There is a poignant passage in Kurt Vonnegut’s book Slaughterhouse Five where he imagines a devastating bombing scene as a movie being run backward on a projector. The fires on the ground disappear as the bombs are sucked up into the bombers, which fly backward and land on a military base. There, the bombs are removed from the planes and taken to a factory, where they are dismantled. Perhaps this wishful fantasy was inspired by Vonnegut’s own experience watching the fire bombing of Dresden.
If and when our bombs begin falling on Iran, given our current limitations in navigating space and time, we will not be able to run the movie backward. The dead will still be dead, the destroyed will still be destroyed, and among the casualties will be our own open society. The damage will be irreversible, and in fact will have reversed 230 years of forward progress towards a just society, and a sane world.
But there is something we can and must “run backward” at this time. We must stand together to face the dark forces that have taken us from freedom to fascism, and reverse the momentum back to sanity and freedom.
There are two common impulses at a crisis time like this. The first is, “Don’t just stand there. Do something!” The other is, “Don’t do something. Just stand there.” So instead of futilely flailing about or hopelessly resigning, it makes sense to take a deep breath and fully assess the situation. The first piece of good news is, there are at least 50 million of us in accord that the reins of power have gotten out of our hands, and this illegitimate power must be reined in.
Three situations that have been in the news in recent weeks -- the tasering of the student by police in Florida and the “tasering” of MoveOn by the U.S. Senate; the momentum toward attacking Iran that the Democratic misleadership seems to have fallen in line with; the further exposure of Blackwater as “contractors” in the Mafia sense of “contract” -- have focused a sense of urgency. That’s a good thing.
Perhaps finally those hundred thousand organizations Paul Hawken talks about as working for a healthier world can stop what they are doing and address the huge elephant in the living room -- the American empire that promotes torture and assassination abroad and fascism at home. We must face the obstacle right in front of us that stands in the way of all of the good things that are possible in this world. In other words, there will be no action on climate change until there is political climate change, and to have political climate change requires focus. As the Swami says, “If we want the political winds to change, we must all blow in the same direction at the same time.”
Whoa Cowboy -- A Two-Step Plan to Rein in Illegitimate Power
We don’t want to be wasting precious energy blowing against the wind or rowing against the flow, so it makes sense to look for the open channels that can flow us toward a concerted and effective movement. So first of all, let’s establish two short-term intentions. If we accomplish these, we will be able to demonstrate to our “leaders,” to ourselves and to the world that we are on our way to restoring legitimate rule to America. These are:
1. Preempt and prevent an attack on Iran.
2. Reverse the trend of fascism at home.
There are specific implications of these, including coming up with a workable Middle East strategy for peace, restoring habeas corpus and repealing the so-called Patriot Act, disempowering private fascist armies such as Blackwater, and launching a people’s impeachment and truth and reconciliation movement. (I’d personally like to call the organization Citizens for Impeaching the Administration, CIA for short, but that’s a conversation for later. We will earn that next level by mastering this one first.)
So let’s look at our leverage points right now and see how we can begin applying that leverage. What do we have going for us?
1. The Ongoing Up-Wising. There is a growing awareness on the part of progressive left and libertarian right -- not to mention millions of other Americans -- that neither the neoconservatives nor the neoliberals have the interests of we the people at heart. As Ron Paul continues to gather support on the Republican side from disenfranchised conservative voters, more and more people on all sides are waking up to the sad truth that politics as usual means the usual lies. There is a great deal of emotional energy that is being aroused here, and so our task is to find a highly-effective way to focus it.
2. “Generally” Speaking, There is Unprecedented Opposition to War Policies. Those who are bearing the more immediate cost of empire, members of our military, are waking up as well. A recent article indicates that twenty recently-retired generals are speaking out against the Iraq War and the proposed attack on Iran. This includes the former U.S. Commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. The implications of this are huge. According to the aforementioned article ten days ago in the San Diego Union-Tribune (in the heart of military country), “What might be called The Revolt of the Generals has rarely happened in the nation's history. In op-ed pieces, interviews and TV ads, more than 20 retired U.S. generals have broken ranks with the culture of salute and keep it in the family. Instead, they are criticizing the commander in chief and other top civilian leaders who led the nation into what the generals believe is a misbegotten and tragic war.”
Along those same lines comes the speculation that the recent transport of nuclear weapons from Minot Air Force Base -- and the leaking of that information -- could have been an attempt on the part of a faction in the military to thwart a nuclear attack on Iran.
Pay No Attention to the (Wo)Man IN FRONT of the Curtain.