Define "a Life"...

... still searching for a clear definition of that thing people keep telling me I need to get...

Location: Springfield, PA

Thursday, November 04, 2004

... a three-edged sword

Rob S. posted some hopes for the next four years on his blog. Wisely, Rob had already vented a little. I hadn't, and my comments on his post were rather less even handed. Thus:
(Hopes in " " are Rob's originals.)

My hopes for the next four years are a little less glowing, and a lot more vicious...

I hope Bush makes some genuine mistakes of the sort that simply cannot be covered up, spun or glibly denied. I hope his arrogance comes back to bite him in the ass. I mean, he's already made so many such mistakes... perhaps he need make no more, perhaps I'm just hoping that he has to reap what he's sown.

I hope we all survive that bleak harvest.

I hope the news media grows a set. I'd love to see someone refuse to televise the President, and represent him only in transcripts of his inane babbling.

I hope citizens in general grow a set. Okay, America, Mr. Bush says you've spoken. Now let me ask a question: how does it feel to have elected a man whose campaign was almost wholly based on scaring you into voting for him?

I hope that Arlen Specter waits until February, then shifts party affiliation and becomes a Democrat. Would serve the GOP right.

I hope John Ashcroft DOES choke to death on the semen from a male prostitute.
I hope that male prostitute is a registered member of the American Family Association.

I hope Congress musters a conscience and makes any self-serving agenda-driven appointments Bush might make to the Supreme Court into a circus as they tie them up in hearings and reviews.

I hope, even more fervently, that stem cell research yields amazing results which allow all the sitting Justices to live for six more years.

"I hope everyone has the good sense to keep their grubby mitts off the Constitution."

"I hope Karl Rove gets gang-raped by hillbillies. Or orangutans. Or sharks."
Double Amen.
# posted by Greg! : 9:49 PM

My above Comments spurred the following Comments:

ROb and Greg,
While I found of your comments typical, childish, and immature I was particularly displeased with Greg's comments on how he wants these people to fail. I won't call his comments unamerican but american hating. Greg for an educated person you are being pretty ignorant. Make no bones about it - I equate you wanting these people to fail with wanting America to fail. If these people don't make progress than America does not make progress. If these people succeed than America succeeds. Greg and Rob,
You have every right to be displeased and make stupid immature jokes about sharks and semen. You can whine all you want. Go cry to your mommy and anybody else that will hear it. But Greg, to openly hope these people fail may not be unamerican but it is anti-american in my book.
# posted by Anonymous : 11:16 AM

Several reasoned responses showed up in Rob's Comments pile, but I felt the need to respond myself.
See, Tom was "particularly displeased" with something I don't think I said. I've since reread and re-reread my initial post (above) and I can't actually find the comments on wanting these people to fail that so displeased Tom.
Before getting to the clarification that I actually posted in the Comments on Rob's blog, let's look at this, textually, a little more closely.

I hope Bush is no longer able to ignore or deny his mistakes. I caught myself as I was writing, and noted that I don't really want him to make any more mistakes. I just want him held accountable for those he's already made.
If being held accountable for his actions is "failing," then I suppose I must want him to fail. But what, exactly, would that failure be? Failure to avoid the consequences of your choices? What, in this context, would constitute success?

I'd like the media to start asking tough questions, and demand real answers. I'd like the media as a whole to stop accepting abstract rhetoric as an answer to a specific question.
Not sure what the failure is there, although perhaps it's related to the previous point.

Would Arlen Specter’s becoming a Democrat itself constitute some sort of failure? What does that imply?

John Ashcroft's imagined demise is, of course, pure venom on my part. But once Rob put the initial image out there it was just too resonant.
Of course, I assume this could be interpreted as a failure of some sort on Ashcroft's part. But, really, I can't see how his inability to handle a personal swallow-or-spit situation could be seen as a national failure.

I hope the Republican Congress doesn't simply vet any appointment Bush might have the opportunity to make to the Supreme Court. I admit that maybe I am hoping for a sort of failure here. I'm hoping that Bush fails in any attempt to make appointments that would structure the Court for decades to come based on an agenda that is at odds with what I consider primary American principles. If successfully making such appointments to the Court would fit Tom's definition of "progress," then it's a progression I don't want to see America make.

I guess what bothers me about this is the fact that Tom immediately equates my objections to Bush with The Doom of America. That's an association the Bush Presidency has been very effective in nurturing. It's an all-or-nothing psychology that demonizes dissent of any sort. It's an important tool in the mythic, abstract, fear-based campaign the GOP crafted so skillfully this election.

Calling my reactions "childish and immature" is itself a rather unconsidered criticism. Anyone who watched Zell Miller at the GOP convention and didn't come away from it thinking things like "irrational," "childish," "immature" and "irresponsible" -- not to mention fervently divisive -- is someone who's applying no critical faculties whatsoever to anyone saying anything with which you already agree. Sharks, semen and such aside for the moment, there was nothing in my rant that was more childish than Zel's "spitballs" routine. I'm just saying things you don't agree with.

So, DO I want "these people" to fail? Not really. I want the fires of terrorism quenched to whatever extent they can be. I want our economy to be stable and show healthy growth. I want us, as a nation strong economically and politically, to be able to give where need manifests itself around the world. I want our education system to nurture all children to the fullest actualization of their potential. I want health care to be available to everyone who needs it. I want people who love each other marry, if they wish, have children, if they choose, and form strong, caring, loving families in a society that supports values and boasts a heritage they can be proud of.
But, frankly, in the cases in which what “these people” are trying to do would, in my considered opinion, be injurious to the primary principles of this nation, yes, I do want them to fail.
I want "these people" to fail in any and all attempts to amend the Constitution to restrictively define marriage in its "defense."
I want "these people" to fail in positioning the United States as the unaccountable watchdog of self-defined freedom throughout the world.
I want "these people" to fail in restructuring a Supreme Court which reflects Conservative Christian priorities at the expense of a rational interpretation of law or the primary defense of individual rights.
I want "these people" to fail in further nurturing a fear-based atmosphere that makes American citizens think about "safety" at the expense of freedom.
I want "these people" to fail in avoiding accountability for their own choices and actions on the basis that "we have to make a decision and stand by it" regardless of subsequent events or additional information.
I want "these people" to fail in substituting abstract rhetoric for concrete reasoning and acting like the two are the same thing.
I want "these people" to fail in convincing the citizens of the United States that it is automatically indecisive and weak to consider in full the nuances of a complex situation.
I want "these people" to fail in passing a mammoth financial burden on to future generations.
I want "these people" to fail in further isolating the United States from the rest of the world.
I want "these people" to fail in setting themselves up to define an American identity which excludes essential values of pluralism and individuality on which the United States was founded.

This, then, is the core of my objection to "these people" and their administration: there are polices and priorities the Republican party in general and this administration in particular have expressed that I believe are incompatible with principles and values that define the United States as I know it. Their “progress” in this respect seems to me anything but.
If they succeed, America fails.

So what did I actually end up posting in clarification of my Comment and response to Tom's?
Nothing so assertive or sweeping. Thus:

A clarification:

Since the one thing Tom seems to have taken from my admittedly pissed-off rant was something I didn't actually say, I want to clarify my opinion and respond to any interpretations of it.

Tom (and anyone who got the same impression), I do not "want these people to fail." I believe they have failed. And I feel we, as a nation of ostensibly responsible citizens, have failed -- first, in not holding this administration accountable for its mistakes and misrepresentations and flat refusals to accept responsibility for its own actions, and, second, in voting this administration in for another term.

I even caught myself when I started writing. I don't really want Bush to make a mistake. Bush doesn't need to make a single mistake in his coming four years if order for him to have failed in much of what he claims to have succeeded in. I would love to see him correct his errors. I hope he doesn't make any more mistakes. But I also hope that as the consequences of his policies unfold the mistakes he's already made are not ignored or misrepresented in some erroneous and immature belief that to admit the President erred is somehow un- or anti-American.

The simple fact that the man occupies an elected office does not make him one with the office he holds nor, certainly, with the nation which created that office in the first place. To criticize the President is not to criticize the Presidency. America is not defined by the policies and actions of a single President, sitting or centuries dead; to oppose the polices of a single President is not opposing America.

"American hating"? Hardly. If I hated America, I'd celebrate Bush's second term and wish an unending succession of identical Presidents on the nation. I wish no such thing. I lament the man's re-election precisely because I love this country and I mourn for much of what's happened or been done to it during Bush's watch or at his behest.


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