Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I listened to the Dems debate

By Carol Gee

The two top candidates were really going at each other. I hope there's not too much blood on the floor by the time the general election starts. Their conflict makes me a bit nervous. But I assume they know what they are doing.

And the economy is teetering, especially early in this week's first stock market trading day. But I am optimistic. There are only 362/363 (depending on whether you count "leap day") days left until our current president (OCP) leaves office. Some people are rethinking how they will continue to oppose OCP for the remainder of the year. For many of us it is hard to keep up the struggle in the face of today's Washington climate of legislators caving in. This headline indicates a kind of pulling back: "Anti-war groups retreat on funding fight," Ryan Grim of wrote on (1/17/08). To quote:

In recognition of hard political reality, the groups instead will lower their sights and push for legislation to prevent President Bush from entering into a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could keep significant numbers of troops in Iraq for years to come.

I need to hold on to my aforementioned optimism -- for these next two parts. I received a couple of compelling e-mails that have stayed with me because of the power of their words. I think the words reflect views held by thousands of people like these two men. They need to be shared:

1) Yes, water boarding is torture -- My blog friend Bobby sent me this e-mail, from which I quote:

Carol -

I hope that 2008 will be a good year for all of us. Although I have no idea what would constitutes "good."

One idea, now that I think of it. That we stop lying to ourselves about water boarding. The debate over whether it is torture is absurd. And the reason for the debate is that by continuing it (the debate), we never have to face the truth about who and what we are (or have become). Water boarding itself is no more than a symptom; but for as long as we dally over its definition we are able to put off acknowledging that we are a people who torture our enemies. We are postponing addressing the disease by discussing the symptoms.

So what I want for 2008 is for our friends in Washington (and in the compliant national media) to say, Yes, water boarding is torture, so let's have a conversation now about what being torturers means to our republic.

Of course I dream. But that's what, I suppose, the early days of January are for.

2) No wonder young people don't vote -- I have also been saving another e-mail I got at The Reaction the month before. It was from someone I did not know. Tom, its author, was referring to a post I did on December 13 of last year titled "It will take years to recover." I wrote it on one of those days when I was really mad at OCP. I also quote his e-mail, this time in full.

Dear Carol,

I see where you have discussed the challenge of recovering from the Bush years and the many scandals on The Reaction. I recently posted a piece on regarding the challenge of explaining all of this administration's ethical lapses to students:

"No wonder our young people don't vote"

I would appreciate any feedback you might be able to give on the post and if you like it I would be grateful if you would share it with your readers.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

Tom Hanson

I need to remember that my words have consequences, and I did not realize how seriously I would be taken by Tom Hanson. And in reality I am really glad he is such a serious person, because his concern is for teachers of social studies to high schoolers. Here is how he opened and closed his post [with a full rundown of the failed presidency of OCP] in between:

I wonder if anyone recalls the original campaign promises. Back when George Bush would raise his right hand as if taking a solemn vow and announce he would restore “honor and integrity” to the White House if elected. Sometimes he would alter the phrase ever so slightly, making it “dignity and honor” or other variations of the same three words. . .

. . . Given the extreme ethical transgressions, it seems preposterous that there will ever be a time when this presidency will be seen in a favorable light. I am sure that the ethical transgressions that are so troubling to most Americans today will only get darker as the future rolls in.

For teachers, the behavior and decision-making within the current White House makes it very challenging to fairly discuss politics with the next generation of voters. Walking the political line of fairness in a high school social studies class has likely never been more difficult than it is today. That is because the close examination of these ethical transgressions would be seen as nothing more than bashing our president.

However, our democratic process is supposed to lead our great nation in a direction that puts the proper people in the position to further the very ideals our country was founded upon. If we adults are thoroughly confused and shaken by what we are witnessing, imagine how difficult it must be for our children.

Mr. Hanson deserves my best serious answer to his query, as does my blog writer friend who wanted some honesty about waterboarding. Here is what I truly believe:

Our country will emerge from this dark night, though it does not seem possible to some. In 2009 it will only get better. The kids need to know that. In the future there will again be people in the government who operate with honor and integrity. The students need to be taught that politics is not a dirty word; it is the art of working towards what is possible.

I have seen my share of very fine politicians and presidents. I was born in 1937. I'll name some of the best: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Robert Kennedy, Gerald Ford, and, currently, Senators Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Arlen Specter, and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Representative Christopher Shays, and Lynne Woolsey, to name just a few.

This administration has been a temporary aberration. George W. Bush is the exception to the norm, ill suited to the job. And if you fairly report his actions and behavior, those are facts that speak for themselves, rather than mere Bush-bashing. There is no way you can teach that telling a lie is telling the truth, if you back it up with the facts, for example. Aggression and lawbreaking can never be justified within our tradition of operating under the rule of law. Also remember there were a number of people with integrity who resigned from this administration along the way.

The new president will bring in a whole new set of leaders upon whom I intend to bestow trust. They deserve a fresh start with all of us. And voters will send a new set of legislators to Washington, because I predict a thorough "house-cleaning." This country has a pretty good record of righting itself. These bad days are temporary, not something for which we can blame ourselves, and are confined only to those people who make the scandalous headlines. Many career bureaucrats (again, I use this as an honorable word) labor on year after year, keeping the ship of state upright, the payroll made, the borders guarded, and long-time foreign alliances mended.

Truth be told, water boarding is what it is -- torture, pure and simple. The thing that we all must fight with all our might, both from within ourselves and from the outside, is fear mongering. We do not need to be fearful of a "forever war," or a globally pervasive world of terrorist extremists, or an internal revolution, or a nuclear holocaust, or the invasion of hoards of illegal aliens, or the disintegration of our long-standing democracy.

The best thing I can think of, that is the opposite of fear, are these examples of gutsiness: Women got out of their chairs or cars or wherever they were and went to vote in New Hampshire. And they refused to let the pollsters in on their secrets. And millions of us are still the electors. Look at what those little old blue-haired lady election judges did in South Carolina. They gave people tablet paper for ballots when they ran out. And then they tried to make sure the ballots counted.

Most of us are honest, do the best we can and operate in good faith. This administration is on its way out, a small minority of small people. Their successors will not be perfect. But I believe that they'll do fine by us.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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