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2003-09-14 6:36 p.m.

taking crazy pills OR greyarea expounds his politics at great length

Introduction- This is my diary. I don't really have a paper diary. I use this whenever I have something to say, or when I don't. Today I feel like working out my political views through writing, to better understand where I am at right now. I often try to avoid discussing politics in here because it's just such a heavy topic, and I enjoy things more when they're light. But I feel like I need to get this stuff down in writing today. So bear with me. Or don't.

For my own part, I have never had a thought which I could not set down in words with even more distinctness than that which I conceived it.E -Edgar Allan Poe

A detached part of myself has watched in curiosity and amusement as my political consciousness has emerged over the past few years.

Up through high school and the first part of college, I found politics and government to be deathly boring topics, not worthy of my time- despite getting the highest grade in the class in AP Government. I think I just trusted the government to keep things plugging along reasonably well, and I trusted our system of checks and balances to keep the government in line.

I never thought of myself as Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. I only had a vague idea of the difference between Democrats and Republicans for a long time. I suppose in some ways I still DO have only a vague idea of the difference...

Anyway, I do remember the first time I got passionate about politics. It was the 2000 election. It just seemed obvious to me that Bush was anti-intellectual (not to mention anti-environment) with virtually no qualifications who only got where he was because of his father. The man couldn't even string a coherent sentence together, for crying out loud!

(It always pisses me off when people use the excuse, "Oh, dumb presidents are good. They're not as crafty and ambitious as the smart ones. The smart ones are dangerous, but the dumb ones surround themselves with intelligent aides who take care of things." Ugh. That's no excuse for incompetency! Not to mention the fact that intelligence and ethics are not inversely proportional to each other, and the fact that I'd always rather have the smart, ambitious leader we elected than the smart, ambitious shadow government we didn't!)

As it turned out, Bush's presidency only confirmed my fears about him and pushed me even further in the ideological direction I was leaning when he was elected.

Anyway, I gradually came to think carefully on and work out my opinions on various different issues, and then paid attention to what kinds of people thought the same way and what kinds of labels were applied to them. I was and still am vaguely surprised to find that I'm a... a liberal. 'Cause where I was raised... calling someone a liberal? Them's fightin' words.

[sigh] And yet, I still have an amazing ability to see both sides of an issue. When it comes down to it, I'm glad that I'm so careful, but sometimes it feels like I don't have any opinions on anything.

Like... I sympathize a lot with pro-lifers. I think that in most cases, abortion is wrong. However... do I think outlawing abortion would make things better? I'd have to say... no. People are going to have abortions. Sometimes it's necessary. Better they have it done cleanly and competently than... however they'll end up having to do it if it's illegal. But I'm ultimately pretty ambivalent on the issue.

And while I think every human deserves a basic standard of living, I recognize that few government social programs do much to help the underlying social problems, and often cause new ones. Universal health care sounds like a good idea, but you only have to look as far as Canada to see that you can have inexpensive health care or you can have quality health care, not both. Not only is the level of care in Canada not nearly up to the US standard, but people there often find themselves on a waiting list for a procedure that would be immediate in the US just because the system is overloaded. Many people die on the waiting list.

I tend to nod my head when Republicans talk about how throwing money at social problems will not solve them, because these problems come from fundamental problems in the attitudes of individual Americans, and trying to cure the symptoms will not cure the disease. They don't really seem to have any idea on what to do about the ills in our world, though. Their only ideas seem to be foisting Christianity on everyone (shyeah), or adopting an "every man for himself" attitude which really disturbs me. I especially hate this attitude among the conservative that if someone is poor they deserve to be poor. "We live in America, land of the American Dream! Anyone willing to work hard will be successful! Therefore, anyone who is not successful must not be willing to work hard!" It makes me want to pull my hair out. Our social problems aren't caused by the attitudes of the poor so much as they are caused by the attitudes of the rich.

I am solidly liberal on environmental issues. Perhaps it's the scientist in me. But things are starting to get out of control, and we need to bite the bullet NOW before it really does get out of control. This terminal near-sightedness has got to stop.

"Our planet is in its 'awkward phase' right now- the phase after uncontrolled industrialization has begun destroying the planet's ecosystems but before miraculous technology appears that solves all the problems without anyone having to make sacrifices." -Jon Stewart (Daily Show)

Don't hold your breath. Though you may have to in order to keep from choking on toxic fumes before too long.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.E -H.L. Mencken

I also dislike how conservative politics always seem to benefit the rich and the corporations. This summer especially I have come to be extremely distrustful of corporations and anyone whose number one priority is profit. Don't get me wrong- I think capitalism is great, but if capitalism is just left to run unmonitored it eventually turns to conglomeration and monopoly, which is the opposite of what capitalism is supposed to be. Government oversight of business is essential.

Oh, and I don't hate gays, either. Honestly, I don't think homosexuality is natural, but is it wrong? NO. That kind of puts me out with the conservatives, as well.

I read the New Testament, and then I watch these conservative Christians wallowing in their greed, hate, and fear, and I just scratch my head. I just don't get it.

Anyway, I'm also reminded right now of what Jon Stewart said on the Daily Show after the 2002 mid-term elections. It went something like this: "So, the midterm elections took place yesterday, and Americans came out overwhelmingly in support of sweeping tax cuts for the rich, reduced corporate oversight, accelerated destruction of the environment, and a green light for an ideological right wing global geopolitical policy. ... Well what did you think you were voting for?" To me, that's exactly what a vote for a Republican usually means...

But I don't know that the Democrats or the Green Party really represent what I want in political leadership, either... I just don't know.

I do know that I don't like Bush. I was actually mostly with him as far as the Afghanistan stuff, but... This Iraq stuff is just unforgivable. (Actually, I might be willing to forgive if he'd apologize. But I'm expecting that around the time Christ comes back.) I'll admit that Saddam was evil and the kind of person who should never be in power, anywhere. However, it was not our job to remove him, at least not NOW, all by ourselves, at the cost of diplomatic relations with our allies, with increased anger from our enemies and the biggest deficit in history added in as a bonus at a time when we need to be putting all of our energy into protecting ourselves from the real threats (Saddam and Al Qaeda are not interchangeable terms!) and repairing our crumbling infrastructure.

Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda, and the implication that they did is one of the things that angers me most about the Bush administration. Iraq was not a threat to us. There was no compelling evidence of weapons of mass destruction. But Bush did it anyway. He did a masterful job of getting our friends to hate us and giving our enemies even more reason to hate us. Which is the last thing we need right now. And for what? So we can have the biggest deficit in history coupled with a sweeping tax cut for people who have too much money as it is while the economy goes to hell and American troops are killed practically every day by a decidedly ungrateful Iraqi population? And all the while terrorists from all over are pouring into Iraq to take advantage of the confusion. Iraq wasn't the front line of the War on Terror before Bush started meddling there, but it sure is now. American security has been undermined, not strengthend by this war. Oh, and those weapons of mass destruction that were the reason we went to war? Uhh... There aren't any.

And no one seems to care. All these damn conservatives think this is just wonderful and great and are so thankful that we have a strong Christian president in these times of peril who will do what needs to be done. And I think, "What the hell is wrong with you? This guy will either flush us right down the toilet, or lead us right into World War III, playing the traditional role of Germany, if we all act like the blindly obedient lemmings you are!" I feel like Mugatu at the end of Zoolander, wailing about the idiocy of Zoolander's "looks." "AM I TAKING CRAZY PILLS? WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?"

And now Bush asks for help from the UN. He's made a mess, against the wishes of the UN, and now he wants them to clean it up. And he pretends that this was the plan all along, as if he didn't tell the UN to take a long walk off a short pier six months ago.

Most of the countries of the world now see the US as the biggest threat in the world today. Man, I really do love America and what it stands for. But What America Stands For in the rest of the world has changed radically since the Bush crew came in, and not in a good way. It just makes me sad.

And this literally makes me sick. Send back liberty, indeed.

Oh, and I hate it when people accuse you of not "supporting the troops" whenever you indicate that you're against the Iraq situation. Oh, I support the troops. Because the troops are the ones who have to die in carrying out Bush's plans. "War is fun when you know you won't die!" The most supportive action to take for our troops would have been to never have sent them over there in the first place.

Anyway, when thinking about why so many people are so blindly supportive of Bush, no matter what utterly insane thing he decides to do, the only thing I can think of is "Fear." They are afraid, and Bush claims to be able to protect them. Actually, I'd say he has been successful in breaking the back of Al Qaeda. But that doesn't mean that anything Bush claims is a threat to national security is actually a threat to national security, especially when he can't give any plausible reasons WHY something labelled a threat should be so labelled. But when you're scared and holding a big gun, every noise receives a bullet. Maybe a clip.

Which brings us around to why I felt inclined to write this today. I watched Bowling for Columbine for the first time last night. (No, I didn't see it in the theatre. I'm not even sure it ever was in the theatre in Utah.)

It got me thinking. It got me thinking about where we are, where we're headed, and what I think about all of it. I agreed with a lot of what he had to say, but not all. ... We really do live in a culture of fear.

It got me thinking about my summer job. Not just the "preying on people's fears and insecurities to get money out them" part of selling home security, but also the "spending all day in poor neighborhoods where 90% of the population is minority (read 'the ghetto')" part of the job. Honestly, I was a little nervous going into those neighborhoods at first- I was very obviously a middle class white in a very obviously lower class latino area. But actually I never had any problems at all and found most of the people to be quite friendly, even the young gangster-looking "cholo" types. I came to really enjoy Hispanics and their culture. It wasn't at all what the media made it out that such areas were like.

However, Kelly witnessed a drive-by shooting targeted at a house he had been inside moments before not too far from where I was, so... Hum.

Anyway, I really like Bowling for Columbine, and after watching some of the extras I thought this might be a guy I could really look to for guidance in sorting out the complex nature of the modern world. But... a few things felt a little off to me, so I decided to go online and "check the facts" a little. I didn't have to look hard to find plenty of people with plenty of things to say about the accuracy of the film. Some of it was just mean-spirited conservative drivel, some of it was reading implications into the film that weren't really there, some of it concerned "facts" that aren't really verifiable. But it does seem that Mr. Moore took some liberties in his editing and fact presentation... For instance, the Lockheed plant in Littleton only makes rockets for putting communications satellites into orbit- it doesn't make missiles for defense. Charleton Heston and the NRA were fairly badly misrepresented by some creative editing of speeches and interviews, and distortions of the time frames involved... These are probably my favorite critiques of the ones I read.

I still respect Michael Moore and agree with what I feel are a lot of the basic messages of Bowling for Columbine, but I'll have to take his presentation of reality with a grain of salt from now on. It just kind of made me realize (again) that taking another person's opinions on and interpretations of reality unquestioningly as the truth is not just lazy but also dangerous. And not only that, but I realized that I really don't trust anyone to fill that role for me, and with good reason.

It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is to not care how you get your money as long as you have got it.E -Edmund Way Teale

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.E-Martin Luther King, Jr.

By the way, I do think that military intervention is a good thing sometimes. You want to know where in 2003 you can go to find devout Muslims who love the US? Kosovo. They love us there. Because if it wasn't for American bombs, there would be no ethnic (Muslim) Albanians in Kosovo today- an area where the population is roughly 90% Albanian. They would all be dead or refugees. Most Americans had never heard of Kosovo before we bombed it, and most Americans stopped caring what was going on there when it stopped. But it's kind of a pet topic of mine. We had a Kosovar Albanian exchange student live with us for several years. In 1998 I did a 15 page research paper on the situation in Kosovo and its history. In the paper I predicted that it was only a matter of time before the Serbs came in to commit ethnic cleansing in Kosovo as they had done in Bosnia. I was right. And preventing Milosevic from attaining that goal was the right thing to do.

And I'm not a pacifist. I do believe that violence should only be used in one's own defense or the defense of others. But I also believe that those who are not willing to resort to violence will always be at the mercy of those who are.

Anyway, umm... there's a summary of my political thoughts at this time in my life. I feel like... I should be doing something more to try and make the world the way I want it to be. I think about things a lot, but I never seem to DO anything. And I'm not sure what TO do... But I can't forget the words of Dr. Seuss: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. Its not."

surprised by liberalism,