Monday, May 15, 2006

A View Of Isolationism

The strip featured in this post is worth your time. Visit the Candorville website for a good laugh and a a refreshing, honest view of current events.

In case you haven't heard, President Bush will be delivering an address at 8:00 this evening to discuss temporarily using the National Guard to secure our nation's borders in an attempt to stem illegal immigration from Mexico. The 20-minute address comes as Bush, according to current polls, faces a 31% approval rating for his current administration's work - a "new low" according to USA Today - heightened criticism for the ongoing problems in the Middle East, calls to bring gas prices (currently at an average of $3 a gallon according to recent reports) under control, and anger from seniors facing a midnight "choose or lose" deadline to sign up for Medicare coverage - coverage that many do not understand and fear because of looming coverage penalties if they do not sign up for a plan by the deadline.

So much for that mandate and political capital he said he gained when he squeaked back into office for his second term.

The whole immigration reform situation seems like another of the many attempts the Bush administration has used to distract the American public from the more destructive and corrosive elements of his abuse of power. Does anyone else find it peculiar that this address comes on the heels of the news that the Bush administration, with the assistance of communication conglomerates like AT&T and Verizon, has been compiling a database of the calling records of all the country's citizens? That the administration refuses to answer what they are doing with that information or acknowledge the fact that the spying is more than likely a violation of law?

Probably not. Most of the news coverage I saw about the address yesterday and this morning focused mainly on the fact that the speech will be about 20 minutes long, and that the season finales of "Grey's Anatomy," "24," and "Prison Break," will be delayed. Oh yeah, there was this breaking news: The telecast of "Oprah's Legends Ball" will be postponed one week. You can now breathe a bit easier, once you get past the inconvenience of resetting your TiVO.

Why is the American public so ambivalent about the unchecked power grab the current administration has exhibited over and over again? Have we been lulled into simply not caring? This morning as I was getting ready for work, the local news show had former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in town to promote her new book, on as a guest. The newscaster asked her one question (something along the lines of how did she get the boys who run the country to deal with her without fear of catching girl cooties), barely let her get out an answer, then cut to a commercial. When they returned, they covered traffic and weather first, then went to entertainment news (this just in, Kanye West let his mother rap with him on stage for Mothers Day), then returned to Ms. Albright for three more questions. (Upon further reflection, I shouldn't be surprised by the short shrift because the station is a Fox affiliate.)

Why has the American public bought into the divisiveness of the administration's policies? Do we truly believe that this country can exist in a patriotic vacuum? In an article that ran in USA Today on May 2nd, it was reported that more than two out of three Americans believe that the national anthem should only be sung in English. A version of the anthem, Nuestro Himno, is on the album , "Somos Americanos (We Are Americans)," released on May 16th called with proceeds from the album going to pro-immigration organizations. In the same poll, 64% of respondents agreed with Bush on his stand against a Spanish sung anthem, but did not agree with his immigration policies. Did any of these people remember how, when he ran for his first term in office, Bush often talked about his wife's bilingual skills? How he used his young, photogenic, Hispanic nephew to garner votes from the Hispanic community? Does anyone remember that this country's foundation is built on the premise of immigration - are we not the great American melting pot anymore?

Have we turned off the lamp beside the golden door? Mexican president Vincente Fox worries that we have, replacing the lamp with an armed sentry. He phoned the White House to express concerns about the use of the National Guard (already stretched beyond capacity because of the ongoing conflict in Iraq), stating that the use of the Guard appears to be a "militarization" of the border between our nations. Bush denied this charge, of course, stating that the National Guard would play a "supporting role" to the Border Patrol. He did not state what that supporting role would entail, how long "temporary" is, or give any further details. Is the "temporary" deployment of troops along the Mexican border the same as the "temporary" occupation of Iraq we've continued since we "won" the Iraqi war almost four years ago? What kind of damage will this "temporary" deployment do to our already tattered international reputation? How will this impact the morale and makeup of our already overtaxed military? And why is immigration now suddenly such a major concern? Was Osama seen partying in Cancun over spring break?

(Speaking of Osama, whatever happened to the work to capture him? What happened to the terror alert color wheel that was used so much during the re-election campaign? Has the alert status turned to a terra cotta color, and that's why we're focusing on Mexico? I'm very confused.)

Has America allowed Bush to spend his "political capital" earned by his electoral mandate (and since when does a 51% majority vote equal a "mandate" anyway?) because they simply have no clue about our place in the world? According to a report from CNN on May 4th, this may be the case. Nearly two-thirds of Americans 24 years old and younger cannot identify Iraq on a map, according to a study done by the National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographical Study. Approximately 33% of those surveyed could not point out Louisiana, even with all the coverage of Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. (That's par for the course, I suppose. Bush flew over Louisiana shortly after the disaster took place and couldn't find it either, remember? It was more important for him to get his dog home from Texas - on the taxpayer's dime, mind you - than it was to check on the citizens who gave him his "mandate.") Fewer than three in 10 believe that it's important to be able to identify foreign countries discussed in news reports and 33% believed that the most heavily fortified border in the world was the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Guess after this speech tonight, it'll turn out that the 33% were just ahead of their time in their thinking. The correct answer, in case you're curious, is the border between North and South Korea. North Korea is the country that is not only developing their nuclear arsenal despite international pleas not to, they are on record as saying they have no qualms about using said weapons against any of nation they perceive to be a threat - including South Korea, or the United States. They've never denied developing weapons, actively purchasing weapons grade plutonium, or their desire to become a major military force.

The Bush Administration has ignored this information and show of aggression, choosing instead to invade Iraq because Hussein was, as Bush reminded us shortly before we invaded, "the man who tried to kill my daddy." It's the administration that's chose to lie to it's citizens about the invasion by trumping up the "weapons of mass destruction" story, and basically shrugging and saying, "Oops, my bad," when caught in that lie. It's the administration that has used its power to expose an undercover operative of the CIA to get revenge on another operative. It's the administration that is actively spying on its citizens via phone records, library usage, and who knows what else, for no other reason given besides "monitoring terror," a thinly disguised cover for a "because we can" mentality. It's the administration that, whenever people begin to ask questions and probe for reasons behind their actions, will pull a bait and switch and use another diversionary tactic in the name of "the war on terror" and "national security," to turn the focus of its citizens away from their misdeeds.

Such as tonight's speech "temporarily" securing the Mexican border - in the name of "national security," of course. And not only do we accept it, we as a country encourage it through not being willing to learn more about our international neighbors. By being more willing to hear about a rapper performing with his mother than listening to a former national leader talk about international relations on our morning news show. By not being able to identify one of our states on a map, much less a foreign country. By insisting that the national anthem be sung only in English because that's the "American Way," instead of being open to the idea of learning about other cultures or the concept of being loyal to one's country and having pride in our ancestry and cultural heritage. By caring more about when a TV show finale will air than why our government is more than willing to wall us off from the rest of the world, supposedly in the name of "liberty" and "protection."

Maybe we need to be isolated from the rest of the world, as the Bush Administration seems so eager to do, because that way we would not harm anyone else with the dangerous and destructive line of thinking we've seemed to embrace. To paraphrase Walt Kelly, after reading about the enemy, I can only come to the conclusion that it is us.

More (non-political posts) to come later. In the meantime, click on the links in this post to learn more about the items discussed here. Check out Move On for information and ways you can get involved in making the government a more open and compassionate representation of the people. Go to the First Amendment Center website to learn about the Constitution and your rights as a citizen. And if you're one of those folks who need a brush up on your geography, stop by the Rand McNally site for a map or three. Love your country enough to question authority.

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