By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
So maybe you're sitting there tying one on at the Continental or La Cave or the Chapman University cafeteria or wherever it is you get good with the world, and you're wondering, "This Republican thing I'm into, isn't it time I give it a frigging rest? I mean, what, I don't want to end up looking all scary like Strom Thurmond."
Strom Thurmond is only 37 years old! It's being a Republican that does that to you! C'mon, put that conservative shit down before it's too late for you, too.
Need a helpful nudge to turn from the dark side? Let us give you some reasons.
For starters, whatever you think Republicans stand for, they probably don't. My conservative contemporaries—who are looking more Strom-boyish by the moment—tell me they're Republicans because they hate big, intrusive government.
When you're done counting the chump change you got from the Bush tax cut, tell me if that's worth putting up with all the ways conservatives love to have government push into your life.
From Henry Miller to motel-room cable porn, Republicans have tried to control what you're allowed to read and see. If their corporate buddies in telecommunications weren't profiting from a big piece of the porn pie now, they'd still be after your freedom to choose for yourself. Poor Attorney General John Ashcroft has to content himself with cloaking the partially nude statues at the Justice Department—for the moment.
They're also the party that wants to determine how you can have sex—and with whom; what you can ingest; what you should worship; what your children are allowed to learn; what politics you can practice and the course your reproductive life will take.
Did you know that, thanks almost entirely to Republicans, there are still many states where common sex acts that you, I and most nice Americans enjoy are a crime? That oral sex or butt sex with your partner was previously a felonyin California, and that then-Governor Ronald Reagan several times vetoed attempts to repeal the law?
There's a weird dynamic where Republicans are anti-drug and big on criminalizing them, yet everyone I know smokes more weed during Republican administrations because the quality of bullshit coming out of Washington is so goddamn dreary. Millions of Americans manage to use drugs without abusing them. Why are conservatives so gung-ho on enlarging all the wrong kinds of government: eroding civil liberties and spending billions per year turning us into a prison nation? Why are "states' rights" Republicans denying California and other states the right to allow the medicinal use of marijuana? Bush's DEA has even set about criminalizing hemp foods, which flat-out will not get you high. The Bush American Taliban hasn't gone after non-ingestible products yet, so you are still free to pound hemp rope up your ass in search of that elusive THC buzz.
Some think conservatives are so down on pleasure because they're so high on religion. Some of our founding fathers were high on religion, but not so much so that they felt it was government's business to ram it down your throat. Kids can survive school prayer, but others won't live through the Bush administration letting a fundamentalist interpretation of ancient beliefs decide the issue of stem-cell research. In several states, Republicans are still fighting to teach the Bible as science. If women are made out of ribs, does that make Stuart Anderson God?
As I see it, Republicans are all for your individual liberty, as long as you act and think just like them. Otherwise, look out: you'll get spied on, banned, blacklisted or hauled before an UnAmerican Activities Committee. And Republicans will be in your business right up through your last death rattle. In their perverse version of cradle-to-grave care, they assert the right of government to compel you to suffer through every agonizing instant of a terminal illness before you die. The Bush administration, again, is injecting the federal boot into a states' rights issue in Oregon, where voters approved a "death with dignity" law.
Learn a lesson from history: when time has passed and the books and movies are made, conservatives always come out as the heavies. That's because they're so damn wrong all the time: on segregation and civil rights, on women's rights, on rock & roll (which they, no kidding, claimed was a communist plot), on McCarthyism, on spying on law-abiding U.S. citizens, on spying on John Lennon, on South Africa, on deregulation, on the ozone layer, on global warming. If there's positive change brewing, they're the ones holding it back. Give Republicans a time machine, and they'd go back to snuff out Galileo and the guy who invented fire. You don't want to be the guy no ones likes in the movie, do you? Come on over, bowtie boy!
The other thing Republicans always tell me is that government should be run like a business. But when it comes to real life, that's the last thing Republicans do. For starters, the worst money-for-nothing thing a business can do is to burn its capital paying interest on debt. Somehow, somewhere the Republicans became deficit junkies. Reagan ran up the national debt higher than all previous U.S. presidents combined. Bill Clinton reined it in, and now Bush is using the Reagan formula—tax cuts that favor the few, plus a huge military buildup—to produce a $165 billion deficit, the first time we've run in the red since 1997.
Your business also shouldn't pay through the nose for services you don't need. Our military budget—already bloated to a ridiculous multiple of all our perceived and potential enemies' combined—is a record $355 billion next year, not counting another $38 billion for "homeland security" and the unaccounted-for money flowing to our intelligence agencies. Under Bush's "national security" plan, military spending now has no congressional oversight. All our previous hundreds of billions spent did nothing to prevent Sept. 11, and after a year of war in Afghanistan, CIA director George Tenant tells us we're no safer from attack today.
Would your business last long if it made decisions based solely on information that it wanted to hear? That is what the Bush administration consistently does on the environment, the economy, our security and other vital issues.
Even analysts at the CIA—no liberal bastion—have complained the Bush administration pressures them to provide only intelligence that supports the White House position on Iraq. Similar selective listening occurred with the White House energy task force and Bush's Waco economic summit, both stocked with corporate buddies who either agreed with Bush or were actually dictating his positions to him. While Enron was on the inside shaping national energy policy, senators in California—where Enron had created an energy crisis—couldn't even get their calls returned by the White House.
Republicans love conducting government in secret—remember Iran-contra, where the White House secretly traded weapons to an avowed enemy in order to fund a secret war against a nation that wasn't our enemy, while lying to Congress and the American public about it? Republicans suck on foreign policy, alienating much of the civilized world by rejecting arms treaties, a global-warming accord, a war-crimes court and such. Meanwhile they coddle up to repressive dictators. The hawks rightfully calling Saddam Hussein a madman for using poison gas on his own people omit to mention that he did so with the full knowledge and backing of the Reagan administration. One after another of our cynical alliances done in the name of national security has come back to haunt us.
What would it take for you Republicans to feel safe? We have the biggest military, the most expensive intelligence, the biggest prison system and more Republican-spawned laws than ever to lock people away; your corporate buddies have the globe's money and resources tied up; Republicans control the executive and judicial branches of government and—following Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone's death in a plane crash last week—the legislative branch, too; despite what you say, you own the media; the most numerous and loudest voices on the airwaves are conservative; you have the religious right delivering up the faithful; your rich supporters grow richer all the time; you've got unions on the run; you've got the Democrats cowed; you've got Arnold Schwarzenegger, for chrissakes—and still you bitch and moan incessantly about how beset you are on all sides by liberals and lesbians.
C'mon, guys, let it go. There is no security. Climb into the light and take a chance on the future, the future we're capable of, the future where America is again a beacon of hope to the world, where we can all make money without despoiling the planet or oppressing poor folks, where government acts like it actually is by, for and of the people. Then Bill O'Reilly would really have something to bitch about.