Monday, August 22, 2005

Found in the paper: Essay, Book Review, Op-Ed and Editorial

Found in the paper.


"Scattered thoughts"
Tonight, when things appear to be improving in the United States in terms of debates and discussions, I want to drop back to how things were not all that long ago.

Following 9/11, debate was hushed by the mainstream media and certain gatekeepers. That's not something unique to our times but hopefully online sources will help it be remembered. Bartcop and other sites that were around then have real time discussions on the climate in this country at that time.
Why is that important?
When we look at the internment of the Japanese-Americans in this country during WWII, for instance, we're shocked and it seems so against the fabric of our society that we have a hard time comprehending how it could happen.
In our country we saw Muslims rounded up, we saw secret deportations and numbers of other activites that wouldn't seem to fold easily into the fabric of the United States. But they happened with little outcry registering.
When the issue did resonate, outside the mainstream media, and the events were spoken of, sometimes there was a tendency was to put it in the perspective of Germany as Hitler rose to power. That offended a number of people. (That's not my slamming anyone who made that comparison -- people making such comparisions were usually doing so in a solid manner despite the whines and slams from the right.) But we really didn't have to go other shores ("we" being American community members, apologies to our members from other countries, I'll probably continue to use "we" as I rush through this).
We've had witch hunts many other times. McCarthyism is but one example.
What bothered a number of people (rightfully so) besides the actions following 9/11 was how little discussion there was of them. We take our cues, as a nation, from our media. (A point that shouldn't be controversial whether someone's a reader of Noam Chomsky or Marshall McLuhan or In Style.) And we found ourselves faced with a media that was owned by or in part . . .(If your new to this topic, refer to this web page from NOW with Bill Moyers which has a drop down menu you can use.)
We link to many independent media sites (I'm not providing a ton of links in this entry so use our permalinks on the left) like The Progressive, The Nation, Democracy Now!, BuzzFlash, In These Times, Ms., The Black Commentator, CounterPunch, Indymedia, Pacifica, Clamor, LeftTurn, etc. They exist, they are out there. (Along with many others.) But we're more apt to have Fox "News," MSNBC, or CNN in our homes than a magazine on our coffee table. (We as a nation.)
In his book, A Matter of Opinion, Victor Navasky explains that he sees the importance of The Nation and other opinion journals as presenting ideas to a wider audience. (That's my bad summary of a major point in his book. My apologies.) It's the point of this community in terms of trying to hook members up with voices that speak to them. As FAIR has documented repeatedly since it's inception, the voices presented by the mainstream media grow narrower and narrower each year.
If tomorrow an apple is used as a weapon and fright wing senator goes on Meet the Press to call for banning all apples and hawkish Dem is the "opposition" arguing that we should instead implement a testing procedure for apples, to the public, that's the debate clearly drawn. That's the debate the mainstream media popularizes and gets behind. And if you're thinking there must be some other idea/plan or even thinking, "We're talking about one apple here!" you're left with the impression that you are so out of the norm that no one else in the country shares your opinion. It's not on the TV, it's not on the radio. So it must be you going out on limb all by yourself.
And the result may be that you dismiss your own opinion and attempt to get with the program. Even if you don't, you may feel you're the only one who would ever think that way, so what's the point?
Following 9/11, you 'got with the program' in some manner or you were demonized. (Susan Sontag, et al.) And we need to remember that because people will ask, "How did this happen here?" They'll ask that about the secret deportations, the roundups, the practice of torture and rendention and a host of other things.
People being frightened does play into it and for that you need national hysteria. The lack of serious debate and a limited number of opinions and voices reaching out through the mainstream only aid the creation of a national hysteria. If, in the future, we attempt to answer how we entered a period where secret hearings, et al. were suddenly "American," we won't have to look to Germany to explain what happened here. We'll merely need to note that few people in power used their power (most abdicated it) and the press didn't do their job (ditto). And maybe, if we can all remember that, it can serve as a lesson the next time a similar event pops up (and they always do). Laura Flanders says, "Don't leave politics to the politicians."
You can't. They're not going to advocate (with few exceptions) anything that they're not being pressured to do. Possibly, that's understandable. You are a representative of a certain area and if the citizens in your area aren't pushing for action, it may be "smart" not to take any.
The myth of the brave press isn't reality. At best, we've been able to count on a few strong voices in any era. To use McCarthyism, the press largely took a pass on the witch hunts in real time and, like politicians, waited for the mood of the nation to change. That might have been "smart" as well. They are selling papers, magazines or commercial time.
But what's smart business isn't smart democracy. And if there's a lesson from our recent history, hopefully it will be "Speak out soon and speak out often." The only way ideas will get traction is if they're heard. Too many times, I heard someone say, "I'd say something but I'm the only one who feels this way." (And when this site started, that feeling of "I thought I was the only one who thought that" has been a constant in e-mails.) If you see something you think is wrong, dig in your heels and stake out your position. Don't wait for an editorial in a paper or for backing from a politician. Don't wait for the "mood" of the nation to shift.
Even shut out of the mainstream media, your ideas can still take life in the people around you. And if media consolidation isn't dealt with, we're going to need to be very aware of what power we do have and we're going to need to be willing to use it.
When an anchor person (Dan Rather) goes on a talk show (Letterman) to say he takes his marching orders from a president, we need to realize that regardless of the anchor, regardless of the person in the oval office, there's a problem. When an anchor (future at that point, Brian Williams) goes on a talk show (Leno) to say that he's interested in his broadcasts being kid friendly, we have a problem. In the first example, a person with a huge say in what will make the evening news is implying that he'll present what's approved by the White House. In the second example, that mythical large number of children tuning into the evening news are used as an excuse for watering down content. The result of both statements is not an endorsement of journalism (or even an appreciation of it). Nor are they new attitudes. However, in the past, when they've been expressed in similar terms, they were usually expressed following an actual event. For instance, apparently looking over the crayola scrawled notes of seven-year-olds, Peter Jennings once expressed concern over his decision to show a Lebenese child on a stretcher. In the talk show remarks noted at the start of this paragraph, there was no specific incident that either anchor was responding to. These were pre-emptive statements volunteered by the two men.
The fact that the statements weren't greeted with loud criticism from the mainstream is troubling. If you watch the news with your child (if), you're agreeing to see the news. Not just the pretty things. We heard, during the impeachment, people moaning that now their kids were talking about blow jobs. Taking them at their word (for some reason Nielsen hasn't registered any significant number of children watching the evening news broadcasts, but whatever), you tell your child to leave the room or you turn off the TV. If the child is saying "blow job," you tell the child to stop. If the child's at an age where s/he repeats everything heard then they probably shouldn't have been watching a news program to begin with because they're probably not at a level where they can handle it.
But we were all infantilized by the mainstream media. Whether it was hidden coffins (the administration's policy could have been gotten around, as was demonstrated when the photos finally did break) or not showing pictures of the graphic violence. Note, that's pictures of the graphic violence. Photo journalists capture what they see. They don't create it (if they do, they aren't photo journalists).
Yes, you had a few pieces here and there. We can note, for instance, R.C. Longworth's "War from 30,000 feet: Whipping Up a Crisis" which ran in the Chicago Tribune March 23, 2003. After noting FDR's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," Longworth wrote:
. . . Bush is using fear as a weapon, not to build courage among Americans but to stampede them into endorsing a case for a war that has been built literally on a grab bag of possibilities, contingencies, ifs and maybes, of things that haven't happened but could happen, of bad guys who might hit us if we don't hit them first.
This is a created crisis. Now that the crisis is upon us, we can only hope that it passes quickly, with minimum loss of life on either side, and that our native skepticism prevents it from happening again.
"National hysteria" is a term Longworth uses and you need that hysteria before you can bring out the nails and the wood or the bonfires necessary to conclude the witch hunts with.
National hysteria is what whips us up and silences us. An independent press is needed in any time period to combat that.
The mainstream press' consolidation is a concern today but it's a mistake, my opinion, to assume the mainstream media was ever that independent to begin with.
In terms of today, it will be interesting to watch the coverage play out in the next few years. There will, if history holds, be the usual "We were all wrong." Some will point to a Longworth at their paper as an example that they did "cover" the issues with little accountability for the fact that a Longworth was the exception and not reflective of the overall tone.
It'll also be interesting to see how some cheerleaders (water carriers) for the current administration (I'm not speaking of columnists, I'm speaking of reporters) minimize their own part in the hysteria, the witch hunts and pressing (not reporting) the administration's agenda.
Will Judith Miller (who, from her actions in Iraq, appears to have foolishly believed some of the claims she reported on) be the scape goat that allows everyone else to emerge with a pass?Martha e-mailed about an online transcript (at the Washington Post) with James VandeHei entitled "White House Insider" and wondered what world he lives in? Here's one section:
San Francisco, Calif.: Why doesn't the press refuse to take briefings from Scott McClellan, who either lied to them about the Plame incident, or was lied to by the administration? Isn't his credibility shot?
Jim VandeHei: Scott took a good beating when it was learned that the White House knew much more about the Plame leak than he and others let on last year. It's not entirely clear how much he knew about the involvement of other officials. But Scott has a lot of credibility with reporters. He is seen as someone who might not tell you a lot, but is not going to tell you a lie. more broadly, we go to the briefings if for no other reason to hear the White House spin on world events. they rarely figure into our daily reports because we will talk to Scott and others one on one and not in front of a crowd.
He's not going to lie, according to VandeHei, and yet "we will talk to Scott and others one on one and not in front of a crowd." The daily briefings "rarely figure into our daily reports." But he's not "not going to tell you a lie." Even overlooking the apparent contradiction in VandeHei's statements (if he's not going to lie, why are the daily briefings of no value to the Post?), what exactly is VandeHei doing making these remarks? Why is he vouching for "Scott" in such a personal manner?
I wonder how the remarks made in the transcript will play out (that's not the only section that should raise eyebrows)? It's as though there's not an even an effort made any longer to appear impartial as reporters name drop "Scott" and leave their role as reporter to peer inside "Scott" and vouch for him. It's doubtful VandeHei will get any flack for the remarks or be reassigned but the remarks do raise questions. Or would if anyone wanted to ask serious questions about the role of journalists today.
Here's VandeHei quoting "Scott" on the expulsion of the Denver Three in "Three Were Told to Leave Bush Town Meeting" (March 30, 2005):
Scott McClellan, Bush's press secretary, said it was a volunteer who asked them to leave "out of concern they might try to disrupt the event." He said the White House welcomes a variety of voices into events but discourages people from coming to heckle the president or disrupt town hall forums. "If someone is coming to try to disrupt it, then obviously that person would be asked to leave," he said. "There is plenty of opportunity outside of the event to express their views."
Does VandeHei really believe that "the White House welcomes a variety of voices into events"? Is that a sign of "Scott"'s credibility?
We'll hopefully continue this but I know I missed posting Tuesday night because of wanting to say more so this will go up as is.


"1 Book, Ten Minutes"
While going to war may seem easy, any sense of ease is a result of distance, privilege, and illusion. The United States has the potentiaal to set aside the habitual patterns that have made war a frequent endeavor in American life.

There remains a kind of spectator relationship to military actions being implemented in our names. We're apt to crave the insulation that news outlets offer. We tell ourselves that our personal lives are difficult enough without getting too upset about world events. And the conventional war wisdom of American political life has made it predictable that most journalists and politicians cannot resist accommodating themselves to expediency by the time the first missiles are fired. Conformist behavior -- in sharp contrast to authentic conscience -- is notably plastic."
Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices," Voltaire wrote. The quotation is sometimes rendered with different wording: "As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities."Either way, a quarter of a millennium later, Voltaire's statement is all too relevant to this moment. As an astute cliche says, truth is the first casualty of war. But another early casualty is conscience.
When the huge news outlets swing behind warfare, the dissent propelled by conscience is not deemed to be very newsworthy. The mass media are filled with bright lights and sizzle, with high production values and lower human values, boosting the war effort. And for many Americans, the gap between what they believe and what's on their TV sets is the distance between their truer selves and their fearful passivity. Conscience is not on the military's radar screen, and it's not on our television screen. But government officials and media messeages do not define the limits and possibilites of conscience. We do.

Jim: The above is from Norman Solomon's War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, pp. 236-237. This is "1 Book, Ten Minutes." Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Jess, Dona, Ava and myself, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Elaine who's subbing for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, and C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review. Mike, set us up.
Mike: First off, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, the link takes you to the official site for Solomon's book and there you can find excerpts as well as some essays written by Norman Solomon. I think our links are usually informative but I want to stress that this site has a lot of material. Norman Solomon's one of those people that a year ago I wouldn't have known. Say their name and I would have gone, "Huh?" That's part of being eighteen and, I'd argue, part of the process of education but I'll save that for another time. I started hearing the name at The Common Ills and I'd see something by him and without realizing it, I knew the name. When he was on Democracy Now! recently, I was listening to Amy Goodman do the introduction to the show and I was like, "Norman Solomon, cool!" And he was a really cool guest so we'll do a link to that discussion from Democracy Now! So the point is, if you don't recognize the name, don't feel bad because I was in the dark a year ago too. If you do recognize the name, you probably already know that this book, War Made Easy, is a pretty important book even if you haven't read it. Solomon's looking at the history of modern day deception and this is a pretty important book.
Jess: One thing that especially stood out, for me, was how much fun Solomon has a writer. There's a life to his writing and it's there throughout but one standout moment for me was when he was talking about the media lobbying "softballs" and then adds "and beachballs." Some people may look at the title and think, wrongly my opinion, that they already know everything and it's going to be some book that's bogged down and lifeless but that's not true of this book.
Ava: Solomon's an activist. He cofounded FAIR and he's the founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy. Those are wonderful credentials but I mention them because this isn't a book that says, "Here's what happened, now you know, go on back to your haze and fog." He's putting it right back on the reader. This isn't a "far away" book, this is a book about our own power and our own responsibilities. That's one of the reasons we were able to reach a consensus on the quote at the top. There are other reasons and I'm sure Kat or Elaine will probably touch on them. But this wasn't a book where the discussion on what to quote was a two minute thing or left to one individual, we all had strong opinions on what the quote should be. None of us could agree on what the others were picking because we felt our own choices were just as important.
Ty: Right because we all had examples that rang true to us and spoke to us. They were specific incidents that Solomon was covering in the book and they were either points we'd made in our way in our own lives or information that just made our mouths drop, there's a lot of that in this book, and we really wanted to share that. We spent thirty minutes debating what quote to use and that's because so much of the book spoke to us which I feel is a strong recommendation for people to read this book. Usually, one of us is most passionate about a book or an author or we do this feature last, like with Exceptions to the Rulers, and we're in a rush so whomever argues the strongest gets the pick of the quote. But we started this fairly early and the result was that we were all very strong about what part best presented the book.
Cedric: And I really enjoyed this book. My comments are going to be the part I wanted quoted, from page 214:
"When popular resolve among the Vietnamese disappointed Washington, U.S. strategists would change the government in Saigon," William Greider recalled. "The U.S. proconsul in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, fired the interior minister in charge of the Iraqi police we trained to maintain civil order, because they fled the police stations rather than shoot it out with their countrymen." A journalist with several professional decades behind him by 2004, Greider saw a recurring motif: "To my eye, the insurrection under way in Iraq looks like 'little Tet' -- a smaller version of the original Tet offensive the Vietcong staged in 1968. It shocks Americans in much the same way. Iraq is a 'little war' compared with Vietnam, but Americans are learning, once again, that the indigenous people we 'liberated' do not love us. Many want our occupying army to withdraw."
Cedric (con't): It's amazing how uninformed we can be of history and patterns and the book just proved to me how very little I knew. It was eye opening.
Kat: And for some people it may just be a reminder. If that's the case, if people who remember earlier history as a distant memory see it as a reminder, well we need to be reminded. And Solomon's arguing a case that's got a historical and factual basis to it. Reading it, sidebar, I got why C.I. speaks of disgust with the daily papers. There's a section in the book where Solomon's speaking of how the paper tries to have it both way by reporting something and then acting as though it didn't happen until it's necessary to mention it again but use it to argue "resolve" or whatever. He notes George Orwell's "productive stupidity" from 1984. And when you think about and how the daily paper offers very little perspective . . . It made me think of Amy Goodman and what an amazing job she does. There was a Headline item two weeks ago where she noted that a general had been demoted for an affair and then noted that none had been punished for Abu Ghraib.
C.I.: Okay, Dallas has that Democracy Now! link, it was Thursday, August 11th. Here's the item that Kat's referring to:
Four-Star General Demoted For Extramarital Affair
The Pentagon has refused to punish any senior military officers for the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, but the army has taken the rare action of relieving a four-star general of his command. But not for any role in torture of prisoners. Gen. Kevin Byrnes stands accused of having an extramarital affair with a civilian. The General led the Army's Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia and he was reportedly set to retire in November after 36 years of service. Army officials say they could find no case of another four-star general being relieved of duty in modern times.
Kat: Thank you, Dallas. But see, you read the story in the paper, I read about it in the LA Times, and you don't get that point that Amy Goodman's making, that perspective: "The Pentagon has refused to punish any senior military officers for the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, but the army has taken the rare action of relieving a four-star general of his command. But not for any role in torture of prisoners." You don't get that in your daily paper. Or when C.I. steers you to something with "you can supplement this article in the Times by reading this" from The Nation or whatever. And that and the whole vanishing something down the memory hole just really came across, how the daily papers do that, while I was reading Norman Solomon's book.
Dona: Newspapers don't do think pieces or perspective pieces. I'm not defending them, I'm just noting it. They're spitting out the barest details of what just happened the day before and magazines, strong ones, are where you have to go for perspective. Again, I'm not defending that. I agree with Kat that those sort of connections could be made and, obviously, it's not unusual for Amy Goodman to do them on a daily basis five days a week, so newspapers could do so as well. But their argument would be, and they've made it, reporters, when they've spoken to some of our classes, "We're on a deadline and we're writing quickly with what we know." But what they know, and here's the big problem for me, is what they're told. I've been amazed, and I think this is a point C.I.'s made at The Common Ills, at how unaware they are of what others are writing. Not only what others are writing at magazines but what others are writing at their own papers. Time and again, someone in class would bring up some detail that got left out of the reporter's story and the response would be, "I'm not aware of that." And the student would respond, "Well your paper published that two weeks before your article ran." And it's not an obscure detail buried at the bottom of the article, it's usually the lead of a front page story.
Elaine: And I'd argue that goes to the need for people to get their information from more than a daily paper. We hearing a lot of whining about the fall in circulation for the dailies but at the same time, you've had an increase in subscriptions and readership of some publications like The Progressive or The Nation. And awareness of Democracy Now! has just soared. I'm not a journalist so I'm looking at it from my own field, psychology, and what I see in daily papers on psychology is usually so off the mark that I wonder why they even bothered to print it. Most of the time what they've printed either opens a can of worms that they didn't deal with and probably were unaware of or else it's just so far from reality that I don't see any benefit for any reader from the article being printed. But to move back to the quote above, and it's a thread to throughout the book that gets explicitly stated at the end, we are responsible, we do have power. We may choose to disempower ourselves, but we have the power if we excercise it. And this week, Mike, Kat, Elaine, C.I., Cedric and Betty, we were all shocked to hear that policy making on the war in Iraq was not something that the citizens of this country should have a say in it. We read that, or heard about it, and responded to it. That idea goes so against empowerment and so against democracy that it still stuns me that it was written. But I do think it goes to where you get your information. And if you're reading a daily paper as your sole information or, worse, watching the network news, you're getting a shocking incident here and there that's never connected to a larger picture and you're not encouraged to do so yourself. On top of that, the administration trots out Operation Happy Talk on a regular basis and the reporters fall in line and repeat the phoney claims and trumpet them and you're left with a confused public. I have a very low opinion of daily papers and that comes, granted, from the way I see my field covered in them. But it also comes from the fact that there's no perspective and everything is "Today in . . ." and today never gets connected to yesterday or last month or anything else. That's why when an author like Norman Solomon writes a book like this there is a strong response to it. It's about making the connections and providing the perspective.
Betty: I would agree with that. I would have before I read the book but after the examples he sets forth, I would agree with it even more. This is a tough book. Jess pointed out that his writing style makes it enjoyable to read but it's a tough book. And that's because, I think, Solomon's asking for not just perspective, but accountability and not just from leadership but from all of us. I really enjoyed this book. I really enjoyed this book and I would do like Cedric did and read the part that spoke most to me but I know we're trying to stay focused and complete this within ten minutes so I'll just say, "Read it" and pass to someone else.
Jim: Who hasn't discussed it yet?
Betty: C.I.
C.I.: I like the book, really, I love it. I'll be brief and I'll note that I enjoyed how he went into the editorials and the avoidance of the "bring the troops home" issue, even when facts in the paper -- obviously I'm speaking of the New York Times -- suggested that "success" was a huge leap from reality. Everyone's brought up strong points and I know Dona's watching the clock so I'll let that be it from me.
Jim: Okay, so this is a book with thumbs way up. Read it. War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death by Norman Solomon. Dona had an announcement that we'll go out with.
Dona: We'd planned to review Edith Wharton's Custom of the Country among other books this time. C.I. got an e-mail that later was also sent to us here about how we are ignoring fiction. We're not attempting to ignore fiction. When we lost a "Five Books, Five Minutes" awhile back, we had commented on fiction and poetry in that feature. But when a book comes along that deserves the entire entry, we've focused on that one book and it has been nonfiction. We hope to do some fiction in the future and feel free to suggest books via e-mail but we're reading books and if one stands out and becomes the focus for an entire feature, it will probably continue to be nonfiction. Due to the debate over what quote to use to capture this book, it became obvious that the entire feature should be devoted to Norman Solomon's War Made Easy. Read the book and you'll understand why that is.

"'Marine of the Year' Faces Attempted Murder Charges" (Democracy Now!)"
'Marine of the Year' Faces Attempted Murder Charges (Democracy Now!)
In Massachusetts, a decorated Marine who served in Iraq is facing attempted murder charges after he fired a shotgun from his apartment window at a group of revelers outside a nightclub. Just last month the Marine -- Daniel Cotnoir - was named 2005 Marine of the Year by the Marine Corps Times. After he won the award Cotnoir posed for a photo with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Cotnoir has reportedly been suffering from post-war stress since serving in Iraq where he worked as a mortician preparing bodies of U.S. soldiers for burial.
Apparently nothing changes. In every war, people are asked to serve and then left to fend for themselves. As with every other "plan" for this invasion/occupation, concerns were elsewhere.
The suicides at Fort Bragg didn't result in a change, the domestic abuse (and murder) only resulted in a white wash. Lariam, a routine drug, is dispensed but questions about it are swept aside. (Maureen Orth wrote about Lariam's possible effects in the December 2002 issue of Vanity Fair.) Medications, training and experiences all have effects but our government would rather live in denial.
Astronauts are "decompressed" better than the military is. Possibly that's due to the fact that, in terms of ratio, the government's dealing with far fewer astronauts than military members. But the military is expected to return to "normal" and fend for themselves with few resources.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted in "Unpublished Adminstration Budget Documents Show Domestic Cuts Would Significantly Reduce Funding For Most Public Services:"
As a group, veterans’ programs would be cut by 16 percent by 2010. These include programs that provide health care to veterans.
That's how this administration deals with reality.
"Touched by war" has been used, to explain certain behaivors off the battle field, for all of recorded history. But we want to act surprised when something happens today or avert our eyes and pretend it didn't happen. Cotnoir may have pre-existing conditions but it's highly doubtful, especially given his public statements, that they weren't aggrevated by his service. Pre-existing or not, the United States judged him healthy and able to serve. When his service ended, what resources were available to him?
Those are questions our administration should be asking but more likely they will dismiss the incident as an abberation or as Cotnoir's own personal problem. There were obviously no "personal problems" that precluded his acceptance in service so the administration should be asking what safety nets they're going to provide to the returning?
It's easy to avert eyes for any number of excuses. Cotnior served and that's not the "example" we want of those who served, Cotnior served and we should overlook the incident because he's been "touched by war," Cotnior's problems are his own . . . Those excuses can't conceal the fact that Cotnior is having difficulty coping and that fact should make us ask what's being done to help people in Cotnior's situation."
Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do.
Leo Tolstoy

"Editorial: We have power if we use it"
Is a dream a dream a lie

If it don't come true
Or is it something worse?
-- "The River" words & music by Bruce Springsteen
We had a few e-mails come in Friday with people expressing disappointment that Cindy Sheehan had left Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas. Did it mean the whole thing was over?For the record, Cindy Sheehan left Camp Casey due to the fact that her seventy-four year-old mother had a stroke. If she's able to return, she plans to.
What she did was get an important issue into the national dialogue. She also stood up to the Bully Boy and his attack goons. The brave stance she held is both an inspiration and an example.
This isn't the end of the dialogue, whether she's able to return to Camp Casey or not. For the first time, America was forced to look at a face that suffered from the consequences of the Bully Boy's actions. With Donald Rumsfeld and others screaming, "Don't show those pictures! Don't show those pictures!" for some time now, we'd divorced ourselves from the realities of our actions.And with a non-accountable administration, it was easy to sit back on that sofa and flip to something else, to act as though we weren't fighting in one country, let alone two (officially).
"More death in Iraq . . . Hey, The Simpson's rerun is on the other channel, wanna' watch?"
While some reporters treated the invasion/occupation of Iraq as a video game, we were able to treat it, as a nation, as just another TV show and we could, and did, switch channels whenever anything got to uncomfortable.
Cindy Sheehan reminded the nation that it's not a TV show.
She broke through Operation Happy Talk and resonated.
She got people talking and so did you. You passed on word about to her to your family, your friends, your co-workers, strangers even. You wrote letters to the editor, you demanded media coverage. Sheehan has called herself a spark and a fire was lit across the country. People who had never spoken out started talking.
For months, the official "debate" has been one over tactics. Even when polls indicated that America wanted the troops home now, the politicians, pundits and press refused to address the idea (unless it was to slap it down and ridicule it). Thanks to Cindy Sheehan we're now discussing the invasion/occupation. We're weighing in and offering our opinions to the people around us.That's what democracy is about, participation. Democracy requires more than showing up at the voting booth. It requires stepping up and participating. The Bully Boy is not king. He does not rule by royal decree. He is a servent of the people and somewhere along the way, he wasn't the only one who forgot it, a lot of citizens did as well.
They shut down discussion and debate. Then one woman stood up and said enough. She asked for accountability. Something we should demand from our elected officials.
That's not going away.
She is a spark and there will be more. While the media finally provided a spotlight to the discussion, it doesn't end with Cindy Sheehan.
She's been compared by some to Rosa Parks. The civil rights battle didn't end with Rosa Parks.
One person stands up and provides an example. It's up to us to follow that example.
So to the ones who worry that the issue will now go away, it won't. And you need to do your part to make sure it doesn't.
The military is drawing up plans for continued occupation through 2009. That can happen, if we let it happen. But we can also start to reclaim our power and demand that our government be accountable and responsible.
Cindy Sheehan stood up when the chattering class wouldn't and she earns our applause. But we're not an audience that came to see a show. We're citizens in what is supposed to be one of the best democracies in the world. Let's start demanding that it is that. The occupation can go on for many years to come if we sit around and stay silent waiting for someone else to come along and speak out and hoping that -- pretty please, maybe -- some of our elected officials who can make the Chat & Chew circuit will speak out as well.
Or we can realize that this nation is ruled by the people, for the people and by the people. We can reclaim our power and make our voices heard. You have a say in how this country is run. Your voice is no more important than the Bully Boy's and his voice is no more important than your own -- provided you stop waiting for "them" to figure out what we should do. We. Not "them."
Cindy Sheehan inspires us with her bravery, true. But the act itself was about demanding accountability and remembering that each of us is a part of this country. We have power if we use it.