This may be your last chance to speak up.
NOTE: This essay is a continuation of the conversation that has followed through these three postings:
- The Monsters Are Due on Pennsylvania Avenue
- Swiftboated Again
- So Much For Napkin Rings (Swiftboated part ii)
And now, part iii …
We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately …
Benjamin Franklin famously said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He even invented the first American political cartoon (and thus created another industry) with the following, extremely effective woodcut:
The meaning was clear, but the problem is an old one, and a critical one: how to remain free-thinking, independent, “highly individualistic” Americans, proud, free and blind.
(The proof of the last part is that it doesn’t bother you to hear me say “Americans” even though EVERYONE on the North and South American continents are “Americans.)
Given how fractious and belligerent, bellicose and prickly, brilliant, eccentric and contrary the founding fathers and mothers were, it’s a miracle that we were able to beat the Redcoats, who, lucky for us, were preoccupied with a worldwide rebellion — that we touched off. But at the point of gravest danger, we put aside our differences and united.
Well, we’re there again — only this time it is a future of omnipresent propaganda, continual surveillance, secret prisons, secret courts, military rule and empire. If you believe in the idea of America, it doesn’t matter whether you agree with MoveOn or not. They are not the enemy, and we’ve got to stop letting them use our very civility to hamstring and defeat us. We must be civil among ourselves. But we must not be civil to the barbarians. We must, sadly, match our counter-tactics to their tactics.
Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest. — Benjamin Franklin
My image of the choice between a cudgel and a napkin ring was not idly selected. But more on that later. First, let me tell you a story:
One of my favorite episodes of the original Star Trek, was called “Mirror, Mirror,” now precisely 40 years old (First aired October 6, 1967 — Season 2, Episode 4). You might remember it as one of my favorite prog-rock bands does, “Spock’s Beard.”
Here’s the plot summary from the IMDb page:
Beamed up during an ion storm, which causes a transporter malfunction, the landing party of Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura find themselves in a mirror universe aboard a parallel Enterprise run by ruthless barbarians. The ion storm also caused their malicious counterparts to beam to the real starship. Kirk and the others must find a way home before they are discovered and exposed by their parallel crew members, who use treachery, back-stabbing and seduction to get what they want.
OK. Spoiler alert. (If you haven’t seen it already, WHY are you reading this blog? One would think you’d been so isolated that you hadn’t heard of the internet(s). At any rate, far be it from me to ruin your enjoyment of the episode, so stop reading now).
What the summary fails to note is that the parallel universe took an ever-so-slight deviation from the “Federation” to become, instead, the “Empire.” You advance not through merit, but through bribery, assassination and treachery. This is seen as a virtue, weeding out the weak. The Empire is presented as little more than organized piracy.
Throughout the entire episode Kirk (and we, the audience) are bothered by the obvious fact that the BARBARIAN Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty have undoubtedly been transposed to OUR Enterprise. The mind boggles.
Which brings the point that I find myself contemplating time and time again. Kirk, when they’ve finally escaped (with help from the Bearded Spock) asks “Our” Spock that burning question: What did you do with the barbarians?
And Spock answers, logically, Oh, we threw them straight into the brig.
Why? Because while a civilized man may act (quite successfully) as a barbarian, a barbarian CAN’T fake being a civilized man. (Woman, person, hominid, higher anthropoid, homo sapiens, hairless killer monkey, divine mud, whatever-you-choose-to-call-it, you take my point).
It’s an important point, that I keep trying to make. We, who are used to (more or less) civil debate, adherence to the rules (and yes, the rule of law) keep expecting the barbarians to play nice.
No. They’re barbarians. They play by barbarians’ rules. But, historically, free men, civilized men* have been able to withstand barbarians. And they do so by banding together. (You will note that the barbarians have.)
[* Women, persons, hominids, higher anthropoids, homo sapiens, hairless killer monkeys, divine mud, whatever-you-choose-to-call-em, you take my point.]
Wars are not paid for in wartime, the bill comes later. — Benjamin Franklin
We can no longer afford the luxury of continual progressive on progressive, liberal on liberal action. We need to find common cause against the common enemy, and, I must stress to you, in an age of torture, of loss of habeas corpus, of unlimited surveillance, of virtually unlimited police powers, of search and seizure — and forfeiture without benefit of due process of law — we CANNOT afford to play the spoiled, selfish “me” generation political philosophers any more.
We have to meet barbarism with something other than namby pamby civility.
Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. — Benjamin Franklin
We have to fight lies with agressive truth, not “polite” truth. We have to fight smears with counterfire, and not with a wrinkling of our noses because the progressives that we are defending are not perfect.
I got news for you, kiddies. If you’re waiting for the “perfect” person, group or thought to defend, you’d better buy a lot of popcorn. Because you will have an eternity to wait.
(According to many, Jesus was perfect, but was shouted out of the “pardon” process by slimy politics: Remember Barabbas? )
A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one. — Benjamin Franklin
The ACLU remembers that it is UNPOPULAR speech and thought that must be defended. Not popular. And that it isn’t always easy to make such defense.
But HOW DARE you wrinkle your nose at MoveOn and do the Right Wing Hate Machine’s work for them? How dare you hold yourself up as progressive?
You aren’t progressive. You’re a blue-nose. A prude. A sticker of your big nose into other people’s business, a cheap moralizer, a quisling, a collaborator, an aider and abetter.
(Worse than even this is the phony “moderate” who claims that both Democrats and Republicans do “it” — whatever “it” may be — or who lump ALL politicians together, in the way that KKK members lumped all “darkies” together. Who bobbled their empty heads when Ralph Nader claimed in 2000 that there was NO DIFFERENCE between Al Gore and George Bush. Or, who claim that left wing talk radio is EXACTLY the same as right wing talk radio — conveniently ignoring the fact that many Righties are on 300+ radio stations every day, while the biggest Leftie out there is only on about 100. It’s like comparing David to Goliath, based on the fact that both have ten toes, or saying that an African lion is exactly the same as a squirrel, since both have tails. They do it to feel “superior” to a political process whose very ointment they themselves are the flies in. Franklin was probably thinking of them when he said: Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do. These are the human flotsam who, when the thugs are screaming for your castration say: “You need to be civil and compromise. Just let them take ONE.” And NEVER understand that they’re not being “moderate” at all.)
Those that won’t be counseled can’t be helped. — Benjamin Franklin
If, at this point in time you are not willing to oppose these uncivilized bastards with every fiber of your being, but instead sit on the sidelines clucking your tongue, there is no circle of hell low enough for you. There is no invective sharp enough for you, there is no creature more contemptable than you.
Because these ARE barbarians. Do you get that? They WILL do anything to get their way. Do you understand those implications? ANYthing. (The question that greed can never answer is “How much is enough?”). So quit pretending that it’s going to go back to “normal” without some serious help. Take a look at the explosion of imprisoned women since Reagan took office:
Now, think about the fact that we have become the MOST imprisoned country in the industrialized world since then. And ask yourself why you’ve let this happen.
Because you were raised in the orchard, and eat of the fruit of the grandest revolution in the history of mankind, the highest standard of living, the best education (if you sought it), the highest flowering of the human mind, and access, via that revolution of democracy, to the collective wisdom of all humanity, in all times.
And you did nothing to defend or protect it.
The United States of America doesn’t belong to you.
The Constitution and the Declaration — one being supreme law, the other being supreme ETHICAL law with respect to governance — they do not belong to you.
Those who came before WILLED them to you. You hold them in trust for those that follow. But YOU? You have no absolute right to them, if you will not defend them.
And you deserve all the scorn of posterity if you do not preserve them to pass them on.
They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security. — Benjamin Franklin
We are now in the fifth year of a war of choice. A war based on a pretext known to be false at the time. We are in the fifth year of the unprovoked INVASION and occupation of a sovereign country, half a million of whose inhabitants were BETTER OFF under Saddam Hussein — because they were ALIVE. Now they are not.
We are in the fifth year of a war to steal Iraq’s oil. To play global chess in a place that no one has ever been able to make sense of. A war sold to us, FALSELY, with the blood of 3,000 dead Americans (and Europeans, and Asians and Africans and Australians), a war that is so important to a mad few that they will do ANYTHING to keep it going, and have used a false Devil (Global Terrorism, “Islamofascism,” etc. — which means …. what?) to steal our rights, to spy on us, to break into our homes, to incarcerate our citizens, ignore our courts, our laws and Constitution; to exhaust our blood AND our treasure, and engage in the largest wholesale looting in the history of our Republic.
Today, it is being reported, two of the seven soldiers who wrote the Op-Ed piece in the New York Times about this quagmire are now dead:
The Op-Ed by seven active duty U.S. soldiers in Iraq questioning the war drew international attention just three weeks ago. Now two of the seven are dead. [MORE]
And all you can do is wrinkle your nose — as if you’d just stepped, barefoot, into fresh doggy poo in the park — at MoveOn’s ad?
Please leave politics. Stop talking about it. Stop taking part in it. You obviously know LESS than nothing and are actively dangerous to your friends, family and community. If you cannot see the crisis, and understand how terrible the stakes are, you’re not qualified to be a citizen.
Those disputing, contradicting, and confuting people are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory, sometimes, but they never get good will, which would be of more use to them. — Benjamin Franklin
I know: you think that the next election will solve things. You thought that in 2002, and 2004, didn’t you? And in 2006, when we “won,” what happened?
No: We must hang together or hang separately.
And every time you cut off a John Kerry or an Al Gore (and don’t tell me that you don’t remember how SHAMEFULLY they were treated by progressives after their stolen elections), every time you allow the Righties to try and cripple a MoveOn, or another blogger (“a liberal blogger says he wants to shoot Rush”) , or an Alan Colmes (you know the epithets), a Larry Flynt (who took out several sexual hypocrites while they were trying to IMPEACH the President of the United States in a naked power grab), or decide to piss on a Gray Davis (which allowed Arnold to waltz into the California governor’s mansion, and spawned a recall election in Humboldt County against Democratic District Attorney Paul Gallegos by ANOTHER Texas company who wanted to cut down all those redwoods that Julia Butterfly Hill camped out in), every time you fail to support a fellow progressive who is alone and exposed and being attacked by the well-oiled hate machine of the Right …
You drive another nail into lid of your own coffin. And you drive one into the lid of your childrens’ coffins, and into the hearts of those who sacrificed, who gave their lives, who gave OF their lives to provide you with this Garden of Eden. Think for a moment of all those things that WE have that no one in the history of the world has had:
Air conditioning. (This is a biggie). Refrigeration, therefore fresh foods, dairy, etc.
Television, internet. Airconditioned cars with surround-sound stereo.
All the music of the world. Damn near all the films ever made. Vast libraries and now, increasingly online. (Until the printing press, literacy was the exclusive franchise of the wealthy and the church).
Freedom of the press. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. (These are STILL rarities in the world.)
Global access to nearly any good or service you can imagine and even more that you can’t.
But the machinery that BUILT this good life — from the Constitution to the Rust Belt — is under assault. The “yeoman farmer” of Jeffersonian democracy has been replaced by factory farming as horrific as anything in Upton Sinclair’s Jungle. Monsanto sells the farmers — and the rest of the world, increasingly — genetically modified, “terminal” seeds, i.e. they will produce for ONE year, but their seeds will all be sterile. Thus, if Monsanto ever goes out of business, we all starve to death.
Christine Todd Whitman — that ex-EPA head who lied that the post 9-11 air in Manhattan was perfectly safe to breathe — is on the road, selling us the horror of nuclear power again, hoping that we’ve forgotten enough that they can sell us the old AEC storyline again: limitless power, why, we won’t even need electric meters!
We have mostly not seen those diseases that have plagued mankind from the dawn of time: tuberculosis (consumption, considered by some to be the greatest single killer in the history of mankind), typhoid fever, cholera, plague, diptheria, tetanus, malaria, polio, leprousy, syphilis, gonorrhea, bedbugs, lice, ticks and fleas. These have all been sorrowful companions from time immemorial. We have not had these. With drug-resistant strains multiplying, we shall probably see them again. We have been the LUCKIEST generation in the history of humankind, and a bunch of selfish jerks want to dismantle this because they don’t like paying taxes or obeying laws.
Well, Superman ain’t on the way. Batman’s retired in the Bahamas. Doc Savage and The Shadow decamped for the South Seas long since. The Justice League of America and the Avengers haved long since disbanded, the Lone Ranger owns a deli in Needles and Spiderman is living in a bungalow in Toluca Lake, California. Wonder Woman has long since retired to an Airstream trailer on Paradise Island.
Which means that YOU and you TOGETHER (not alone) are responsible for fixing this incredible society that provides all those wonders, and more. No superheroes to help you out. It’s up to you. But it’s up to you to COOPERATE, and that means putting up with people and thoughts and ideological quirks that you won’t LIKE. Otherwise, though, we’re as impotent as Franklin’s JOIN OR DIE snake.
And when it becomes blighted, when your freedom vanishes, and you are dragged off to a detention facility to amuse the jailers (which always happens in that situation of unchecked power — even in the most enlightened of countries, let alone one whose light went out), you will wrinkle your nose again, and wonder how it happened.
To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions. — Benjamin Franklin
We must fight them with every legal and rhetorical means possible, lest law vanishes altogether and we have to fight them literally.*
(*Oh, you may escape. You may not have your home burned, your children raped and tortured, your spouse murdered in front of your eyes. But you will KNOW someone to whom that happened, and you will share THEIR pain and you will know that you’re partly to blame.)
The stakes are too high, the alternative too horrific, and your petty squabbles too childish to take into account. You don’t like a headline? You would sacrifice one of the only effective progressive organizations because those who hate, and those who smear, and those who eat libel and drink slander as their daily sacrament, for whom ruining people’s lives — in the words of Vince Foster’s suicide note — is “sport” tell you that MoveOn.org was …
Over ONE headline?
Over a grotesque double standard where the American press and the Lefties go berserk when someone says “nigger,” but who continually ignore (because it’s uncomfortable) the hate-filled slander that pours from our radios and television sets twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week like the eruption of a broken sewer main?
Because those who are pilloried for their foolish language are those who would actually listen to us, side with us, generally. But those whose language MOST needs that kind of Michael Richards, Mel Gibson, Don Imus, James Watt, Jimmy the Greek intense focus are COMPLETELY IGNORED! (Just listen to Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh one day. ONE DAY. Now, tell me how you feel about hate speech.) And THEY are the ones screaming about the parsing of a single headline by MoveOn.org.
You would sacrifice them for that?
Over some false idea that every American trooper is sacrosanct, is impervious to error, to lying, to criminality, to the all-too-human failing of rationalizing away one’s own mistakes, even though it cost the lives of the sons and daughters of decent men and women, the fathers and mothers of newly-orphaned children, the decades of care we must pay for, for the maimed and those soldiers who found out that, in the words of the song, there’s worse things than dying?
You would sacrifice them for THAT?
Even though it shamelessly and profligately squanders all of the years of love and education and connectedness, the investment that each community has made — coaches and teachers, friends and families, priests, ministers, rabbis — that every soldier represents?
You would sacrifice them for THAT?
When MoveOn is trying to STOP Bush’s war, and questions Petraeus’ collaboration POLITICALLY in that war?
If that is your position, then you deserve sympathy from neither heaven nor hell.
We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.
Here’s a Code, if you need one:
- Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit by it.
- Let me think of the right and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice.
- Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage. Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do.
- Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.
OK, it’s the old Doc Savage Oath, but, hey, nobody was actually using it. Might as well dust it off a bit. Or you could just go with the coin thing.