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
Photo by R.D. Ward/
U.S. Dept of DefenseBabies are pretty irresponsible, but theyget a pass because they don't know any better—that, and they don't have much to be responsible about. But when they get bigger and it hurts when they hit someone, hurts more when they drive the car into opposing traffic, and hurts terrifically when they start an unprovoked war, that's when you hope Mr. Responsibility is standing on your big baby's shoulder, pleading into his better ear:
"Hey, please, please, what the Jiminy Cricket are you doing in there? You think you're the only person in the world? Stop driving like Spartacus on speed! Stop bombing babies! Stop acting stupid! Great power requires greater wisdom! Everything matters! And clean your ears!"
I started off writing another "bitching at Bush" column—and there is some ahead—but he and his cronies are just the blackhead of our nation's problem, and we're all part of the pus gathered underneath.
As Wendell Phillips, Thomas Jefferson or Skipper Alan Hale once said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." They weren't talking about standing at our borders with a pickaxe, but about keeping a scrupulous watch over ourselves, our intentions and our institutions.
And we simply don't do that. When more Americans can tell you what Donald Trump did this month than what Donald Rumsfeld did, it's no wonder the Bush administration gets away with murder.
We are supposed to be a society, and very few of us are doing all we can to act like it. I'm lucky I get to vent here because aside from penning an occasional unpublished letter to the Los Angeles Times, I don't do all I should. We should all be calling our congresspersons—as well as ABC daily to ask why Scott Peterson gets more coverage than the mercury poisoning our kids.
As much as I pay attention to nationalissues, if I lived in Orange, I could easily have voted for Steve Rocco, Man of Mystery, because I spent more time on eBay than I did researching local candidates. It isn't like I don't know better: look at the havoc elected wackos have caused on the Garden Grove school board.
As a citizen, if you know something's wrong, you're supposed to do something about it. Consider Greg Haidl's date-rape case for a moment: it came to light because someone saw the videotape and, rather than shining it on, reported it to authorities. Nationally, it's like the Bush administration slipped a date-rape drug to Lady Liberty and went to town on her. Americans have seen the video—or at least the still photos from Abu Ghraib—and simply moved on to more pressing matters, such as what Nicollette Sheridan was doing in that locker room.
Are we a bunch of sensation-addled adolescents who just can't focus on serious matters? Forget about the past year. How about this past month? Donald Rumsfeld—he's the one without the casinos and turkey-wing hair—said probably the most irresponsible thing anyone said all year. When a soldier heading into Iraq voiced concerns about how he and his fellows were sitting ducks in their unarmored vehicles, Rumsfeld told him, "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time."
Sure, if your country is under attack. But when it's purely an elective war; when there was serious doubt whether Iraq posed anythreat to us; when experienced weapons inspectors were finding no threat; when the world's nations were pleading with us that war was unnecessary; when the start of the war was arbitrarily set by politicians, ignoring their own military experts, sending soldiers into harm's way without cause or a clear plan—then there is no goddamned excuse in the world for the needless death and grievous wounds our troops have unnecessarily suffered.
Nor can it be very cheering for the survivors of the 1,300 military personnel killed in Iraq to learn this past week their condolence letters from Rumsfeld weren't even signed by him, but by a machine.
But ignore all that, because President George W. Bush says, "I know Secretary Rumsfeld's heart." It's a festival of faith! It doesn't matter that even Republicans such as Trent Lott and Chuck Hagel are calling for Rumsfeld's replacement after his gross mishandling of the war.
Actions don't matter. Results don't matter. Facts don't matter. Science doesn't matter. Not when the president has his exclusive Christian X-ray Vision glasses on! You know, the ones that see every child killed by an asshole insurgent's car bomb, but not the ones killed just as dead by our missiles. Such glasses don't see the abundant ironies in his "war on terror."
For example, first responders such as fire departments across the nation today lack the budget or staffing to respond to their everyday calls, much less a terrorist attack. Homeland Security dollars instead are disproportionately gifted upon rural areas unlikely to be attacked by terrorists unless they take up cattle tipping. These places don't even know what to spend the money on, so many are buying motor homes in case they ever need a "mobile command center," you know, like during deer-hunting season.