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Archive for the ‘democracy’ Category

Countless times we’ve been reminded that “the world changed on 9/11.”

In both parties’ National Conventions, we heard it again.

Everything changed.

This durable one-liner isn’t just a limp platitude anymore. Nowadays, it’s the alibi when politicians tinker with democracy, and the rationale when citizens lower their standards of what it means to be American and Free.

Tragedy and fear have ushered in a new politics—a blueprint for how to be corrupt without appearing evil. Usually “the change” is mentioned in order to legitimize some aspect of the shady shift that’s now occurring—whether in business, politics, ideology, world policy, military strategy, civil liberties, or the advent of barefaced media propaganda.

Everything changed; thus, we govern in a new way now—for your safety.

With crooked leaders come docile followers who believe it’s patriotic to be scared and vulnerable but not to participate in democracy. In time new catchphrases emerge, and are even more effective.

The Republicans put “Country First.”

The Democrats are all about “Securing America’s Future.”

A population trusts and complies, convinced that things have fundamentally changed and must change again, ASAP.

While surface references to things changing are ample, clarity about what exactly changed (and why it had to) is hard to pin down.

Concretely, many things did change on September 11th, 2001. Jumbo jets disappeared into towers; towers toppled like tiny wooden blocks in a “Jenga” game. Thousands of Americans never came home, and thousands more will never come home the same.

But while airplanes vaporize on impact, empires disintegrate gradually, over time. The lasting casualty of that fateful morning may be the loss of a great nation, one that remains unable to function as it did in its glory. Great nations do not collapse violently, as do great buildings made of steel, but softly, a little more each day, one parcel at time.

Nations die lingering deaths.

If ours crumbles, it will do so in slow-motion, with no loud explosions to mark the moment when at last we finish our fall. This second, slower death will be the enduring legacy of 9/11, the important ending heard not with the bang but only inside the relative whimper that follows.

The changes history shall remember aren’t necessarily about the people who died on 9/11. It may be that our most profound changes have yet to occur.

This newly updated, wounded America is one the victims never knew. It belongs now to the three-hundred-million of us who weren’t murdered that morning–Americans from other regions of the country; New Yorkers who worked in other parts of Manhattan; WTC employees who called in sick or were running late that morning; those who raced out of the buildings moments before they fell.

We are the survivors, and 9/11’s ramifications matter to us.

Yes, our hearts are with the victims. But must our minds fixate solely on the dead as we ask what should come next in life?

“Everything changed” is one version of 9/11, the favored myth in our national monologue and, for some, a therapeutic way to cope with loss. But change is not fait accompli; it is just one possibility among many from which to choose.   That is a choice that we as citizens were never given, and one that’s still rightfully ours to make, together.

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“Flip a coin, what shall we talk about? Heads I tell the truth and tails I lie.”

–The Refreshments

George W. Bush’s weeklong trip through Europe wasn’t only about glamorous dinners and leisurely jaunts to old school castles. The President’s so-called “farewell tour” was a ploy for him to take one last stab at rounding up an entourage to have our backs in our impending squirmish with Iran.

Thus far, this last ditch attempt to convert “the unwilling” into fellow warmongers has come up short, akin to the Hail Mary that gets batted down at the line of scrimmage; an air ball at the buzzer, heaved from half court. (more…)

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Once a week in London, Gordon Brown squares off against his political opponents. As British Prime Minister, the Labour Party leader must personally appear before Parliament each Wednesday. This isn’t the same as memorizing speeches written by some third person or sending proxies to field softball questions from a tame press corps. (more…)

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Superman 2

While covering the presidential horse race, CNN and other mainstream news outlets keeps showing “delegate counts” without explaining their significance, as if there’s no real distinction between “superdelegates” and the apparently not-so-super ones.

But there is a distinction, an important one. Regular delegates, or “pledged” delegates, correspond to actual votes. Superdelegate votes reflect the arbitrary whims and fancies of powerful individuals. (more…)

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I’m not especially surprised to learn that a few 9/11 conspiracy theorists got booted out of last night’s Hillary Clinton fundraiser. We do after all live in a country that tasers college students who ask ex-presidential candidates what frat they were in.

What did surprise me however was Bill Clinton’s simplistic response: “How dare you!”

(more…)

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A true “patriot” loves America enough to speak out against its corrupt politics. The U.S.A. was born out of protest. Our forefathers (frequently misremembered as servants of god) risked their lives revolting in protest against 18th century England’s abuse of colonial power. If we respect these so-called founders as passionately as our bumper stickers indicate, then why are we so afraid to follow their lead? Why do we balk at the mere thought of calling out those who abuse the power we’ve entrusted them with? (more…)

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