Germany they came first for the Communists, and
I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak
up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the
trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I
wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the
Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a
Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no
one was left to speak up.
Pastor Martin Niemoller
has Cindy Sheehan done to warrant the unfocused rage and
vicious name-calling to which she has been subjected?
What is the nature of her "offense" that has
led conservative war-whoopers to heap untold abuse upon
her for daring to exercise what they pretend to "defend"
— even as they work to destroy its expression —
namely, individual liberty?
has been referred to as a "crackpot," an "America
hater," a "tragedy slut," a "media
whore," an "anti-Semite," and a "traitor,"
by various conservative talk-show hosts or websites. One
allegedly Christian website went so far as to say that
"traitors deserve firing squads." One can buy
T-shirts reading "Sheehan is Nuts," or read
a seemingly endless flow of non-sequiturs having nothing
to do with her stated position. She has been condemned
as a "Leftist," and for her association with
Michael Moore. With the same sense of irrelevance that
permeates both Congress and the media, Republican congressman
Duncan Hunter observed that some of her supporters looked
like "aging hippies." Nor does one have to wait
long, on any Reich-wing talk show, to hear the refrain
that offers their unassailable response to all dissenting
views: "if you don’t like it here, why don’t
you go to Africa or Asia?"
her Camp Casey site, over five hundred crosses bearing
the names of soldiers killed in Iraq were knocked over
by one of Cindy’s critics in a pickup truck; an
act that received little criticism from the allegedly
Christian war defenders. A neighbor of George Bush twice
fired his shotgun into the air in the presence of Cindy’s
supporters; an act which, had it been engaged in by any
of the antiwar people, would have resulted in massive
arrests and Bill O’Reilly bellowing accusations
of "terrorism" and Cindy’s ties to Al
the same time the war-lovers were excoriating Cindy for
the offense of having been born, the children and spouses
of persons murdered by Dennis Rader — Kansas’
BTK killer — were testifying at his sentencing hearing.
I heard no words of rabid vilification — from people
who had the most personal reasons for being angry at this
mass-murderer — that came close to those being directed
at Cindy Sheehan.
explains these ferocious and slanderous attacks? Cindy
is but one lone woman. Unlike President Bush, she does
not claim to speak or act on behalf of 275,000,000 people,
but only for herself. Relatives of other dead soldiers
have criticized this woman, saying "she doesn’t
speak for us." But I am unaware of any statement
made by Cindy purporting to speak for anyone but herself.
She only seeks an answer to her personal question: "why
did my son die?"
Sheehan does constitute a threat, not to America, but
to the totalitarian forces that insist on crushing the
spirit of peace and liberty in order that they might dominate
the American people. History is awash with examples of
men and women eagerly cooperating with those who would
subjugate and destroy them. As Pastor Niemoller’s
words so eloquently remind us, cristalnacht was
neither the first nor last instance of people turning
upon — rather than coming to the defense of —
their neighbors when under attack by the state.
what makes Cindy such a poignant figure is the fact that
she is such a lone public voice in opposition to the brown-shirted
mentality that has taken over in this country. That there
are many individuals who have expressed the same concerns
for peace, liberty, and the ending of the Iraqi war, is
obvious. LewRockwell.com, Antiwar.com, and a long list
of names that include Vidal, Rockwell, Higgs, Lapham,
Pilger, Raimondo, Sobran, Hedges, Cockburn, Kwiatkowski,
Woods, Bock, DiLorenzo, Bovard, Conger, Hersh, and many
others that would turn this into far-too-lengthy a paragraph,
are outspoken critics of this regime. But while these
people find expression in the Internet and some of the
print media, Cindy has galvanized widespread latent resentment
to vicious statism and brought it to the surface.
has awakened the long-anesthetized souls of many Americans.
Spirituality is a quality found only within individuals,
as the expression of the inner nature of living beings.
It is an attribute alien to institutional hierarchies,
whose interests are confined to the physical and mechanistic
world. To men and women who have adopted an institutionalized
perspective, the non-material is immaterial. This is why
you find little, if any, support for Cindy coming from
corporations, political agencies, the major news media,
or organized churches or universities. It is individuals
who have responded to Cindy’s stance.
reminds people of the importance of the centered life
that is free of contradiction; wherein one’s words
and actions exhibit integrity; a sense of wholeness. Unlike
the institution-serving news media — who insist
on deflecting our attention from such concerns by entertaining
us with scandals, Hollywood gossip, and the missing person
du jour — Cindy’s questions get to the essence
of human character. She has awakened dormant thoughts
about the loathsome nature of killing innocent people
and sacrificing our children upon the altar of political
ambition. She reminds us that lying does matter, that
deceit is not to be applauded, and that those in power
should be held accountable to some standard higher than
that of self-aggrandizement.
of us long ago sold out our souls, and at prices determined
in a buyer’s market. But deep within even the most
brutish can be found the echo of a voice that asks "why?"
in connection with the demands made by tyrants. It is
the stirring of such voices that underlies the anger directed
at Cindy Sheehan.
aware that the human soul can never be wholly repressed,
the political establishment has never been without a laundry
list of "noble causes" with which to rouse men
into battle. Ridding the holy lands of infidels, freeing
the slaves, making the world safe for democracy, and halting
the spread of communism, are just a few of the better-known
excuses for war. Unlike previous regimes — which
did not have to contend with the Internet and its widespread,
instantaneous flow of information — the Bush administration
has had to tap-dance around lies in an effort to find
a "cause" that might stick. In desperation,
it exhumed Wilson’s excuse for America’s participation
in World War I: to foster "democracy." But in
today’s political climate, I wonder if Bush’s
campaign on behalf of "democracy" is designed
for any higher purpose than to allow one of his most ardent
supporters, Diebold Election Systems, to sell more of
its voting machines!
numbers of Americans are beginning to grasp the wholesale
fraud underlying Bush’s foreign policies. His administration
has been dominated almost exclusively by the worldwide
pursuit of power. Not power as a means for the accomplishment
of some end, but power for its own sake; not power "to,"
but power "because."
administration is as Machiavellian as any I recall in
my lifetime, having already done much to rehabilitate
the image of Nixon! In their predilection for political
power, they have internalized Machiavelli’s advice
"never to let his thoughts stray from the exercise
of war." Even the tortures at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere
bear the imprimatur of their 16th century guru: "A
prince, therefore, must not mind incurring the charge
of cruelty for the purpose of keeping his subjects united
power becomes its own raison d’être, how it
is acquired, upon whom it is exercised, and for what alleged
purpose, become irrelevant questions. If power is an end
in itself, and war is a strategy for keeping and expanding
such power, the enemy can be selected by the tossing of
coins or the throwing of darts at a world map. Was Afghanistan
harboring Osama Bin Laden? Did Saddam Hussein have weapons
of mass destruction, and did he plan to use them on Americans?
Did Hussein have any connections to Al Qaeda or the attacks
is no point to engaging in an empirical discussion of
such questions, for to the neo-Machiavellians —
and their flag-waving sycophants — answers do not
really matter. To kill and die on behalf of lies is as
meaningful as doing so for some allegedly loftier calling.
It is enough that the state needs a permanent condition
of war to sustain and enhance its powers. The "why?"
of things is left to men and women whose conduct is informed
by moral and philosophic principles; the kind of people
whose sense of propriety is being aroused by Cindy Sheehan.
for people or systems whose decision-making is focused
on quantitative rather than qualitative factors, on the
purely physical instead of the metaphysical, such normative
inquiries can be most unsettling. There is no word more
aggravating to authority figures than "why."
To have to justify actions against another by criteria
other than the arbitrary exercise of one’s will,
is a challenge to the brute, a confrontation of bullying
openly question power is one of the prime reasons for
the unrestrained expression of ideas and opinions in society.
Free speech — whatever its medium — is premised
on the idea that there are normative standards by which
the propriety of governmental action is to be judged.
But if power is to be its own purpose — restrained
only by logistics, material calculation, and causal analyses
— what remains to be evaluated and judged? Beyond
such mechanistic considerations, what is the relevance
of opinions as to the "rightness" or "wrongness"
of state action? One is either compliant or disobedient,
and if you don’t like what the state demands "why
don’t you move to another country?"
fears of questioning minds plagued mankind long before
inquisitions, heresy trials, and the persecution of witches
made such vicious practices known to every educated person.
Modern statists are equally aware of the disruptive consequences
of the free flow of information as well as philosophic,
value-laden questions they are incapable of answering.
insist upon nothing so much as the maintenance of the
status quo. But the prevailing state of affairs is being
challenged by processes of decentralization that are causing
vertically-structured institutional systems to collapse
into horizontally-networked patterns of which I have often
written. It is the de-institutionalizing of society that
represents "terror" to established interests,
against which "wars" must be fought.
there are those who question the rationale for societies
operating on the premise of unquestioning obedience to
self-styled emperors; rulers who enjoy the unrestrained
exercise of police powers and military authority. America
and Great Britain are two Western nations succumbing to
this totalitarian madness. The first step, in this absolutist
subjugation of erstwhile free people, will be to restrain
free expression and the questioning of state policies.
Clinton proposed such chains upon the Internet a few years
ago, suggesting that a "gatekeeper" —
guess who — control what gets communicated through
this medium. Other totalitarian minds — such as
Bruce Fein, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer,
and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman — have
proposed the punishment or blacklisting of those who engage
(in Fein’s words) in "speech likely to motivate
terrorism." "Reasonable suspicion" of "sympathy
with terrorism" would seem enough to satisfy Fein’s
test for calling in the state!
proposed government blacklist — what he terms a
"War of Ideas Report" — would include
"excuse makers" (i.e., those who "tell
us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains
why the terrorists acted"). According to public opinion
polls, most Americans would appear on Friedman’s
blacklist, as they see a connection between the Iraq war
and terrorist activity!
how far such thought-policing might go was well-expressed
by Bill O’Reilly who declared that "any American
that undermines [the Iraq War] . . . is a traitor. . .
. [A]ll those clowns over at the liberal radio network,
we could incarcerate them immediately. . . . Send over
the FBI and just put them in chains." Such is the
evidence for an intellectually bankrupt political system
his short story, Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut presented
what has to be the ultimate crime in a bureaucratic police-state:
"suspicion of intent to conspire." Life is now
imitating art, with Britain’s Tony Blair leading
his own war against individual liberty. Blair recently
announced his plan to deport any non-citizen who is guilty
of "justifying or validating . . . violence,"
adding that visitors to Britain have a "duty"
to "share and support the values that sustain the
British way of life." That these "values"
consist of accepting governmental policy was expressed
by Blair as follows: "We are not having any of this
nonsense about [the subway bombings having anything] to
do with what the British are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan,
or support for Israel, or support for America, or any
of the rest of it. It is nonsense and we have to confront
it as that." Blair’s fascistic rant was even
too much for his wife who, in a speech, declared that
attacking civil liberties "cheapens our right to
call ourselves a civilized nation."
other words, Blair is warning tourists that if you suggest
there is a causal connection between British, American,
and/or Israeli governmental policies and "terrorist"
attacks, you are likely to be thrown out of the country.
These standards for state action would doubtless satisfy
the totalitarian preferences of Messrs. Fein, Krauthammer,
and Friedman for dealing with Americans as well. To such
impoverished minds, a "free society" can be
maintained only as long as the state can punish those
with differing opinions!
is the barbaric nature of the state when individuals dare
to question its actions. Such savagery becomes escalated
when, as now, vertically-structured, command-and-control
systems are in retreat before the forces of decentralization.
In such circumstances, the high-school civics class lies
about the state as "representing" the "sovereign"
people get stripped away to reveal Leviathan in its bloody-clawed
monstrousness. Even the most gullible valedictorian might
become aware that the state "serves" the public
in the same way that a cannibal "serves" his
social systems become more decentralized and individuals
regain more control over their lives, an understanding
of the processes of chaos and complexity will provide
insight into alternative forms of order. In the study
of chaos, we learn of the "butterfly effect,"
wherein even the slightest local perturbation can, when
reiterated back into the system, produce unpredictable
global consequences. Those conditioned in the political
mindset will continue to believe that, only in mass action
can change occur. But with Congress having become as impotent
and politically meaningless as the British House of Lords,
even the most ardent political activist must begin to
sense the need for alternative responses. Perhaps they
will realize, as did Carl Jung, that only the transformation
of individuals can save mankind from self-destruction.
we better understand the nature of complexity and the
decentralized systems implicit therein, we may finally
bring an end to the soulless and destructive machinery
of state violence, and rediscover the humane sentiments
that may allow us to walk away from war, torture, genocide,
and other acts of repression. The world of politics divides
us into groups with allegedly conflicting interests. But,
as Pastor Niemoller’s words remind us, the way of
peace and liberty lies in breaking down these contrived
barriers and discovering what the statists hope we never
learn, namely, the common interests we have in protecting
one another from the state. Let us retain such thoughts
as we contemplate — and join in — Cindy Sheehan’s
stand on behalf of all humanity.
us also not forget the "butterfly effect" and
the power of local, decentralized action. If wars can
be started by nineteen men, armed with nothing more than
box-cutter knives, perhaps peace can be precipitated by
a lone woman standing alongside a road in Texas, demanding
that a president be accountable for his actions. Don’t
think for a moment that the established order is unaware
of and not fearful of just such a possibility.