Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Politics 001 (the non-credit course)

"With a gun, with a gun
You will be what you are
Just the same"

It's said that we become more conservative as we age. Maybe, to be Mr. Literal, our youthful idealism gives way to a pragmatic need to protect what we have gained over the years. Maybe it's just a general onset of caution, brought about by kids and our growing sense of mortality. Maybe political reality, grasped as an adult, is like a toxic gas to starry-eyed idealism. While I lean left on social subjects, my primary tendency is to be skeptical of politics and political idealism of any stripe. I'm wary of vehemence. So any middle-aged movement of mine toward conservatism is not readily apparent to me. I do exhibit a growing tendency to question whether a given measure is likely (to my satisfaction, anyway) to achieve its desired outcome; maybe this is the explanation. But I'm not apolitical. (I even gave a few bucks yesterday toward an effort to make a smoking hole out of every Wal-Mart in the nation, so perhaps even my youthful idealism, such as it is, has not dried up altogether.)

I've been opposed to the war quite vehemently from the outset, but my sputtering rage at what appeared to be the egregious, shocking wrongness of it was kept in check by what I felt was a reasoned acknowledgement of all that I did not know--by the possibility (as W claimed at the time) that our government was in possession of information denied to the rest of us. But when the days passed and it became clear that we were going in, and when no solid and convincing case was made--to go to war with another country!--I was kind of stunned into a depression. It was like watching a ship sink. In retrospect, this was a time for my skepticism and reserve to give way and for me to join the too-small throngs of protesters. I did not do so.

Yesterday on Wisconsin Public Radio, Kathleen Dunn's guest was Juan Cole, a history professor at Michigan State specializing in Middle Eastern studies. They spent the hour discussing governmental malaise, and specifically our present predicament in Iraq. His measured, articulate summary of where we currently find ourselves, including exactly how we got here--and particularly his summary of what was known prior to the invasion, and the systematic misuse of that information--leaves me almost apoplectic. I suppose the Fox News habitue would declare this politically shrill, but I just don't see it.

The worst assumptions now seem confirmed. The president, who has given fewer press conferences than any modern president, is in hiding, avoiding facing the firestorm that his leadership has made; the Vice President and his staff are embroiled in a serious criminal investigation; our country's finances have been put by the president's own hand in unfathomably bad shape with no relief in sight; the economy is little better; our prestige in the world is in the toilet (for the record, I don't believe our national policies should be decided in the U.N. But I feel the opinions and goodwill of our friends are vitally important; and more to the point, our inability to generate the support of those friends for something this momentous should be the reddest of flags). I can't quite get my head around how even a paltry 40% of the population is still supporting this guy: how could he possibly to do more damage than he's done to everything he's touched? I don't understand how we are not rioting in the streets.

We ARE talking about this, and dissent IS being voiced (Professor Cole was after all on Public Radio discussing the matter). But it's hard for me to fathom why at this point we don't put the whole cabal out on their ears. If the very intent was not criminal, certainly the negligence and mismanagement and hubris are. Sorry to beat the old horse, but THESE ARE THE GUYS who were ALL OVER Bill Clinton for what even at the time seemed trivial sins, things without great consequence. Where is their outrage now when thousands are dying?


Heather B. said...

I fear the day that I go "right" because I've aged. I shudder at the thought.

wunelle said...

I don't want to close the door on the possibility of looking at something in a new way. I try to be open (though, of course, none of us really is).

But, as I so often say, I work around a lot of Republicans and I'm quite concerned that I should not end up being like them.

At that possibility, I too shudder!

TB said...

Right on. I caught part of that NPR interview and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but the current administration makes it so easy.

Lizzie said...

I've wondered this very thing. How can the country not be rioting in the streets? Sure, we had our dalliance with Cindy Sheehan this summer at Camp Casey. And we made a half-hearted effort last year with the protests in New York. And, yes, the newspapers continue to talk about Bush's apparently bottomless approval rating. But on the whole the country just seems so apathetic. When we look around the world, at the Orange Revolution in Ukraine last year and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and everywhere else that people are voicing their discontent, we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Clinton got a bj from a White House intern and the world practically stopped we were so up in arms about it. Oh my God, a married man in a position of power cheated on his wife! Oh, the horror! But we sit here and listen to Bush's lies and deceit that result in war and death and destruction and respond with one giant national shrug. It's very disheartening.

wunelle said...

Amen, both of you.

It does make me ashamed that we live with such complacency--that I live that way. Somehow, simply voting does not seem enough in this case.

matty said...

At 28 I think I'm a lot more conservative than I was in my college days, and I do think it has something to do with actually having a job and trying to balance responsibility to ensure I'll be here in the future...but conservative on some fronts and not so on the others (I voted no on all my governor's propositions yesterday and they were all defeated, leaving him a bit of a girly man). Complete political partisanship is something though that is absolutely positively vile. Deep down some of these Bush supporters know he's a douchebag and wrong for the country, but they're so scared of what they've invested and their status, and so scared of the enemy (those Democrats) that they'd support a blitzkreig through the low countries if the GOP was leading it.