Meditations (Politics): Freedom and Entanglement
Freedom and Entanglement
The pictures of joyous Iraqis voting in their first election after American forces deposed the tyrant Saddam Hussein were heartwarming and heart wrenching. How painfully they contrast with the Conduit-in-Chief’s State of the Union address, built on the fundamental lie that ''our nation is an active force for good in the world.''
During Bush’s speech, there was a moment of historic symbolism when the two main human props literally became entangled. A female Iraqi voter sitting next to Laura Bush, and the mother of a Marine killed in Iraq sitting behind her, turned and hugged each other on cue. The mother of the Marine was holding her son’s dog tags, and they became hooked on the sleeve of the Iraqi woman.
Suddenly the set-up, sentimental moment (Bush was tearing up on the podium) turned poignantly real. It almost looked as if the mother was giving the dog tags to the Iraqi woman, which would have been something significant. But she wasn’t. The media reported the embrace as a ‘wonderful, spontaneous moment.’
My mind goes back a few days to the scene of a withered old man in his tattered best, being carried a mile to the polling station by family members, and of a young man with a leg blown off by a car bomb, who said he would have crawled to the voting booth if necessary. Not even the unseemly gloating by the right wing press in the United States, and President Bush’s restrained reprise of his “Mission Accomplished” act, could erase the emotional truth embodied in the Iraqi elections.
During his State of the Union address, Bush echoed my thoughts exactly when he said, “they are trying to destroy the hopes of the Iraqis, expressed in free elections.” But the ‘they’ is the U.S. The American military in Iraq no longer speaks of “winning hearts and minds,” but baldly defines their mission as “co-opting the Iraqi people” with dollars and propaganda.
The insurgents are right about the sham and show of democracy, but their violent and barbaric means of opposing the occupation by blowing up civilians, or beheading people collaborating with the Americans, leaves the Iraqis no choice but to retain the US military. A suicide bomber is a desperate coward no matter what the cause. Beheading is beyond the pale of human civilization.
On Sunday we were wrenchingly reminded of the people this war was supposedly waged for -- the Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis of Iraq. They are flesh and blood human beings, whose long suppressed aspirations and basic desires for dignity and self-expression emerged, with aching pathos, from beneath the violent stage.
Are we to now believe, from this confirmation of human spirit and courage, that the war was justified, and that the Bush policies have been vindicated? Or is this yet another example of how war, an inherent evil, can produce beneficial byproducts?
The arrival of new medicines and technologies, disgorged with the piles of entrails from the womb of war, does not mean, a posteriori, that the filthy beast has been virtuously conceived. And yet that is the blatant and subliminal message the world is receiving from Washington.
Some French are showing they remember a thing or two about collaboration. The deputy editor of Le Figaro said after the election: “Suddenly we have a whole different perspective, and it can only benefit George W. Bush. He has been proven right.”
An Egyptian citizen retained his senses, saying, “The march of democracy is fine. But inordinate military actions, and all that bloodshed, is really alarming.”
The dictionary defines democracy as a government by the people. Do the people rule in the United States? Americans are a willingly and even willfully ignorant populace, kept fat and happy with endless junk food and toys of consumerism, voting a narrow selection of candidates, culled from an even narrower range of philosophical and ideological choices.
Not without reason therefore, the Bushites are banking on the bought and paid for Iraqi people (with blood and money) buying into the global economy and opening the spigots to the largest oil reserves in the world. That’s what they mean by democracy and freedom.
The world witnessed the spirit of the long-suffering Iraqi people rise up in an unexpected display of self-expression, desire for self-determination, and hope for the future. Does that suddenly vindicate this ‘war of choice?’ No, the ends do not justify the means, but the means determine the ends.
An Iraqi voter bristled at being asked his religious identification, replying, “yes I am a Shiite, but I am an Iraqi before I am anything.” Is he moving in the right direction, away from religious extremism, or the wrong one, toward national pride?
Power, war, and propaganda will continue to be the basic mode, means, and currency of human political life until enough people say, ‘Yes I am an American (or whatever), but I am a human being before I am anything.’
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.