The Broad is Back!

February 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Abe. Bring on the Revolution

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It used to be a national holiday until we replaced it and Washington’s Birthday on February 22nd with the more generic and easier to plan around Monday holiday, Presidents Day.  Out of all the presidents, we honored Lincoln because he “saved the Union” and also signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a good legal first step to ending slavery in the US.

 

I have to admit that there are times when I wonder whether the Union should have been saved. Don’t misunderstand me–I love the South. It’s beautiful, full of wonderful people–my grandfather was a Virginian–and provides the United States with much natural bounty.  Much of the country’s wealth comes from the resources of the South.  My concern does not come from a dislike of a place or a group.  My concern is that the United States is just too large to govern effectively.

 

We are theoretically a collection of sovereign states and four commonwealths, each theoretically with a large measure of autonomy.  But over the years, the federal government in DC has been taking over more and more of this sovereignty, often using money to wield its will. Federal aid is cut to states that don’t toe the federal line. Money makes an excellent leash.  And when a small group of people–1oo senators, 435 representatives, a president, vice-president and a Cabinet of 15 heads of executive departments–rule over 314 million people, give or take, things are not going to go smoothly.

 

In his first inaugural address, Lincoln said, “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.”

 

I think many people are currently weary of our government. We are weary of a government run by corporations and special interest groups.  We are weary of our protests being ignored. We are weary of illegal acts being carried out in our name without our permission. We are weary of an elite in Washington that thinks it is the elite because it’s special and above us, not because we elected them to stand for us.  We are so weary of our government that many have given up–they believe there can never be change, so apathy has sunk in.  Frankly, that’s just where the power elite wants most of us to be.

 

No group is easier to be led than a group that no longer cares.  Too many of the hundreds of millions can be bothered to pay attention.

 

Perhaps if the Union had not survived, there would be a less powerful national government.  But now is the time to speak up.  There was the “Bloodless Revolution” of 1688. Rooted as it was in religious intolerance and bigotry, it’s not a perfect model, and it doesn’t actually correlate well, but my point is revolution can happen and change can come without bloodshed.  And as Lincoln reminds us, it’s our constitutional right to overthrow an ineffective government.

 

We the people have the power.  We just don’t realize it.  What was that Reagan-era slogan? “Just say no!”  Say no to a government that forgets that it’s, as Lincoln reminded us in the aftermath of a bloody Civil War battle, “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

August 30, 2013

And So We Sit and Wait

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” ~George Orwell, 1984

The events in this prescient novel written in 1949 were to have happened almost 30 years ago.  While the dystopia of the novel is not yet fully blown, I read these words, and I want to weep. In my country, ignorance has become strength and war may as well be peace for so many people appear unperturbed that we’ve been in a constant state of war since 2001.

I remember exactly where I was when news of the first airstrikes against Afghanistan broke. I was in a church. It was in Switzerland, and I was with a room of mostly women from many different countries, predominantly American and British, but from all over the world.  “Viet Nam” was muttered by more than one person, and I thought, “No, not again. It couldn’t.”

Just a month earlier we’d faced 9/11. Many of my students were seriously frightened that they had just seen the start of WWIII. But when the Afghanistan War started, they were no longer afraid. They were angry.

Just two years later, I was in a different country, Sweden, when the Iraq War started. Let’s just say that reaction in Sweden was far from positive. I don’t have pleasant memories of that time. Sometimes when tempers flared, people would forget that I am not the US government, nor am I even a representative of the government. Water under the bridge.

But again, WWIII was mentioned in passing.

And now we wait and watch what will happen in Syria. More than one person has mentioned WWIII, as if another World War is inevitable. As if “the war to end all wars” never happened. Oh wait. Never mind. Not counting the Cold War, the US was embroiled in another war five short years after WWII ended.

My tone is may sound bitter today, but I’m actually not feeling bitter. I’m feeling sad. I’m an unrepentant child of the 60s and early 70s. I do believe all that peacenik stuff people called “Commie”.  It’s out of fashion now, but as John Lennon, a powerful voice in the peace movement, said, “If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.”  But we seem to have lost our way, John.

These days, I teach many vets and even active service people. I have nothing but the utmost respect for them.  They don’t start the wars. They just fight them. As Gen. Doulgas MacArthur said, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”  I mostly agree with him, of course. My soldiers write things to me that break my heart. They tell me what they’ve seen, what they’ve done, what they’ve experienced. I can not even imagine, but I am privileged to carry their stories. If I can relieve their burden one iota, I will do it gladly.  One student wrote to me: “I like reading poetry in your class because it’s the only time the guns in my head stop.”  I would read poetry with him for hours if I could.

But of course, it’s the civilians I worry about. War is cruel. A student this morning told me of a bombing near a Syrian school.  Children.  But children have always had the worst of war.  Still, things have been insane and dangerous in Syria for too long now, and something has to change.

So this compounds my sadness. The peacenik, the mostly pacifist, can’t see a way to calm things. Do I think attacking Syria will help? No.  But this is too big for me. I can’t think.  But I can pray, which is what I seem to do best these days.

The UK House of Commons voted to not support a military intervention in Syria, and I’m wondering whether the US Congress will have the same opportunity.  According to an article on CNN, “More than 160 members of Congress, including 63 Democrats, have now signed letters calling for either a vote or at least a ‘full debate’ before any U.S. action.”  But Congress is in recess until September 9th. Yes, I can see the White House waiting till they are all back. Yes. Sure.

This situation is changing rapidly.  So we sit and wait and see. And nothing is worse than waiting.

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