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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I want my country back

Four years ago, 19 Saudis created a watershed in American life when they hijacked four airplanes and used them as weapons of mass destruction to bring down the World Trade Center, damage the Pentagon while ultimately failing to reach their final target because heroic passengers brought the plane down into a field in Pennsylvania.

The world rallied around the United States: The French newspaper Le Monde's headline read "We Are All Americans", The New York Fire Department, devastated by the collapse of the Twin Towers, became the international symbol of heroism. After Osama bin Laden was identified as the mastermind of the plot, the United States geared up for an attack on the country that hosted his terror training camps.

George Walker Bush, a president elected under murky circumstances, rallied the nation by climbing up a debris pile in New York and issuing a defiant promise that America would rebuild New York and avenge this attack.

Four years later, Osama is still in the caves of Afghanistan or Pakistan, despite Bush's defiant challenge to get him "dead or alive" and Republicans have temporarily stopped mocking the French and stopped eating Freedom Fries. We have had false heroes proclaimed and real heroes dishonored.

Four years later, Americans are still dying in Iraq, a sovereign nation invaded on the novel doctrine of pre-emption to oust a leader who had menaced the world in the previous Bush administration and who had slaughtered millions of innocent citizens in an internal reign of terror before, during and after an earlier endless war with neighboring Iran.

But history will record him at the time of the American invasion to be a man with more bark than bite, one who no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction and who had nothing to do with the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, the twin pretexts for war hammered home endlessly by the Bush team, often using questionable "evidence."

Four years later, the world watches with a mixture of shock and awe as the thousands of citizens of the richest nation in the history of the humankind are expected to be found dead after a cataclysmic hurricane struck New Orleans. Impoverished Bangladesh, which once was synonymous with flood devastation, offers relief supplies for residents left behind in Katrina's wake. Residents, who the images clearly show, are overwhelmingly impoverished and black.

How did it come to this? And why is it the anyone who questions the actions of George Bush is urged to watch what you say (or here) or is called a communist? The same fate does not await compassionate conservatives.

It came to this because of a media, once proud, fiercely independent and occasional irresponsible that has morphed into a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America, cowed by decades of a Big Lie that claimed them to be "liberal." Never mind that one of the most influential news voices, Fox News Channel, is run by the same man who ran George Herbert Walker Bush's successful -- and vicious -- presidential campaign.

OK, so they are still more than occasionally irresponsible, devoting endless hours of cable news time to the latest missing attractive white female (1.13 million hits at this writing).

Then there is Congress, that august body that chose to impeach a president because he lied under oath about marital infidelity (set up by a taxpayer-supported $70 million first-of-its kind investigation in US history) but doesn't concern itself with presidential lies about weapons of mass destruction. A body that made passage of tax breaks for millionaires one of its top priorities while ignoring the rape of working people. One that has unflinchingly passed legislation restricting free speech in the name of freedom.

It came to this because of the rise of the radical Religious Right, the Theocons, who began with school boards, and by doing something liberals failed to do, grew into a presence at all levels of government, buying the best lobbyists money can buy.

It came to this because of a conspiracy to topple a duly elected president; because of political operatives who manipulated elections and intimated voters in Florida and Ohio; states purchasing electronic voting equipment from companies run by major Republican donors.

What can be done? Let's hope the bungling, bumbling, criminally negligent response to Hurricane Katrina opens a few more eyes. It's up to liberals to demonstrate the true meaning of patriotism. No, not the faux, flag-waving, lapel pin-wearing variety. We must stand up for what the Bill of Rights and Constitution, call for and what Abraham Lincoln simply declared as a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

How do you do that? Start by holding elected people accountable, from George Bush and Dennis Hastert down to the local city council and school board, to act in OUR interests, not theirs. After all, just a few short years ago Congress thought lying was an impeachable offense.


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