Friday, August 17, 2007

Three Wise Men

Writing about recent politics can sometimes, by which I mean almost always, be quite depressing. There is a distinct sense that they're all a gang of thieves, liars, hypocrites and fools -- and some of them are all four.

So it is refreshing to come across three examples that give me hope that not all is wrong with the world.

The late President Dwight Eisenhower wrote in 1954:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Alas, Ike underestimated the power of rich, stupid, greedy men to get what they want, no matter the cost to the rest of the country or the world. Half a century later, the tiny splinter group of stupids has become the backbone of the GOP and even a goodly portion of the Democrat party.

President Eisenhower, a former general in the US Army, later warned America about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. Unfortunately, the MIC has become the elephant in the room which nobody dares speak about, but that's a discussion for another day. Ike wasn't perfect, but he was the sort of conservative politician I could respect.

The author Kurt Vonnegut penned an insightful piece about America's addiction to oil. At 81 years old, it his Vonnegut's prerogative to see no hope for the future -- but so long as there are still people like Vonnegut, there is still hope.

Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.

But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America’s becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.


For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Lastly, and most recent, 82-year-old businessman Lee Iacocca let fly with a scathing condemnation of the Bush administration and the pitiful lack of leadership in US:

Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to — as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real.


How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them — or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

Iacocca's "Nine Cs of Leadership" are worth reading. It's shameful how few of our so-called leaders display any of them, in any field other than the ability to lie and manipulate their way to winning popularity contests.

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