Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pardon my rant

A friend emailed me today. She sent me the lyric to a song which contained the following line:
in the name of democracy, in the name of freedom, in the name of liberation
you might declare it a war, but it's not in my name
not now, not ever
it's not in my name
not like this
The song is by Ember Swift and it's called Sucker Punched. It's a powerful lyric attempting to deal with racism, classism, and war all within one tune. That's a difficult thing to attempt to do and Swift deserves props for his her attempt. I do think all of these things are tied together.

But this last bit about the war not being in our name really bugs me. I've heard rock and pop stars promote similar themes and I appreciate the opposition. However, in a democracy, the actions of the majority rule and the fact is the majority supported the wars and probably re-elected crooked Republicans and Democrats in 2004. In fact, many of those crooks will be re-elected this year despite current polling trends.

My friend wrote me about the lyric. I had shared a site that is streaming (legally) Neil Young's new album and she shared with me another thought on the politics of the day. I was so ticked at the sentiment in those last lines, that I began a rant in my email reply to her. She doesn't deserve that rant. It went on for longer than I intended. I shortened it quite a bit in my reply, but I want to get some of it off my chest for now. For that, I'll take the time to publish it here, slightly edited to protect the innocent:

Only, the war was declared in our name. We were lied to - true - but not all of us believed. The President and both political parties cynically played on the good nature of the people of this republic. This public wants to believe our leaders are telling the truth. They want to provide the benefit of the doubt. And so, when politicians go before the cameras and, like Reagan before them, show abstract pictures from satellites that they say incontrovertibly contains evidence of chemical or biological weapons manufacturing buildings, the majority of the public wants to believe them. The majority of the public wants to believe that these people are like themselves, like their friends and like their neighbors. So, the majority of the public lends their support to them.

The resulting policy was a war - one that was unnecessary, one that has been costly, and one that might very well have led to increasing the terror threat around the world. Regardless of what the public now says, the majority supported that action. The majority has a right to be angry. They have a right to feel betrayed (once again, by both parties), but until we throw out all of the shills for American Empire, pull the troops out, and stop this nonsense, then the war IS in our names. Democracy, such as it is practiced here, worked prior to the war and Americans supported their leaders willingly and gladly. The public was lied to and deceived, but does that really matter at this point? Unless we take to the streets and demand that this nonsense stop, it will continue. Unless we pick up pen and paper en masse, this nonsense will continue. Because it continues, in America - with our democratic system - it is in our names. The same goes for Canada and Britain. We were lied to, but we were willing and wanted to believe. We were participants in that sense - passive, but still participants. The majority did not do the hard work to seek out other opinions and opposing views. Instead, it argued over feelings and trust of a corrupt and morally bankrupt leadership.

The sad truth is, we all have blood on our hands. Even I, who opposed the war, share in that blood. That is the consequence of a democratic system. Unless someone can prove two things - that elections were stolen and that the Democrats would have acted any differently - then the results of the actions of our government are also ours. Even if those two things are proven, I don't see massive protests in the streets. In Nepal this past week, people faced beatings, tear gas, and torture to demand democracy in their country. In America, where we have democracy, I don't see people taking to the streets to demand an end to this war and many of the other policies of this government? I don't see them taking to the streets even with the looming possibility of war with Iran, which makes me think that there's more tacit approval and complacency than I care to admit. Thomas Jefferson was right: we should have a revolution every 20 years. Near as I can tell, the current system has been in place since Truman. We're long fucking overdue.

It just irks me to hear people running away from this. Facing these problems is enormous. We need to be informed and in order to do that we have to work at it. With so many issues hitting us in our private lives, it's hard to work at these things. And yet, that's what our form of government demands, particularly now. Like everyone else, I'd like to elect a leader and let her make informed decisions that are in the best interest of the constituency, but the system is corrupted and the "leadership" is vacuous.

Mainstream media outlets don't help either, which makes things even more difficult. As media has proliferated in our country, as more outlets for reaching people have become available, the country in particular, and the world in general has gotten more conservative. This has happened under rule by Republicans and Democrats. There has been a steady pace over the last 60 or 70 years. Even in the late 60s and early 70s, when people discuss a more open society, it was really a rather small, but vocal movement. The majority of the public didn't go in for the rebellion, but it did open some eyes and ears for a short time period to more possibilities in the world. The trouble is, those ideas were ultimately discarded by the baby boomers. And all of this was happening when media was expanding. It seems to be a paradox. More local television, more local radio, more newspapers, more magazines, satellite, cable, VCRs, DVDs, the Internet...Why is it happening? One could place blame on the conglomeration of the media and I certainly would agree that this is part of it, but I think the answer lies more deeply in the human condition: our desire to be liked, to be popular, to belong, to move the culture together results in a homogenization that is ultimately reflected in the media which aids in the reinforcement in our country and around the world. It's clear how this affects our own culture, but our trends are being share around the world much more easily now. The cultural exchanges happening (the world is flat again) are resulting in a mash-up of cultures with America's melting pot being more open to absorbing the best of other traditions. As we tend to skew towards homogenization, we tend to be quick to snap up radical trends (such as body piercing and slow food campaigns) and adapt them to our paradigms. There are some benefits to this: the rather quick acceptance that is happening for gay partnerships in the last 15 years is a good example. But there are negative consequences as well as we tend to wall our minds in from ideas that might further challenge us and shake up the powers that be (how many people actually listen to Chuck D's words anymore, let alone Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young's?). The result is a profoundly conservative culture that does not like when things stray from the norm. It's reflected in our relationships, our clothes, our architecture, our finances, and our entertainment. Have we become Edward Scissorhands' world? We were before then, but we've only refined the dream since thanks to our desire to be (a)like(d).

No comments: