Thursday, September 11, 2008

Patriot Day

Why, exactly, is September 11th now called "Patriot Day?" What is it about the three thousand-odd people who were just kind of going about their business right up until a bunch of assholes flew planes in to buildings that makes them more patriotic than the thousands of soldiers who have died in wars, the tireless reformers, the people who fought for freedom in the time between July 4th, 1776 and September 11th, 2001? Why is it that we gave that name to the day when we never saw fit to give that name to, say Veterans' Day or Pearl Harbor Day? Moreover, why can't we just let it resonate as 9/11, the name we're more likely to remember it as, anyway? On this, the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I'd like to make a modest proposal. Let's not call it Patriot Day. Let's call it something else, like, say, 9/11. If we feel the need to call something Patriot Day, I've got an idea. Let's attach that name to a completely different day. I say let's give that name to Election Day. It's not an annoyance, it's not a privilege, it's a right. More importantly, it's a duty. It's our patriotic duty to show up and vote on Election Day. This country is built on the theory that we have the right to go to a polling place and vote in secret, with no fear of retribution. That means we're allowed to hold a difference of opinion and no one can stop us. It doesn't matter what you think, whether you believe the Democrats, the Republicans, the Libertarians, the Greens, or, yes, even the Communists have the best idea of how to run the nation. You're allowed to cast your ballot in their favor on Election Day and no one can stop you. We've made great strides in the last 232 years. I like to think that the Founding Fathers would be proud of the way we've held together the great experiment that is the United States of America through the tribulations of the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II. I like to think that they'd approve of the way we handled freeing the slaves, enfranchising women, and the Civil Rights Movement. But at the same time I think they'd be horrified at the way we've handled other things. First and foremost, what the hell are we using as our criteria for our elected officials these days? We're waiting for our clergy to tell us how to vote, we're looking at daily polls by media outlets who are far more interested in selling ad space than giving us the news, and we're deciding who should run this nation on the question, "Who would you rather have a beer with?" I don't want to have dinner with Barack Obama. I don't want to sit around at the VFW swapping tall tales with John McCain. I don't want to go moose hunting with Sarah Palin. I don't want, do Joe Biden-y things with Joe Biden. I couldn't give two shits about their ability to throw a good party. I want to know how they'll govern. Second, why are we allowing totally bizarre, pointless crap govern the campaign trail? Obama used the phrase "lipstick on a pig" and suddenly he's sexist? What the hell? Are we all supposed to suddenly pretend that a common American phrase means something totally different than it does because someone else referred to lipstick on a bulldog? How stupid do the Republicans think the American people actually are? Third, why is this taking SO FUCKING LONG? By the time Election Day rolls around Barack Obama will have been on the campaign trail for nearly two years. Two years in which he was also theoretically a sitting member of the United States Senate, a position that he's held for less than four years. That's sick and wrong, but nobody seems to mention it. And then there's McCain, who basically clinched the Republican nomination on Super Tuesday and has been out on the campaign trail ever since. Really? Why didn't he just go back to work for a while and let everyone else sort things out for a couple of months? It's not like he was a top story during the Obama/Clinton fight and it's not like he can't figure out how to get on the news when he's just being Senator McCain. This whole thing just needs to stop. What have we learned by stretching this process out in the general direction of infinity? As best I can tell, absolutely nothing. I think it's mostly just created a general contempt of the American democratic process and weariness on the part of the electorate and the candidates. That's not a good thing. It's September, the White Sox are a game up on the Twins, and I'm getting worn out by the constant emotional blows of a six-month baseball season in which my team has been in contention against another team that just won't go away. The election will come after the end of the World Series. The election started before the baseball season. Not this baseball season, the last baseball season. Think about that for a second. Politics are more important than sports. Should we really be going completely insane to the point where I think we all want to kill ourselves over months on end of 24-hour news cycle reports and punditry over the stupidest fucking crap anybody can think of? Fourth, we need to stop with the hypocrisy already. If you want your family to be off limits, don't bring them up on stage, don't talk about them any more than you have to, and deliver that message both to the people who attack them and the people who say, "Oh, look how wonderful the family is, that's a good example of how great they'll be in office." It doesn't go both ways. Off limits means off limits. And that goes for everyone, whether it's Sarah Palin running photo ops, then getting pissed when people dare mention that she has an unwed teenage daughter or Barack Obama bringing his daughters up on stage at the DNC. The candidates can't control what their supporters or detractors will say, but they damn well can control how often the family shows up on stage and in speeches. Also, I really don't care about anybody's record as a parent. Yeah, I'd like to know if a candidate beats their children or contracted them out to work in a salt mine somewhere because child abuse ain't so good, but do you think we'd actually find that out, anyway? As far as anyone could tell from the candidates' and partys' own propaganda, each of the candidates is an excellent parent who has raised wonderful children who always smile, say, "Please," and, "Thank you," and who's farts smell like fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. That's useful information. Really. Okay, I've got an even better modest proposal. Instead of re-naming Election Day "Patriot Day," let's call it "Sanity Day." Then let's work on making sure that the next Insanity Day is as close to Sanity Day as possible. Because, really, I think we can do better. We can do better than McCain, we can do better than Palin, we can do better than Obama and we can do better than Biden. But who, other than a career politician, a megalomaniac, or a masochist would want to put up with two years of insanity to become the embattled President of a nation with real problems and a gigantic microscope that will rip apart in minute detail every single mistake and an opposition that will turn every success in to a failure? I think we all lost our minds a little bit on September 11th, 2001. Our leadership squandered an opportunity to use it as a positive force and instead started a new Cold War against an enemy that doesn't have the cohesiveness or strategic capabilities of the Soviet Union. Since then we've been so obsessed with the fallout that we've stopped paying attention to what really matters and allowed ourselves to be ruled by fear, not only of terrorism, but of our own vulnerability to an unchecked and corrupt government. Let's think about what it means to be true patriots. It's not about blindly following the dictates of the party in power. It's not about blindly opposing any and all ideas of that party, either. It's about transcending those lines. The Democrat Party is not the same one that elected Thomas Jefferson. The Republican Party is not the same one that elected Abraham Lincoln. Every generation has had new challenges and has reinvented their party to respond to them. And in every generation the two main parties of the United States of America have taken on different aspects of those arguments. They haven't always been perfect, they haven't always been right, but they've always been part of the conversation. The Democrats nearly died off after choosing the wrong side of the slavery issue. The Republicans took over from the Whigs, who were an issueless group built on opposition more than ideas. The Neocons, too, will soon fail. It might not be with this election, but the American people will not stand for their mismanagement for much longer. That is what it means to be a patriot. It means to have faith that this nation, which was built on ideals and not ideologies, will not suffer corrupt, morally bankrupt leadership for long. It's not that America is somehow better than that, it's that America calls us to be better than that and allows us to say, "Enough is enough." The fact is that the reason McCain and Palin have the popularity they do right now is not the fault of America. It's not the system. This isn't a sign that the Constitution has somehow failed. It's a sign that the opposition within the country hasn't offered us anything that's demonstrably better. I can't really blame them, though. What sort of person with strong ideals would put up with two years of the grind on the campaign trail? What sort of person with a simple desire to put things right would make it through the maze of special interest groups and unprincipled attacks from the other side's attack dogs? Maybe the Democrats, like the Whigs before them, have to fail completely before anyone can truly stop the Neocons and rid us of the threat of would-be theocrats like Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin. Maybe the American people have to wake up and realize that on some level we're all to blame for the circus of insanity that our electoral system has become. Actually, the American people probably have to wake up to that. It might still be a rough couple of years, but I believe the bold experiment in democracy that is the United States of America hasn't yet run its course. I believe that at the end of all of this crap the Constitution will be what keeps us whole, not McCain or Obama, not Biden or Palin, not the Democrats or the Republicans. We're not god's chosen people, held together by divine providence. We have to work at it. We're a people joined together in the common pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So let's start trying to find sanity again. We've been too long without it.


Anonymous said...

Awesome post. In particular, "I don't want, do Joe Biden-y things with Joe Biden." I don't know why I can't stop laughing. I wonder if any of the crap I do on a daily basis is Joe Biden-y crap.

I disagree with your stance on the family thing. Frankly, it's not fair for me to judge based on, like, the Daily Show and my stoned thoughts. Still, I think there's some shit in Palin's life right now that is absolutely unacceptable if we're declaring some degree of faith in her as a country. Do I know that? No. But if she prides herself on being a 'hockey mom', then maybe she should just bring oranges and water to the games instead of fertile daughters.

Froborr said...

Hear hear!

I agree with pretty much everything you say we have to do. I'm just less confident than you that we're going to do it. You're an unpaid Internet historian -- you should know that all nations fail eventually. To me, that means we have to work all the harder.

Geds said...

Anon (who's real name I know but won't use. Bwah ha ha): Still, I think there's some shit in Palin's life right now that is absolutely unacceptable if we're declaring some degree of faith in her as a country.

Absolutely. And there's absolutely nothing stopping anyone from not voting for McCain/Palin because they think she's a bad mother or whatnot. And the whole abstinence-only education stance/pregnant teen thing doesn't sit well, nor does the fact that it looks like there's a shotgun wedding going on there. "Hey, you're an idiot 17 year-old who made a mistake, now pay for it the rest of your life," isn't a good attitude to hold.

My problem is more with the exposure followed by complaining about the negative effects of said exposure, like we're supposed to only look at your family and say, "Aww, aren't they wonderful." I think we've seen more of/heard more about the Obama daughters and the Palin kids already than we ever saw of Chelsea Clinton in her eight years as First Daughter and they're rapidly catching up with Jenna and Barbra Bush. I don't see the exposure as a good sign in general and I really don't see the whining about the negative effects as a good thing in particular.

If family is off-limits, then treat them as such. That's all I'm trying to say.

froborr: You're an unpaid Internet historian -- you should know that all nations fail eventually.

Damn skippy I am. And, yeah, all nations do. I just don't see the US failing now, after only eight years of mismanagement. I think we'd survive another four or, Xenu help us, eight. I think we'd be a lot closer to the edge in 2016 if McCain/Palin and Palin/Zombie Falwell run the next couple White House cycles, but right now we're far from an irreversible slump.

In the decade preceding 9/11 under H.W. Bush and Clinton there's no way anyone would have imagined the U.S. would be where it is right now. And the truth is, it's not nearly as bad as we're being led to believe. The fact that the dot com crash was followed by the housing crash and we're still not in Great Depression II means that we are, collectively, a hell of a lot smarter now than we were in 1929. That alone is a good sign for the future.

So call it unwarranted optimism, but I think we'll be okay in the long run...