Sunday, April 16, 2006

Political Aberrations

I almost never talk politics here, and I rarely get more than two sentences into a political post before I close it. It's not that I'm apolitical. I'm not. I was rabidly political for a period beginning about five months before the US invasion of Iraq and ending with Bush's re-election in November 2004.

For those two years, before I gave up, I was consumed with the American political situation, with the war in Iraq, with the detained prisoners, with the election. I read everything I could every day. I forwarded articles. I wrote letters. I opined about it to everyone who would listen. I pushed my American friends and relatives to get absentee ballots. I was obsessed. I literally couldn't believe what was happening. I'd never seen such things in my lifetime, and that the US—that we, the West—could visit such atrocities upon the world was something that had seemed impossible, and I had not the capacity to digest or comprehend it.

Don't get me wrong. I took some Poli Sci in university. I had a course in International Security. I understand why wars happen. I understand the grim necessities of economics and power, of sustaining a nation's position in the world. I understand that this is the way the world works, the way it has always worked, and the way it always will work.

Understanding the gross movements of power didn't help. I couldn't stomach it. I couldn't take it in. I gagged on it. I spit it out. I frothed at the mouth. I couldn't believe it was happening. Over and over I said to myself, "This can't be happening. Someone will stop it. Surely they will stop it now...or now...or now..."

But it kept happening, and there was nothing I could do. As a Canadian, I couldn't vote or rally or protest. I've never felt so impotent as I did watching that go on, horror upon horror, the murder of innocents, the flouting of Geneva, the undermining of democracy - all in the name of sustaining the US economy (and Canada's, too—yes), of positioning for contol of declining oil reserves, of retaining power. It was an unfolding obscenity that I watched in awe and disbelief. I'd seen the monster, and it was us. I couldn't look away.

And then the most unthinkable thing of all happend: Bush was re-elected.

That was it for me. My disillusionment was complete. I turned away. I closed my eyes. I couldn't care anymore. There was no point.

It's been seventeen months since I read more than a couple of sentences on any political issue. I don't read the news. I don't watch it on tv. I stay out of political discussions on the fray. It's not that I don't care. It's that I can't take it in any longer. I've nowhere to put it.

Last night I read a post on kung fu monkey, one of the blogs offered as a candidate in the Best of the Fray Choice Awards, and for a change I didn't turn away. It's old news. I'm way out of the loop, but this story brought back all the rage and the grief I felt at the invasion of Iraq, at the revelations of Abu Ghraib, at the disregard of the Geneva Conventions, at the re-election of that man and what that meant about our respect for human life, what it meant for a compassionate society, for stewardship of a small planet...

This story seems to me to be emblematic of the societal malaise that allows us to sit back while atrocities are committed in our name. It captures for me essential, the profound wrongness of the campaign in Iraq, of the Bush presidency, and my gorge rises—I don't know how this mocking of human suffering is allowed, how it's tolerated. It makes me sick. It makes me furious. It makes me weep.

If anyone can explain how is this not absolutely fucking hideous, I'd be glad to hear it. Please, make me believe that it's just a couple of chuckleheads cracking wise, that it doesn't matter, that it doesn't mean we've crossed some indelible line of human decency into territory that we can not easily leave behind.

How does that saying go? Scratch a cynic and you'll find a broken-hearted romantic...or is it scratch a nihilist and you'll find a broken-hearted idealist? Or maybe I just made that up. Anyway, now you know the truth about me.

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