Gore Vidal: The Undoing of America Gore Vidal on war for oil, politics-free elections, and the late, great U.S. Constitution by Steve Perry LINK: City Pages
"...the old American republic is well and truly dead. The institutions that we thought were eternal proved not to be. And that goes for the three departments of government, and it also goes for the Bill of Rights. So we're in uncharted territory. We're governed by public relations. Very little information gets to the people, thanks to the corruption and/or ineptitude of the media....
...This is something new under the sun--that a president, just because he feels like it, can declare war on anybody. And Congress will go along with him, and the courts will support him. The founding fathers would be mortified if they saw what had happened to their handiwork, which wasn't very great to begin with but is now done for...
....All we do is hear about little cures for little pains. Nothing important gets said. There used to be all those talk shows back in the '50s and '60s, when I was on television a great deal. People would talk about many important things, and you had some very good talkers. They're not allowed on now. Or they're set loose in the Fox Zoo, in which you have a number of people who pretend to be journalists but are really like animals. Each one has his own noise--there's the donkey who brays, there's the pig who squeals. Each one is a different animal in a zoo, making a characteristic noise. The result is chaos, which is what is intended. They don't want the people to know anything, and the people don't..
...I've just been reading a report on Conyers's trip to Ohio with his subcommittee's experts. Ohio was stolen. The Republican Congress will never have a hearing on it. But I think attempts are being made to publish the details of what was done there, and elsewhere too in America. In other words, I put the case that Bush was never elected--not in 2000, and not in 2004. This is a new game in the world. Through the magic of electronic voting, particularly through Mr. Diebold and friends, you can take a non-president and make him president. But how to keep the people, including the opposition who should know better, so silent, this introduces us to a vast landscape of corruption which I dare not enter.."
"We have been accused of arrogance. But what of the fantastic arrogance of our leaders? What of their crimes against the people, the poor and powerless?
Still no court will try them, no jail will receive them. They live in righteousness. They will die in honor.
For them we have one message. For those in whose manicured hands the power of the land lies, we say to them - "Lead us." Lead us in justice and there will be no need to break the law. Let the president do what his predecessors failed to do. Let him obey the rich less and the people more. Let him think less of the privileged and more of the poor. Less of America and more of the world. Let lawmakers, judges, and lawyers think less of the law, and more of justice; less of legal ritual, more of human rights.
To our bishops and superiors we say- Learn something about the gospel and something about illegitimate power. When you do, you will liquidate your investments, take a house in the slums, or even join us in jail."
- Philip Berrigan S.S.J., from the transcript of the court trial of the Catonsville Nine
In the political campaign leading to the 2004 elections, I do not recall one American Catholic Bishop appearing in the media to say one word of condemnation against the sin of greed, which contributes directly to poverty and inequality in this nation. By their ommission, voters were induced to support candidates who would virtually strip away support for Americans living in poverty.
All I recall hearing about were the wedge issues of abortion and homosexuality.
When the Catholic Bishops and other religious leaders of Christian sects start to sound like Fox News pundits, it is high time we recognize their actions as political and treat them accordingly. When I heard the Bishops were attempting to set groundwork for a denial of Communion to John Kerry and other Democrats because of their political beliefs on one isue (when there are thousands upon thousands of faith issues and concerns), I was not only appalled - as a Catholic, I was nauseated by the targeting of one American political party for one issue by the Church.
Once we realize a boundary is being blurred between the State and our faith, we must speak to the political issue on a strictly political level with these faith leaders, for they have entered a dangerous area where Christianity, alone, cannot take precedence over the rule of civil law and pluralism. There are too many people of non-Christian faiths (and non-faith) who call themselves American. Do you know that the word 'God' does not even appear, not even once, in the U.S. Constitution?
We must continue to appeal to our political leaders for fairness and I repeat that we must begin to speak to our religious leaders on a political level. We did not ask for this struggle and dilemma, but when our religious leaders decide to divide the body of Christ (which is the church and its members) by politics, we must reconsider the words of Father Philip Berrigan in 1969.
Two hundred years from Adam Smith, it's clear that the market has unleashed an uncontrollable force. It is not a Holy force by any means. There is an unrestrained "self-interest" of individuals and of organized special-interest groups. In an economic-Darwinian style, the weak are punished while the strong are rewarded. If we are to believe that the current consensus of the American majority is that it is morally acceptable for them to socially exclude those who are unable to meet the demands of the market, then we might assume we are living in a soulless society.
I, for one, refuse to believe that Americans truly feel that it is morally, politically, or legally acceptable to have such an unjust distribution of wealth, work, and income which GOP policies have brought about (with the help of a concentrated group of special interests who call themselves "Christian" and prove themselves to be anything BUT).
If the lights suddenly "came on", and those Americans who profess to be Christians were to sit back and think about how the policies they've supported (through elections) are running against their faith-based beliefs and Bible-based lessons, I think they'd be reeling with confusion and anger. Talking points and carefully-framed issues have caused these voters to believe they have been doing the right thing. In reality, the results of the policies they've been persuaded to support are coming to the surface, and they are dark, they are non-compassionate, and they are ugly.
The United States is, unfortunately, the leader in widening the gap between the upper, middle, and under-classes at home and around the world. Other countries are following our lead with the help of our influence and cooperation in G8 activities. The middle class in this country has long ceased to protest the New World Order. Their political interests are basically limited to concerns about family, religion, taxes and government regulation of business. The larger issues escape them because they do not affect their private lives, especially those who live in rural and suburban communites and who are far away enough from the areas which take on the full impact of the new (and rapidly growing) American underclass.
For the sake of brevity, let me state that I believe we need to see a change soon, or expect to see the rapidly-increasing working underclasses (in America and other nations - perhaps in a cooperative effort) to stage a resistance that may not be as peaceful as that of people of faith and morality like Father Berrigan. I'm not saying it may happen anytime soon, but unless we turn public policy around, we are bound to see a growth in support for such a resistance movement. If Congressmen (and women) cannot find a way to work with each other and cast partisanship aside, they may lose their chance for conflict management and control when a crisis is reached. When it comes to the Poverty issue and conflict resolution between the worker and the government, I believe American Labor will become an important and prominent movement, and will probably be seen as the new American patriotic movement. Americans will find their way back to believing in their communities and working together with the powerful force of their faith when they focus on economic justice and compassion for the poorest among them. When too many have been relegated to a class within which they see no opportunity of movement because public policy has locked them in and removed their liberty, they will begin to see the faithless component to the policy they'd once supported as true believers.
The issues of alleviating the causes of poverty, reducing inequality, respecting pluralism, considering true compassion in public policy, and being determined to promote tolerance are more important today than they've ever been. They all run true to the cause of freedom and liberty while calling upon those of faith as well as those who practice no faith at all.
Our religious leaders need to awaken to the truth of what's happening in America. I believe they have all too often failed to lead and the result is an America that, paradoxically, claims to hold to Christian values and yet has produced a nation of greedy, selfish, and non-community-based policies. Americans are better than that, and I do not fault them because I understand that they have been misled. We are one America or we are not America at all. We need to work together or expect to destroy ourselves from within.
I invite every American to read this and consider it carefully, remembering that our Founding Fathers personally knew little of Catholicism (though some saw it in French influence), the Baptist movement, or the Pentecostals - nor did they know about a "born again" movement. (The closest any of them came was Madison, who attended a moderately evangelical Episcopal church later in life). They came from the churches in which they were raised and/or saw established in their colonies (Anglican, Congregationalist,etc) - and some were Deists. John Adams belonged to an anti-Great Awakening wing of Congregationalists (a predecessor of the Unitarians).
We cannot allow Religious Supremacists (who make up the shadow-leadership of a widespread-yet-quiet political movement in America) to hijack, pervert, or water-down our faith. We must not allow them to destroy the traditional civic fabric of our country, which by tradition requires respect for religious freedom and pluralism. When issues are triumphalistically supported in the name of one religion's God and is a detriment to fair and responsible public policy, we are not acting as Americans. Someone may argue with me that Jesus Christ called us to work within our diversity, but no one can argue that the Founding Fathers called upon us to do so as American citizens.
If our religious and political leaders continue to turn their backs on each other, my fellow Americans, it is up to us to mend our nation and return to the true nature of our faith, which is love and empathy for our fellow man. We should seek cooperation to reach a higher goal for our civil society based upon our common and shared values. It is equally important to join together to help each other and to mend the divisions which our immature and dangerous leaders have created because of their own greedy self-interests.
If you are faithful, I appeal to you to never lose your faith. If you are patriotic, I appeal to you to never lose your love for American democracy and to embrace a policy which ensures a freedom that does not have to encompass the immorality of greed, but instead calls citizens to welcome the poor to take a place beside us at the bountiful table.
"To our bishops and superiors we say - Learn something about the gospel and something about illegitimate power. When you do, you will liquidate your investments, take a house in the slums, or even join us in jail."
Stanley Kurtz of the National Review is mischaracterizing the recent focus on the Religious Extreme Right as "hatred" for Christians. So many of us are Christians or Jews who've stemmed from the same Judeao-Christian base! I am a Christian. I attended last weekend's conference at CUNY with a woman of the Jewish faith. We both heartily agreed, at the end of the day, that the facts presented at the CUNY conference proved what the National Review doesn't care to discuss. Instead, they go for a gut attack and hope for a gut reaction. This insult and error in Mr. Kurtz's opinion couldn't be more off the mark. I never heard a word of "hatred" or anger from any of the speakers at the CUNY conference last weekend. On the contrary. They urged an open mind and an patient understanding while never losing sight of the bare facts. Never - not once - did they categorize anyone as "evil". I sat next to a Catholic Sister at the conference's break-out afternoon session. Many speakers were Christians and Jews themselves. Kurtz is so far off the mark that he should post a retraction to the gross "hatefest" misinformation he's speading. He's wrong, wrong, wrong.....sinfully wrong.
These ugly mischaracterizations only serve to make Kurtz and his ilk at National Review look like the ranting and raving partisans they are. They're walking like ducks - so they're ducks, already. Mean, nasty little ducks, too. They are the symptom, and not the cure for what it's going to take to get Americans to understand one another.
I'll tell you - when you get too close to the truth, you get slammed!
When they don't like your message, they immediately bare the fangs.
There can be grace and dignity, even in politics. The National Reviewers know (or care) little about how to be dignified. Their soft affinity with the electoral politics of the extreme religious right is clearly the reason why.
Elizabeth Edwards has a lot of passion and intelligence, and that's what I admire about her. She wouldn't allow an untruth go by when blogger Chip Atkinson made a cheap shot about her husband on Ed Cone's blog today.
Here's how it went:
Ed blogged that John Edwards is working to raise the minimum wage.
Now here's a guy who may seem to be working for minimum wage, but has a track record of working only for himself. Not an orginal idea in his head... he never paid his dues politically. chip • 5/2/05; 6:28:51 AM #
To which Elizabeth replied, in John's defense:
Three points here. 1. "A track record of working only for himself"? John has spent his entire adult life working for others. For some of that work he was paid and often well, for some he was not paid at all. He has worked on homelessness issues, worked in our church, volunteered with sports programs at the Y, with city leagues for more than 12 years, worked (and in parge part paid) to establish free after-school programs in Raleigh and in Goldsboro, and he decided to try to replace Lauch Faircloth so our state could have a Senator who really knew and fought for North Carolina workers, which he did. 2. "Not an original idea in his head"? Maybe there is nothing new under the sun, but John has clearly not taken the path well-trodden in Washington. He spoke of "two Americas", giving an original voice to a long-standing (and worsening)immoral condition in this country, and since the election, he has continued his fight on a personal level. 3. And finally "he never paid his dues politically"? What in the world does that mean? I, for one, want someone who remembers life before politics, who has done manual labor (and honors it), who knows the menu at McDonald's, who has spent countless Saturday mornings coaching children, who has felt -- like most of us -- the highs and lows of life and doesn't forget any of it. (I suspect, Chip, that if he had spent decades in politics, you would say that he was too far from the people.) Elizabeth Edwards • 5/2/05; 1:21:03 PM #
I saw a funny quote at Barbara's site, and it ties in with the topic. Jerry Garcia said:
"Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us."
I laugh, and at the same time I remember that we were told on Friday night, by Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar (general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ and six-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives), that we are the prophets and the leaders we've been waiting for, just as Willam Rivers Pitt reminded us last year.
While we've been waiting, it's been us all along. We are the hope for America, and we must take the responsibility to act, each in the best and most effective way we know how.
Panel prepares for discussion Left to right: Mark Crispin Miller, Jeff Sharlet, Ralph White, David Levine, Frederick Clarkson, Hugh Urban, and Chip Berlet photo by Jude Nagurney Camwell
Barbara especially liked Katherine Yurica's conference speech. She can't get enough of YuricaReport.com. I agree. Katherine was a passionate speaker.