both into and out of active politics while in my late twenties,
shortly after my graduation from law school. I was impressed
with Barry Goldwater; became executive secretary of my state’s
Republican party organization; and got elected as part of
our state’s delegation to the 1964 Republican national convention.
My initial enthusiasm for political action quickly dissolved
in the realism that politics was nothing more than a vicious
racket; that trying to reform the process was as pointless
as trying to clean up the Mafia. 1964 was the last year
in which I devoted any of my energies to such purposes,
my short stay in the political circus, I noticed attributes
of both "liberals" and "conservatives"
that carry over in the present. In terms of how they communicated
with the general public, liberals were brighter and more
clever than conservatives. Like snake-oil peddlers or good
magicians, liberals could put on a show to bamboozle people
to embrace their programs. In contrast, conservative policies
were presented with the level of excitement one would get
from reading the annual report of a corporation.
the failure of its economic and social interventionist policies
becoming more evident in recent decades, liberalism has
had a difficult time rationalizing its existence, and has
become as useless to its constituencies as legs on a snake.
Modern conservatism, on the other hand, has become anchored
in maintaining the status quo, a purpose often tied to police,
military force, and other instruments of institutionalized
order. With liberalism in a thoroughly lobotomized state,
conservatives find themselves in an open field with which
to pursue their preferences for expanded coercive policies.
is, however, a cost to politics that none of the participating
parties can afford to confront: the diminution of respect
for the worthiness of the individual. Politics both degrades
and destroys life, nowhere in a more depraved manner than
in the institution of war. For centuries, young men and
women – and their families – have been told fantastic lies
to get them to throw themselves on a grenade in furtherance
of some allegedly "noble purpose." The current
war in Iraq is but the latest chapter in this swinish endeavor,
with administration liars and their media megaphones constantly
changing the rationale for the resulting death and destruction.
woman has chosen to call all of this into question. Cindy
Sheehan – whose son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year
– has been waiting outside George Bush’s Crawford, Texas,
ranch for him to come out and explain to her "what
was the noble cause Casey died for"? She openly confronts
the Bush administration’s claim that ending the war now
would "dishonor" those who have died. She responds
that "by sending honorable people to die, they so dishonor
themselves. They say we must complete our mission . . .
but why would I want one more mother to go through what
I have, just because my son is dead?" She wants to
tell Mr. Bush "don’t you dare spill any more blood
in Casey’s name."
is powerful language, not just because it comes from a mother
whose son was killed as a result of an act of unprovoked
aggression by the United States against Iraq; but because
her words are a clear challenge to the collective mindset
upon which every mob depends for its power. Cindy’s stance
is reminiscent of that of Wang Wei-lin, the young man who
confronted the row of Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square
in 1989. When the human spirit stands up to the cold, faceless,
dehumanizing, destructive machinery of the state, there
is a release of emotional energy whose force transcends
efforts have met with the unsophisticated response one has
come to expect from modern conservative voices. The reptilian
"see-act" reactions of such people as Bill O’Reilly,
Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and John Gibson, only scratch
the surface of the thoughtless rage with which conservatives
confront a world beyond their ken. So, how did the Bush-leaguers
propose to deal with Cindy’s actions? By threatening to
have her arrested…, in the name of what has become the default
explanation for state excesses: "national security"!
As Mr. Bush gushes about Americans fighting for "freedom,"
his administration threatens Cindy with arrest for exercising
liberal establishment – the left wing of the state’s
bird of prey – would have been just as indifferent to Cindy’s
plea as are the conservatives. Liberals would not, however,
have been so unbelievably stupid as to attack a lone, grieving
mother, and threaten her with arrest. A liberal president
would have met with this woman to "feel her pain"
– with full media coverage, of course – before proceeding
with the conduct of his bloody warfare.
the state depends, for its existence, upon the enforcement
of collectivized thinking, Cindy Sheehan – along with her
message – must be marginalized. Lies must be metabolized
by the body politic; the immune system must remain on the
alert for viruses of truth and understanding that might
infect individual minds and enervate the collective organism.
Such responses remind me of the apocryphal description of
lobsters in a pot of water who, upon seeing a fellow crustacean
trying to escape, pull him back with the others.
an effort to render Cindy’s thoughts inconsequential, the
established order has paraded onto television families whose
sons died in Iraq. One spoke of the "very noble cause"
for which his brother had died, and praised America for
the willingness to "sacrifice our people." When
asked about Cindy’s actions – which it was the network’s
purpose to have this man criticize – he responded that we
should "praise the sacrifice," and the fact that
the soldiers had "died for a cause greater than themselves."
The mother of another dead soldier – when asked to contrast
her position with Cindy’s – stated "we support our
president," adding that she believed her son had died
for a noble cause.
relatives of Casey Sheehan issued a statement – at whose
behest it was not made known – disagreeing with Cindy’s
"political motivations" and "publicity tactics."
Of course, their public statement was free of "political
motivations" and lacking in "publicity tactics,"
as they concluded that the rest of the family "supports
the troops, our country, and our President."
no quarrel with the families of dead soldiers wanting to
believe that their children died for some important purpose.
Even Cindy Sheehan’s question to George Bush asks for an
explanation of the cause for which her son died. It is a
part of human nature to want our lives to have some transcendent
purpose, and when young people die before they have had
an opportunity to define and act upon such a meaning for
their lives, it is truly sad. To believe that there was
something "noble" in the death of a young man
or woman becomes a way of surmounting the feeling that their
lives were meaningless. Such emotions are often found following
the murders of small children, with parents engaging in
efforts to draft a piece of legislation or create a foundation,
either of which might bear the name of a fallen child.
Gaelic, the name "Sheehan" means "peace maker."
It is precisely the desire of Cindy and millions of others
to foster peace and prevent additional deaths – whether
of Americans or Iraqis – that underlies the campaign President
Bush and other statists strive to marginalize. This war
has been nothing but one string of ever-changing lies from
the beginning. The spinmeisters continue to exploit
the suffering that their lies, forgeries, and deceptions
have created for untold thousands of people. The twisted-ribbon
bumper-stickers that read "support the troops"
have a hidden message that often comes through in the course
of further discussion: "support the war and
support President Bush; sacrifice the troops."
this psychopathic administration now scans its world atlas
for new targets upon which to direct its forces of "shock
and awe," it is time for all of us to understand that
there is nothing "noble" in the systematic slaughter
of people. There is no "honor" in bringing grief
and suffering to others; and no transcendent "purpose"
in being part of a collective of fungible human beings to
be exploited for whatever ends suit those with ambitions
over the lives of others. "Life" belongs to living
individuals, not to the state, a message each of
us must impart to our children and grandchildren as they
learn to resist the seductions of those who would destroy
them. It is also time for Americans to take a stand with
Cindy Sheehan and help this country rediscover its soul,
and return to the sense of decency from which it has so
might begin our transformation with the lesson offered by
a friend of Kurt Vonnegut as the two returned from Europe
following their World War II soldiering. Vonnegut asked
this man what he had learned from his wartime experiences,
to which his friend replied: "not to believe my government."