The Real Fake Hero

July 23, 2007 at 9:54 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, Cheney, conservatives, corruption, Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, King George, Lord of the Rings, Media, Middle East, Military, nationalism, neo-conservatives, Republicans, secret combinations, Thoughts, War, War on Terror | 14 Comments

This past Saturday my wife and I went and saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The movie was pretty well done, though I do wonder what the “Order of the Phoenix” actually had to do with the plot of the movie—the actual Order members appear at the very beginning and then at the end to save the day (but that’s another story). In any case, the movie was pretty good. I got thinking about a particular aspect of our modern fictional heroes and villains. See I’m also reading Hugh Nibley’s books on the Jaredites and their origins in ancient Asiatic cultures and kingdoms. Absolutely fascinating stuff! Mr. Nibley has opened a window to a world I did not really know about but have been quite curious about for the longest time. The steppes of ancient Asia were quite a bloody, violent, and unstable times, with ruling kings dueling with rivals, capturing kings, having them live in captivity all their lives, so on and so forth. These ancient Asiatic and Jaredite kings were unafraid of battle. In fact, it was their culture that the king took the lead in the battle. They reveled in besting their rivals on the field of battle. In fact, in the account of the Jaredites the two remaining kings, Coriantumr and Shiz battled to the ultimate death and destruction of the Jaredite nation.

In any case, I’ve noticed quite a trend in our stories of late regardless of medium, be it film, television or book. The hero (and the villain too) usually takes the lead, usually is willing to go through hellfire and damnation to achieve near impossible tasks. (These same heroes apparently come out rather unscathed psychologically, but again that is also another story). Jack Bauer takes the lead on “24”. Harry Potter leads the ragtag children of Hogwarts against far more advanced Death Eaters at impossible odds. Maybe their young age makes them not think twice about the fact that they could die very easily at the hands of a Death Eater. And let me just say, if I were a Death Eater, I doubt I would let little kids get in my way of things. But that would ruin the story, wouldn’t it? Leonidas takes charge of the 300 Spartan warriors against one million Persians. Leonidas and his men die in their efforts but their efforts were able to weaken the Persians enough that a few years later they were defeated. Aragorn charges wildly into the mass of orcs in Return of the King, even though it is a foolish move if you think about it. He doesn’t though, because dramatically speaking, charging against the mass of orcs is a far more powerful scene than sitting back strategizing the perils of the kingdom of Gondor at large if the king were to die in battle.

Reality is that when the king leads the battle, the kingdom has a good chance of completely failing, of complete collapse. This is what we learn about ancient Asiatic kingdoms. People wait around until a strongman appears who takes charge, quickly amassing a powerful army that takes control of half of Asia. In no time at all, upon the king’s quick death in battle, the kingdom falls. Modern nations are a vastly different institution, where the ultimate leader stays in the back of the battle sending off the underlings to die for the cause, the homeland, for the state.

I wonder what it is doing to our culture and our mindset when we tie in our hearts and culture the worship of the hero, the soldier, the warrior, the one who, risking all, darts off to battle “evil”, coming back conqueror. Even the most insanest of us all tends to be quite realistic when it comes to his or her own survival. Thus I am befuddled when I see for example this video of College Republicans who speak so easily of our cause against terrorism, but who they themselves do not wish to pick up a weapon and fight.

I don’t mean to pick necessarily on Republicans with this point, it’s just that their example is the most blatant right now. Who do they expect to do the fighting for the cause they speak so proudly of?

We see so many examples in our entertainment, in all mediums, books, television and film, of a worship of the warrior that I really do think it has clouded our understanding of both warfare and tolerating situations we really have no power to control. So many speak of doing “something” about Iran, for example, as if it were not tolerable to have an Iran with nuclear technology. When we speak of not tolerating a nuclear Iran, what does that mean? Do we really have the power to 1) stop Iran from learning nuclear technology? 2) and not further decay our own power?

Reality bites hard. We may have deposed Saddam Hussein. Few doubted our military might and our ability to defeat someone as weak as Saddam. But I wonder if the fakery of fictional characters has so clouded our vision that we think taking massive risks means the risks won’t actually take place? I was watching “A Bug’s Life” with my daughter the other day and I thought some more about this. Flick made a grave mistake when his contraption caused the offering to fall into the river below. That’s fine, a big problem, but fixable. But Flick does not learn the lesson of his mistake, and that is that taking risks could be destructive to the whole tribe. It was quite opportune for Flick and the ants that a bird lived close by, because really, without the bird, something Flick could not control, all his plans were doomed to fail.

Pundits favoring the actions in Iraq talked so often and frequently about how this action would utterly change the Middle East that one really has to wonder how they were believed. Then again no one really asked these pundits just what evidence they had that forcible invasion of a very nationalistic tribalistic state would magically create a pro-Western democratic haven right smack in the middle of a whole slew of other ultra-nationalistic tribalistic states whose influences were and still are far greater and more powerful than the invading army’s influence. We took a high priced risk. We were the hero who rushed wildly at the mass of orcs thinking that, hey it worked in the fictional account, it should work in reality. Aragorn won’t die. He can’t. Frodo will somehow magically make it to the Mount of Doom to melt the ring of Sauron’s power. And more importantly that action would somehow make all the orcs stop attacking to kill Aragorn. Or that Han Solo would appear at the right moment to “surge” and deflect just enough of Vader’s ship to give Luke the opportunity to shoot his guns into the plot-appropriate hole that magically destroys the entire Death Star. We hear plenty in real life from war supporters who say, hey “bomb them all to hell.” “Just nuke the place, that will solve all our problems.”

I used to think that we should restart a draft into American culture, because I used to believe that forcing Americans to serve in defense of their country would make them wisen up about risking so much in wars of choices. After all, interestingly, many of today’s leaders did NOT fight in Vietnam (Dick Cheney had five deferments for “other priorities” for example). But I now don’t think the problem with our rush to wars is lack of fighting by Americans. I think it is our worship of the hero, the warrior, the soldier. Ironically, the Army’s new slogan is an “Army of One.” Heh, it couldn’t be more fitting for our culture of hero worship.

This is not going to change soon. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. Which is too bad, because we’re now in decline in the world around us. The risks were not neutralized, but instead materialized as we were warned. We’ve got many problems ahead of us.

Raw Power vs The Rule of Law, or Why Democrats Can’t Do a Single Thing About Bush

July 19, 2007 at 9:49 am | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, Cheney, Congress, conservatives, corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Foreign Policy, George W Bush, Iran, Iraq, King George, liberals, Media, Military, nationalism, neo-conservatives, Republicans, Scooter Libby, secret combinations, Thoughts, Torture, violence, Voter Suppression, War, War on Terror, Washington DC, World Events | 8 Comments

I have closely observed the goings on of my government (as best as I can seeing how secretive they want to be) these past five years, ever since Bush decided to go to war with Iraq back in the summer of 2002. (Read Bill Schneider’s “Marketing Iraq: Why Now?” where you can read Andrew Card’s comment: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” They decided over the summer to attack Iraq. The rest was all a matter of marketing, selling it to the American public). They got the war rammed down Americans’ throats, with an extremely complicit media rooting the Administration on, damned be anyone that stood in their way.

The corrupting influence of raw power began immediately after 9/11. I’m sure in the very first seconds of realizing the potential power the Executive could yield, the Administration probably had good intents, but those were just a few seconds. They realized just how much power they really had: raw power. And they realized they must keep it a secret, for if it really got out, they would be forced to follow the rule of law, and not the rule of raw power. They took advantage of all the support (90% approval ratings and support from many nations around the world) and ran with it as far as they thought they could go. Karl Rove told Republicans in January of 2002 to run with the war in the November elections and they would win seats. They did and they won seats. They got the war they wanted, on the cheap, small force, shock and awe military might that defeated a ragtag worn down Iraqi military in three weeks. No surprise there. No wonder so many neo-conservatives and their allies chortled after the war, and drank in their wine of success.

Reports and studies, however, were there from the beginning that all was not well, and that continuing down this path would lead to serious problems for America. The most serious is the raw power employed by the Bush administration. Unchecked, the Bush administration began, right from the start, right from 2001 and early 2002, to employ power beyond what is written in the Constitution. Why? Because they saw what raw power there was in the Executive Branch and they took it. Even so, they knew they were doing wrong, or they wouldn’t be so secretive about it. Only those with something to hide, hide something. So right from the start, the United States of America began torturing people, employing techniques learned from the Soviets and the Nazis. They kept this as much of a secret as they could. For they knew if this were to get out, they would be in trouble. The American public still had more raw power over the administration, at least until after the 2004 presidential election. Once that election passed and Bush won, their raw power achieved the ultimate. For the next four years, no one could stop them. So some of their secrets could get out. In fact, by slowly getting out, the secrets became acceptable. Like any watcher of pornography, you can justify the soft porn at first, but you cannot justify the hardcore. Once you get enough of the soft porn, the hardcore becomes acceptable and even desirable. It soon becomes a part of who you are.

In 2006 something wonderful happened. America broke out of the spell of this administration and its evils. A lot of Democrats and liberals (and many independents) were hopeful to see a change.

Unfortunately that is not going to happen. You see, the Bush administration has tasted of raw power and they will not let go. In fact, even if the Democrats get a veto proof majority in these next 18 months, there is nothing to hold back the Bush administration from simply defying the veto overrides of Congress. Note with what impunity the administration is telling private citizens not to show up for Congressional subpoenas! They even claim executive privilege over documents related to Pat Tillman’s debacle. Why? Because they can. There is no raw power above them, so why should they listen to anyone or do anything for anyone? They answer to none but themselves.

We must realize that there is only one thing that can actually end this raw power by this administration over these next 18 months and that is a full on revolution where the American people rise up and kicks this administration out of power. Congress has no raw power to impeach this president. He will simply defy their will. Why should he bother with Congress? He has no incentive. He has nothing to lose.

America has not been in as dangerous and precarious position as it is today. We must go back to the rule of law. For the rule of law to have any real effect, those who broke the rule of law must be punished and held accountable. Otherwise, what is the purpose of law? Without any punishment, there is no law. Unfortunately this will not happen, and we will have to deal with the administration as currently constituted for the next 18 months. We will have to deal with a possible military strike on Iran. We will have to deal with attempts by this administration to fix the next election so that they ensure a Republican president and a security and secrecy over what they have done these past six years. What Republican candidate today is going to actually hold anyone in the Bush administration accountable for their crimes? What Republican candidate today will punish anyone in this administration?

For that matter, what Democrat will truly do what needs to be done? I bet that even they will come up with some rationale about healing the wounds of Bush’s divisiveness and let them get away with it. Again, if there is no punishment, can there really be a law? If there is no law, what do we have?

Jack Balkin writes about why this is so important:

At this point in Bush’s Presidency three things matter above all others. They motivate this final round of constitutional hardball: The first is keeping secret what the President and his advisers have done. The second is running out the clock to prevent any significant dismantling of his policies until his term ends. The third is doing whatever he can proactively to ensure that later governments do not hold him or his associates accountable for any acts of constitutional hardball or other illegalities practiced during his term in office.

If the NSA program and the Torture Memos were examples of the second round of constitutional hardball, the Libby commutation and Harriet Meiers’ refusal to testify before Congress are examples of the third round. Although his Presidency now seems to be a failure, Bush’s third round of constitutional hardball may be every bit as important as the first two. That is because if Bush is never held accountable for what he did in office, future presidents will be greatly tempted to adopt features of his practices. If they temper his innovations and his excesses only slightly, they will still seem quite admirable and restrained in comparison to Bush. As a result, if Congress and the public do not decisively reject Bush’s policies and practices, some particularly unsavory features of his Presidency will survive in future Administrations. If that happens, Bush’s previous acts of constitutional hardball will have paid off after all. He may not have created a new and lasting constitutional regime, but he will have introduced long-lasting weaknesses and elements of decay into our constitutional system.

This administration is by far the worst that America has ever seen. But it is far more dangerous than that. Their policies and their use of raw power has done serious and potentially permanent damage and harm to the rule of law and the Constitution. Note for example the audacity of Sara Taylor claiming her oath to the president rather than to the Constitution. When corrected, now how smugly she replied:

Leahy: And then you said, I took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously. Did you mean, perhaps, you took an oath to the Constitution?

Taylor: Uh, I, uh, yes, you’re correct, I took an oath to the Constitution. Uh, but, what–

Leahy: Did you take a second oath to the President?

Taylor: I did not. I–

Leahy: So the answer was incorrect.

Taylor: The answer was incorrect. What I should have said is that, I took an oath, I took that oath seriously. And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the President.

Leahy: No, the oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know that the President refers to the government being his government — it’s not. It’s the government of the people of America. Your oath is not to uphold the President, nor is mine to uphold the Senate. My oath, like your oath, is to uphold the Constitution.

This was an unscripted moment showing the reality of the raw power employed by the Bush administration. Loyalty is NOT to the Constitution, but to the president. Because the real raw power is not in the Constitution, but in Bush and Cheney. Note also Cheney’s ludicrous claim that is was not part of the executive branch, and thus cannot be held in check by any rules or regulations. These are but a few examples of the raw power employed by the Bush administration. (Heck, let’s not even bring up Scooter Libby!).

What can be done? At this point we must continue to reveal the secrets, show Americans just how much the Bush administration is not for the Constitution they took an oath to uphold. Continue forcing them to explain themselves. History will be the judge. If the administration attempts to start a fight with Iran, we must take to the streets and say NO! It won’t do much to actually stop them, but that’s all we can do, unless we’re riping for a real revolution.

Failed States, the Legacy of the Bush Administration and Republicans

June 19, 2007 at 9:20 am | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, Christianity, condoleezza rice, conservatives, corruption, Foreign Policy, George W Bush, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, Israel, King George, Middle East, Military, nationalism, neo-conservatives, Pakistan, Religion, Republicans, Revising History, secret combinations, Somalia, Syria, Thoughts, violence, War, War on Terror, World Events | Leave a comment

Republicans and the Christian Right should be well familiar with this particular verse from the Bible, Matthew 7:15-20:

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

By their fruits, ye shall know them. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. A corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. Any Christian knows this parable. What does this mean for our world today? Let’s look at the fruits of the Bush administration and the Republican party.

Iraq

A failed state. The Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine have released their annual report of the world’s failed states. Iraq is the second worst failed state in the world, only two points better in the rankings than the world’s worst failed state, The Sudan. We’re now well over four years into our war in Iraq. Let’s put that in perspective. World War II, if started on March 20, 2003, would have ended last December or so. What is worse about this is that unlike The Sudan, America has pumped billions of dollars into Iraq with so little to show for it.

That is not to say that all failing states suffer from international neglect. Iraq and Afghanistan, the two main fronts in the global war on terror, both suffered over the past year. Their experiences show that billions of dollars in development and security aid may be futile unless accompanied by a functioning government, trustworthy leaders, and realistic plans to keep the peace and develop the economy. Just as there are many paths to success, there are many paths to failure for states on the edge.

So I ask you, Americans, and especially Christian conservatives, what do these fruits tell you about the tree from which they come? Now some of you may say, the tree really is terrorism. The answer to that is, no. The tree is America. We entered Iraq with the supposed intent to recreate the Middle East, and Iraq itself. After four years, what are the fruits of our labors? An utterly failed state. Jesus said, evil fruit cannot come from good trees.

By their fruits, ye shall know them.

Afghanistan

Recently a US airstrike killed seven children along with many others. More than one hundred die in three days of heavy fighting. The Taliban (living over in neighboring Pakistan) continue to plague the Americans now SIX YEARS after we attacked them. Six years. And they are still around? Afghanistan is ranked as the 8th worst failed state in the world, behind only The Sudan, Iraq, and a bunch of African states.

By their fruits, ye shall know them.

Pakistan

The Bush administration continues to support the highly corrupt and repressive military dictator, Musharraf, regardless of how much he punishes reformers in Pakistan. Pakistan is ranked as the 12th worst failed state in the world. Only Haiti, Central African Republic and Guinea separate Pakistan from her neighbor Afghanistan.

By their fruits, ye shall know them.

Lebanon

Poor, poor Lebanon, the world’s pawn, played by all parties against her own will. Israelis bomb her to the stone age. Hezbollah is a parasitic virus, destroying the country from within. Syria assassinates her leaders. The United States sacrifices her democracy on the altar of supposed Israeli preference (though if the United States were smart, they would have reined in Israel last summer, because it is in Israel’s best interest to have a stable country to her north. Now because of their idiotic bombing campaign, Lebanon is failing). Lebanon is ranked as the 28th worst failed state in the world.

Palestine

Not a state (and apparently not ever going to be a state), this is probably the worst of Bush’s failures. Is it really in the best interest of our ally, Israel, to have a failed non-state as her neighbor? Is it really in Israel’s best interest to have 1.4 million starving raving lunatics in a 25 mile strip of land right on her border? Is this Condoleezza Rice’s idea of “birth pangs?”

Why are these failed states so important to the world? The Foreign Policy magazine states it well in their introduction:

It is an accepted axiom of the modern age that distance no longer matters. Sectarian carnage can sway stock markets on the other side of the planet. Anarchic cities that host open-air arms bazaars imperil the security of the world’s superpower. A hermit leader’s erratic behavior not only makes life miserable for the impoverished millions he rules but also upends the world’s nuclear nonproliferation regime. The threats of weak states, in other words, ripple far beyond their borders and endanger the development and security of nations that are their political and economic opposites.

These are the fruits of the Republican philosophy to the world. These are the fruits of neo-conservatives. These are not the fruits of good trees. These must be cast into the fire, metaphorically speaking. We must do what needs to be done with these kinds of philosophies, let them pass the way of the dodo bird, to be a relic of history, never to be seen again. At least, if Americans want a better world.

What Would the Founding Fathers Do? and Other Matters

April 19, 2007 at 7:58 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, Cho Seung-Hui, Congress, Democrats, George W Bush, Iran, Iraq, liberals, McCain, Middle East, Military, nationalism, Republicans, secret combinations, violence, Virginia Tech, War, War on Terror, World Events | 9 Comments

( Updated )

Many things in the news today that are noteworthy. The first is the foolish childish John McCain joking about bombing Iran. Continue Reading What Would the Founding Fathers Do? and Other Matters…

Jos Mafia! Sus Patria!

January 12, 2007 at 1:34 pm | Posted in nationalism, Romania | 3 Comments

I wrote the following for my Comparative Politics class at BYU. Our topic was nationalism. I had the opportunity to watch the Romanian election process take place in October and November of 2000 and was amazed that this man, Corneliu Vadim Tudor received such popularity from so many Romanians. I subsequently wrote this paper on his run for president. As this brief Wikipedia article notes, he has changed his tune, and become more moderate of late, including no longer denying a Holocaust took place in Romania during WWII. In any case, here is my paper:

Continue Reading Jos Mafia! Sus Patria!…

New Page – On Nationalism

January 10, 2007 at 2:09 pm | Posted in nationalism | Leave a comment

I first wanted to apologize that I keep changing the background. It has been hard finding one that I am fully satisfied with (and makes it more tempting to fork over the money to host wordpress on my own elsewhere and use my own designs).

Secondly, I have a new Page called On Nationalism that I hope you take a look at. Nationalism is a fairly new phenomenon and one that hinders much of the peace the world needs (at least from my point of view). So I hope to collect some of the best papers and books on nationalism so we can understand this phenomenon better. I also am posting (as soon as I get home) my own senior thesis on nationalism for my Comparative Politics class at BYU. I wrote about nationalism in Romania during the 2000 elections, when an ultra-nationalist named Corneliu Vadim Tudor nearly won the election. That would have spelled doom for Romania’s chances at entering into the European Union and NATO.

In any case, if any of you know some good articles on nationalism, feel free to let me know and I will look at them and add them to the list.

Thanks,

Dan

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