This entry is not what I have been thinking about writing in the past few days, but was precipitated when I turned the TV on this morning and discovered that MSNBC was replaying the NBC coverage of the 9/11 attacks (apparently) in real time this morning. I did not know that they were going to do this, as I have been watching the PBS replay of Ken Burns’ The Civil War during my evenings this week. I confess that I don’t remember having seen the Burns series before, as I presume that I was busy with a show (I confess that I don’t remember which one) when The Civil War was first shown in late September of 1990. As an historian of sorts, I have found this series most interesting and informative, especially in the light of the controversies which arose out of the recent church shootings in Charleston and the “Confederate flag” debates which came out of it. I’m not going to go into that, however, although I may touch on that issue in the future.
I am certainly not going to suggest that replaying the actual coverage of the incidents of 9/11/01 is not a bad idea, and I do applaud MSNBC for doing so. I remember that on that Tuesday morning I was scheduled to teach a THEA 104 class in the Niggli at 9:30 and that the information was so sketchy that, even though I was asked to cancel that class by some students, I went ahead with class because it seemed unlikely that the information was going to become clear anytime soon and it was very confused at that time. I do think that I cut the class off a bit short that day.
As I remember it, very few classes were held after that hour and I don’t remember spending any time in the shop or in class later that day. I do remember watching ABC News later in the day and seeing their coverage of the most dramatic events. I can tell from the NBC coverage (which is playing in the background as I write this) that there was, as I remember, vast confusion and a real struggle to try to deal with the inundation of information which even the best news organizations were not well equipped to deal with.
We all know, or should know, what happened in the aftermath of these events, ultimately leading to the “War on Terror” and the Second Gulf War involving Iraq and Afghanistan. It is understandable that there was a great desire to respond violently to these events, although we should also realize by now, that the response was far too much of a “knee-jerk” one which was probably ill conceived and ill-considered. Almost immediately, there was a “Declaration of War on Terrorism” which was understandable, but illogical and foolish. Terrorism is an idea which refers to the use of violence and intimidation for purposes of gaining political ends. Logically, no nation can declare “war” on an idea; it can only be on another political entity (a nation-state). And, it is also true that the Constitution establishes that Congress is the only agency which has the power to “declare war,” which did not happen. Of course, the use of this phrase was (intended or not) to have the result of giving many actions (such as the USA Patriot Act) a degree of credibility, and urgency, which would lead to what were probably the most sweeping limitations on personal freedoms at least since World War II (which WAS a declared war). We were not asked to make much in the way of sacrifice, pay more taxes, or be drafted into the military. We only lost some freedoms. It would seem that the “terrorists” won, at least to an extent.
The popularity of the idea of being “at war” on terror did little except to lead to a desire to find some one, or some thing (nation) to blame for these terrorist attacks. This would, first, lead to the Afghanistan debacle and, later, to that in Iraq. Now I’m not going to get into all of the arguments about “if we had known then what we know now” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the like. What concerns me the most is the overall reaction of the public (and our political representatives) to the events of 9/11.
An emotional reaction, especially to events which can only be called “horrific,” is highly understandable, but is probably unwise. Certainly the ongoing involvement in the Middle East (which was entered into as a fairly direct result of 9/11) seems to have been started as a demagogic reaction to those events without any really clear knowledge of how (or even what) would constitute an “endgame.” This concerns me greatly, especially in the light of the many examples of demagoguery which have emerged during the political campaigns of the last few weeks. It would seem to me that many of these are little more than attempts, on the part of many of the candidates, to use fear for political gain. Certainly the use of the most emotionally charged rhetoric on the part of many candidates suggests exactly the sort of thing which Aaron Sorkin was discussing in the great speech which he wrote for “President Andrew Shepherd” in The American President. I have quoted part of that speech in my entry #35, so I won’t quote it again
I suppose that the candidate I find most egregious in using demagoguery is a certain Republican(?) businessman (HWWNBN, see #35). I have seen no indication of ANY serious proposals from this “candidate,” although he does seem to have aroused a certain level of support, at least among some primary voters. One can suggest that he has tapped into a certain amount of understandable frustration at the seemingly never-ending inability of our political leaders to accomplish almost anything, except to refuse to even consider those simple acts of compromise which are the basis of any form of political progress.
If Peter Stone’s script of the musical 1776 is correct (I have NOT done specific research into this) the Founding Fathers were aware of the need for compromise to accomplish desired political ends. One can certainly argue that Jefferson’s desire to end slavery was good, but the inability of many of the colonies to accept such a provision would have torpedoed the entire Declaration of Independence and it was only the acceptance of the removal of this provision that allowed it to be accepted and adopted. If the other colonies had refused to accept this, it seems highly possible that the Civil War could have been avoided, but that the United States might never have come into existence.
Unfortunately, most of what passes as political activity at the moment seems to consist rather exclusively of demagogic rants which focus almost exclusively on emotionalism. We DO have problems in this country which need attention. We will never do anything to solve them by simply focusing on simplistic attacks on the political opposition. We are certainly not going to accomplish anything without acknowledging that both sides have a right to express their ideas provided that they actually propose SOMETHING and are willing to discuss why their proposals address the specific issue under discussion. We MUST, as a nation, encourage those who disagree, to consider the clear, serious, logical ideas from the other side of that issue and to make attempts to reach a reasonable compromise.
The Kentucky County Clerk who was recently jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses was NOT jailed for believing that same-sex marriage was against “God’s law.” She was jailed for refusing to follow a legitimate order of the court, even after appealing that order to the Supreme Court, and losing. This is NOT an “attack on Christianity,” this is what the rule of law means. Those who wish to make more out of this than the simple case of an elected public official refusing to follow the laws of the nation, by suggesting that personal beliefs trump the US Constitution, are simply refusing to recognize the nature of our legal system.
To extend this a bit, if one is open to do business with the public, they should be willing (in my opinion) to do business with the public. Providing a cake, or flowers, to a “gay” marriage is NOT declaring ones support for the idea of “gay” marriage, it is simply engaging in business. Does that mean that such actions should be required by law? Probably not, but if, as has been true in some cases, a contract has been entered into to provide a service and then one party refuses to honor that contract because it is later revealed that a “gay” marriage is involved, we seem to have a legitimate legal problem. What does a contract mean if one party is able to alter or ignore it after the fact for “religious beliefs” which come to the front only after the contract has be made.
HWWNBN has made considerable noise about how he constantly makes “great deals,” but when a major department store severed its ties with him because of statements he has made about certain people, he claims that he didn’t like those products much, anyway, because they were made in China, etc. Wait a minute! It’s HIS name! They couldn’t use it without his permission, which MUST have been agreed to in the deal which HE signed off on. Did he not care about such things when the deal was made? If not; why not? I am reminded Mitt Romney’s admission that his lawn service had used illegal aliens, but he told them that he couldn’t have illegals working on his property because he was running for office. This sounds a great deal to me like just a demagogic excuse to get around an awkward situation, which I find hard to take seriously.
We do have serious problems, but they call for serious people to deal with them. I certainly hope that more serious people come forward to try to deal with them. I confess to some bias towards the ideas of the Democratic Party, but I would like to be able to take at least one of the Republican candidates seriously. I probably wouldn’t support the Republican candidate, but it would be nice to hear something besides demagogic personal attacks on the other candidates. We owe it to ourselves to deal with issues, not personalities. After all, we are looking for candidates for the presidency, not entertainers.