Illustration by Tabby.com

“On September 11, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away cold bring murder and destruction to our country”-George W. Bush, January 31, 2006

Why did we attack Iraq when the attackers on September 11th originated mostly from Saudi Arabia and Egypt? Do we have a right and a duty to bring “democracy” to oppressed countries? Is our survival predicated upon the emergence of freedom in former and present tyrannies around the globe?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. We cannot retreat into isolationism and ignore the rest of the world. Yet, what if we had very little to do with the Middle East and removed all our troops from that region of the world, and even stopped supporting Israel and sending money to Egypt, Palestine and Iraq? Would things actually improve? Is there a way to be actively engaged by practicing tough love and packing up and leaving those hideous tribal factions to war among themselves?

“America rejects the false comfort of isolationism”, this President said. But we seem to live it. How many Americans speak another language besides English? What news program carries stories in depth from Lithuania, Ghana, Brazil or Serbia? How many Americans travel abroad every year: 7% or less than one in ten. We have troops in every country, but if we are willing to station troops in the lands of other people, then we should accept Polish soldiers stationed in Topeka and Russian troops at their base in Fairbanks, Alaska. After all, if we cannot be isolationists, other nations cannot either.

“The Palestinian people have voted in elections, and now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel”, he told us. But what if the “failed and oppressive” state of tomorrow emerges in the Gaza Strip? Will America say it is our duty to invade and make over Palestine?

“I have authorized a terrrorist-surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of Al Qaeda…” For how many years will the government monitor our conversations, correspondence and emails? Our republic and constitution is a little over 200 years old. Will we endure 200 more years of a state of war where our fears trample our respect for the law and constitutional precedents?

“We must confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending and entitlements”, he warns. Yet the massive and ill run Medicare prescription drug bill is his creation. If we can afford a war overseas, to bring benefits to people who didn’t ask for them, can we not at the very least bring protections to the American people who demand and deserve them?

He promises that we will break our addiction to oil. That has been said by every president since Jimmy Carter. I still look around me on the freeway and see Hummers, Jeep Cherokees, Cadillacs. I see suburban housing sprawling 100 miles away from the center of every major city in America. How will these gas guzzling and wasteful patterns of living be amended and changed? Words from the Presidential pulpit are not enough. No matter how dazzling the grammatical flourishes of young, well paid speechwriters.

“I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years”, he said. And will your “base” give up those mystical and magical beliefs in creationism and that all biology must somehow conform to the fundamentalist prejudices of devout Christians? Will Kansas and other states allow sex education to be taught with all the facts and images? Some call themselves “pro-life” and prohibit the teaching of how human life itself is created!

Republicans are fond of saying that they wish for a court which does not “legislate from the bench.” But what about this chief executive– who won’t legislate at all– but merely presumes that his own office allows him to spy on his fellow Americans, to make war without cause, to increase our debt to catastrophic proportions and bring the rest of the world to despise the home of the free and the brave?

“We have committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans”, he promised. But there are tens of thousands who are still without homes, and the old city on the Mississippi is dying. There needs to be an environmental and regional plan for the entire state of Louisiana on the order of what the Netherlands did in the 1950’s. Wetlands destruction and global warming are at least part of the answer of why the hurricanes of the past few years have been so catastrophic. But first we must ask what type of nation would fail to provide trailers for homeless people? Those same unoccupied mobile homes are then parked in fields: while bureaucrats quibble over whose department is responsible. Mr. President: have you no decency in allowing New Orleans to die in front of our eyes?

We listened to a beautiful and inspiring speech last night delivered by teleprompter. If all we have is a figurehead in the Oval Office pretending to lead us, one who considers that his law trumps all other laws, what hope is there for our nation or the world?

Writer/photographer

5 Comment on “A Heart and Head at War.

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