State of the Union For Simpletons
As usual, I stood before the TV screen for the State of the Union address with a small pile of wadded up balls of paper, the better to throw at the screen when an outrageous or simplistic statement was made. Suffice it to say, my arm is now very tired.
First surprise . . . nothing about sending men to the Moon or Mars. But then again, nothing ever came of the hydrogen car chatter either, so perhaps it's not surprising that Mr. Bush avoided bringing up an expensive proposed budget item, particularly when he went to great lengths to chide the Congress about responsible spending. Good thing I wasn't swallowing anything when he announced, with perfect confidence, that such responsible spending could "reduce the budget deficit by 1/2 in five years!" I would surely have choked. This amazing statement was made after the announcement of his intention to introduce several new large request in his proposed budget, and before the announcement of several more.
Much of what our leader said was so black and white, so simplistic, as to preclude critical thinking. There have been no attacks on our soil by terrorists since 9/11 because of our new stance and the homeland security precations we have taken? Well, there were no attacks on US soil for over 200 years before 9/11 either and no homeland security precautions or preemptive attacks during that time either.
The President's continuing explanation for why we should be the target of terrorist attacks is that they "hate freedom." Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that this simplistic notiono is not the reason that these people hate us. The reason is far more complex. That our government refuses to acknowlege this or to take any steps to neutralize or understand the reasons behind attacks or bad press puts all of us in continuing danger and it does not solve the problem. Attacking and hunting down these people simply because they "hate freedom" and might attack us is not a long term solution. Mr. Bush states that our troops and intelligence agencies, in tandem with allies like Pakistan, have captured or killed many of the Al Quaida leaders. Al Quaida is a hydra and unless the root of the problem is addressed, cutting off one head will only bring others to replace it . . . and these will be heads that we will have to discover and identify all over again because they will not be known to us.
Mr. Bush also infered that the bombers and insurgents in Iraq were all Baath party members and supporters of Saddam. Reporters and workers in Iraq have identified many of these people as simple Iraqi citizens who resent anyone occupying their country; many do not like Saddam and are not affiliated with the Baath party. But recognizing these people as "freedom fighters" rather than "insurgents" would make them sympathetic.
Revisionism is a byword of the Bush administration. When Mr. Bush landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier and declared the end of armed conflict, the curators of his website were quick to alter the wording to "major armed conflict" when it became clear that our soldiers were still under attack. When we attacked Iraq, the reason given was that we couldn't wait because Saddam HAD weapons of mass destruction with the capability of hitting our shores. There was no talk about "liberating" Iraq, removing Saddam from power, or bring freedom to the Iraqi people. That came afterward, when fruitless searches for weapons of mass destruction became an embarrassment. Bush's declaration this evening that Iraq is now "free" must be a bitter statement to the typical Iraqi citizen, living in a country occupied by US troops and afraid to make a wrong move or be blown away by a terrified US soldier afraid for his life. I'll add here that I don't blame the US soldier; he is in an impossible situation for which he is poorly equipped by his own government.
Some statements stood out as wickedly ironic: "Weapons of mass murder should not be in the possession of mass murderers" and "Keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous regimes" could be turned upon the US as well as the smaller nations we are demanding disarm. Traditionally, there has been little danger of the US actually using weapons of mass destruction preemptively or otherwise because in years past the world operated in a deterrence mode where the two superpowers understood that if they attacked, it could spell disaster for all. Now that the US maintains the nuclear upper hand, the danger that these weapons can and will be used (and have been, in some cases) is terrifyingly real.
"We have no desire to dominate . . . no dreams of empire," Bush stated, but then added, "Yet we have a special calling." Staff members without as much discretion dubbed this "special calling" a "crusade" before being hushed in the early days of the Bush administration.
In pushing to have his various initiatives reaffirmed, Bush again presented a simplistic comparison: His changes or "the status quo" - what used to be. Anyone with a brain realizes that those are not the only two choices on the block . . . there are many other good ideas that do not qualify as "status quo" or "Bush policies."
While stating that the Congress should be "acting as stewards to taxpayer dollars" Bush again pushed for private personal investment of social security funds. Hardly responsible stewardship.
As the SOU speech neared its conclusion, the imaginary organ music began to swell as the Church invaded State with many a reference and nod toward God's will, God's morality, and the "sanctity of marriage" above all other unions. Without making any direct references to legal homosexual unions, Bush made it clear that it had found any justices who upheld these unions traitors, "pushing" their opinions against the "will of the people." He threatened a Constitutional amendment upholding a religiously-grounded position that restricted the use of the term "marriage" and its concurrent benefits to a "union between a man and a woman."
Not content with this position, he continued, proposing an expensive prison release program which, in itself is not a bad idea, but added that those released would "get mentoring from faith based groups" which he promised would get "codified help" so that the "law won't discriminate against them again!" Never mind that there is a division between church and state and that churches enjoy tax benefits that most of us do not, thus leaving a great many of them in a better position to operate their programs than -- say -- your neighborhood day care center.
One of the only things that upheld me during this perplexing speech was the occasional camera shot of Ted Kennedy, his head in his hands, shaking his head in frustration. While I am no huge fan of Ted Kennedy, I wish he had been the one giving the Democratic rebuttal rather than Nancy Pelosi or Tom Delay, who demonstrated little passion.
Or better yet, a rebuttal by God him/herself would have been extremely satisfying.
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