Merry Christmas To Me
By: Pamela Lach
I have strong political opinions. I write letters and editorials, post on blogs, distribute materials, and work on elections. I call myself Independent.
I once had a deep fundamental belief that despite party labels, political differences and personal greed, we were a good country, a decent people. The character that John Wayne played repeatedly matched a deep part of our cultural psyche. We might be rough around the edges, we might be unconventional, but we had a strong sense of right and wrong. We protected the underdog and the damsel in distress.
I do not think I was totally naïve. I knew that some people in our government were evil and corrupt. Their damage to people and places cycled through the generations. We grew and learned from those mistakes.
I scoffed at all the “Y2K Disaster” predictions. I was right about those. Nothing happened when the clock changed on January 1st. Instead, the unbelievable happened twelve months later. Somehow, George W. Bush became President of the United States.
At the time, I was disgusted that the vote was so close. To me, he is clearly an incompetent boob who has hung onto daddy’s coattails throughout his entire life. I had no precognition of what he would become. I never believed until now that one man and his henchman could do so much damage to my country in such a short time.
I was more distressed at how he was chosen. I have worked at voting sites at many Presidential elections. I have counted hanging chads with the best of them. I watched the whirl of the stories of disenfranchised voters, crazy ballots, and uncounted votes in disbelief. I hoped that it was a political charade that would soon slip away. Of course, they would count all the votes! Of course, they would look into those fraudulent claims! Unlike my predictions about Y2K, this time I was incredibly wrong. Yet, I still do not believe that this could have happened in any state other than the Florida of November 2000. At a time when the President’s brother happened to be its governor.
When the Supreme Court made the decision that made George W. Bush the winner, I fell into a sort of numb shock. Then add the horror of 9/11/2001; invading Afghanistan yet losing Bin Ladin, invading Iraq without a plan for the ‘after’ part---I was in a political coma. An American Zombie.
I did not come out of it until Howard Dean’s internet revolution. His demand that we ‘take back our country’ and the online posts of my fellow disenfranchised citizens rekindled the spark of hope. Perhaps, after all, we the people can demonstrate our power. We all know what happened next. He went down in an avalanche of political maneuvers and media manipulation. Now it is our turn.
Yellow Alert. Red Alert . Someone is going to attack us!
Beware of the disease of the month! It might kill you, your loved ones, and your whole town. Today it might be Anthrax, SARS, West Nile Virus, or Bird Flu--next year it will be something else.
Watch out for (fill in the blank________) (Arabs, Gays, Immigrants). They are trying to destroy the American way of life!
Christmas is under attack! Our world is being destroyed!
Fear undermines civilized behavior. It makes the unknown more frightening than it really is. Its effect is often aggressive action. As Marilyn Ferguson once said: “Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom.”
A people divided are easy to overpower. We have let ourselves become alienated from our neighbors and manipulated by those in power. We need to stop thinking of each other as “Right Wing Nut Jobs” and “Bleeding Heart Liberals.”
The ironic aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union is that we lost our common enemy. Now we fear our neighbors. The fear perpetuated throughout the cold war has been replaced by an indefinable anxiety. We are being conditioned to feel threatened by anyone who looks or thinks differently. Yet one of the foundations of every belief system is essentially to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. When nearly everyone is a potential threat, how can that occur? It cannot. That is what keeps us demoralized and exploited.
Leaders in the government and their counterpart corporate entities are masters at hitting the right buttons of each group. They easily distract us with shell games of fear, threats, and suspicion...
It is hard to grasp that we live in an America that defies the Geneva Conventions. With an administration that advocates the torture of prisoners who have not been tried in a court of law. With a government that ignores its own hurricane victims. In an America that spies on its own citizens, allows oil companies to set energy policies, and no longer believes in caring for the weakest among us.
We admire courage. We fought to preserve freedom all over the world during the twentieth century. We like to feel that we stand with other heroic people. The hearty Brits bravely facing the German bombardments. People of all ages crawling, scrambling, sometimes dying --just to get on the other side of a wall in Berlin. A young man who was raised in a compliant yet stood and faced down a tank in Tiananmen Square.
What happened to our courage? Where is our leadership? Why no national outrage?
Some people continue to say, “We must not be negative--it will hurt the morale of our troops.”
Where is the morale boost in watching a buddy die? In being crippled for life? In living in a day-to-day hell with an enemy everywhere? Of being short of needed gear? Of having to use defective equipment? Of being forced to extend your tour of duty in a war zone?
There will be no pride of mission accomplished in this quagmire. If we really want to boost morale, we should get them out of there.
Perhaps our greatest enemies are complacency and complicity. It is so much easier to believe the pundit or politician who tells us what we want to hear. Yet, once we acknowledge our problem, we gain the power to put it past us. We cannot beat it until we face it down.
The President and other members of his administration have acknowledged that there are more terrorists now than before 9/11. Our reactionary and violent behavior has done nothing to stop the growth and spread of people who hate the United States. Our conduct has swelled the number of our enemies, and destroyed belief in our treasured identity. Can we still claim to hold the national characteristics that put us on the side of the ‘good, true, and honorable’? Well, our actions certainly speak louder than our words.
The only way to stop this madness is turn away from our fear and ignorance. It has made us ugly. How will future generations describe us? If they say that Americans were a people who torture, spy, eavesdrop on citizens, kill with chemicals, falsely imprison, manipulate, lie, cheat, and steal---do we want it to be true?
You and I can no longer abdicate personal responsibility. We cannot allow the principals of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to be destroyed. The men who wrote these documents faced losing everything they had to fight for liberty.
They took a huge risk in facing down the strongest military power in the world. They were not the obvious victors in the struggle. Yet when they signed the Declaration of Independence, they “pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.” They would have been executed as traitors if they lost. They put everything they had on the line to obtain their autonomy.
Aren’t we willing to do that today?
We have better nutrition, medical care, and standards of living than those early revolutionaries. All of us have the benefit of education and the lessons of history. We have the edge, the advantage of knowing that it can be done.
If we deserve to live in the bastion of freedom and democracy, it is time to open ourselves to risk. To fight to keep all that we have taken for granted. It might be scary and inconvenient. It might be uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Unlike the early settlers, we will not have to move thousands of miles away. Unlike the soldiers at Valley Forge, we will not have to freeze or eat our shoe leather.
If we fail to act, perhaps historians will assume that people who wore tights and powdered wigs were tougher and had greater character than those that live in this era.
If we fail, our legacy to history will be that we became victims instead of victors.
If we fail, future generations will never understand why we were willing to let Americans die to ‘protect’ freedom all over the world—and let it slip away in our own land.
I have always taken the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) for granted. In fact, I have barely paid attention to them. They are not always popular. Sometimes I dislike their actions.
This group has been fighting to protect our Civil Liberties and the fundamentals of our Constitution. Now I realize how desperately we need such advocacy. I am grateful that they still exist.
As a gift to myself this year, I purchased membership in the ACLU. It’s a small thing, yet a gift that will keep on giving. Of that, I have no doubt. Here’s to Christmas, and may Santa leave a package of courage and outrage underneath your tree.