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Patriotic AND anti-war

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." Aldous Huxley

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

traitorous whiner.

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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