(From the Amazon and Brazil) I’ve been back in the US about 3 months now… reading, catching up, talking with folks, and just getting a feel for things “stateside” again. And what impresses me most is how let down folks feel by their government here. No one in Washington seems to be working for the people anymore. People feel abandoned. The Republicans and Democrats apparently work to purposelessly NOT agree on any issue; laws are passed by the collective in-action of our elected officials rather than their pro-action. Unemployment is at an all-time high. The rich are richer because they can’t be taxed. The issues that really matter such as the environment, unemployment and health care are just not being addressed by any of our leaders.
So what happened to President Obama, the president who promised so much and represented so much more to so many people, rich and poor, black and white, old and young? Rather than striking out systematically, one by one, at the negative forces conspiring against us and our world- at home and abroad- he has done little more the last 3 years than walk the fence, cautious not to step on anyone’s toes, and seemingly unwilling (or is he unable?) to take a bold stand on any issue. This pleases no one but his foes and least of all the common people who need his courage more than anything these days. Now, as our politicians enter into the pre-electoral campaign for the elections of 2012, it might do us all some good to re-evaluate our priorities before we vote and re-orient ourselves correctly for the times to come.
Apart from some very interesting readings about Darwin and Lincoln- described by Adam Goptnik in Angels and Ages as two hugely important creators of modern thought and writing- the most interesting and perhaps most important book I have read this (American) summer has been JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass. This book puts into context everything you ever wondered about the coup d’etat and conspiracy to assassinate one of the nation’s most courageous and promising presidents ever (alongside Lincoln and FDR). Is it ironic or coincidental that each of these leaders should have died tragically as he reached his “finest hour” (to paraphrase the words of another great 20th century leader, Winston Churchill) and did not live to see the fruits his life’s work would eventually bear?
Today we struggle yet to realize the dreams of these great men. Lincoln’s insistence upon union through equality was delayed before finding continuation in the efforts of Martin Luther King (yet another great thinker, writer and martyr) and others. Their work remains incomplete. FDR took our nation from the darkness of the depression and out of the hell of WWII, and gave us the wealth and opportunity that continues more or less to define our nation today. Yet what FDR initiated was sorely tested and almost lost during the foreshortened administration of John F. Kennedy. The mighty industrial-military complex which gave us our power after the war was revealed to be a Medussa and threatens to consume us all. President Kennedy saw what this corrupted power was leading us into- an unwinnable nuclear arms race- and he turned from being a “cold-warrior” towards becoming a “peace-maker”, a man with a mission, a crusader for world peace. Yet forces within his own government, especially the CIA, National Security Council, and the military industrial complex around him, were committed to a war against communism (and a nuclear arms race) in order to perpetuate their right winged agenda. Kennedy opposed “the need for war” with “a desire for peace” and for this he was set up and assassinated by those closest to him. E tu LBJ?
In our generation the War on Communism has been replaced by the War on Terror. Through a form of pathological hubris and insistent isolationism the division between rich and poor, in both east and west, has grown ever wider since the end of the 20th century. The 2001 World Trade Center attacks in New York City represented an explosion of frustration from those less fortunate than ourselves in far-off lands poorer than ours. And rather than seek a peaceful solution by reaching out to those who would be our enemies and try to understand the rage and hatred directed towards us- on other words, rather than be courageous- President George W. Bush chose to take our country to war in two countries (actually continuing one war his father started earlier in Iraq and initiating another in Afghanistan). The last 10 years have seen our nation's budget deficit grow from literally nothing, ZERO (thanks to President Clinton and Newt Gingrich’s bipartisan efforts), to some trillions of dollars today, mostly due to military spending (which, surprise, translates into huge profits for the military-industrial complex but unemployment, high interest rates and collective debt for the rest of us). The pretext for a War on Terror today replicates a situation much like that of Kennedy’s time. Kennedy perceived the underlying evil of it all however and took steps to reverse the situation, steps that sadly led to his murder in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
To turn the current situation around, to put the War on Terror behind us, and win our back country from the forces of big business and the military mind-set that currently holds us in check, we need to rally more than ever behind our beleaguered and isolated president. We need to win President Obama reelection and give him the courage he needs to face down the forces that threaten us all. At the same time we need to demand more transparency than ever from our government and call upon our elected representatives to never again allow for the conditions which led to the assassination in the 1960s of President Kennedy and other fine courageous leaders. JFK and his brother Robert, then Attorney-General of the United States, stood alone against the insatiable power of the military-industrial complex and were gunned down by those who live from war and profit from it. Our president today must know he is not alone. His foes must also know that he is not alone.
More than unjustified the continuing War on Terror makes no sense. Our nation is wasting billions and perhaps trillions of dollars on armed conflicts that, like past conflicts against Korea, Cuba, the Soviet Union and Vietnam, cannot be “won” in any traditional or practical sense of the word. John Kennedy and other peacemakers were pushed aside by those in favor of war; however the War on Communism was not won by anyone in the end. The Communist system simply collapsed, more bankrupt and discredited than anything else. In the vacuum that followed a new War on Terror was invented and implemented by American right-wingers so that the same forces that held us in check during the Cold War era might continue to thrive in the New Millennium. We simply cannot allow this.
If we could dismantle once and for all the industrial-military complex which controls us- in great part by supporting and encouraging President Obama to adopt the profile in courage he displayed when he was elected- the immense financial, technological AND human resources that are currently being wasted on the War on Terror could be put towards employing a generation of Americans in a campaign to save our planet and our species from the worst effects of global climate change. This, without a doubt, is the single greatest threat we all face today. More than anything we are sacrificing the supremely courageous and talented young people of our Armed Forces in an unnecessary, unjustifiable and, inevitably, unwinnable War on Terror when the true fight should be a veritable Green War against our own eminent self-destruction.
In the years to come we must find within each of us a little bit of the courage of a President Lincoln, a Roosevelt or a Kennedy and do what we can to stand up collectively to the truly powerful elements of our society which do not recognize or respect the real needs of our people. After all, who has the right to decide for the people what they need or want? Certainly not the CIA, Armed Forces, National Security Administration or the Pentagon. The power these institutions wield continues because we the people have failed to monitor their actions through the representatives we have voted into power. Through our own apathy and self-centeredness we have sanctioned our government’s practices of secret wars, assassination and covert activities on a global scale without accountability of any sort. It is time we recind the carte blanche capabilities of these secret forces and create a truly transparent form of government of, and for, the people once and for all.
If war is the best we can do then truly we do not deserve the planet we govern over. In the final analysis we need ask ourselves, is the specter of catastrophic global climate change the unavoidable result of some self-destructive nature of our own or is ecological disaster the mother planet, Gaia’s, response to our unchecked aggression and apathy? One perhaps is the result of the other; the planet, organically or not, is simply not able to defend itself anymore from our stupidity. It will consequently choose mass extinction as a means of starting over without us. But the question remains, will we destroy the earth first or will it destroy us first in an act of simple self-defense before that? Heaven help us we if we have already started an arms race of sorts with our own planet. We simply will not win this one either.