Be brave, strong

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 30, 2004

During this strange week between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s traditional to reflect back on the year that was.

I think we’ll skip that because, frankly, 2004 wasn’t the best of years.

Not only did the Cowboys not make it to the playoffs, but somehow, despite one the worst four years in presidential history, President Bush won reelection. Go figure.

More seriously for our nation, many fine young Americans lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. I tried and tried in this humble space to divert the president back on track to the war on terrorism, but he just wouldn’t listen.

Now we’ve got 150,000 weary troops stuck in Iraq, where they don’t belong, fighting against insurgents and terrorists created by the invasion itself, and dying for a democracy that will collapse the day we leave. In other words, the Army, Marines and many reservists are trapped in a Hades created by our president and supported by jingoistic right-wingers claiming to support our troops.

For more than a year I believed Bush was taking us to war in Iraq for misguided notions, such as his belief that we could establish a pro-U.S. democracy in Iraq. Over the past few months, however, I have come to believe this mess is simply imperialism repackaged.

We have sent our young men and women to fight so the U.S. can have some control of the flow of oil. We will maintain a military presence in Iraq for decades if the American people will allow it. Our oil companies will profit, the rest of the oil-rich countries will fear our proximity and, thus, keep the taps open.

This has a two-fold effect: (1) It assures us that as long as the oil remains, we’ll get our share, and (2) we don’t have to get on the ball to develop alternative energy sources (which might not be controlled by powerful few that now operate with impunity).

I’m not saying this is wrong. I am saying the American people should be told the truth so that we can debate the issue openly and honestly with one another. As it stands now, you’re either with the neo-conservative ideologues or you are an anti-American, terrorist-loving, pinko, who, when the Patriot Act is fully realized, will be subject to imprisonment for thought crimes against &uot;Big Brother.&uot;

When they drag folks like me off to disappear, you can either cower in fear and hope they don’t come for you or you can do what Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Monroe, Hamilton, Madison, et al, did almost 230 years ago. Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe Congress will rein in the anti-democratic forces now in control. We’ll see.

I’m sorry it’s come to this, but I really do believe our democracy faces the biggest threat since McCarthy. Actually, this is much bigger threat because the autocrats are already in power and they learned their lessons from McCarthy’s mistakes.

We must all take the blame for letting these people come to power, even those of us who have been warning against them for the past three years. We haven’t communicated our message. We let fear rule and did nothing to give people hope.

The fear comes from the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks that felled the World Trade Towers and killed about 3,000 innocents. Rather than righteous anger that would lead to the destruction of the terrorists, many Americans cowered in fear and ceded absolute power to the ideologues.

The terrorists were never a threat to this nation. The response to them has become the threat. The Bush Administration is the most secretive and deceitful in recent memory. Perhaps in the nation’s history. Bush makes Nixon look like a naughty choirboy.

Franklin Roosevelt knew that fear could destroy individuals and the spirit of democracy that formed this nation and made it so strong. &uot;There is nothing to fear but fear itself,&uot; he said. He was right. Fear can drive a people to madness. It didn’t under Roosevelt because he wouldn’t let the nation descend into that pit – not during the Great Depression nor during World War II.

Bush used fear to consolidate his power, cow Congress, and control dissidence in America. He started with 9/11, then let is spread to Iraq. He used the fear of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons to get what he wanted and to keep pesky entities like Congress and the Judiciary off his back. By the time anyone developed the backbone to speak out, it was too late.

Mostly stemming from fear and a &uot;love&uot; for the one they considered their protector (Bush), Americans ceded the responsibilities that people living in democracies must be willing to shoulder. Fear stripped the nation of guts and we’ve sent our military forces to Iraq to give the world the illusion that we really have the spirit needed to lead the world into the 21st Century.

But think about this, all you folks who were so scared after the 9/11 attacks: Do you spend your lives worrying about whether you’re going to get struck by lightening or hit by a meteorite?

A tsunami just killed over 100,000 people in Asia. That took over 33 times the number of people that the terrorists killed on 9/11. There’s nothing the survivors can do except bury their dead and try to keep disease from the rotting corpses from killing even more people. There’s nobody to lash out at; nobody to hate; nobody to kill. It was an act of nature but it was more destructive that 100 9/11s (if death toll estimates are even close to correct).

The lack of terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11 is more a testament to how weak the terrorists are than an indication of how mighty Bush is. Just remember that the terrorists are simply murderers who must skulk around in the dark because they are too weak to stand up to even the mere hint of light.

Buck up. Be brave. Don’t let fear rule you. Look into the light and see what you have put into power.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year in this land that shines so brightly even the sun is envious.