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?