Monday, January 31, 2005

The Republican Response

Something happened again today that is the reason that I absolutely LOVE this medium (the web) for having political discussions. In the past, I've been forced to punch the steering wheel or urinate on someone protesting for PETA out of frustration when someone conservative says or writes something that I don't agree with. Now, we can have a somewhat civilized conversation, discuss the finer points, and correct each other as needed. A case in point is On the Mark's comments below my cautious comments regarding Iraq's election. You can access that here. The beautiful thing is that I have the utmost respect for Mark, and his opinions, even if we don't see eye to eye all the time. This is one of those times.

On the Mark begins by ripping my post apart, saying that my statement about Bush's gross oversimplification of the democratic process wasn't backed up by research and that I'm just pulling this whole "Mission Accomplished" thing out of my rosy red, baboon ass. I'm sorry if I thought that Bush's message about the end of combat in Iraq was a point of contention:

If you're looking for Bush's unrealistic statements specifically about the Iraqi elections try this one or maybe this one or if those don't suit your fancy perhaps you'll find this one enjoyable. If you can stand to read the President entire statement from his own website click here.

In his statement, the President does point out that the elections are part of a process, and that the road to real Democracy is long and difficult, but the President and On the Mark missed my point completely. I'm not trying to denigrate the Iraqi people or minimize their sacrifices, as I pointed out in my initial post. The voter turnout in Iraq was 60%, which is roughly equivalent to the estimated voter turnout for the 2004 US election. The Iraqi people should be proud.

My point was simply that Bush's statements, policies, and actions have done nothing to change the underlying instabilities in Iraq. An election is a cosmetic change at best, and certainly not a solution when you're dealing with three groups of people who have fought for longer than we've been a country. I have the highest hopes for a peaceful Iraq in the future, but there are a number of factors such as the continued presence of Al Qaeda and political differences that will exist regardless of what type of government Iraq chooses. I simply am asking people, the President included, not to expect a democratic government to be a panacea to Iraq's very complex problems.

As far as doing my homework, On the Mark goes on to say that "We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated." I guess he didn't get the memo from the Bush Administration that there were no weapons of mass destruction. If you want more sources to back that up, how about White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's Press Briefing from January 12th, where McClellan tries his best with this exchange:

(Question) The President accepts that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he said back in October that the comprehensive report by Charles Duelfer concluded what his predecessor had said, as well, that the weapons that we all believed were there, based on the intelligence, were not there. And now what is important is that we need to go back and look at what was wrong with much of the intelligence that we accumulated over a 12-year period and that our allies had accumulated over that same period of time, and correct any flaws.

Read the whole thing if you think I'm taking it out of context. Maybe On the Mark needs to pay more attention to what W. and his administration are saying these days or back in October, to borrow McClellan's own words.

On the Mark goes on to do something that Republicans live for, which is to give examples of minorities, he chose Dr. Condoleeza Rice and Alberto Gonzales, and what inspiring success stories they are. I don't disagree with On the Mark that both of these individuals should be held in high regard. I may not agree with them politically, but I can seriously respect their hard work and determination against all odds.

The problem is not Dr. Rice or Mr. Gonzales. The problem is that Republicans use these examples, generally referred to as Horatio Alger stories, to show the best that any person can achieve in American Democracy. Horatio Alger was a 19th century author who wrote "rags-to-riches" stories about people who worked hard, and were rewarded for their hard work. It's the American way, really. And not bad stories. And if you talk to a Republican about race in our society, you're bound to hear one. "Everyone has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of skin color, religion, socioeconomic status etc."

It was used as an argument against affirmative action, until people realized that it's crap. Our country does, in fact, continue to discriminate against anyone who isn't white, male, and affluent. This could be an entire posting on its own. Horatio Alger stories are terrible devices to use to prove the anyone can succeed because if the poor and minorities had the same opportunities that we whities did, then Horatio Alger stories wouldn't be so damned remarkable. It would just be commonplace for a black women to be the Secretary of State. The fact that these stories are so rare that they are noteworthy proves either one of two points: 1) Not everyone has the same opportunities, which makes these stories so amazing 2) Minorities are all lazy, and don't take the opportunities they are given. I'm going with #1. Republicans would rather focus on a handful of exceptions, than the fact that we could do a much better job of educating and providing opportunities for minority students, for example.

On the Mark finishes up by pointing out that liberals just like to bash the US, based on my statements that I think it's funny that we're the model for democracy. I get this a lot, because I obviously hate our country. Oh wait, it's not that.

My philosophy has always been that in order to love something, wife, friends, or your country, you have to accept it for what it is. Believe it or not, there are things in this country where we could a do much better job than what we're doing presently. I feel like in order to make this country a better place, it's helpful to acknowledge those shortcomings, so that maybe things don't have to be that way. It's the first step in constructive change.

I might come across like I don't appreciate how great our country is, or that I don't like democracy, but really, my complaints and opinions are the core of a functioning democracy. I think in order to make this country a better place, we need to come to terms with the fact that we're the largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, or that we're not consistent in our foreign policy when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, and a whole host of other issues.

On the Mark would prefer that I just hail to the chief, salute the flag, screw a soldier (but no butt stuff!), wave a flag, eat my apple pie, and shut up. Unfortunately, this country wasn't founded by a bunch of greedy, corporate appeasers with flags shoved up their asses, and I'm not about to go that direction just to get a few people off my back. Question the answers. It makes you an active participant in the democracy, and while it might not be the easiest thing to do, it's better than having to explain to your grandkids why we don't have clean water or only the wealthiest people can afford health care.


Lord Bling said...

"I feel like in order to make this country a better place, it's helpful to acknowledge those shortcomings, so that maybe things don't have to be that way. It's the first step in constructive change."

Ahhhh. If only the lockstep flagwavers would take a step back, and look objectively at our nation, they would all agree with you. Nobody's perfect, just like no nation is perfect.

Anonymous said...

Jeff said,
I think it's a grand thing that Iraq just completed what I think can be categorized as a successful electoral process, and I genuinely hope everything turns out the way some are predicting: a milestone on the "journey to permanent democracy and freedom". But like Ryan, I believe that much caution should be exersized before making bold assertions. As Ryan mentioned, there are three major groups within the borders of Iraq who have been fighting one another to one degree or another for much longer than we have been a country. In addition, the Kurds, who consider themselves a distinct ethnic group, voice claims of having a traditional "homeland". As a long-time student of history, conditions like these make me wonder what the future might hold for Iraq. For an example of one possible outcome when distinct ethnic groups with historical animosity and territorial claims of "homelands" are combined under one government, let's examine Czechoslovakia. Oh wait, there is no such place anymore. It is now Slovenia and the Czech Republic. O.K., so that wasn't a very good outcome. What's another example? Ummmm, Yugoslavia. Ooops, that doesn't exist anymore either. It is now Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, and Macedonia. I hope it doesn't happen in Iraq, but it won't surprize me one iota if the road to permanent freedom and democracy makes a detour to civil war or ethnic violence before it reaches the final destination. And then there's that whole interesting question of what we'll say if the Iraqis end up electing a government that doesn't want to be our good friend. What will it all have been for if that happens? Will we then get on the road to backing a coup and getting a government in place that we like, or just on the road to looking at how many lives this whole thing cost and feeling like raging fools? Just because we think we're right and that everyone SHOULD see things our way doesn't mean they will. I sincerely hope they do, cause Lord knows we could all sleep a lot better with a more stable Middle East. But I'm not going to lay any bets on it just yet.