LIBS! CONS! For Once, Don’t Screw Up the Celebration!

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Happy Americans--not happy liberals or happy conservatives

CONSERVATIVE SYCHOPHANT:  You liberals have no business giving Obama credit for killing Osama bin Ladin.  If you had your way, we would have quit the War on Terror years ago.

LIBERAL APOLOGIST:  Obama finished what Bush and the conservatives couldn’t.  You all had your chance to get him, and you blew it.  Get on your knees and kiss Obama’s butt, once and for all. 

CON:  We all know liberals hate America and were rooting for bin Laden all along.  You bitched and whined for eight years, and now you’re suddenly on the bandwagon.  Who do you think you are? 

LIB:  And we all know you’re going to say Obama didn’t really get bin Laden, that this is all a lie, a hoax, a counterfeit.  Are you going to demand to see bin Laden’s birth certificate as well? 

CON:  Osama, Obama, you know they’re the same kind of cat.  You know Barack Hussein Obama is hiding something, admit it. 

LIB:  The only thing we’ll admit to is that we live in a country where too many people who just happen to be right-wingers will stretch themselves into any shape necessary to undermine a president who was voted in with a majority. 

President Obama hadn’t even stepped into the East Room at the White House to deliver his statement that American forces successfully killed Osama bin Laden.  The political partisans were already on Facebook, delivering their shots at one another, trying to score points over one another.  Rigor mortis hasn’t even set in on the body of the leader of Al-Qaeda, and already the hacks are trying to make this event just another round in the never-ending nitpicking duel that defines American politics. 

Watching CNN tonight (as I often due when there’s news to be had), I witnessed the crowd gathering at the White House fence, slowly growing in size, becoming more and more exuberant, singing The Star Spangled Banner, chanting USA! USA! USA! and waving placards and flags for all to see.  No one was wearing shirts that said BUSH IS A MORON or GO BACK TO KENYA, OBAMA.  There were no fights to be broken up, no zealots saying the most caustic things, no adolescent bickering, just an impromptu party to celebrate a long-awaited event, an event a lot of us thought wouldn’t come.  After years of hunting for bin Laden, even the most patriotic and stubborn among us had to wonder if he’d ever be caught, if he’d be able to grow old and die of natural causes.  This is an event all Americans can and should rejoice, and as I watch that crowd gather, I’m not thinking they’re all conservatives who feel exonerated for supporting the War on Terror, or they’re all liberals who believe this will be a major step toward Obama’s re-election next year; they’re all Americans, with a capital A. 

It’s come to cliché status, how major events are supposed to inspire us to drop our political differences and embrace one another as brothers and fellow citizens, Americans across the board, we are all in this together.  Perhaps it was that way in the days following 9/11, when we were all shocked to the bone to turn on CNN and watch the World Trade Center burning, both towers no less.  We all wanted to get the bastards who did this, and we all were rooting for our government, the Bush administration, Republicans and Democrats alike, to pursue the villains to their deaths, hopefully sooner than later, but nonetheless, with dogged relentlessness and unbridled passion.  Truly, that was probably the last time this country has felt such togetherness, the last time partisans might have dropped their ideologies for just a day or two and reflected that what we have inAmericais special and rare, and it deserves protection.  What have we seen in the nearly ten years since?  We watched conservatives turn cold and bitter toward liberals, and we’ve seen liberals nitpick every single freaking thing the Bush administration did.  We watched other major crises hit our country—blackouts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, economic catastrophes—and in each case, instead of camaraderie and unity, we’ve been at each other’s throats.  Partisans defend their president and ridicule critics, and hacks see the president as an enemy of the state. 

This event, however, must be different.  FOX News must stop the perpetual assault on Obama and give him a modicum of credit.  He was the one who called on his national security team to gather information on bin Laden, and for the six weeks leading up to today, there were no leaks to the press, there was no political posturing, just the gathering of information and the forming of a solid plan that was practiced in the hope of eliminating the terrorist without collateral damage.  As such, no Americans were killed in the firefight, and our soldiers were able to take bin Laden’s body into custody and confirm his identity.  For those who questioned Obama’s leadership, he stepped up to the plate when the opportunity arose, and without blinking or tipping his hand, his team came through. 

CON:  No way.  All the credit should go to our men and women in uniform.  The soldiers that risked their lives deserve all the gratitude, not the guy sitting comfortably and thousands of miles away from the fight. 

LIB:  That’s what we said for eight years, when Bush was sending soldiers to fight and die in two quagmire wars.  If you’re going to give Bush credit for anything, you’d better give Obama credit for this, or you’re all just a bunch of hypocrites. 

Truly, there will always be a set of Americans who will take to their graves the belief that Obama is not an American citizen, that he was born in Kenya, that he is a communist / terrorist sympathizer who hates the United States, and no matter what birth certificates are presented, no matter what bold achievements are gained, this will stick in their craw forever.  No, liberals, this is not racism, this is just old-fashioned pigheadedness and cognitive dissonance.  It’s not something to get irritated over, but truly, it’s something to admire and chuckle over, how rational people, even with facts pushed to their noses, will negate them for political convenience.  It is simply easier for some people to cling to their pernicious beliefs, no matter how obsolete they’ve become, than admit that, in the face of undeniable evidence, they were wrong. 

Likewise, there will always be a set of American who will believe with their dying breath that George W. Bush was the worst president in American history, that he was the poster boy for nepotism, the ugly frat boy who drunkenly stumbled forward, the legacy that got military preference and into the Ivy League because his father was a Congressman and Senator.  Bush was neither a pawn of corporate interests, nor was he the sinister ringleader of the NeoCons.  Whatever he faced, it came from the previous three administrations and snowballed into something large and fast and aiming right for him.  If there’s anything you can blame him for, it’s for allowing political discord to become so caustic, so fanatical and frenetic, that there’s no longer reason in the conversation; yes, this is something he could have addressed, just as previous presidents had when they sensed the mood of the republic was waning and needing of a word from the top. 

That’s the mood of the republic tonight, so used to infighting and smarmy one-liners that, when a moment like the death of Osama bin Laden arises, people are unable to drop their ideologies for a nanosecond and embrace one another in joy.  It’s borderline instinct at this point, our second nature to take a moment of pride and jubilance and turn it into just another political football to kick around, thus dummying it down to the level of gays in the military, global warming, animal cruelty, or any other of a couple dozen issues partisans use as wedges to drive sides apart.  This is an event that should transcend party politics.  

LIB:  That’s right.  FOX News needs to lay off of Obama for once and let him enjoy this moment in the sun. 

CON:   Obama doesn’t deserve a second of a break.  Bush had to deal with liberal whining for eight years.  You say he wasn’t legitimately elected, so we’ll say Obama isn’t a legitimate citizen.  What’s the difference? 

I’ve almost given up on national politics because of this back-and-forth, this childish bickering.  Truly, listening to conservatives and liberals argue is like listening to two bad kids who are trying to make the other look even worse and thus, in some form of pretzel logic, would make him the GOOD kid.  It’s inane and tired and so 2004.  While many would say American politics has always been raucous, coarse, and downright dirty at times, I would say it’s never been so adolescent, so persistently catty. 

This should be the one time that happens every decade or so, when the petty and the catty among us simply shut the fuck up and enjoy the moment. 

CON:  Who are you calling petty, liberal?  You and your political correctness have been nothing but petty for decades, sanitizing culture so that no one can so much as think without getting your permission. 

LIB:  Hey, don’t lump us in with those right-wing nutjobs.  We’re not perfect, but we didn’t completely sell ourselves out to corporate tyranny like THEY did. 

CON:  And you should thank God for corporations.  There is no aspect of your life that isn’t touched by a corporation.  You get cheap food, reasonable gas prices, goods from around the world, all accessible and all affordable, thanks to corporations. 

LIB:  And the price we pay for all that convenience is watered-down jobs, outsourcing, closing of plants, the rape of the environment, and CEO’s making millions while workers live on subsistence. 

CON:  Typical Marxist, turning everything into class warfare.  Didn’t the collapse of theSoviet Unionteach you socialism was an utter failure? 

LIB:   Giving a damn about working people—which is most ofAmerica—isn’t class warfare.  Stop crying about having to pay taxes and start pitching in to rebuild America. 

There’s always something to fight about when it comes to American politics.  Can we just leave this one event alone?  Just this once?

LIBYA: War Makes Hypocrites of Us All

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The Right-Wing Noise Machine is pulling President Obama from both sides. On the one hand, they’re badgering him for intervening in Libya, enforcing the UN-sanctioned no-fly zone and engaging Libyan units in aerial combat. On the other hand, they’re saying Obama doesn’t care about democracy because he hasn’t intervened on behalf of pro-democracy protesters in Yemen and Bahrain. I’ve long dismissed conservative pundits as modern pre-Socratic sophists, throwing all the mud they can and hoping some of it sticks, regardless of the twists in logic—if it exists in their arguments at all. It’s contradictions like this that turned me off to them a long time ago.

NeoCon pundits are a known quantity. What I have a hard time reconciling is, why are many of the same liberals who excoriated the Bush administration for starting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now defending Obama’s use of air cover to help the Libyan rebels?

This is one case where nearly every American becomes a hypocrite if he favored intervention when one party was in the White House, but opposed it when the other was in.

I’ve tried to wrap my brain around this, and though I voted for Obama and still believe, despite Republicans trying to trip him up at every opportunity, he will ultimately be remembered as a solid American and a good President, I can’t go along with him on this, for the same reasons I couldn’t support Bush when he invaded Iraq in 2003.

I remember when Bush addressed the nation in ’03 as battleship groups set themselves up in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. I was reluctantly supportive of the act in its initial stage, considering it a necessary evil. As the war drug on, and all the nasty little evils men do to one another mounted and mounted, I was vocal in my opposition—nay, detesting—of the way the war was handled, between use of contractors that shot civilians for fun, profiteering, waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Halliburton, and all the other critters that we saw crawl when we lifted the rock. I generally oppose war, period, and pretty much all wars in human history were fought for bullshit reasons; this was just one more.

Let me add a little more depth to this. Concerning the Middle East, I’ve been opposed to most every American incursion. From Reagan’s bombing of Tripoli in 1986, to Desert Storm, to Afghanistan and Iraq, to today, I believe American policy in the Middle East has been wrongly enforced and should be scrapped. During the Cold War, the US propped up despots for their own interests (protection of Israel and, more importantly, protection of the flow of cheap petroleum), turning a blind eye to the tyranny they imposed on their own people. While Americans still cringe at the thought of the Ayatollah Khomeini assuming power with the flight of the Shah of Iran in 1979, I’ve come to realize it was an event 25 years in the making, starting with the US installing the Shah in the 1950’s and overthrowing what was then a fledgling democracy.

That’s the hard lesson Americans have to learn, and with Obama’s actions in Libya, it looks like they still haven’t. Since the 1950’s, the US has either turned a blind eye to Middle Eastern tyranny, outright supported it, or manipulated politics to ensure it, for the sake of its own ends, and at some point, you had to believe the people there would eventually get pissed off enough to fight back. What we’re seeing in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere in the region is a mass movement, an entire generation of Middle Easterners, who want to free themselves from despots who have overstayed their welcome, in many cases because Western powers, particularly the US, benefited. Have a prisoner you want to interrogate without getting your hands dirty? Send him to Egypt, our buddy Hosni Mubarek has no problem rendering them for you. Need to keep the fundamentalists in Iran in line? Arm Saddam Hussein in Iraq, let him fight a war of attrition that has arguably been the bloodiest war since World War II, and shake his hand until he becomes inconvenient. Who cares if women are second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia, who cares if most of the hijackers from 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, gas is getting up past two bucks a gallon, so the Saudi family gets a pass.

In terms of the Middle East, Americans have to decide what is more important, maintaining the status quo and thinking only in terms of national interest, or allowing these countries to sort out their own affairs and create governments of their own making?

Truly, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt that led to the overthrow of governments and heads of state that were American allies for decades demonstrates that citizens can indeed organize themselves, defend themselves, and even oust the tyrants, all by themselves. It’s an argument that tosses the grand argument of the previous decade, that Iraq and Afghanistan inherently need America to kick the bad guys to the curb, out the window.

Don’t misunderstand me. I want the rebels in Libya to oust Moammar Qadhafi as bad as anyone else does. I root for the everyday man, the working class stiff, the guy who is overworked and underpaid, because that’s most of the world, and there’s something far more noble in a day of labor than a day of leisure. As such, I want the people of Libya to forge their own destiny, one that may or may not include the United States, and for the US to respect that destiny and not warp it for their own selfish cravings.

I will always root for self-determination; that should be a staple principle in all things American. Our history, however, proves us lacking in commitment to that ethic.

If democracy is something we seek to spread throughout the world, it should be through our example, our championing, our excellence in the craft. It should not have to be something we enforce at the point of a gun. Were democracy truly something to treasure, we wouldn’t have to force countries to accept it; they would steal it, just as they would any other precious commodity. They should see the shining example America is setting and say, that’s what we want for our own people, let’s overthrow the bastards and do it for ourselves, even if we have to die trying.

Maybe, once upon a time, we set such a shining example. Now? Eh…

This is a fight for the Libya people to fight, but it was also a fight for the Iraqi people to fight, the Afghani people to fight, the Tunisian and Yemeni and, back in the day, the Iranian people to fight. As Lyndon Johnson said (and later renigged), we shouldn’t be sending American kids thousands of miles around the world to do what Asian kids (or Libyan kids, for that matter) should be doing for themselves.

While I understand and even enjoy the thinking that led the Obama Administration, the French and British governments, and the UN to the resolution that installed the no-fly zone over Libya, it doesn’t matter. As much as anyone, I want Qadhafi gone, and I want the Libyans to create a government of their own choosing, but it’s THEIR government of THEIR choosing.

That’s what self-determination, as foreign a concept as it might seem to Americans, is all about.

So let the conservatives play the contradictions and pull Obama from both directions. Let the liberals support Obama for doing more or less the same thing they criticized Bush for doing. War makes hypocrites of us all. The consistent view is the rare view, and if you’re beholden so tight to your party or ideology that it blinds you, you have to accept your hypocrisy for what it is. Don’t play spindoctor, don’t overexplain yourself, just acknowledge and move on, hopefully with a little more humility than when you started the day.

Mission Statement

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The bottom line is, and will always be for as long as this blog exists, that I’m just a cat trying to get through another American recession in one piece.  I’m tired of sophistry, the Blame Game, conservatives calling liberals evil and vice versa, and the general dummying down of America.  You have to be too, at least as tired of it all as I am, maybe more so, because, for all the partisan bickering, all the namecalling and fingerpointing, where has it all gotten you, gotten me? 

This blog’s going to be a little different.  It’s going to be opinions and observations, and yes, it will be leaning to the left in most cases.  That doesn’t mean, however, that this will wallow in the gutter of left-right politics.  There are plenty of blogs that seek to demonize the opposition, from all over the political spectrum, and you’re more than welcome to peruse them; in fact, if you’re looking for that visceral rush that comes from partisan browbeating, I encourage you to leave this page now and find something more to your taste. 

See, I define myself as a liberal because I know what it is to be a liberal.  I understand liberalism.  There are many great liberal heroes throughout the world, and we can name plenty—Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Leo Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreau, even Jesus Christ.  I’m proud of this legacy, and I can trace its lineage from the Gospels to the Enlightenment to the Declaration of Independence to Civil Disobedience to I Have a Dream.  These are good, noble things to aspire to, and it is a challenge to live up to the bar such great men have raised, to the ethics these great documents acclaim. 

More importantly, I am a liberal, not a conservative-hater.  I am what I am because I believe in something positive, not because I consider the right wrong and evil.  Conservatism, as an ideology, has its place.  There’s nothing wrong with conservatism per se, I can take it or leave it, and most honest conservatives can as well.  What I have a distinct problem with is this culture that seems to dictate everything to be a wedge issue, everything must be bitterly fought over, the other guy disagrees and is therefore the enemy of the state.  That’s what bickering children do, and I realize I’m basically calling most of the American media children when I say that.  This is a very poisonous climate when it comes to politics, and while many consider it a sport, I consider it a blight on our national character. 

Hence, as just a cat trying to get through another American recession in one piece, my hope is to talk about what I believe, not what I loathe.  I’m more likely to ignore the splinter in my brother’s eye and address the beam in my own.  Politics, religion, history, media, sports, entertainment, whatever the topic, I hope to present myself as someone raising the level of discussion, not crushing it under heel. 

As such, if you became a liberal because George W. Bush disgusts you, in my opinion, you did so for the wrong reasons.  If you voted for Barack Obama merely because he wasn’t John McCain, this might not be your cup of tea.  If you vote for a candidate simply for the R or the D after his name, you can leave now. 

But, if you’re interested in discussing liberal politics, liberal Christianity, the so-called Liberal Media, and other points in the liberal sphere with an open mind, a clear conscience, and a bleeding heart, I look forward to getting to know you. 

My name is Arjay Phoenician, and this is my blog.  I hope you get something out of it.