do want this country to do, and how you want this country to do it. Think long and hard about what your liberal stance gets you, and what it might get other Americans, that is good. Think about how to explain that to them, calmly, carefully, and as politely as possible. Learn how to cheerfully accept their hostile answers when they tell you to fuck off, and just find another Red Stater to talk to - one who might be more amenable. Success equals Exposure times Kill Ratio. Don't think about how badly Bush is doing - they're smart, and they'll figure that out for themselves. Trying to talk about it just makes you condescending. Talk about what you can offer. Talk about what you and they can do together that the two of you can't do together under the GOP.

Talk about why you love the US. Talk about why they love the US. Talk about why they love where they live. Talk about why you like where you live. We're not that far apart, people. The Mason-Dixon line is important to you, J.B., because you're an arrogant, suspicious, mixed-race New Yorker. Admit it to yourself. Sure, you've been jumped a couple times when south of it, but maybe it's because of that, huh? Talk to people. Make them tell you why you should like the South, or West, or Midwest. Maybe you can tell them something about why they might like the Northeast - at least to visit.

A lot of people in the South and West voted Democrat. More could do it. Find the common ground. Come down off your fucking podium and drink the water.

Be an American. Posted by jbz at November 17, 2004 8:16 PM | TrackBack


Sigh. Quite right; corrected. Thanks, man. Gotta learn to leave on DRAFT and reread after an hour...

Posted by: jbz at November 18, 2004 10:40 AM

Tom Delay is a representative, not a senator. He is Majority leader of the House of Rep. The rule they are changing would apply to leadership positions in both houses.

Posted by: Tobias at November 18, 2004 9:59 AM
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