Sunday, April 01, 2007

April's Fool

My Mum taught me that you should play the game as hard as you can to find out who the better team (or player) is. You do your best and then you find out how good it was. It was perfectly clear that there was never an occasion when cheating would have been justifiable. You could lose honorably but you could never win with honor if you cheated. She would boo anyone, no matter on which team, if they cheated and she would applaud good plays, no matter who made them. There was no doubt which team she was backing but, as it is with most good athletes, she respected worthy opponents. People who have never played sports often don't understand how two competitors can battle each other to exhaustion and then hug each other at the end. But it's not a war, after all -- it's just a competition to see who will win.

While winning the game is better than losing, winning by cheating is worse than losing the game. You can always come back from a loss, but what you lose by cheating is gone forever. However, my Mum and I may not be part of the majority in thinking this way. I remember, in my youth, after stumbling across a kick-back scheme, saying that I would rather go out of business than stay in business by cheating. My boss looked at me and said: Well, Bill, you've got a lot to learn. I'm proud to say that I still haven't learned it. I am still convinced that one does not have to cheat to succeed nor do I believe that one cannot be honest and succeed in politics. There are times when "it's none of your business" or "I can't tell you that" are appropriate answers and that is not being dishonest.

I think if politicians respected the public more, they would be more honest with them. Saying things like: I understand why you feel that way, but I hope you can understand why I can't do what you want. I think that political leaders need to tell the truth more and, in so doing, educate the public about the difficult choices that must be made when managing a group. People need to be convinced not to be so selfish, not to think only of themselves. As JFK said: Ask not for what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. Our self-centered culture tends to praise and reward people's natural selfishness and right-wing politics has rightly been called the politics of selfishness and greed.

As the Rolling Stones sang: "You can't always get what you want" and it's time more people were told that truth instead of being patronized with: sure, whatever you want. Just because a decision was bad for you doesn't make it a bad decision. It's not only about you. You are part of a group and the goal is about what is good for the group and, as much as possible, for its individual members but, invariably, this will involve compromises. People need to learn that compromising is necessary and good. It's all about finding a way to make it work for all of us or, as we should have learned in kindergarten, it's about learning to get along.

I have been struck by the willingness of not just BushCo itself, but of virtually ever Republican, to defend any crime if it was done by a Republican in aid of BushCo's goals, no matter how corrupt. This has been blatantly obvious for the six years that the Republicans controlled Congress and refused to perform any oversight on the increasingly corrupt and incompetent Bush administration. Instead, they acted as enablers of some of the most egregious constitutional violations in American history including ceding to the President the right to imprison Americans without due process or the right of a trial.

Since the Democrats took control of Congress and started to perform some oversight and doing a little investigation, it has become clear just how extensive the corruption was. There is scandal at every turn. It seems that ever single member of BushCo was willing lie, cheat and break the law to benefit "the team". Where are the examples of people who have said: No, this is wrong? Where are the people who have taken a principled stand, at some personal risk, to do the right thing? The closest we find are those who express some doubt about the rightness of what they participated in only after they have left the team -- when it's too late for them to do anything about it.

For more examples of this disgraceful behavior, see Glenn Greenwald's latest post "Your modern-day Republican Party". Greenwald asks: "What kind of American isn't just instinctively repulsed by the notion that the President has the power to imprison Americans with no charges?" Not surprisingly, the answer is "two of the three leading Republican candidates for President". Small wonder when, as Greenwald says:
the hero and icon of the Republican Party over the last six years has, in fact, imprisoned U.S. citizens and insisted that he has the power to throw Americans into black holes indefinitely with no charges or review of any kind.

That is the modern Republican Party. Its base, its ruling factions, simply do not believe in our most basic Constitutional guarantees. For anyone who wants to dispute that, how is it possible to reconcile the above with any claim to the contrary?

And I doubt any Republican candidate could simply stand up and emphatically oppose this grotesque idea without creating real problems for himself among Republican primary voters -- not even so much because executive, due-process-less imprisonment is important to the Republican base, but rather, because it has become a symbol of the Bush presidency, and one shows loyalty to the Movement by defending it (and the worst sin -- disloyalty -- by opposing it).


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