Thursday, November 09, 2006

Miscellaneous Shellfish

Lots has been said elsewhere about the election and its implications. I have a few random thoughts. In no particular order.

First, I am happy to see the Republicans get their thumpin'. One thing that has made me crazy for a long time are the conservative Christian Americans who say "well, I don't agree with the war, and I think the government has screwed up a lot, but I still support the President because he's a Christian and I know he prays." I don't understand this at all. If your accountant, or your lawyer, or your hairdresser, proved to be incompentent - they lost your money and undermined your legal rights and gave you really bad haircuts - would you keep them around just because they pray? Hell no, you'd fire them. Why would this expectation of competence apply less to the most important jobs in society?

Second, although I am happy to see the Democrats win, I have little hope that they have a cohesive program and a sense of grounded leadership. I hope I'm wrong and I'm more than happy to give them a chance.

Third, regardless - I am delighted at the prospect of the first female Speaker of the House. That is a fabulous and much-overdue milestone regardless of what else happens.

Fourth - the occupation of Iraq. It seems to me that we have broken that country, and it's possible that it simply cannot be fixed. I empathize with people who say, "The war was a terrible idea, but now we've broken the country and we owe it to the Iraqis and the rest of the world to try to bring some stability there." My heart says that same thing. But, it's recently been revealed that military scenario models, conducted over the past decade by the US military think-tank people, showed that even 400,000 US troops - more than three times what we have there - could not prevent Iraq from sliding into civil war.

It is possible that we as a country will simply have to admit that we made a mistake, and no amount of earnest trying can now fix it. We might have to just leave the mess to heal on its own. All of us as people make mistakes like this in our lives - ones that we cannot fix, that have repercussions that leave us sad or guilt-ridden or sick to our stomachs with the wish to go back in time and make different choices. The absolute hardest thing in the world to do is to take responsibility for those mistakes, acknowledge the consequences, and wait in all our powerlessness for the healing to happen. This is not a "cut-and-run" path, a cowardly path. It takes courage to admit you've been wrong, and strength of character to unconditionally accept responsibility for harm you've caused. I hope we have that courage as a nation, if that's what we're facing.

Lastly, I wholeheartedly agree with the speaker currently on my local NPR talk show, who is asserting that "the moral values crisis in our society is greedy consumerism." I actually think that outraged liberals and outraged religious conservatives are both responding to a comon sense of moral sickness, of something being fundamentally off in society. I just think we assign that unease to different causes - corporate greed or gay couples? Entrenched poverty or abortion? I'm as worried about violent video games, and exploding internet pornography, and inappropriately sexy clothing for pre-teen girls, as my religiously conservative fellow citizens. I just happen to articulate the harmfulness of these things in terms like dehumanization and objectification, rather than offensiveness to God. I hope that in our current collective exhaustion, we can find common ground about what really saps our moral core - a fundamentally selfish and materialistic way of life that diminishes our humanity, our sense of connection, and our sense of accountability for the planet and everything on it.

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