Momentum: JU.S.T SAY NO TO 'CIVILITY'
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In a recent on-line column at Forbes.com, author= and reporter David Brooks says that reporters expect to have a hard timecov= ering the Bush II White House because of its "closed nature." "Bush = administration members ... regard journalists as servants ifthey are useful=
and vermin if they are not," Brooks said.
This does not surprise me. During the Gulf War, it was VicePreside= nt Dick Cheney who came up with the brilliant idea of penning up allthe war= correspondents like sheep, feeding them on press releases andvideotapes in= stead of grass, and keeping them at least one country awayfrom the real war= .
Because of that outrageous act of censorship, I was surprised whent= he press didn't rise up with one voice to tar and feather Bush II when hema= de Cheney his choice for Veep.
They even had the tar: the Constitution forbids the president andv= ice president to come from the same state. Cheney may have moved hismailin= g address north after he received the nomination, but he never movedhis hou= sehold. He never even changed the license plates on his car.
So as = a result of the sheep-like behavior of the press, we now havenot only an il= legal president but an illegal vice president. Maybe thepress enjoyed life= in the pen; maybe they want four more years?
But since the press, which is supposed to represent us, the people,= seems to have abdicated its responsibilities, and since the Bush staff hasn= othing but contempt for it anyway, and since Bush II himself speaks onlyin = vapid generalities, it is clear that we are not going to hear much truthabo= ut our government in the next four years.
As Joan Vennochi wrote in the Boston Sunday Globe (1/21/01),= there is "a continuing sense ofdisconnect between the words and imagesasso= ciated with the new Bush administration."
Allow me, then, to offer myself as a translator and interpreter.Her= e is my first report, which covers Bush's Inaugural Address.
"The call for civility." Let's see. The Republicans,furious th= at Clinton kicked Bush I out of office, spent the next eightyears trying to= get him in any way that they could.
By the end of Clinton's second term, they had wasted over$41 millio= n of taxpayers money, chased after a man for committing a maritalfidelity t= hat most of them have also committed, and come up with virtuallyno punishab= le offenses or corruption. Now that Bush's party hasinjected raw hatred in= to the American political discourse, Bush says,"Civility is not a tactic or= a sentiment. It is the determined choice oftrust over cynicism, of commun= ity over chaos."
In other words, if the Democrats behave now the way theRepublicans = have behaved for the last eight years, we can blame them forbringing someth= ing as dreaded as "chaos." Frankly, I think cynicism is theonly rational c= hoice here.
Americans should be "responsible citizens, building ... a natio= n of character.... If we do not turnthe hearts of our children toward knowl= edge and character, we will lose their gifts and undermine theiridealism."<= /i>
What Bush means by character is that he (probably) won'tsolicit = oral sex from a female secretary in the Oval Office. But there areother me= asures of a man's character, such as not being seen as trampling onthe Cons= titution in a naked grab for power.
The whole country watched Bush's men steal the election for him. M= any of us were naive enough toexpect him to step in and demand thatall the = votes be counted, let the chips fall where they may, for the goodof the nat= ion and the legitimacy of his administration. He did not do that.
T= hat certainly undermined the idealism of most of thechildren I know, who up= until a few months ago, believed we lived in ademocracy. It also undermin= ed mine. I can't stop feeling like a virginwho has just been raped by the = U.S. Supreme Court. So I can't reallyaccept Bush II as a man of character,= much less as a moral leader. "We will reform Social Security... sparing our childrenfrom str= uggles we have the power to prevent."
One thing we certainly have the power to prevent is puttingthe Soci= al Security fund into the volatile, uncertain and currently tankingstock ma= rket, which is exactly what Bush wants to do with it.
"We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lestweakness inv= ite challenge. We will confront weapons of mass destruction,so that a new = century is spared new horrors." There are no real challenges right now to the power of theUnited Sta= tes. But building the Star Wars machinery will put us squarelyup against R= ussia and China and could start the Cold War all over again.Rumblings of th= is can already be heard abroad.
"America at its best is compassionate." How many men = did he kill in Texas? 147?
"And the proliferation of prisons, however necessary,is no subst= itute for hope and order in our souls."
He misspoke here. He meant to say "the proliferation ofprisons, ho= wever profitable..."
Prisons are big business, but they also serve anotheruseful functio= n for Republicans. Convicted felons lose their right tovote. A large majo= rity of American prisoners are African-American andHispanic, who as a group= tend to vote Democratic. Do the math.
"Church and charity, synagogue and mosque, lend ourcommunities t= heir humanity, and they will have an honored place in ourplans and in our l= aws."
Say good-bye to the hallowed notion of the separation ofchurch and = state.
And why? Could it be that when religious charities takeover societ= y's functions, the tax bills of the very rich drop?
"I ask you to seek a common good."
By whose definition? Over 60 percent of the population,for example= , support Roe vs. Wade. The "common people" know damn wellwhat's in the "= common good." Be prepared, however, for obnoxious SupremeCourt nominations= and a major attempt to outlaw abortion in total defianceof the "common goo= d."
About the illegitimacy of this administration, the Sunday New Y= ork Times (1/21/01) said: "Thedebate is likely to grow softer as the n= ation grows accustomed to pictures of Mr. Bush speaking from theOval Office= , boarding Air Force One, accompanied everywhere he goes by the strains of = ... 'Hail to theChief.' In the television age, those images, more than a= nything else, confer the mantle of authority andlegitimacy on a leader."
I say to hell with that. And to hell with the media (especiallythe= New York Times), which will be spoon-feeding us those images for fo= ur long years, all the whileabandoning their loudly proclaimed "objectivity= " by failing to report in every story about Bush, that, until theend of his= presidency, over half the people in this nation do not believe that he has= the right to bepresident.
Just say no to civility.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalis= t who writes aboutculture, politics, economics and travel.