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by Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Sunday, Oct. 28, 2001 at 9:17 PM
"I want God, I want poetry
I want danger, I want freedom,
I want goodness, I want sin."
Evil Evildoers Of Evil
How to feel calmly patriotic and yet not the slightest
bit reassured by Bush & Co.
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist 10/19/01
This much is true: It really is possible to love your country and value
your freedoms and still believe the government is full of fools and
prevaricators and BS artists and Dick Cheney. Really.
It is still possible to feel warmly patriotic in personal and important
ways and yet believe the military and the generals and the war machine do
not have your best interests at heart and really couldn't care less what
those interests are anyway but thank you for sharing now please sit down
and do as we tell you and by the way, thanks for all the flags and the
And it is still possible to feel unified and spiritually connected to all
that is good and righteous about your generally nonviolent Americanism --
you know, wine and sex and good music, large dogs and literature and clean
water and tongue kissing in the streets -- and still be depressed when our
famously nonintellectual president talks to the country like we're all five
years old and heavily dosed on Ritalin.
When Bush employs phrases like "bring the evildoers to justice" over and
over, 17 times in one speech alone, and he furrows his brow like a serious
Muppet and offers carefully scripted reassurances deliberately lacking in
polysyllabism and detailed explanation because that would be, you know,
When he repeats primitive little maxims like "There are no negotiations"
and responds to press-conference questions about the vitriolic anti-US
hatred that has blossomed around the globe by saying, "I'm amazed. I just
can't believe it because I know how good we are," thus causing a giant
global spasm of multinational cringing and openly insulting the
intelligence of anyone who can walk and breathe at the same time.
When he delivers very earnest speeches he had no part in writing, and when
he is forced to speak extemporaneously, sans script or TelePrompTer, and is
reduced to simplistic good-guy/bad-guy platitudes and flustered, rapid
blinking, and who cannot for the life of him articulate a complex idea,
some sort of nuanced elucidation of our nation's motives and positioning,
that contains more than one possible level of meaning.
But perhaps that's too harsh. Unfair. He's the president, after all. He is
a Good Man. He's our leader right now, he's doing his best and he's all
we've got. This is our rallying cry, our motto: He's all we've got. There's
your bumper sticker. And there he is.
Except for Cheney, which isn't exactly reassuring. No one has ever seen
this man's mouth actually move. No one can take one look at his oddly
spiritless and wan figure and not think, oh dear God, that man is running
on fumes. From a bunker. With ropes and pulleys.
But you're not supposed to. In fact, you really aren't allowed to criticize
the president or the veep right now, not supposed to feel strangely
leaderless and adrift, not permitted to look upon the events of the past
weeks with much wariness or bitterness or a disquieting sense that we're
setting things in motion that have no predictable outcome -- ugly,
subterranean, hateful things that could last years and will surely cost
billions and will deeply entrench the nation in a bizarre and poisonous
shell game with shadowy opponents of largely unknown capability and do you
hear that? That soft roaring? That's the sound of the GOP-stroked military
machine, quietly cheering.
Never mind the staggering multibillion-dollar political mess in Saudi
Arabia that fueled bin Laden's network for years, or the enormous oil
fields that are desperately vulnerable to terrorist attack at any moment.
Never mind the US government's outright rejection of new advancements in
alternative fuels to get us away from oil and out of the Gulf entirely.
Instead we get: Evildoers. Air strikes. Hundreds of dead civilians.
Rumsfeld denials. And Bush, squinting, saying things only small children
and GasMaskExpress.com shoppers find comforting and
manly. It is, Bush tells us, a war on terrorism. We will eradicate
terrorism through largely violent and aggressive
means, because that is what we must do and what we
always do and everything else takes too damn long. We have
to do something. This is the common wisdom. Bush said so. Mr. Rumsfeld told
him so, with his black and shiny hawk eyes all a-glimmer. Disagree? You
This war, it will be just like the War on Drugs. It will be potent and
effective and our objectives will be clear. The nation had a nasty drug
problem and we declared a war on drugs and spent billions over many years
and now you can't buy drugs anymore. It will be just like that.
There is more than one way to respond to the horror of Sept. 11. And there
is more than one kind of patriotism. We forget this. You do not have to
rally around Bush and tolerate Cheney's chthonic creepiness and wave a
frantic flag and believe every scripted half-truth that drizzles out of the
Pentagon, applaud the nonstop attacks on an already demolished nation.
Pro-America does not mean pro-war. Or pro-Bush. Or anti-Afghanistan. Or
It means thinking independently and getting better informed and filtering
your news very carefully and realizing that just because one version of the
American aggro attitude is currently being ramrodded down society's throat
doesn't mean you have to swallow.
It means you don't have to find Tomahawk missiles really cool or think all
those tens of thousands of Europeans and Egyptians and world citizens
protesting the US bombings must be commie jerks, or feel sad and morally
depleted when you can't seem to draw any intellectual nourishment
whatsoever when Bush declaims, "Terrorists want us to stop our lives, stop
our flying, stop our buying. But this nation will not be intimidated by
evildoers." You don't have to buy into that infantile hokum for a moment.
After all, this is America.
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