When the word came in that Tom Daschle was worried, I knew we were in for it. I could not help but think: now he’s worried? He didn’t worry when all the Democratic Senators (himself included) voted for war in Iraq. He didn’t worry when the Dems didn’t bother to make a big issue of corporate thievery, nor did he listen to Ralph Nader when Ralph — good citizen that he is — handed the Democratic Party the real issues on a plate. No, Tom Daschle didn’t worry until he realized his political ambitions might be thwarted. Now he’s worrying, and now it’s too late. There’s no need to worry now.
We’ll be going to war with Iraq. The working-class sons and daughters who enlisted in order to get college tuition will die, as will thousands of Iraqi citizens who are already dying of the harsh embargos we’ve had on that country. We voted for war because we’re scared — scared of terrorists, scared of paying too much for gas. There is no single American — not one — that believes we’re going to Iraq in order to oust a nasty dictator. There is no-one so naive. Bush’s approval ratings — and his party’s election night coup — are a reflection of Americans’ state of mind. They will have gas for their SUVs. They will not take no for an answer.
Besides, war is good for the economy, and really it’s the only way a Republican President has ever made the economy work. They’re not innovators; they’re tribal leaders, paid assassins. They know how to beat the drums, how to instill fear, how to package it all with a wallop of Good Christian Values and unquestioning Patriotism. (Did someone say Jingoism? Not me.)
We do not have a culture of compassion. We do when the cruel hand of Nature comes down & splits the land in two. We do when the cruel hand of Fundamentalism flies planes into our buildings and kills innocents. We do, too, when a family member is sick, when Sharon Osborne shares her diagnosis, when Tom divorces Nicole. When the violins swell, and the tissues are passed around, Americans are good at sympathy.
For a Christian nation, it’s especially ironic that we have no ability to understand that our lives — how we live on a day to day basis — are the real test. That’s where we fail miserably. We choose cheap gas over Iraqi children’s lives; we choose cheap clothes over Filopino women’s rights; we choose charity instead of any solution to share our piece of the pie. I don’t think these are actual conscious choices per se. We have no ability to think abstractly, to connect the dots. We never ask if private school vouchers undercut our democracy, or whether we can do without one more disposable whatever in order to save our ground water.
I’m beginning to see it’s not a lack of education (as I used to believe), or a lack of values. We believe in doing what we should for one’s neighbors, in generosity, in those basic Christian values politicians love to harp on about. Where we fail — where it’s easiest to fail — is in actually living those values, in considering, with each & every decision we make, whether or not our choices have impact elsewhere. I do not stand a distance apart to throw these stones; I throw them from my own glass house. Sure, I don’t own a car but that’s because I live in NYC where public transit gets me everywhere I need to go. To boot, I’m not a Christian and have no urge or dictum to live by Christian values. This country that just voted for war, does. They believe in Jesus, in the life he lived, in the forgiveness he showed others, in his radical acceptance and love of the cast-offs. They believe, they say, in peace.
But peace is an abstraction, and cheap gas is not.