by Charles Marowitz
(Swans - December 19, 2005) The thing that most sticks in my craw from 2005 is the fact that one of the few instances in which Bush threatened to use his presidential veto was when members of both parties got behind the McCain legislation to abolish torture and reinstate the principles of the Geneva Convention.
Somehow the idea that military ball-busters and lip-smacking sadists would stop inflicting debasing punishment on Muslim prisoners who might be innocent of every crime but being a Muslim, stirred the president to consider the "nuclear option" of the veto. One is reminded that when he was governor of Texas, the number of electrocutions rose to ghoulish new heights and clemency was virtually never shown. All of this fits into the picture of a rancorous, vicious, insensitive, and inhumane reformed alcoholic who talks compassion, but hasn't a drop of it in his nature.
The other thing that makes the gorge rise from 2005 is the president continually voicing homilies about "honoring our dead" even as he issues edicts to prevent filming of the coffins in which they are returned to our shores. Hiding the bodies of dead soldiers, pretending they are not there and that the public should not be exposed to the sight is an insult to the dead -- not a mark of respect. But even if we can't see the tragic results of this administration's lethal policies, we can still tally up the losses -- even though those figures blithely ignore the non-combatant, innocent Iraqis who I suppose represent only "collateral damage." One feels that ideally the president would like to impose a total blackout on all the media and let his press secretary cherry-pick the facts about the war in carefully orchestrated press conferences with only the military present.
Another haunting memory from 2005 is Hurricane Katrina and there too, the facts lead back to our gormless leader. Had the president not previously decimated the budget for FEMA and had the agency not been swallowed up in the Department of Homeland Security, there would have been more resources available to save the survivors. Had our leader not appointed a disreputable Arabian horse-trainer with no knowledge of emergency logistics as head of FEMA, the response to the tragedy would have been faster and more effective. Had cronyism not been an integral part of Bush's leadership style, many lives would have been spared and more efficiency displayed in dealing with the wracked, the desperate, and the homeless.
The face of Republicanism -- a mixture of Bush's simian scowl and Cheney's swivel-eyed, smirk -- is a face which will be bitterly remembered when the Bush Era finally crumbles to a close. The images of finagling DeLays and thieving Abramoffs will arise like a cluster of supporting actors from a Warner Brother gangster film of the 1930s. We will peruse those faces and consider their brutalities and mendacities as we do now the mugs, torpedoes, hit-men and hoodlums that were thrown up by Prohibition and terrorized the streets of Chicago and New York. We will wonder wryly, how we could continually chant "Never Again" while the same kinds of atrocities, massacres, and genocides took place on our every side. It will lead us to some bitter conclusions: That American Democracy is fatally flawed and no two-party game of musical chairs will ever salvage it; that it takes the populace a grievously long time to realize its leadership is leading it up a blind alley mined with IEDs; that good, virtuous, sensible, and efficacious men and women seem to be permanently absent from the political arena; and that once a nation yields to widespread corruption, the evil spreads to the Corporate World, the Military, the Church, and the Media. And, as with Katrina, there may be high ground to escape to, but no means to get there and no help when you arrive.
All in all, a bitter and anguished year where the natural disasters were only the symbols of political calamities that show no sign of abating.
In these pages, I recently lamented the absence of any true and viable opposition party in America. That, for me, is still the most horrifying blot on the political landscape. What is clear is that one cannot build a virtuous opposition from the dregs of a virtue-less body politic. If democracy is really a potential tool in the hands of the entire population, it is those segments of the population who recognize the present dangers that must come together to create a viable new citizenry; made up, perhaps, of disenchanted conservatives, fed-up liberals and that vast conglomerate of habitual non-voters who must realize that their moment has finally come; that ignoring the political process or simply maligning its thieving Republicans and pusillanimous Democrats is no real course of action; that if the bitching-moaning-opting-out Silent Majority could ever find its voice, everyone in the nation would sit up and take notice and for once in American politics, there would be a genuine "upset" caused by "genuinely upset" people.
The truism was never truer: "Politics are just too important to be left to the politicians."