by Gilles d'Aymery
"The dispensing of injustice is always in the right hands."
—Stanislaw Lec, Unkempt Thoughts, 1962
(Swans - August 29, 2005) THANK YOU, DON, for being such a strong defender of free speech... US Department of Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, referring to Pat Robertson who called for the assassination of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, said of Mr. Robertson, "he is a private citizen. [and] Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time." Yes, private citizens should be able to say what they have on their mind, whether it's Cindy Sheehan, Bill Maher, Ward Churchill, Peter Kirstein, the Dixie Chicks, et al. It would, evidently, be salutary if ALL people could say whatever they want to say (and not be fired, like talk show host Michael Graham for having said 23 times that "Islam is a terrorist organization" during his July 25 show on WMAL-AM). For instance -- just a rhetorical question -- would you, dear Sir, agree that a private citizen -- say the devilish Maureen Dowd -- is entitled, in the name of free speech, to call for the assassination of Mr. Bush or the much belittled Jacques Chirac? Of course, we'd expect a rapid apology and clarification. Assassination is illegal but what about kidnapping, the fall-back position Robertson advocated? Think about Manuel Noriega or Slobo...
IN MR. ROBERTSON's lexicon, Hugo Chávez is a dictator -- soon to become a tyrant, the butcher of Caracas, a Latin American Hitler -- albeit he was elected in 1998 with 56.2% of the electorate and won a recall referendum in 2004 with 58.3% of the vote (compare these numbers with Mr. Bush's). But, hey, "private citizens say all kinds of things all the time." Most recently, an MSNBC journalist called the peace activists gathered at Camp Casey in Texas "antiwar extremists." For David Horowitz, Cindy Sheehan is an anti-American radical, no less. Then again, if one follows Horowitz's classification, Jimmy Carter is a leftist, Garrison Keillor an affective leftist, Alexander Cockburn a totalitarian radical, Fidel Castro a leftwing monster, etc. Jimmy Carter a leftist!?!?!?! -- Horowitz's Web site, Discover the Network: A guide to the political left is worthy of a visit if one wants to learn, not about the Left, which is quasi non-existent in the U.S., but about the deeply reactionary ideology that guides the fundies inhabiting the current citadel.
FOR THESE PEOPLE, to oppose the war in Iraq is anti-American, concomitant to an act of treason. Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Chair of the Georgia Coalition for the People Agenda, talking at Camp Casey about the peace movement behind Cindy Sheehan, said, "Peace, love, justice, faith: it's time to bring the troops home." A traitor!?!?!?! Peace, love, justice, faith...anti-American!?!?!?! Dare to assert that this illegal, amoral, unethical war is lost, which it certainly is, or to combat the abject use of torture, or to object to racial profiling? You'll be tagged with any one of these friendly labels: un-American, extremist, totalitarian, radical, unpatriotic, and so on. To these people, universal health coverage and education are deemed communist policies, no less.
AREN'T YOU sick and tired of being accused of radicalism, extremism, un-Americanism, etc. for advocating peace and social justice? How radical is it to respect the will of the Venezuelan people? What's so unpatriotic about wanting the troops back home NOW? They should not have been sent to Iraq in the first place. Can someone explain how placing people before profits and greed is an extreme position? What part or parts of secular humanism and socialism are totalitarian in nature? In a recent and highly recommended article published on Left Hook, "Why I Am No Longer A Radical," M. Junaid Alam puts it best when he writes, "The simple fact of the matter is that the causes and beliefs we advocate are not 'radical' in the commonly understood sense of the word, but rather, reasonable, sensible, and fair. Conversely, it is the political mainstream that is antithetical to basic human values, serving up indigestible rationalizations for all kinds of cruelties inflicted upon people on a daily basis, fostering cynicism and frustration."
IT'S ABOUT TIME we reframe the narrative, no? We are indeed reasonable, sensible, prudent, judicious, rational, sane, striving to be fair-minded; we do not call for the assassination of those with whom we disagree; we see a multi-colored world, not a black and white one; we are peacemakers not warmongers; we are problem solvers and understand that the management of the complexities that besieged humanity cannot be attained through destructive force, violence, war, terror (whether state or individual), and coercion; we place reason above beliefs (actually, we do not "believe" much for it blinds the mind); we think in terms of cooperation, not competition, love, not hate, ethics, not morality; and, once again, we put people first, before profits and greed.
AND WE WANT TO BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW!
QUOTATION FOR THE AGES: "I thought then, and I think now, that the invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and unjust. And I think the premises on which it was launched were false."
--Jimmy Carter, July 30, 2005
QUICK WORD ON TORTURE: When I was a kid in 1958-1962, I would from time to time hear about the use of torture by French soldiers against the Algerians. I'm not sure I clearly understood what was going on, and, of course, the act itself was repetitively denied by the government. I inherently sensed that violence was to be rejected, the same way I opposed the violence of my own father upon my mother and me. But, we were told that the terrorists in Algeria were bad people and we were defending our civilization and way of life, in the same fashion my father was inculcating through generous beatings the meaning of civilization and way of life according to his book. At that time, mind you, spouse or child abuse was not even recognized as such. Anyway, the French were very good at the torture game. Today, young Americans "go shoot some 'Raqis" (Tom Dispatch, Aug. 2, 2005). Yesteryear, young French went to "shoot some fellagahs." Remember, we are civilized people...and torture is a long-established tool to civilize the savages. Well, Louis Proyect has reviewed a masterful documentary on the French savagery in Algeria, Gillo Pontecorvos's 1965 "The Battle of Algiers" for the new Monthly Review Web magazine, MRzine. His piece, "Looking Back at The Battle of Algiers," shows the similarities of, to put it broadly, Algiers and Abu Ghraib. Almost half a century after the French atrocities, Americans are repeating them. What does it say about our "civilization"? Louis does not tell, but he surely suggests that the struggle against inhumanity remains as potent as it's always have been.
HOW SURPRISING? A recent study shows that health care is provided in greater abundance to white Americans in comparison to black Americans.
RACIAL PROFILING? A study by the Justice Department showed that the police stop black and Hispanic drivers at more than twice the rate of white drivers; searches and use of force are also disproportionately applied against black and Hispanic drivers. These statistics were ordered excised from the report and the head of the Bureau of Justice Statistics was fired for refusing to follow the order.
SCIENTIFIC ADVANCEMENT? According to a recent Gallup poll, 45% of the American public believes in the Book of Genesis in regard to the origin of our species -- the mud theory. Only 33% subscribe to the theory of evolution as conceived by Darwin. (Source: "Mired," by Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, Aug. 22, 2005.) Mr. Bush, evidently, endorses the teaching of "Intelligent Design" -- aka creationism -- in public schools.
BUMPER STICKER Non Sequitur, as seen in Santa Rosa, California: "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a soldier."
ALLEZ LANCE! Could someone tell the frenchies to let the Lance Armstrong dope story die? The man is an amazing athlete. He won the Tour de France seven times. Perseverance, dedication, superior and relentless training, technological acumen, and a steel will made him reach the pinnacle of the cycling world. Honor him, laud him, thank him; he's been an astounding porte-parole for, and advocate of, the sport. The man is right at the top of the cycling gods in the company of Louison Bobet, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain, etc. -- and even good ol' Raymond Poulidor, the perennial "loser" (three times runner-up and five times third place), yet wonderful cyclist. Did Armstrong use erythropoeitin (EPO) in 1999? Who cares!!! As Poulidor said, "Why not go back to 1903 while we are at it?" (1903, the very first Tour de France...) Lance, this somewhat Americanized Frenchman is with you, all the way. Avec toi, Lance, sans aucune réservation et remerciements pour ta réussite hors commune. Les chiens aboient mais la caravanne passe...
BOONVILLE NEWS: California Bureaucracy. My driver license, suspended for one year for a "crime" I did not commit -- Driving Under the Influence -- and which took us 10 months and over $5,000 to clear, was finally reinstated on July 29, 2005. I went to the DMV in Ukiah on August 3 to get a temporary license. I was told my actual license would take a few weeks to reach me. I received the license in the mail two days later. Then, on August 10, I received a letter from DMV dated August 8, notifying me that my driving privilege had been reinstated. The form letter added: "Your driver license will be mailed to you soon." Not only do they manage to make your life miserable, they don't even know what they are doing...
Ç'est la vie...
And so it goes...