the W of Oz

the W of Oz

When we discover a scandal, such as that there were a bunch of clueless cronies in charge of FEMA, our outrage is awakened and a few lose their jobs. But there are cronies just like them in most government agencies, and it is entirely backwards to wait until they screw up to demand change. Until the people are ready to get involved to prevent corruption, it will continue. Advocating voting as the solution is our way of letting ourselves off the hook. "It's Bush's fault, and I didn't vote for him, and I'll do everything I can to oppose his party next time," becomes an impotent substitute for what responsible people should be saying, which is: "we are watching his every move carefully and we won't let him get away with anything."

From Nixon's recordings, it was clear that he was out of his mind. But America was more interested in discovering his cover-ups, lies, and crimes, which were important, but nowhere near as important as the fact that a man we had empowered to kill millions was insane. Even while listening to insane words, America finds it difficult to weigh the pathology beneath the calm surface of press conferences and speeches. We suspend our disbelief, as we have learned to do watching advertisements, tv, and movies, and treat politicians as if they have a coherent policy. Words and stories catch our attention and we forget for the moment that it is all just a play. Every time we hear politicians speak, we agree or disagree with what they say, as if they were conveying an agenda, but they are not. There is nothing being related except strung together plot devices written for effect. Bush presents bad guys and good guys and symbols that awaken our sentiments, but there is nothing behind it all except the looting of resources, institutions, and cash by those connected to the White House, which we are too distracted to stop. Despite constant proof that our leaders are insanely deranged, completely incompetent, wildly confused, ill-informed and fully corrupt, we keep pretending. Even when we hate and oppose them, we still act as if it were possible to elect a government that could do things well without our constant vigilance. The things we truly care about have ceased to be our responsibility to create, and are instead used only to measure our disappointment or hope in a politician.

The Democratic Party has chosen not to strike to end the war when it is insanely unpopular, to expose corporate corruption when it is rampant, to dismantle Homeland security when it has been proven inoperable, to change energy policy as the prices double and global warming is confirmed, to rescind the patriot act when people are afraid of it, or to demand that politicians and military leaders be tried for their crimes. They have another plan - to remain passive as the Bush regime screws up, hoping that people will turn to them for change. It is an ok plan for winning some elections, but is a lousy plan for changing policies.

Delegates attending the 2000 Democratic Convention had their homemade signs confiscated by their own party. Whatever their issues were, they couldn't be allowed to detract from the unified message from the floor. But they could choose between some pre-made signs including one that said "Tipper Rocks." All the messages that spoke to the things that mattered to Democrat delegates were edited out and replaced by a meaningless slogan. Perhaps they were told that at least until the election is won, some of their issues would have to wait, to show unity. But it turns out that during elections is the only time that issues are discussed at all. Although no one really believes that the next Democratic candidate is going to end the war or get rid of the patriot act or revolutionize our energy policy, we don't even know how to talk about politics other than to talk about elections. Eventually, we become very sophisticated about talking about leaders and strategies, and even sophisticated in our critiques of these leaders, but we have lost our ability to talk about any possible way of reversing the trends that are destroying us. We are used to having other people do our work for us, and have no idea how to act on our own outside of supporting or opposing some candidacy. Our organizing, thought and language has been so indoctrinated, that when we decide to show the world that we are ready to challenge the policies that will kill our children, we are at a loss for what to do beyond getting a Hillary '08 bumper sticker.

Few expect that the disapproval of Bush, even at unprecedented levels, will result in real action for change. Our energy seems overwhelmed by pessimism, consumerism, fear, and the idea that democracy is best served by supporting some politicians. In South America, in the past few years, similar disapproval has manifested in the form of an unstoppable energy in the streets forcing Presidents out of office. Bolivians threw out President Carlos Mesa, and Ecuadorians dumped President Lucio GutiƩrrez, learning some things from Argentina, where five Presidents were rejected in two weeks. But these things don't happen here. The alternative, voting out incompetent and corrupt leaders, seems much more civilized to most North Americans. We pat ourselves on the back that such transitions here have always been smooth and easy. But we are disappointed with our choices of candidates, and that often, half of our potential voters don't vote. While other countries bring in international observers for their elections, and make voting mandatory, we lazily assume everything is basically fair here. The mantra that our most treasured blessing is the possibility for change every four years, keeps us from asking if anything much is changing, whether politicians can offer us any solutions, and when we will begin to make the changes ourselves.