Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I'm running out of horsemen

I've been counting the horsemen of the apocalypse as they rumble past, and my count has gone way past four. They're either circling, or the doom we are headed towards is so huge that they needed to call for reinforcements.

Ed Koch announced his defection from the Democratic Party, and his intent to vote for Bush in the election.

I am a lifelong Democrat. I was elected to New York's City Council, Congress and three terms as mayor of New York City on the Democratic Party line. I believe in the values of the Democratic Party as articulated by Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and by Senators Hubert Humphrey, Henry "Scoop" Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Our philosophy is: "If you need a helping hand, we will provide it." The Republican Party's philosophy, on the other hand, can be summed up as: "If I made it on my own, you will have to do the same."

Nevertheless, I intend to vote in 2004 to reelect President Bush. I will do so despite the fact that I do not agree with him on any major domestic issue, from tax policy to the recently enacted prescription drug law. These issues, however, pale in importance beside the menace of international terrorism, which threatens our very survival as a nation. President Bush has earned my vote because he has shown the resolve and courage necessary to wage the war against terrorism.

We truly live in a world of symbols, that dazzle and distract. A thing is no longer a thing - there are layers of abstraction and interpretation that manage to convey a sense of consistent logic regardless of any supposed connection to the truth. Seen from a slightly different viewpoint, the very essence of a thing can become twisted or even inverted with respect to arbitrarily close neighboring viewpoints.

This whole terrorism thing is just the most recent, pressing, and apocalyptic example. When I first heard the words "War on terrorism" I thought it was a pretty good idea... and I thought the best first step would be for the U.S. to stop supporting, encouraging, and arming terrorists. If we'd just stop creating warlords like Noriega and Hussein, we wouldn't need to deal with them later. And if we want to pretend we have some moral superiority on this issue, if we want our alleged altruism to be believed, perhaps we should just once take down a dictator in a country that isn't sitting on resources we want to rape. (Of course, it isn't always our puppet dictators that commit acts of terrorism... sometimes we skip the middleman and do it ourselves. Of course we never call it 'terrorism', but it probably looks a hell of a lot like terrorism to the people on the wrong side of the guns.)

We've been a major investor in terrorism for most of the last century. Even longer, if you really think about it: the 'Independence' we so patriotically celebrate each year was in every way an act of terrorism. This isn't just my interpretation... the US has shown its position on this issue very clearly by military intervention in a number of identical circumstances, even going so far as to use force to remove democratically elected 'independent' governments to restore the status quo. The Phillipines, Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Nicaragua, and Panama have all been the targets of US military actions that we would have condemned as terrorist were they committed by someone other than ourselves.

It is precisely our support of such methods that made us the target of those methods. The 'war on terror' is really a war OF terror, designed to keep US citizens scared enough that we continue giving more power to the government, thereby further enabling them to inflict more terror on the rest of the world while war profiteers like the Bush family and Cheney's Halliburton continue reaping astronomical profits from the military-industrial complex. And we'll just keep waving our fucking flags, and branding as 'coward' or 'traitor' anyone who exercises their democratic responsibilities by questioning the actions of the government.

Apparently the average American will support any atrocity, as long as 'our side' wins. I'd argue that 'our side' should be defined a little more loosely, and we should learn to get along with other nations rather than dealing death everytime we don't get our way, but I know from experience that the current consensus narrative isn't tolerant of such talk (free speech being just one of the many parts of the Bill of Rights we seem so eager to throw away in our quest for 'safety'). But even more than that, my own personal sense of honor and what is 'right' tells me that in order for an action to be considered honorable, it must be accepted that if the situation were reversed, the result would still be fair (even though it might be less desirable).

This is basically the 'Golden Rule', people, it's not that hard. Many laws and practices spring from this ideal... like the Geneva Convention, which the US is currently ignoring in its treatment of the (still uncharged) prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Under Bush's 'rule', we've repeatedly scoffed when other countries have complained that we are ignoring the conventions of proper behavior. I don't even need to use my imagination to wonder how loudly we will whine if we are treated the same way... I need only look to recent history to see the difference between our behavior when something happens to us (like when Iraqi television showed 5 US prisoners of war on television, and Donald Rumsfeld insisted that "it is against the Geneva Convention to show photographs of prisoners of war in a manner that is humiliating for them") versus when we are on the dealing end (such as when the US paraded the Guantanamo Bay prisoners before television cameras IN EXACTLY THE SAME FASHION just a few months later, or even more horrendously, when Americans rejoiced over seeing the mutilated dead bodies of Hussein's sons on the television, or more recently, when we did the same thing to Hussein himself).

Double standards are not standards at all... they are an evasion, a way for the weak to justify their own behavior while condemning others. Seeing so many Americans support these double standards, seeing our continued antagonism towards any country (even our allies) that dares to question our madness, I don't see a safer world. I see power corrupting the minds of men. I see a nation that has an astounding lack of perspective. And sadly, I feel that my nation will have plenty more opportunities to reflect on these issues, when the hatred we have bred comes back to us.