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
It used to be that you could pretty well count on Republicans to protect the flag and the cross. With Christian patriot George W. Bush at the helm, however, flag-dragging and cross-crushing have joined other new Republican pastimes such as outing CIA agents, raising record deficits, bloating government's size and power, and, of course, denigrating the mothers of our war dead.
You've likely read about how one of Bush's conservative neighbors was so upset with Cindy Sheehan's vigil on the periphery of Bush's precious 300th-plus day of vacation that the Texan used his pickup truck to run over dozens of flags and crosses bearing the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. When authorities caught up with the guy, he was outside his disabled truck, which had a flat tire and a wooden cross stuck in its undercarriage. You've got to wonder if that's covered by the manufacturer's warranty.
Events like this typically amuse the bejesus out of me, but not at the price tag Bush's nutty agenda carries: more than 1,860 American dead; thousands and thousands and thousands wounded; Christ knows how many Iraqi men, women and children dead or maimed; our security situation incalculably worsened; our reputation in the world besmirched; our values trampled; not to mention the hundreds of billions of dollars the war has cost. I've lost count, and so evidently has the administration, since as much as $20 billion has gone missing in Iraq.
What will it take to stop this war?
You. And me. And a lot more of us. The deal sucks: Bush's guys control all three branches of government. They own the media and practically everything else. Most news organizations scarcely report any real news, and most Americans don't watch or read even that, which is why two-thirds of them think Saddam Hussein slept with Paula Abdul.
Even with a majority of Americans catching on now that this war was based on falsehoods, was mishandled and has made our nation less secure, Bush just goes bicycling along, unmoved by facts, public opinion or a mother's grief.
What can we do? Plenty of little things, incremental things, things that may seem maddeningly slow, but things that are necessary if this country is to regain some semblance of its soul. We need acts of nation-building, in which we Americans aren't just consumers but also citizens. As Skipper Alan Hale or someone once said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom," and that means being vigilant of one's own motives and institutions.
So here are some things to think and do:
Talk to Republicans. Some of them are human, and are as concerned as you about the Bush administration's war on reality. Some others just need to be reminded what Republicans once stood for. As much as they believe government should be run like a business, they don't think the business model should be Enron's. They might question why billions of dollars have been lost, embezzled or otherwise unaccounted for since the war began (more than $1.8 billion mislaid by Halliburton alone). Some wonder why the advice of military leaders on troop strength and postwar planning was brushed aside by Bush's aides, resulting in today's mess. Some wonder why, if it's a "coalition of the willing," all 63 of the troops killed in Iraq so far this month have been American.
Some don't like the way deployments in Iraq have drained states of National Guard units and other first responders, agreeing with several Republican governors that we're left unable to respond to crises at home. Some don't like the Big Brother aspects ushered in by the war; even the California National Guard has an intelligence branch, doing the important work of spying on the families of slain American soldiers and others. Some Republicans don't like their tax dollars being spent to feed us lies and propaganda, like the concocted story of Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan, or the revelation earlier this month that the Army was fabricating quotes from "unnamed Iraqis" in its press releases. So talk to that neighbor.
Talk to Christians. Torturing prisoners, piling them up naked or taunting them with menstrual blood probably is not something Jesus would have done. He who advised turning the other cheek also likely wouldn't have been down with a "pre-emptive war" that bombed thousands of innocent civilians. Some Christians, especially those with bits of cross embedded in their tires, might not understand that the U.S. in Iraq is acting more like the Roman Empire than like Christ, but other Christians might be enlightened by the facts. We need every heart and mind in this battle, and maybe some will join with you as you . . .
Talk to passing cars. I've argued in these pages before against the efficacy of the street-corner protests taking place in our fair county, how the complexity of the issues surrounding the war can't be addressed on a cardboard sign read at 45 mph. But there aren't that many other avenues of expression open to us, and Cindy Sheehan's Crawford vigil has, at least for now, renewed press interest in anti-war protests. For info on how and where to get involved, check out the very informative www.ocpeace.org site and/or get on the mailing list at email@example.com.