September 2006

Check Your Brain, Ma’am? 

    A question arises whether or not Americans are smart or persistent enough to connect the dots on Iraq and hold the Bush administration responsible for the unfolding tragedy there. 
    According to a number of recent (last week) political polls, President Bush received a bump in his numbers with approximately 42% or so of Americans now saying they are “okay” with the president’s job performance. This is absolutely inexplicable to me. How can this be, how can 42% of Americans be satisfied with the death and mayhem directly attributable to Bush’s decision to invade and occupy a nation that was of no threat to America? 
    I know there are quite a number of readers who support the President’s decision to invade Iraq. Would you please write a letter to the editor explaining how, in light of all the evidence, you continue to support America’s catastrophic and calamitous occupation of Islamic Iraq. Please take the time to organize your thoughts and make the case for our continued presence. Make sure you justify the unrelenting death and laming of our servicemen and women and the financial burden, the dollar cost of the war (now estimated at $2 trillion) to taxpayers. We are spending $200 million a day in Iraq. 
    Not only was our occupation of Iraq ill-conceived, poorly planned and abysmally executed but according to just published reports by 16 different spy agencies within the American government, our invasion of Iraq has accomplished exactly the opposite of President Bush’s false claims. The Iraq war has actually worsened the terrorism threat to America and the world. 
    Our unconscionable (to America First!) war ignites a growing army of Islamic fanatics and according to our own spy professionals, the overall terrorist threat to America has grown significantly since 9-11. 
    Administration claims to the contrary, the President’s war in Iraq has actually made America less secure in an already dangerous world. Is that ironic or merely tragic? Yet 42% of Americans are “okay” with President Bush, his administration and his policies. Again, how can this be? 
    I’ve a theory. It may not totally explain why such a large percentage of Americans refuse to hold this admini-stration accountable but it may partially illustrate the challenge to real change in America. 
    By way of illustration, say, you wish to introduce an idea to the public (“X” is sound policy, “X” is freedom, “X” is just, “X” is necessary for the nation’s survival). Say, it’s President Bush insisting it is necessary to occupy Iraq, arguing it will make America safer. 
    What is the thinking process required of an intelligent human being, a citizen as she evaluates her President’s justifications for occupying Iraq or, simply for considering “X” (tax cuts, environmental policy, energy strategies, Supreme Court nominees)? She must weigh the evidence in light of her ability to rationally consider facts. 
    And therein lies the rub. According to the Pew and Gallup polls and, as printed in the New York Times, 50% of Americans think Christ is returning in the next 50 years, 50% of us believe that the universe was created 6,000 years ago, 62% of Americans want Creationism taught in the public schools and 44% (there’s that 40% figure) want it taught exclusively and, get this, 73% of Americans believe in the existence of hell. 
    If that is your acuity threshold, that you willing subscribe to something as fanciful as the universe being created 6,000 years ago, well, “Have eyeeee gotta war for you!” 
    If geological evidence alone will not give you pause to question your creation myth, is it any wonder that an administration hell-bent on war and employing misdirection, Three Card Monte and deceit has proven too frustrating for too many voters? 
    And, they’ll counter, “George Bush is our President! He wouldn’t intentionally lead us down the wrong path! 
    And, if we don’t believe in the President, what will we do?” 
    Well, for starters, try thinking for yourself. On occasion. 
    History is replete with phonies, card sharks and the hubristically stupid. That doesn’t mean an entire nation should so tragically pay because so many of us, so willingly, check our brains at the door. 
    Actually, that is exactly what it means. In my opinion. 
Reach Chris Jepson at: 

Good Gett’un Better 

    My longtime friend, the never departed, John Fisher considered me a bit of a Pollyanna. He’d say, “There you go again,” in that lyrical, resonant voice of his so reminiscent of Ronald Reagan. It was usually after I’d suggest some faint, distant ray of hope regarding humanity. And I’d hear, “There you go again.” 
    Typical by way of illustration, would be my belief in the overall potential of our species. That, of course, we’ve made mistakes but, by gawd, we’re capable of learning. “Look, look how far we’ve come,” I’d exclaim with pride! 
    And, John would simply and dryly note, “Exactly.” 
    This was a ritual exchange between a couple of bantering old skeptics (fools, if you will) and then we’d laugh, sometimes ‘til tears appeared. Both of us thought that too much of humanity is dumber than a box of rocks, easily corrupted, sadly shortsighted, susceptibly violent and every evil humanly attributed to Satan merely misplaced. But one of our mutual joys was how much our story absolutely enthralled us. 
    Whatever our outcome as a species, damn if we aren’t interesting. Not third grade, plastic Ant Farm interesting (actually, that too), but Beethoven 5th Symphony interesting, New York City interesting, 2006 fall elections interesting, Machu Picchu interesting, Emily Dickinson “Hope is the thing with feathers” interesting, inspira-tional Martin Luther King interesting, even goofball religious interesting. 
    Many times I brought an idea to John and “ran it up the flagpole,” to see if he’d deign to salute it. We so enjoyed language that I know John would have come up with a few choice words when considering the following question, “Using the fewest words possible, sum-up a universal axiom as to how humans want life to be.” 
    A few years ago I coined the expression: reciprocity is the lubricant of life. It captures to me a certain quality about the whole human experience. But that is not an answer for today’s question. I reduced it to three words. How do we want life to be? Good gett’un better. To me that sums all that we (potentially) are. We are perceptively aspirational.        Good, of course, is a subjective determination but it’s the “gett’un” that intrigues me. It suggests a certain pro-active approach to what? On the move! To better, of course. It is so American, so quintessentially Western. So human. 
    My brother when asked the same question said, “Suffer no losses.” 
    My wife offered, “Challeng-ing but not over whelming.” 
    I recently sat talking with my daughter about such matters and our conversation ventured off on a slightly different tack about, vaguely speaking, what we want out of life. She articulated the new mother sentiment about long life & happiness for her child and after a few quick exchanges I “reduced” her feelings to a pithy: May your children die happily after you. 
    She protested a bit so I added: plus have some fun (for herself) along the way.             Actually, I personally know a number of families where the children could die extremely happy simply hearing the cold sound of dirt hitting a parent’s casket. But we won’t go there today. Too, dark. 
    John Fisher would have eventually observed, as did my brother Uncle Stevie, that all these sentiments are at odds with the actual human condition. 
    Experience no losses? Impossible. Challenging but not overwhelming? In your dreams. Good gett’un better? Tell that to sub-Sahara Africa. Or, American soldiers on patrol in Iraq. 
    Joseph Campbell said it well about the totality of the human experience. Our goal, perhaps, The goal is to “live joyfully in a world of sorrow.” 
    I lost both my parents unexpectedly, months apart, in 1995. A little over a year later my sister Susan died of brain cancer. Her death, as devastating as is it was to her siblings would have been spirit crushing to her parents. It’s an ironic twist of life when the living say, “I’m glad mother and father weren’t here, weren’t alive for this.” 
    So, perhaps, May your children die happily after you is not too far off the mark for what humanity might actually aspire. But for me and my effervescent Pollyanna quality that courses through my DNA (and was so cruelly, cruelly mocked by John Fisher), I’ll stick with, Good Gett’un Better. 
    What about you? What has you getting up in the morning? Besides having to pee?
Reach Chris Jepson at: 

Make FUV! Not War! 

    I was rereading a piece I wrote dated March 13, 2003 and in it I predicted we wouldn’t go to war in Iraq. 
    I wrote: “The number one thing President Bush and his advisors want is to be re-elected. As much as administration Hawks want war with Iraq, America’s corporate special interests want the ongoing fire sale of America to continue unabated. They want taxes lowered, environmental laws gutted, unions weakened, business and investment regulatory laws eliminated, plaintiff lawyers corralled, national forests opened, clean air and clean water regulations weakened, a veritable smorgasbord, a shopping list of America’s best government programs and protections sold-off, eliminated or marginalized by a Republican administration. And to the highest bidder, I might add.” 
    Boy was I naïve. Little did I understand that you can have your cake and eat it, too! That you can wage a senseless, useless unnecessary war and still achieve your domestic objectives of marginalizing government and of enriching, even further, America’s affluent and privileged. How? 
    First, you create an enemy that can never be defeated. Not only can it not be defeated, contrary to the lessons of history, we must never negotiate, never rationally discuss what separates us because unlike previous enemies, say, Communist Russia, this new enemy will be our enemy for the rest of our lives, for the rest of your children’s lives. We are in the never-ending war. Catch the argument? Oh, and this new horror is truly evil. Unlike, previous evils? 
    Interesting, the never-ending war demands nothing. Just the profoundly sad, unnecessary sacrifice of the men and women of our all-voluntary (I’m gett’un a new start, Maw!) army who die in places they have no business dying in. 
    For the rest of us, it’s tax cuts and shopping trips and foot-ta-ball games. It’s normalcy and hope, hope, dear gawd, please, for $2 a gallon gas. Ahhh, hope. 
    No selective service draft for the Forever Unwinnable Violence (FUV) that we gotta fight and gotta win. No tax increases, either to pay for the forever war that few fight. 
    I welcome the debate, the discussion, that America was “gamed.” We were rolled into this Iraq war for dishonest, untrue reasons. And, the GOP would have you believe that that is of no account. 
    Republicans came into power for a cause. To cut taxes. To reduce government. Know what? I agree with both. But, I do believe which taxes and which reductions are up for discussion. Regardless, that’s the Republican mantra and then 9-11 fell, metaphorically speaking, into their laps. A double tragedy for America. 
    What’s going on is not new. Those who have power and want to achieve their goals will use what is given them. 
    And so, terror & fear is what were being sold. Between advertisements for unwanted SUV’s and foot-ta-ball. It dominates our vocabulary. It’s hijacked the discussion. Either you’re with us. (Stop! Since when is asking why un-American?) Or, you’re something else.
    But don’t forget why we’re here. Cut taxes. Reduce government. It takes time. It takes election cycles. Vote for me because it’s really, really scary “out there” and we’re the party of strength & patriots. 
    Well, you know what? I think it time the party of brains showed up, too. Oh, I’ve heard it said, it takes a spine, sometimes, to get the brain to do what’s right. You’d think the two better connected. 
    But the Republicans have remained focused, I’ll giv’um that. Cut taxes. Damn straight. That government thing, well, remember, it’s really, really scary out there and we need surveillance and bombs and really, really expensive technical (only certain corporations can provide) gear. And we’re at war. It’s all so expensive. But don’t worry. Remember: FUV is free! Free FUV! Make FUV-Not War! 
    We’re borrowing billions from the Chinese to build bombs to explode over Iraq. Because half a dozen men (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Perle, et al) thought they had the answers. They were such Rubes, they didn’t even know the questions. It would be funny except it’s tragic. 
    Heads-rolled. In an historical context that is a literal expression. No heads-rolled over Iraq. Why? 
    Now the administration says, “Don’t take your eye off the ball. (Think: Three Card Monte) It’s really, really scary out there and we’re the party of patriots.” 
    But it’s really about bustin’ government and cuttin’ taxes and we’ll do what’s necessary to get re-elected and did’ja know it’s really, really scary out there and we are, after all, the party of patriots. 
    Oh, and of course, the party of God. Know what? God’s coincidentally about bustin’ government and cuttin’ taxes, too. Gosh! 
Reach Jepson at: