Katrina Unmasks Republicans For Who They Are

Welcome to Disaster #2 of the Age of George the Second. As a resident of Jersey City back in September 2001 and someone who worked in NYC and was proud to tell friends and family that I lived "right across the river from the World Trade Center", I was dismayed to hear people bestow upon George Bush the mantle of genuine leadership after the attacks of 11 September 2001. I was appalled that someone who showed up days later and several dollars short could actually be credited with being a leader. In talking with people from around the country, I came to understand that our natural inclination to rally around the President in a time of crisis was what I was actually seeing and though people who were actually here could see what a hollow shell George Bush really was up close, those removed from the danger were too distant to see the chalk outlines.

Bush rose up in the polls and started the war he planned from Day One in his administration, a war that has turned into the morass that this site predicted it would from the planning stages - if what the SecDef did back then in firing anyone who disagreed with his "lean-and mean" approach could be called planning (to this day, the man goes on to do interviews and says incredibly stupid things like, "the commanders have been given all the troops they have requested" and no one ever tallies up the list of former soldiers who called for more troops and were then suddenly eased into retirement days later). Still, a nation traumatized by an attack on our shores and a nation at war decided to stay the course and continue to dance with the horse's ass who brought us to this party.

But now, after the man who ran for re-election by promising the full-faith and credit of his leadership on keeping us safe, has yet again failed to respond to warning received during his month-long vacation and did not act to stave off impending disaster. In August 2001, Bush and his staff ignored a report that said Bin Laden was preparing to attack us. "Who could have known", cried the then National Security Director - apparently oblivious to the fact that it was her job to know. In 2005, Bush played the guitar while New Orleans re-enacted the Great Flood. And here once again is where the failures of the modern Republican Party are laid bare.

For years the Republicans have derided affirmative action, stating that problems would arise were an unqualified Black American placed in a position he or she did not deserve, through an AA program. To-date, no examples of such a situation ever occuring have been brought to light. Still, Republicans have pounded the drums of their phony concerns so loudly, that even popular Democratic politicians like Bill Clinton have talked of mending the programs as though the threat was real. All the while Republicans and Democrats parried back and forth over this non-issue, an ever larger percentage of Blacks remain mired in poverty and unable to even avail themselves of the meager benefits offered by AA programs.

Concurrant with their assault on AA programs, Republicans continued their decades-long war against government provided services, preferring instead to leave people to the whims of "the market" and the kindness of strangers. Decades of slashing government programs, double-speak legislation like No Child Left Behind and funding bridges to nowhere instead of preparing for easily forseen challenges like a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

And so today we stand unable or unwilling to tally the dead, unable or unwilling to clearly define who was responsible once again and upon whose shoulders the blame must lie. Even more, today we stand in wonder of what other easily imaginable disasters are outside the ken of this faithless-based administration.

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And this is how we get tough on terrorists?

In yet another victory for the Klan, Edgar Ray Killen has been let out on bond, while he is appealing his conviction. The judge says that he was convinced that Killen was not a "danger to the community". That statement flies in the face of the conviction, when members of that very same community decided that he was a danger, that he was a criminal and that he should be locked up for his crimes.

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John Roberts and the Nature of (American) Man

Altercation spoke earlier this week about the man the President has nominated to fill the newly vacated seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; in this post - which was little more than an aside - the good doctor included a blurb about “judicially-created and enforced liberalism” and how it may have weakened the cause of liberalism overall. This forms the basis of our sermon here today, for while Altercation did not state so explicitly, I want to return to this point as it at least implies that liberalism as a political philosophy is so weak it cannot sustain victories achieved in the judicial branch of a democratic government. There is indeed that potential flaw in liberalism and I would be the first among us to step forth and lead the re-forging of liberal thought, but as liberals we must first pay homage to root causes, as there are deeper aspects to what we are attempting to do here with this society - creating that more perfect union and all. Now is the time for that deeper reflection; indeed, there is no better time to do so than when we are called upon to endow an individual with the power to spend the rest of his or her life interpreting our most basic values and applying them to the world in which we live.

I posit that if you conduct this deeper analysis, you will find there is a continuous thread of existence that flows throughout all of the experiences of European immigrants in this New World: rejection of the need to respect the rights of "others" - however this “other” may be defined. It courses through our social fabric to such a degree that it infects our conversation - even against the will of those who are aware of its presence. The common terms we use to communicate - like "New World" - are laden with the blood of this disrespect. We teach "American History" (supposedly the story of the land on which we live) as though these lands were vacant before the arrival of the Pilgrims; while at the same time calling the people who met the boats on which the Pilgrims arrived: "American Indians" - a double misnomer, as it relates them to an Italian adventurer who arrived here millennia after their own ancestors and to a people who populate a land far on the other side of the planet. Yet our society has developed no terms of usage, with which to refer to those who welcomed the Pilgrims with any respect. "Native Americans", “indigenous” or "Injuns" are just separate ways of saying, "who you are is not up to you to define, it is up to us" and if you say to a people that you will not allow them to define themselves, you are saying you do not respect them or their right to exist as humans.

This model - creating a class of humans identified as "the other" and then removing from them the basic rights with which we supposedly believe all humans are endowed - is the most basic pattern of existence in this American experiment. That is how early African arrivals to these shores could be migrated so easily - across so many political jurisdictions - from indentured servants (a class which no one denies was placed upon Africans and at the same time no one reflects that this very status reflects a recognition of the humanity of the African - surely no one has ever called a cow or a dog an indentured servant; what could be the point of setting the animal free after a set period of time; what would the animal do? Yet still today, the humanity of the African is questioned and the highest phrase to be heaped on our shoulders is, "he/she speaks so well") to bondage slave. Once you create an “other” and codify that in law – whether through treaties which no court will enforce or through description in the ultimate law of the land as “nonpersons” – these “others” will forever have their humanity questioned. Creating an “other” enables humans to suspend what their eyes are telling them as you have placed before them a filter that says, “well, I would react in this form or fashion, but that is because I am a human – who knows what motivates these “others” to do what they do”.

We all know that it is important who resides at the table, the seat of power we call the Supreme Court, but unless we understand the patterns and practices of power that those nine individuals will be upholding, we cannot properly answer for ourselves whether or not an individual nomination is the appropriate selection to wield that staff of power. As John Roberts has already demonstrated in judgments on enemy combatants, he is well-versed in the practice of defining “others” and removing from them any of the rights, with which he nominally believes all humans are born. History shows us what evil leads from a Supreme Court that believes one people has no rights which need be respected by another people; this definition of what it means to be a slave comes to us from the 1854 Dred Scott case. The fact that a case from a time in our history – which we have all been taught was behind us – so reflects the battles that are being fought today, ably demonstrates how insidious is this disease of defining "others" and then taking away their rights. Indeed, this current administration has so enveloped themselves within this practice that they have empowered the descendents of slaves (either be they children of US slave stock from our own cotton/tobacco plantations or newer arrivals to this nation from the sugar plantations that the British West India company populated throughout the Caribbean) to present that declaration of “otherness” to the nations of the world.

To see this pattern does require some distancing of oneself from the current narrative being told (or the current hymn being sung), so that the parallels between "the savage", "the slave" and "the enemy combatant" can seen more clearly, but once that distance has been reached, the pattern is unmistakable. Indeed, it becomes obvious that our nation derives its strength from this most basic pattern; that our ability to mobilize our citizenry in an instant - whether into a lynch mob at the local level or into divisions of thousands of troops on the national level (Pat Tillman, anyone?) - is at the core of our existence. The world is littered with the corpses that tell the story of the ways in which man can be inhuman to his fellow man. One wonders what can be done to stop this cycle from repeating itself; surely the answer begins with teaching people to recognize this pattern when they see it in the actions of their fellow citizens - and in themselves. Once that pattern has been identified, it must be opposed - relentlessly.

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