My Own Little Conspiracy Theory

I honest to God believe Obama was planned. The nasty plutocrats got together at some Skull and Bones meeting and decided to find some desperate, power hungry guy who would look good to liberals and get him to run for President on a platform of change, tell them everything they wanted to hear, knowing full well they would embrace him and ignore the signs that were there all along. In public, the neocons fought him, created the tea party to hate him, riled up everyone to think they were against him, then laughed all the way to the bank. He’s been worse than Bush on just about everything except maybe gay marriage, but because of issues like gay marriage and the fact he told us all what we wanted to hear, we let him get away with it. This is what choosing the lesser of two evils looks like, folks. Get used to it. We were played and from this vantage point, they won.

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The Pretend Society, by S. Brian Willson

This is from the website of S. Brian Willson, and the post is found here.

The Pretend Society

March 5, 2012

I was once a young man, very much like the young men and women who have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan as US military soldiers. I grew up believing in the red, white and blue. I believed that the United States had a sacred mission to spread democracy around the world. Viet Nam was my generation’s war. I did not volunteer, but when I was drafted, I answered the call. It was in Viet Nam that my journey toward a different kind of knowledge began.

One hot sunny morning in April 1969 I found myself in a small Mekong Vietnamese fishing village that had just been bombed, burned bodies lying everywhere. My job in that moment was to assess the success of bombing missions of so-called military targets. In my naivete, it never occurred to me that the countless targets, systematically being bombed, were undefended, inhabited rice farming and fishing villages. In effect, all that mattered was the creation of “enemy” body counts – lots of them – Washington’s demonic criteria for defining “success.” I was overwhelmed in grief as I looked into the eyes of young, napalmed, blackened mothers with children – hundreds of them – lying in their own village 9,000 miles distant from my sleepy farm community in upstate New York. I gagged when I witnessed these horrible scenes of carnage, and later became enraged at the incomprehensible lie that I had so easily believed in.

What on earth was going on? Americans were taught that among nations we were unique: a nation of laws, not of men. In one shamefully startling moment in a Vietnamese village, I realized I had been brainwashed, mesmerized by US American mythology. I was overcome by an irreversible knowledge that a huge lie had been perpetrated by men in open defiance of the laws of the land at the expense of countless innocent people.

I futilely demanded that my superiors in Saigon headquarters stop the bombing that violated both US and international laws of warfare prohibiting targeting of civilians or their infrastructure. My pleas were summarily ignored, confirming that in fact there are no laws of war. The pilots of these planes were rewarded for their routinely successful turkey shoots at 300 feet, while other young men back in the states were jailed for burning the national symbol that represented this very policy of burning human beings – the US flag.

The vast majority of US citizenry were paying taxes to finance this grotesquely criminal war, absurdly touted by political, religious, economic and many academic leaders as necessary to protect our national security by destroying other, far-away people’s aspirations for independence. I staggered at how preposterous and racist this policy was. Later I learned that Ralph McGehee, a CIA officer in Viet Nam, had revealed intelligence that could find no significant support for our intervention there. McGehee became depressed when his bosses in Washington reported exactly the opposite to the US American public. He reluctantly concluded that the CIA is the covert action arm of the President’s foreign policy advisers which reports and shapes “intelligence” to justify desired political policy.

This basic lie has been with us since our country’s origins. We ignore the fundamental fact that the US was built on dispossession and genocide of hundreds of ancient nations of Indigenous peoples, describing ourselves as being “as a city upon a hill,” and later as an “exceptional” people. We celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday that was first officially proclaimed by the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637 to commemorate the massacre of 700 Pequot men, women and children at what is now Groton, Connecticut. Today, Groton is the home of the Electric Boat Corporation which makes US nuclear submarines. Thus, our official life as a nation is constructed on a shared denial of painful realities and the suffering they created, and continue to create. Denial as a way of life is politics in US America.

Even our founding document, the Constitution, is suspect. The Convention was conducted by 55 well-to-do White men meeting in strict secrecy, and the document was never submitted to a popular vote. Domination by a very few men and the subordination of the many was made the law of the land, in effect, assuring that inherited property replaced inherited government, commercial enterprises reigning over human liberty. However, that is not how it is taught. As we persist in believing the lie that it is “we the people” and not “we the largest property owners” who govern this country, we assure our continued disempowerment.

For more than two centuries, the process of preserving and expanding private property and profits under the lofty rhetoric of living in a democracy has been assured by over 560 US military interventions in more than 100 countries, murdering millions of people. I did not know this history when I was in Viet Nam. One discovers deceit and secrecy surrounding every one of these foreign interventions (necessary to assure public support), starting with the very first intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1798 and through all of our wars and interventions to the present ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. World War II was no exception. Journalist Robert B. Stinnett discovered similar deceit behind US entrance into World War II, the so-called “good war.” His research confirms that not only was the attack on Pearl Harbor known in advance at the highest levels from decoded Japanese intelligence, but it was deliberately provoked.

Psychologist Carl Jung has described how the psychology of nations with imperial ambitions successfully hides its dark internal “shadows” (harsh truths) by projecting outward its own evils onto other nations described as enemies (“demons”): Everything our nation does is touted as good, everything the “enemy” does is evil. But many of us obedient soldiers who participated first hand in these imperial wars of good versus evil had these projections quickly stripped from our eyes. We discovered in fact that we were the savages, not those lying dead at our feet in their home villages whom we had been taught to demonize.

It is easy to identify our nation’s shadows by carefully examining the images we project onto others. But if we continue to maintain a dangerous, distorted vision of the world, we assure protection of our moral high-mindedness at the expense of severely weakening our grasp of reality. We ensure our own destruction unless we muster the courage to look at our own dark shadows, whether as individuals or nations. Instead, we pretend, endlessly.

How many of our citizens know of the systematic crimes committed by the US throughout the world that have been constant, remorseless, and fully documented? As British playwright and Nobel Prize recipient Harold Pinter angrily comments: “Nobody talks about them…It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”  The US just wouldn’t be involved in such criminal interventions any more than our origins are built upon dispossession and genocide.

Over 100 years ago, noted US socialist and reformer Upton Sinclair bemoaned our corrupt political and media system, and his words still ring true: “…we are just like Rome. Our legislatures are corrupt; our politicians are unprincipled; our rich men are ambitious and unscrupulous. Our newspapers have been purchased and gagged; our colleges have been bribed; our churches have been cowed. Our masses are sinking into degradation and misery; our ruling classes are becoming wanton and cynical.”

Pretending to be democratic takes a lot of effort

This harsh political reality has required the constant managing of the “public” mind to assure mass “democratic” compliance with the undemocratic oligarchic economic and political structures. Pretending to be democratic takes a lot of effort. Edward L. Bernays, the premier pioneer of US public relations, argued that the ability to shape and direct public opinion had become indispensable to the maintenance of order. President Woodrow Wilson was re-elected in 1916 on the promise that he would keep the US neutral, and would not send “American” boys to war in Europe. Once elected, however, ongoing pressures from US banking and other economic interests to enter the war on the side of England required Wilson to develop a strategy to convince a public overwhelmingly against the war to change their minds. With Bernays’ coaching, Wilson created the first modern de facto Minister for Propaganda, selecting liberal newspaperman George Creel to head up The Committee for Public Information (CPI). Creel launched an intense advertising campaign using catch phrases and fear-inducing language with 75,000 traveling speakers (the famous Four Minute Men), ads, and essays reaching every nook and cranny of the United States.

Fifty years later, as noted above, CIA officers realized during Viet Nam that another war was being stage managed from Washington, as the Vietnamese were telling us they understandably wanted no part of our imperial ambitions. This is systematically documented in the Pentagon Papers, released in 1971 by Pentagon insider Daniel Ellsberg.

Now, in the 21st Century we increasingly discover that the so-called War on Terror – actually a war of wholesale terror on retail terror, is itself stage managed, as Stephan Salisbury describes in his excellent expose, Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland. “The plain fact is that if there is no ‘enemy within,’ if ‘homegrown’ cells are not simply elusive but an illusion – as appears increasingly to be the case – then the entire apparatus of the war on terror crumbles in the homeland…What can be imagined has replaced the actual.”

Brazilian educator Paulo Freire observed that manipulation of public thinking “is an instrument of conquest” and an indispensable means by which the “dominant elites try to conform the masses to their objectives.” Everything is make believe; honesty is dangerous. Wars abroad and wars at home must be constantly stage managed to keep the pretentions alive. Our national news constantly stage manages events to conform to our convenient view of ourselves as “exceptional.” Infotainment replaces information.

Eminent quantum physicist David Bohm summed up our dilemma perfectly. Since exploitation continues to be the essential feature of a modern society bent on accumulation of “wealth,” and its popular consumption, man is doomed to ever-increasing confusion, for he has to justify this theft to himself. “This is in fact impossible, except by continual recourse to confusion. For how else can you justify the arbitrary authority of some people over others? You can pretend that God or nature ordered it, that the others are inferior, that we are superior, etc. But once you start on this line, you can never allow yourself to think straight again, for fear that the truth will come out. You tell the child that she or he must be honest, treat people fairly, etc. Just this one point is enough to destroy the minds of most children. How can you square up the emotion of love and truth with that of plundering an enemy, stealing his wealth, murdering helpless people, and enslaving others?”

Viet Nam was not a mistake any more than the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars were a mistake. There neither was or is anything different about these wars. They are part of a pattern of brutality written into our country’s DNA. The long pattern of US intervention policy does not make atrocities by individual soldiers inevitable, but it does make it inevitable that US soldiers as a whole would murder many civilians. Currently, Army private Bradley Manning is accused of revealing to the public numerous and egregious US war crimes in Iraq (the truth). He has been incarcerated for nearly two years awaiting a trial that military judicial authorities say promises life in prison or possibly death. This dramatically contrasts with the recent exoneration (pretend), with no jail time, by that same military system, of eight US Marines, four of whom were officers, of cold-blooded murder of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq, aged one year to 76 years, shooting them at close range in the head and chest. The evil of the US simply does not occur.

Since the first European settlers raped, pillaged, and massacred the local Indian populations in order to claim the land for themselves, we in the United States have felt it our manifest destiny as exceptional people to gain ever more material goods, even at the expense of anyone and everyone else, and the earth. We continue to treat others as inferiors. We are told that these human beings are demons – vermin – which we could only absurdly believe because we as a people have not yet found the courage to look within and discover our own inner darkness – our own vermin – that festers from believing in the lies of our national myths, that we are the “exceptional” people.

I can never forget the eyes I saw on mother’s faces as they clutched their children when they were caught by the bombs exploding in their villages. In a sudden moment of truth, I realized we are all connected. If we continue to pretend that we are not connected, we invite our own destruction, even extinction. How sad that we would pretend rather than be honest, and become real. Living in a pretend world assures that countless more men, women and children, here and abroad, will continue to be considered as worthless, as the power of the few continue their plunder. Our survival demands that we seek courage to examine our own shadows, rather than cowardly project those shadows onto others, and thus begin peeling back the layers of deception to recover our humanity.

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REFERENCES Cited:

Ralph W. McGehee, Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA (New York: Sheridan Square Publications, 1983), 192.

Robert B. Stinnett, Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (New York: The Free Press, 2000).

Harold Pinter, Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics, 1948–1998” (New York: Grove Press, 1998), 237.

Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books, 1996), 49.

Stephan Salisbury, Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland (New York: Nation Books, 2010), 1–28.

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Herder and Herder, 1971), 144.

Lee Nichol, ed., The Essential David Bohm (London: Routledge, 2000), 217.

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S. Brian Willson is the author of “Blood on the Tracks-The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson” (PM Press, 2011). Willson is a Viet Nam veteran whose wartime experiences transformed him into a revolutionary nonviolent pacifist. He gained renown as a participant in a prominent 1986 veterans fast on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. One year later, on September 1, 1987, he was again thrust into the public eye when he was run over and nearly killed by a U.S. Navy Munitions train while engaging in a nonviolent blockade in protest of weapons shipments to El Salvador. Since the 1980s he has continued efforts to educate the public about the diabolical nature of U.S. imperialism while striving to “walk his talk” (on two prosthetic legs and a three-wheeled handcycle) and live a simpler life.

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Why I Won’t Vote ~by W.E.B. Dubois

by W.E.B. Dubois

On October 20, 1956, W.E.B. Dubois delivered this eloquent indictment of US politics and why he would not vote in the upcoming Presidential election. Dubois condemns both Democrats and Republicans for their indifferent positions on the influence of corporate wealth, racial inequality, arms proliferation and unaffordable health care. The article appeared in The Nation.  This article is absolutely fitting today and sums up my feelings pretty much exactly.

Why I Won’t Vote, by W.E.B. Dubois

This article was republished in Hartford Web Publishing.

Since I was twenty-one in 1889, I have in theory followed the voting plan strongly advocated by Sidney Lens in The Nation of August 4, i.e., voting for a third party even when its chances were hopeless, if the main parties were unsatisfactory; or, in absence of a third choice, voting for the lesser of two evils. My action, however, had to be limited by the candidates’ attitude toward Negroes. Of my adult life, I have spent twenty-three years living and teaching in the South, where my voting choice was not asked. I was disfranchised by law or administration. In the North I lived in all thirty-two years, covering eight Presidential elections. In 1912 I wanted to support Theodore Roosevelt, but his Bull Moose convention dodged the Negro problem and I tried to help elect Wilson as a liberal Southerner. Under Wilson came the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that we had experienced since the Civil War. In 1916 I took Hughes as the lesser of two evils. He promised Negroes nothing and kept his word. In 1920, I supported Harding because of his promise to liberate Haiti. In 1924, I voted for La Follette, although I knew he could not be elected. In 1928, Negroes faced absolute dilemma. Neither Hoover nor Smith wanted the Negro vote and both publicly insulted us. I voted for Norman Thomas and the Socialists, although the Socialists had attempted to Jim Crow Negro members in the South. In 1932 I voted for Franklin Roosevelt, since Hoover was unthinkable and Roosevelt’s attitude toward workers most realistic. I was again in the South from 1934 until 1944. Technically I could vote, but the election in which I could vote was a farce. The real election was the White Primary.

Retired “for age” in 1944, I returned to the North and found a party to my liking. In 1948, I voted the Progressive ticket for Henry Wallace and in 1952 for Vincent Hallinan.

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party. On the Presidential ballot in a few states (seventeen in 1952), a “Socialist” Party will appear. Few will hear its appeal because it will have almost no opportunity to take part in the campaign and explain its platform. If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by “force and violence.” Anything he advocates by way of significant reform will be called “Communist” and will of necessity be Communist in the sense that it must advocate such things as government ownership of the means of production; government in business; the limitation of private profit; social medicine, government housing and federal aid to education; the total abolition of race bias; and the welfare state. These things are on every Communist program; these things are the aim of socialism. Any American who advocates them today, no matter how sincerely, stands in danger of losing his job, surrendering his social status and perhaps landing in jail. The witnesses against him may be liars or insane or criminals. These witnesses need give no proof for their charges and may not even be known or appear in person. They may be in the pay of the United States Government. A.D.A.’s and “Liberals” are not third parties; they seek to act as tails to kites. But since the kites are self-propelled and radar-controlled, tails are quite superfluous and rather silly.

The present Administration is carrying on the greatest preparation for war in the history of mankind. Stevenson promises to maintain or increase this effort. The weight of our taxation is unbearable and rests mainly and deliberately on the poor. This Administration is dominated and directed by wealth and for the accumulation of wealth. It runs smoothly like a well-organized industry and should do so because industry runs it for the benefit of industry. Corporate wealth profits as never before in history. We turn over the national resources to private profit and have few funds left for education, health or housing. Our crime, especially juvenile crime, is increasing. Its increase is perfectly logical; for a generation we have been teaching our youth to kill, destroy, steal and rape in war; what can we expect in peace? We let men take wealth which is not theirs; if the seizure is “legal” we call it high profits and the profiteers help decide what is legal. If the theft is “illegal” the thief can fight it out in court, with excellent chances to win if he receives the accolade of the right newspapers. Gambling in home, church and on the stock market is increasing and all prices are rising. It costs three times his salary to elect a Senator and many millions to elect a President. This money comes from the very corporations which today are the government. This in a real democracy would be enough to turn the party responsible out of power. Yet this we cannot do.

The “other” party has surrendered all party differences in foreign affairs, and foreign affairs are our most important affairs today and take most of our taxes. Even in domestic affairs how does Stevenson differ from Eisenhower? He uses better English than Dulles, thank God! He has a sly humor, where Eisenhower has none. Beyond this Stevenson stands on the race question in the South not far from where his godfather Adlai stood sixty-three years ago, which reconciles him to the South. He has no clear policy on war or preparation for war; on water and flood control; on reduction of taxation; on the welfare state. He wavers on civil rights and his party blocked civil rights in the Senate until Douglas of Illinois admitted that the Democratic Senate would and could stop even the right of Senators to vote. Douglas had a right to complain. Three million voters sent him to the Senate to speak for them. His voice was drowned and his vote nullified by Eastland, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who was elected by 151,000 voters. This is the democracy in the United States which we peddle abroad.

Negroes hope to muster 400,000 votes in 1956. Where will they cast them? What have the Republicans done to enforce the education decision of the Supreme Court? What they advertised as fair employment was exactly nothing, and Nixon was just the man to explain it. What has the Administration done to rescue Negro workers, the most impoverished group in the nation, half of whom receive less than half the median wage of the nation, while the nation sends billions abroad to protect oil investments and help employ slave labor in the Union of South Africa and the Rhodesias? Very well, and will the party of Talmadge, Eastland and Ellender do better than the Republicans if the Negroes return them to office?

I have no advice for others in this election. Are you voting Democratic? Well and good; all I ask is why? Are you voting for Eisenhower and his smooth team of bright ghost writers? Again, why? Will your helpless vote either way support or restore democracy to America?

Is the refusal to vote in this phony election a counsel of despair? No, it is dogged hope. It is hope that if twenty-five million voters refrain from voting in 1956 because of their own accord and not because of a sly wink from Khrushchev, this might make the American people ask how much longer this dumb farce can proceed without even a whimper of protest. Yet if we protest, off the nation goes to Russia and China. Fifty-five American ministers and philanthropists are asking the Soviet Union “to face manfully the doubts and promptings of their conscience.” Can not these do-gooders face their own consciences? Can they not see that American culture is rotting away: our honesty, our human sympathy; our literature, save what we import from abroad? Our only “review” of literature has wisely dropped “literature” from its name. Our manners are gone and the one thing we want is to be rich – to show off. Success is measured by income. University education is for income, not culture, and is partially supported by private industry. We are not training poets or musicians, but atomic engineers. Business is built on successful lying called advertising. We want money in vast amount, no matter how we get it. So we have it, and what then?

Is the answer the election of 1956? We can make a sick man President and set him to a job which would strain a man in robust health. So he dies, and what do we get to lead us? With Stevenson and Nixon, with Eisenhower and Eastland, we remain in the same mess. I will be no party to it and that will make little difference. You will take large part and bravely march to the polls, and that also will make no difference. Stop running Russia and giving Chinese advice when we cannot rule ourselves decently. Stop yelling about a democracy we do not have. Democracy is dead in the United States. Yet there is still nothing to replace real democracy. Drop the chains, then, that bind our brains. Drive the money-changers from the seats of the Cabinet and the halls of Congress. Call back some faint spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln, and when again we can hold a fair election on real issues, let’s vote, and not till then. Is this impossible? Then democracy in America is impossible.

Torture is Treason

This piece was published on Huffington Post.  To see it there, go here. If you like it Buzz me up.

The human rights abuse in torture is inherent and obvious, but its implications to our society are ultimately worse.  In the context of terror, when our country tortures those accused of terrorist crimes, we create a climate where others sympathize with the torture victim, taking the focus away from the victims of the terrorist act.  Whether the tortured committed the crime or not becomes secondary to the sympathy felt for the torture victim.  In addition, the fact alone that someone was tortured, even if the confession is coincidentally true, harms any reputation we have of democracy or rule of law and motivates others to retaliation.  Worse, torture confounds the state’s ability to prosecute those who have harmed it.  If we end up freeing someone because they confessed to a crime under torture, it is possible we are allowing someone guilty, someone who genuinely sought to harm us, to go free.  If we prosecute them based on the elicited confessions, we could be punishing the innocent.  We never really know the truth.  In the end, torture makes the original crime against us secondary.

I followed the Daniel Pearl case, then I watched the movie of his wife’s story, A Mighty Heart.  It was brilliantly done.  The filmmakers managed to capture the complexity of the various agencies, organizations, and governments working to find Daniel Pearl. After Pearl’s death, several people were arrested and one man, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, has been sentenced to death, although with his multiple appeals, it is questionable whether he will ever suffer his sentence.  One aspect of his appeals has been the confession by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the actual killings.  Seems a reasonable explanation.

Except what is true?  Did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed really kill Daniel Pearl?  How could we ever know considering we now have the torture memos released by the CIA detailing the atrocities against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others, including his being waterboarded 183 times in one month (see story here).  It leaves me wondering whether he really committed any of the crimes and whether his confessions were valid.   Maybe he did it.  Maybe he didn’t.  We can’t know because the confessions were tortured out of him.

Daniel Pearl’s murder wasn’t the only crime to which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed.  He also apparently oversaw the 9/11 attacks, the shoe bomb attack, the Bali nightclub attack, the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, as well as others.  His under-torture confessions to such a long list of infamous crimes make the likelihood seem even more dubious.  Yet the possibility is there–it is the torture that causes interference.  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s case is a brilliant example of the dangers of torture to a free and just society.  Not only does it call into question just how free and just we really are, it leaves us wondering who really did what.  We can’t trust anyone, least of all ourselves.

I have heard the primary arguments on both sides regarding whether or not to convict the agents and members of the Bush administration responsible for carrying out the torture.  All of these arguments have centered on whether the actions were justified, as well as on the repugnance of the acts themselves.  I would argue we need to take the discussion a step further.  While torture clearly constitutes human rights abuse, I would argue that it is also a form of treason.

In the United States, treason is the giving of aid and comfort to our enemies.  If torture keeps us from fully prosecuting those enemies, then the torturers themselves are in conspiracy with them, thereby giving them aid and comfort. Torture policies as a whole put our entire country in jeopardy.  It is a form of disloyalty to us inasmuch as we are left even more unsafe, not only from those who would harm us, but also from our inability to discover the truth and prosecute the criminals.  It creates a disintegration of our most fundamental values.  If a person actually commits an act of terror and is then tortured to extract a confession, his guilt will be questioned because of the torture and he may be allowed free.  This person is then free to terrorize us again, but this time he is likely angrier because of the torture he has suffered, leaving us in even greater danger.  Torture, those who ordered it and those who carried it out, caused this.  Allowing torture as an accepted policy of the United States and our failure to prosecute those responsible for it renders our democracy and our rule of law meaningless.

We Don’t Need That

This piece can be seen on Huffington Post. If you like it, buzz me up. Thanks.

A couple of days ago I received several emails forwarding the video of Sarah Palin being booed at the hockey game.  I watched as she stepped onto the ice with her children, boos resounding from the highest bleachers, fans waving thumbs down signs in her direction.  While I shared their sentiment, I also felt sad and sort of sorry for her, standing there with her daughters at her side, the one child so small, tossed into a giant mess of which she can have no understanding.

A few days before I received as many emails forwarding the video of the angry mobs outside the McCain rally.  I felt a similar discomfort at the sight, a vague sense of unease and knowing that even though I disagreed with their views, it felt wrong to display these people in all their rage and ignorance.

Today a friend sent me an email containing the photo of a man above.  I asked myself, What kind of fear leads a man to become this person?  What has happened in his life that this is what he believes?

This photo is being sent around to horrified liberals, an excellent representative of the trainwreck display this election has become, but I see no one asking these simple questions, trying to understand the minds of the humans on the other side.

Every day I open my email to dozens of new notices from well-meaning friends pointing out the obvious level of new lows in this campaign.  We have gotten to the point where we take hideous and superior delight in the stumbles on the other side, react in anger at the latest new lies, and laugh and point fingers at angry right-wingers screaming and acting like lunatics.  We do this, seeming to miss the hypocrisy in our own schadenfreude.

The level of simply bad behavior is evident on both sides.  I certainly do not advocate bending over and taking it in the backside, but what about our own fundamental human decency?  Are any of us on either side able to see where the other is coming from?  Are any of us able to have some compassion?

I am especially disturbed by the videos of McCain supporters screaming hateful obscenities and photos of men like the one described above, not only because of the behavior of the people in them, but because decent people I know are forwarding them on to laugh at and criticize.  This election has turned into so much us versus them.  Each side is demonizing the other.  None of this will get us anywhere that solves any of our very large, very real problems.

We receive and pass on videos of the candidates.  See our candidate?  See how good he is? Then we get a video from the other side.  See their candidate?  See how horrible he is? And while I absolutely might agree with what is being shown, I keep coming back to the belief that all this bickering and finger-pointing is doing absolutely nothing to elevate the common good.  In fact I am afraid that all of this fighting is going to lead to an all-out war among ourselves regardless which candidate is elected.  Unless and until we actually do start seeing ourselves as part of one country in this together, until we start to recognize all our humanity, we are going to dissolve in destruction and violence.  This is a very real and frightening possibility.

I know it sounds simplistic, but it is possible to focus on the issues and get this country back on track if we all start acting with a bit more civility and stop making of fun of people who must be experiencing real inner turmoil and fear to act the way they do.  We just have to take the initiative, stop passing around hate mail, and focus on what really matters.

This morning I watched a video of Obama giving a speech at a rally in Ohio.  When he mentioned John McCain, members of the audience started to boo.  “We don’t need that,” Obama said calmly. “We just need to vote, that’s what we need to do.”

Barack Obama is right.  We don’t need that.  Regardless who wins this election, we all have the very real job of putting this country back together again.  We simply cannot do it if we’re all fighting each other.

Lowering the Glass Ceiling

See this piece on Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lara-m-gardner/lowering-the-glass-ceilin_b_128346.html

I would like to take you on a journey of the imagination…

Imagine that Sarah Palin is not a woman, but a man.  We’ll call him Mr. Palin.  Mr. Palin has been mayor of a small town in Alaska, and governor of that state for less than two years, a state whose entire population is less than that of most US major metropolitan areas and in this position.  In this position, Mr. Palin is being investigated for questionable conduct.  Imagine that he obtained his passport within the last couple of years, and that he considers foreign policy experience living next door to another country.  Take it further and imagine he believes the earth was created in a few thousand years, that dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans, and that creationism should be taught in public schools.  Suppose also that this man believes women should not have the right to choose, and that rape victims should pay for their own rape kits.  Imagine Mr. Palin hunted moose from a helicopter and sought removal of environmental protections for polar bears. Imagine he has no knowledge of financial markets, the cold war, weapons systems, or Middle Eastern history.  Imagine all of this and more.

If this were true, and Sarah Palin were a man, would he have even been on the longest list of potential US vice-presidential candidates for any political party?  It would be unthinkable.

Why are the standards for this woman running for vice-president so much lower than they would be for a man?  Shouldn’t the standards be the same?  To determine whether someone did not get a job because of something other than merit, simply slip whatever that person is not into the position in your mind and ask yourself whether the same standards would apply.  If there are disparities in the standards required between two people seeking the same position, it is quite likely that discrimination is occurring in some form, even if it is allowing someone to be worse at something in an effort to pretend there is no -ism taking place.

Here, we have a woman running for vice-president who is grossly underqualified.  Those who support her claim that her position as a vice-presidential candidate is evidence of women shattering the glass ceiling.  Actually, the opposite is true.  Allowing her to take a position for which she is not qualified and giving her extra points for being a woman is the ultimate in sexism:  it is using gender as a qualifier rather than merit.  Beyond the obvious arguments against her abilities, her position as a vice-presidential candidate assumes on some level that a qualified woman could not perform the job.  Sarah Palin’s place on the Republican ticket does not shatter the glass ceiling, it lowers it.

My Response to a Comment

Some person commented on the letter I posted written by Lyra Kilston and Quinn Latimer.  In the letter, Kilston and Latimer make several statements about Sarah Palin.  They then ask that those who agree Palin is the wrong choice for VP and that she is not representative of women send them a statement to this effect. It was their intention to take all such statements and create a blog with all of the statements they receive.  I posted the letter because I fundamentally agree with the premise that Palin is wrong for VP and wanted to allow others who agree to add their voices to the mix.

The commentator stated that I lose “credibility” when I publish something that isn’t the truth.  On that point, I agree.  If I am asserting something factual and it is wrong or inaccurate, I lose credibility in my assertion.  I also agree that I should fact check something before I publish it.  (Incidentally, I did check to ensure the purported letter writers had in fact written and disseminated the letter.)  However, my issue with the commentator and the reason I am responding via blog post is to point out that I did not allege anything other than that I agreed with the letter writers.  How could I fact check my own opinion or lose credibility when I have not attempted to persuade anyone of anything that would require my words be reliable?  I have little doubt that the comment writer intended that I somehow lose credibility by agreeing with persons she claims make inaccurate statements, yet I reassert my original assertion:  I agree with the letter writers.  No one should have any reason to disbelieve this assertion.  Does anyone think that in posting this letter I might actually want Sarah Palin for vice-president?  I seriously doubt it.

The fundamental point of the Kilston Latimer letter is that Sarah Palin is wrong for the vice-presidency and that although she has a vagina, she does not represent American women.  They wanted to create a statement by women saying as much.  Because I find Palin’s positions on a number of issues to be completely reprehensible, I wanted to add my words to this statement.  I wholeheartedly believe that Sarah Palin is the wrong choice for vice-president of the United States.  She may not have taken the steps necessary to successfully ban books in her library, but she asked what would happen if she tried (per factcheck.org).  Yet her position on certain books is the tip of the iceberg as far as I’m concerned.  Her lack of education and experience, her methods for management, her perspective on the environment, her religious views, her previous actions while in office as mayor and governor, as well as so much more all compile to create what I perceive as a disaster should the unthinkable happen and she and McCain are elected.  If there is any doubt as to my credibility in holding this opinion, I hope this post puts it to rest.