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William Rivers Pitt: Shelter from the Storm

Shelter from the Storm

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 28 March 2005


I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes and blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

-- Bob Dylan

I attempted at the outset of the month to encapsulate the entire history of the Bush administration in one sentence. The frightening part isn't how long the sentence turned out to be, or how damnably infuriating the content of the sentence turned out to be. The frightening part is the simple fact that the sentence is incomplete. The online satire magazine 'The Onion' ran an article a few weeks ago titled “Liberals Suffer Outrage Overload." As with many Onion headlines, there was more truth than fiction in the words.

It's the hypocrisy, stupid. It goes on and on and on, and it is exhausting in the extreme to consider, much less address and attack. Lately, the hypocrisy needle has been pegged over into the red. Leave it to the Republican majority to take an important issue, an issue filled with questions about medical ethics, the rights of the disabled people, the rights of spouses, the place of federalism in a national debate and the simple value of human life, and transmogrify it into a ghoulish circus sideshow best used to score political points and do a little fundraising on the side.

Yes, I am talking about Mrs. Schiavo, again. We just can't seem to get away from this story, for in many ways, it encapsulates so much of what has gone so wrong in this country and with this government. Consider:

  • The Republicans, party of states rights, have bulldozed Florida law and the basic underpinnings of Federalism to take a hand in this matter. Florida law allows a spouse to stand surrogate when medical decisions of life and death are required, but since sticking to their states-rights guns would not give the conservatives the outcome they desire, they betrayed a central ethic of their political philosophy without batting an eye;
  • The Republicans, party of the sanctity of marriage, have taken over the role of husband in the process of knocking over their Federalist principles. Gay people getting married is a horrid affront to the sanctity of marriage, but the United States Congress finds no problem elbowing itself into the kitchen-table decisions made between a husband and a wife;
  • The Republicans, party of moral values, are enjoying an incredible fundraising opportunity in flogging the Schiavo story. One cannot swing one's cat by the tail without striking a plea for financial assistance from the far-right Republican-allied groups that have turned one family's plight into a river of cash;
  • Republicans, party of the 'Culture of Life,' have not one word to say about Sun Hudson. Hudson was a five-month-old baby born in Texas with a genetic disorder that required him to be sustained on machines. Thanks to a law signed by then-Governor Bush in 1999, Texas hospitals are allowed to remove patients from machines if they deem there is no hope, and if the patient's family cannot afford to sustain care. Sun Hudson was removed from his machines two weeks ago, over the thunderous outrage of his mother, and he died. Congressional Republicans were nowhere to be found when the life left his little body;
  • Republicans, party of Tom DeLay, have not one word to say about DeLay's staggering double standard in this matter. In 1988, DeLay's father was injured in an accident and left in a condition quite similar to that of Mrs. Schiavo. DeLay sat in private counsel with his family, heard the verdict of the doctors that his father would never recover, considered the stated wishes of his father that he did not want to be left to live sustained by machines should such a thing come to pass, and decided to let the man pass. Had a mob of self-righteous Congressional Democrats tried to batter their way into the decision-making process of the DeLay family in 1988, Tom would have likely attacked them with his bug-extermination equipment, and he would have been fully justified in doing so.
  • Etc.

    Ball all of that up with the fact that these are the same cretins whose respect for life in all forms does not extend to the 200,000 or so human beings, a number that includes 1,528 American soldiers, whose lives have been snuffed out in this illegal Iraq war. Add to the pile the tens of thousands of arms, legs, faces and hopes that have been blasted away in this thing, and you are left contemplating the Humvee-sized hole that sits in the center of any 'Culture of Life' argument they would dare put forth.

    Every aspect of this Schiavo matter - the hypocrisy and doublespeak, the forgetfulness of casualties that do not help in a political argument, the betrayal of long-standing rhetorical ethics, the rank profiteering, the avoidance of discussion that is in any way meaningful - can be similarly found in the manner in which these people have conducted themselves in this invasion and occupation.

    On most days, I would use this laundry list of wretchedness as a rallying cry. Take to the streets, I would say, make your voices heard, scream and shout, get on your feet and do something. This time, however, a different approach seems appropriate. Keeping track of all this stuff, listing the innumerable ways we have been betrayed singularly and en masse, finding ways to put a stop to it, can take a grievous toll.

    The time has come, perhaps, to do something else.

    Two years ago, on the 2nd of May 2003, George W. Bush donned a flight outfit and landed dramatically on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. He stood before the assembled personnel, quoted Scripture, and declared the war in Iraq to be all but over beneath a banner that proclaimed MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

    The anniversary of that day is right around the corner, and a group called 'Mission NOT Accomplished' is organizing a way to mark the occasion. They wish to call attention to the passing of this dubious anniversary, and to keep what happened on that day in the forefront of our national consciousness. Their mission statement reads in part:

    On May 2, 2005, We the People have a plan to remember that day, and to keep remembering it until we bring home our troops and begin to repair our damaged relationship with the rest of the world. So great is the magnitude of such an undertaking that many Americans have given in to despair, and many say that it is not possible to rouse the American public to needed action to take back our country. This day will mark a sabbatical from jobs, shopping, television programming, answering e-mail and surfing the Internet. No Walmart shopping, no eating at McDonalds, in fact, no shopping at all, except for absolute necessities.

    While we are relaxing and remembering the significance of this day, we are not participating in supporting the corporate structure which feeds the regime currently occupying the White House. We will use this day to visit Veterans' Hospitals, take flowers, gifts, carrot cake, poetry to the people who have given their health and future wellbeing, in many cases, to what they believed was a good cause but turned out to be a lie. Even those who do not see it that way deserve our compassion, our love, and our practical assistance.

    It's a good a day as any to take some shelter from the storm.


    William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for truthout. He is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'

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