Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Advent impends....

Obviously in a black mood for the end of the church year. But not without reason:

"Impunity reigns in Guatemala," he said. "So whether there are documents or not, people responsible for crimes do not expect to pay for them. They have always enjoyed blanket immunity."
The files of the Guatemalan National Police have been found. Files which document the atrocities committed by the police for 36 years, until it was finally disbanded in 1996. Files which the Guatemalan government said didn't exist. "It now seems clear, human rights investigators say, that Mr. ArzĂș's government, as well as those that followed, knew about the files all along."

Does this begin to sound at all familiar? No? Give it a minute, it will.

"This presents a serious challenge for the government because there are going to be a lot of powerful names coming out of the files, and the justice system is very weak," Frank LaRue, director of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, said in an interview. "But the government remains committed to opening the archive, and prosecuting people responsible for crimes."

Later he toned down his statement, saying, "I am not sure everyone in the government would agree with that."
How about now?

Well, then, consider what Tom Gilroy has to say:

If we can look up from the maze every once in a while before we hit the little lever that makes the cheese pop out, we may discover that all this talk of did Cheney know this, will Scooter be pardoned that, will Alito overturn Roe v. Wade, will Pat Robertson melt if doused with water on live TV---all of this matters little to the uncharged, unconvicted, undefended cab driver hanging from his ankles in Guatanamo Bay.

I left out ‘starving’ and ‘sleep-deprived,’ but let’s not muddy this very polite and abstract political debate by mentioning ruptured organs, crushed vertebrae, being chained in a fetal position in a pool of your own shit and piss, or having electrodes clipped to your balls.

Let’s just keep it all polite so people like Joe Lieberman can seem patriotic, unbiased, and centrist. After all, we’re on the side of freedom and morality, so pulling out somebody’s fingernails is really an insignificant detail when you look at The Big Picture, which is of course hard to see when you’re hanging upside down in a hood and everything.
Five Democratic Senators voted for the "Graham Amendment," and Mr. Gilroy wants us to remember them:

So Joe Lieberman of Connecticut? Out.
Kent Conrad of North Dakota? Out.
Mary Landrieu of Louisiana? Out.
Ben Nelson of Nebraska? Out.
Ron Wyden of Oregon? Out.
But it isn't really about politics; it's about morality. It's about national identity:

Five of our ‘peacenik liberals’ sided with the lunatics in the majority who spout things like evolution is bunk, homosexuality is bestiality, and affirmative action is reverse racism, and gave 'the Graham measure' its margin of victory. Given the chance to look up from their George Lakoff books and say to themselves, ‘hmm, I don’t know, in my heart, something smells funny about this whole wallowing in your own piss and shit thingy,’ five of our leftist bleeding hearts okayed practices that would give Hitler a hard-on.

At a time when the Democrats are supposedly ‘on the march,’ we find five of them voting against a Republican who’s anti-torture. What does it tell you?

It tells you the labels of GOP and Democrat are bullshit, as are liberal and conservative, and this whole little exercise is a board game of PR and semantics. What matters in life—and more so in politics--is not what you say, not what you spin, not how you describe yourself, it’s what you do. And we torture.
But we knew this, in Texas. We learned it a long time ago:

The legendary Maury Maverick Jr. was in the legislature at the time, one of the “Gashouse Gang” that fought bravely against the poison of the era. He said these were “the worst years” in his life. “The lights were going out” and few voices were raised in protest. The low point, said Maverick, came when the state Senate passed a bill to remove all books from public libraries which “adversely” reflected on American and Texas history, the family and religion. Even the state teachers association endorsed the bill, in exchange for a pay raise. Maverick voted against it, but walking back to his apartment that evening he was suddenly overwhelmed by the evil of what was happening, and he “vomited until flecks of blood came up.”

That was the lay of the land in the 1950s. And Democrats were in charge, remember? That’s right: Texas was a one-party state; Republicans were as scarce in high office as Democrats are today. No matter the players, one-party government is a conspiracy in disguise.
So this is America, but not that far removed from Guatemala; because we like our secrecy, too. George W. Bush sealed Presidential records for himself and all of his predecessors for 12 years after their Presidency ends. It is as close as he can come to imposing absolute secrecy. But even that won't work; after all what is true for Guatemala is also true for us: " 'Ultimately these files are the institutional memory of the bureaucracy,' [Hassan Mneimneh, of the Iraq Memory Foundation] said. 'To expect a bureaucracy to destroy its files is to expect it to commit suicide.' "

So, still what distinguishes us from Guatemala? Not much, really:

This predatory convergence of corporate, political and religious power has taken the notion of our commonwealth —the ‘We the People’ in that magnificent preamble to the Constitution—and soaked it in the sanctimony of homegrown Ayatollahs, squeezed it through a rigged market, and then auctioned it to the highest bidder for private advantage, at the expense of working people, their families and their communities.
Or maybe it's that we have some people here who have experience with this kind of thing, people like: "Ronnie Dugger, Willie Morris, Robert Sherrill, Larry Goodwyn, Kaye Northcott, Jim Hightower, Geoffrey Rips, Lou Dubose, Michael King, Nate Blakeslee and Molly Ivins (whose wit should have prompted her arrest long ago. Who else makes us laugh so hard even as we read about the betrayal of democracy?)." All of whom are connected, not coincidentally, to Texas ("the strangest state in the Union") and The Texas Observer.

I read The Texas Observer and am reminded of the Irishman who comes upon a street brawl and asks, “Is this a private fight, or can anyone get in it?” You
never let us forget that democracy is a public fight. For half a century now, you have covered that fight like no other journalists in the state. From Marshall in East Texas to El Paso in the far west, from Dallas to Corpus Christi, from Bastrop County to Deaf Smith County, you have reported on the men and women who struggle against much larger forces—sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of others, knowing that whether they succeed or not, they had to make a fight of it, had to take a stand, if justice is to have a chance in Texas.
Maybe I just need to be reminded that democracy is a contact sport, and that fighting this kind of governance is a Texas tradition.

Because otherwise, I'm going to give up on it, and start proclaiming the kingdom of heaven is whatever I want it to be. That's so much easier than being faithful.

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