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"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."

Monday, June 12, 2006

THOREAU SAW IT, WHY DON'T WE?

So I've moved on from my Emerson readings to another Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau. Most notably known for going out into the woods and staying there for two years and two months, then writing about his experiences in the famous essay "Walden," Thoreau was also a man with an opinion about everything. He was very vocal about his opposition to slavery in the U.S., he was critical of the U.S. government and government in general and most of all he spoke of the need for people to simplify their lives. (What would he think of 2006? He'd probably die of shock upon witnessing a scene at an airport where busy commuters are talking on their cellphones and typing on their laptops while listening to their iPods. While a human doesn't get much more isolated than that - there is no connection with anything "real" at the other end as Thoreau experienced in the woods.)

Well, since my blog (and my mind) has been lacking in political conviction as of late, I decided to start my reading of Thoreau with his equally famous essay "Civil Disobedience." Written after he was jailed for not paying his taxes, this piece was written with a very critical eye of government. " 'That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have." That's just the second sentence.

I have not even finished the essay. I started it late last night before falling asleep and could barely keep my eyes open through four pages, but there was one passage that kept rolling over and over in my mind. It reads:
"The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure."

Wow. Just take a minute to let that sink in. It's as if Thoreau is speaking about the occupation in Iraq, isn't it? And yet he's speaking about a war that started in 1846 - 160 years ago. Now I know we've all heard about the lies of WMDs by the Bush Administration. We've all read about the falsified connections that were made between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. And let us not forget about the bold faced lies surrounding Bush's claim in the State of the Union Address in 2003 where he stated that Iraq had made attempts to buy enriched uranium from Niger in order to pursue a nuclear weapons program. I know. All of these lies have been talked about to death (and yet Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld continue to run the show), but it is important not to forget. These men need to be held accountable for the thousands of lives that have been lost by their hands, if not directly, then most certainly because they are the men who have put so many in the line of fire.

But I digress. Sort of. Had it not been for the "intelligence" that Colin Powell shared with the world, had it not been for the cheap trick of tying Iraq to the worst terrorist attack this country has ever seen while feelings were still very raw, had we the people of the United States been given factual information instead of emotional dynamite which we were led to believe was about to explode in our hands - We, the people of the U.S., would not have given our OK for a war in Iraq; Easily illustrated in the majority of citizens who today do not support this crime against humanity now that they have the facts. So how does it happen over and over again?

For Thoreau it was the Mexican War, for my parents generation it was Vietnam and sadly we now have Iraq. So why are we so complacent? Why are we so willing to ingest whatever garbage our government spits out at us? Where were the questions three years ago? Where were the voices of dissent? How is it that the media, trained to investigate every statement given to them as fact and prove its truth, failed us and became a PR machine for the White House?

Why do we not learn? How can we teach our children so that they do not make the same mistakes? Does the majority trust in government because, since we have no viable alternative at the moment, not believing in such an institution is too frightening? We live in denial because it is easier? Because we are too busy with our cellphones, our laptops, our Blackberrys and our iPods?

Wake up, America! Until we learn the lesson, the consequences will continue to get worse. And what can possibly be worse than to be engaged in a war with an ideology - aka the "War on Terror?" There is no solid strategy that can be developed against an unknown enemy in an unknown land. And yet people are dying everyday in this war. All death and no real progress because we don't no who the "real" enemy is.

And if we can't fight an ideology - like terrorism - then how do we fight the ideology of "patriotism?" The tunnel vision support of a government that lies to us, that continues to make the richer more rich and the poor even poorer and then goes to war in our name, but without our informed consent. We wave the flags without thinking about the truth behind what they stand for because we are patriots ... How do we fight that?

2 Comments:

At 6/12/2006 10:21:00 PM, Blogger cherylann said...

It's not that we don't think. It's just that we give up. We've been conditioned to the fact that since Kennedy, the good guy never wins. We just give up. Gore won the popular vote, but Bush took the electoral vote and office. That right there was when people stopped believing in the system. Honestly... why should we care if everything we rally for gets brushed aside? It's like beating a dead dog. We're done, and we sit here and wait until it's over. Then we try and pick up the pieces. Sad, but that's what it has come down to.

 
At 6/13/2006 04:43:00 PM, Blogger Linus said...

But don't you think that BECAUSE elections can be stolen, that BECAUSE people feel that their power in "representative" government is worthless, BECAUSE citizens of the U.S. feel like they're beating a dead dog when it comes to getting the government to take action on things that matter to them - Isn't that precisely why we must push forward and demand change? Don't you think that Martin Luther King Jr and Susan B. Anthony felt like they were banging their heads against a wall at times? And while we still have strides to make in our struggle for racial and gender equality - we have most certainly made progress. The "powers that be" most certainly fought against African Americans and women getting the right to vote. And yet it happened anyway.

I think sitting back and just waiting for things to change is the easy way out. I think saying that things are inevitable is an excuse. Nothing is inevitable - except maybe death. (And that one I'm not even 100% sure of) I admit that my involvement in social change isn't up to par with what I'd like it to be. I do a lot of waiting and hoping myself. But that isn't how real change happens. And change is possible. But hoping for the best, yet bracing for the worst doesn't achieve anything but make us feel powerless. We're not powerless.

It takes work. It takes a commitment of time. It takes all of us pulling ourselves up off the couch, bringing our children with us to see what it means to stand up for what we believe in and we must raise our voices until someone listens - and then we must persevere and see to it that things change.

(Yes, this particular essay has struck a chord with me. There's another quote that I will have to share in my next post :)

Why should we care? Because if we don't we have lost hope for a better life. And that's something I can't do. And if we stop caring, then who will pick up the pieces you refer to? It doesn't matter what party is in power - it matters WHO is running the show. It's time that we exercise OUR power as citizens and elect representatives that truly are a reflection of what we want this country to be. And if they don't live up to their end of the bargain, next time around we vote for someone who will. And if we can't find someone to represent us then we need to become active in government ourselves and, as Mahatma Ghandi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

 

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