Posts Tagged ‘torture’

A wonderful performance

February 1, 2009

Last evening we saw a wonderful performance of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. In the program notes were comments by the director, Paul Mason Barnes. Included was this statement:

In the year 2009, when religious fanaticism at home and abroad, separation of church and state, and the use of torture as a means to a political end are central issues of our time – and when, as Shaw would have it, the most amount of damage is rendered by the most fearful and least imaginative among us, Saint Joan becomes a transcendent and revelatory play.

Our nation’s policies when given voice to and implemented by “… the most fearful and least imaginative among us, …”  have caused us seemingly unending grief. I sincerely hope that a greater wisdom will prevail as we move forward over the next several years.

Feed more oats to the horses

September 13, 2008

The energy being generated among the uninformed and/or fearful seems, once again, to be influencing the way the country might go in the fall election. This is reminiscent of the 2004 campaign when the terrorist-on-every-doorstep ploy seemed to work, and every other word was 9/11. But lies and distortion are in play again. How much more of a mess does our country need to be in before someone is held accountable?

An underlying thread in one camp is a selfish indifference to the plight of the “other” and the common good. Many of those yelling a thoughtless “drill baby drill” are immersed in a myopia that is on the verge of being frightening.

These are the folks who fought social security, Medicare, women’s rights and the rights of others … whatever their socio-economic difference may be. There is no end to the benefits worth keeping for oneself, and to heck with everyone else.

I prefer the following for an administration to lead our country:

  • One where there is a philosophy and thoughtfulness involved in answering questions and addressing issues rather than an unwavering ideological certitude.
  • One where others are listened to. For example, listening to those who have invaded and have been invaded, have occupied and have been occupied, have imposed their ways upon other cultures in paternalistic colonial fashion … and remember how well that was received.
  • One who would ask the people in Coventry, Dresden, Hiroshima, Tokyo for guidance when someone knocks down a couple of building full of people. What would be a proportional response? How many hundreds of thousands of innocents must be killed in return?
  • One where an energy policy would be one of “How can we use less?” rather than “How can we get more?”
  • One that thinks beyond the next closing bell, the next quarterly earnings report, the next congressional election, the next presidential election.
  • One that understands long term to mean the length of one’s formal education, or one’s retirement years, or one’s work life, or one’s child-bearing years.
  • One that understands that the United States of America is a global partner, not a global bully. Or to, at the very least, understand what a “world leader” is called to do on behalf of the common good.
  • One that understands that unprovoked aggression is criminal, that torture is a violation of everything America has stood for, that maintaining our security at the expense of our liberties is inexcusable.
  • One that understands that tax credits , no matter how large, to buy health care coverage don’t do much for those who are barely getting by and pay little to no taxes.
  • One that sees trickle-down economics to be as foolish as the old saw, “If the birds are starving, feed more oats to the horses.” The imagery, by the way, becomes more apt the longer one reflects.

Nevertheless, I love that flag

July 3, 2008

Tuesday I put out our flag for the rest of the week and through Sunday. What a glorious sight, the red, white and blue against the green of the oak tree and the clear blue sky. It is doubtful that I will ever tire of seeing our country’s flag hoisted aloft into the breeze.

I wonder, though, how the sight of our nation’s symbol could have taken on such a distaste for me following 9/11 when one could find it plastered everywhere. Oh, how I wish the flag had been displayed out of a sense of patriotism. But the patriots I knew weren’t brandishing the flag anywhere and everywhere. Instead, I perceived the flag’s being displayed out of a selfish vengeance, out of a “you-can’t-do-that-to-us because we are the leader of the free world” mentality. People seemed to be in a mood to form a posse rather than ask any critical questions about why such a thing as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon could have happened. Everywhere you looked, God was being asked to bless our sense of outrage.

Afghanistan I could understand, sort of. But it is a mystery as to why we didn’t listen to other countries prior to starting the Iraq war. We have a couple of buildings knocked down and go absolutely nuts. Those who have had thousands of buildings bombed and destroyed, have had hundreds of thousands of their civilians killed, have invaded and been invaded, have occupied and been occupied, were simply blown off as being unaware of the dangers of today’s world. Who turned out to be the ones unaware? We acted like a spoiled person of privilege who might think it appropriate to burn down a neighbor’s house full of people because one of their kids did a lawn job on some new zoysia. No understanding, no proportionality, no seeking of advice, just thoughtless revenge and indifference to what might follow.

How did we get into this? I’m reminded of a quote from Bruce Catton’s This Hallowed Ground as the drumbeat to war was unfolding in the 1850s:

There is a rowdy strain in American life, living close to the surface but running very deep. Like an ape behind a mask, it can display itself suddenly with terrifying effect. It is slack-jawed, with leering eyes and loose wet lips, with heavy feet and ponderous cunning hands; now and then, when something tickles it, it guffaws, and when it is made angry it snarls; and it can be aroused much more easily than it can be quieted. … and when it comes lumbering forth it can make the whole country step in time to its own frantic irregular pulse-beat.

History has quite a sense of humor to have all this going on at a time when the Oval Office is devoid of any wisdom or sensibilities. Meanwhile, the Congress simply nods away as though mindless of all that America had stood for up to that date in 2001. Here we sit in 2008 with an energy crisis and no plan, the economy is tanking, real wages are in decline for those most in need.  We have a reputation as a torturer and invader of sovereign nations without provocation, as a killer of thousands of innocents because we are worried about our gluttonous need for oil. We have a government willing to spy on its own citizens. It seems that anything goes unless it is for the common good of either our own citizens or those of other nations.

To me, patriotism is loving our country enough to expect more than we are currently getting out of our national leaders. Thinking everything the government does is wonderful isn’t patriotism, it’s just being lazy, uninformed, and afraid to think about our responsibilities in the world. There has to be a better way for us to share our space on this planet. It seems, however, that we’d rather seal the borders … except for unloading oil tankers or shipping stuff to China … and tell the rest of the world what to do while not realizing we have lost our voice.

Nevertheless, I love that flag and all that it has stood for and can stand for. This time will pass, but we will be damned lucky if we escape the foolishness of these past eight years.