October 21, 2006
Eric makes a good point here when he warns us about the ruthlessness of the right-wing machine. This reminds me of the scene in the film Dr. Zhivago as he is standing in front of the partisan tribunal asking to be set free so that he can return to his family. When some argue that he is a good man who has served the group well (even though he was impressed into their service), one voice opines that character doesn't matter and that after the conflict is over all men "will be judged politically." Kevin Tillman's heroism is of no value to these apparatchiks. His worth will be measured by how unquestioningly he will lend his support to those in power.
Landismom makes an important observation that if we Democrats win (especially both houses) a few weeks from now, that is only the start. Let's hope that Pelosi and Reid have put their heads together and there is a true, bold agenda for change. We need
- universal healthcare -- hopefully "Medicare for Everyone",
- a significant raise in the minimum wage -- I'd say to $10/hour, which is about twice poverty-level for a family of four with two full-time breadwinners,
- a sane Iraq policy -- I'd say a phased withdrawal over a couple of years with measurable milestones that the Iraqi government should meet, and
- restoration of habeas corpus -- a 'fixing' or a repeal of the military commissions law.
Bush is meeting with his generals today, and insists that they are only re-thinking the tactics to be used in the Iraq war, not re-assessing the overall strategy. That current strategy is to keep our young men and women in the middle of the fiasco, trying to mitigate against the violence until order suddenly springs from chaos. There are only two ways that chaotic societies like Iraq can become stable: through draconian oppression or through organic evolution. For example, Iraq itself had been stable under a ruthless monster of a dictator until we de-stabilized the society with our invasion. The only way that order can quickly be brought again to that chaos is through tough, restrictive laws that treat everyone as a potential criminal or terrorist. The alternative is necessarily a gradual approach, probably taking decades, where a fairer, more democratic stability could be achieved as everyone in Iraq begins to believes that prosperity and justice can be furthered better through peaceful means than through violence. What informs and undergirds a peaceful society is actually trust -- trust that your neighbor will interact with you fairly and consensually. This trust is not something that can be imposed from without. It grows organically, gradually inside each individual, as one generally begins to see the absence of injustice and coercion in his own everyday circumstances. Once this trust has been broadly established, it is actually difficult to destroy it. So, if our strategy is to mitigate the violence in Iraq such that this trust can increase to a self-sustaining critical mass of peace, we have a very long haul ahead of us. Bush's team may very well have understood all of this -- that it would take decades to build that stable, democratic Iraq. If so, they lied to us.
October 19, 2006
In her recent book Godless, Ann Coulter presents the thesis that American Liberalism is actually a godless religion. In that respect she is half-right. Liberalism is a religion, Christianity, which certainly is not godless. If one boils down Liberalism to its base, it is actually the belief that the individual is strongest when working consensually and cooperatively with others who share similar needs and wants. Christianity, when stripped of the barnacles that have become attached over the centuries, is the belief that when one loves God, loves his neighbor as himself, and treats others as he would like to be treated, something divine and miraculous happens -- justice, peace, and prosperity are furthered. The disinterested self-sufficiency that is lionized by those more to the right of the political spectrum is antithetical to the Spirit of Jesus, who advised the rich to give all of their money to the poor. Critics of Liberalism frequently accuse it of being a watered-down Communism. However, like true Christianity, Liberalism is actually undone by coercion. In both systems, people cooperate with others so that others will cooperate with them -- and everyone benefits.