Monday, August 15, 2005

Followup on Cindy Sheehan

The blogosphere has been alight with the Cindy Sheehan story but I have no real enthusiasm for piling on. Unless a few comments get posted here (God forbid the Freepers find this), I have little more to say about this issue beyond what's posted below. So to follow up on my previous post, and to tie it to my blog entry about Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," check out this disturbing message forum on

Just so we're clear: these people wanted to organize a counterprotest against a grieving mother! And the juxtaposition of Cindy Sheehan and her neocon critics is at once hilarious and pathetic. Sheehan is questioning the policies that put her son in harm's way, and rather than engage her in thoughtful dialogue or ponder her difficult questions, the kneejerk neocon reaction is to smear her and disparage her motives.

They're so politicized they can't even stop to think -- Sheehan isn't some policy wonk or Michael Moore gadfly who stands to gain from the publicity -- she has suffered a real loss! But if these neocons acknowledge her pain, they might have to reconsider the worthiness of their cause, and then the entire house of cards upon which their faith is built collapses. Better to embrace displaced costs and dress them up in fanciful, patriotic language than face a painful reality.

And it is this intentionally vague, imprecise language -- exactly the kind of meaningless political rhetoric that Orwell decried -- that serves the cause of bloodshed. No neocon has the courage to say, "I think we need to keep our troops in harm's way, fighting an unwinnable guerrilla war against a hostile, unrestrainable populace. I favor risking the deaths and dismemberment of thousands of people for political reasons."

No, instead they cloak their language in hollow, spoon-fed bromides like these:

"This is kind of a semantic point, but if you go to Crawford, demonstrate in support of the war and our soldiers, don't protest a grieving mom. People want to support, not oppose; to focus on the positive, not the negative."

"To be sure, my intent is to support the troops and is not get in this grieving Mom's face...thanks especially for pointing out the difference."

"If pro-military people show up with flags and signs that say they love America and the troops, the mad media will stop coming to Crawford to listen to Cindy. Simple as that!"

But the really bloodthirsty say things like:

"Why give her RESPECT?"

Gee I don't know, maybe because her son died and she's struggling to find meaning? Why give YOU respect?

""She'll be asking in month or sooner where all of her friends are. She's a pawn, too far out in front of protection, plain and simple, she'll be off the board very soon because she doesn't have a clue how the cruel game is really played."

This from a brave Freeper, well schooled in Machiavellian orchestration and manipulation, demonstrating his considerable talents by pecking away from the safety and air-conditioned comfort of his mom's basement. Bravo, jackass. Meanwhile, Sheehan's the one who's actually sacrificed a loved one to this pointless cause, and she's the one with the guts to put her face out there and challenge this administration and its destructive policies. Contrast that with these gutless fucks who justify needless suffering with mindless platitudes and flimsy rationalizations.

You have to ask yourself the critical questions: is it Sheehan or the neocons who really love America? Is it Sheehan or the neocons who really care about the wellbeing of the troops?


Anonymous said...

It's this kind of shit that pisses me off the most. We can all have differing views on politics, economics, and social issues. Why? Because we live in America! But these neocons (who aren't real conservatives to BEGIN with), think:

If you don't agree with them 100%, then you aren't patriotic and an American.

Pathetic. It's our DIFFERENCES and the fact that we all live together that MAKES us Americans.


J Ballot said...


Preach on, brother. I agree with you 100% that they are NOT conservatives at all -- not only do they not recognize real conservatism, they actually attack its proponents.

You have to wonder about an ideology so threatened by dissent that its acolytes instinctively lash out and smear people instead of participating in an exchange of ideas. These unprincipled folks have nothing to debate so they resort to personal attacks and appeals to false "patriotism," which in the neocon view means "blind adherence to Bush and the Republicans." Pathetic.

There ought to be a corollary to Godwin's Law -- instead of Nazis, anyone who uses the label "anti-American" or "unpatriotic" has automatically lost the debate.

Mark said...

I think that at an even deeper level we can see the fundamental flaw with our current political system. The real problem is that politicians and those who are considered to be "extreme" in their beliefs have no ability or desire to compromise. Compromise is the ONLY reason that our nation exists as it does today. Without larger states and smaller states each agreeing to sacrifice someting back in 1787 we wouldn't have our unique experiment in democracy.
But this closed-mindedness goes even further and deeper. The power and volume of "religious neo-cons" is attempting to create an atmosphere that actually embraces the refusal to consider alternate points of view.
THIS is what pisses me off - THIS is what the real problem is - be it neo-cons, religious fanatics, what-have-you, they are the ones who need to be criticized and abused in public - not the ones who are simply exercising their given rights to protest.

Dirty Sanchez said...

I am NOT a political person nor a religious zealot. But I do find it funny that in the end Armageddon (or the war to end all wars and its rivers of blood and shit, as described in the Bible) it starting right now and we have this administration to thank for. Okay call me pessimistic, if this isn't the Armageddon of Jerry Bruckheimer proportions most people expect it's only because we are just watching training camp. The real season is about to start soon. What I think it's ironic is that these neocons, as you guys call them (to me they're just blind Lemmings), are the ones supporting the very thing their preachers condemn every Sunday. they shit in their pants about the end of the world and yet their fingers are inching ever closer to the red buttom. Shit this jibberish made no sense. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

J Ballot said...

Mark --

Very interesting points. I humbly submit that when modern politicians speak of "compromise," what they really mean is logrolling -- that is, "you there, Democrat: if you support my shitty bill, then I, Republican, will support your shitty bill." "Compromise" is little more than horse trading. In the end, the principles of liberty lose.

And THAT is my greatest complaint here. I must admit I don't advocate "compromise" in issues -- otherwise, what do you stand for? Especially if cherished principles are frittered away in the name of expediency?

I think you make an interesting point about 1787 -- the reason states made compromises is because that was the voluntary nature of the compact made by the states. Each state entered the union with the understanding that they retained their sovereignty and could secede if things didn't work out. When the South actually tried to exercise this right, Lincoln settled the matter through force of arms.

Everything changed after that. The federal govt consolidated more and more power, and the ideas of federalism and decentralism evaporated. Since power was supposed to reside with smaller municipalities, there was little need to "compromise" -- competition among many smaller govts was supposed to ensure liberty. The U.S. as it exists today -- one centralized nation-state -- was never envisioned by the Founders.

And that is why compromise and closed-mindedness becomes such an issue. When you have one gigantic central govt lording over everything, the battle becomes about who is pulling the levers of power and whose vision prevails instead of the original vision of self-government and self-determination.

I just wish both sides (left and right) would be more respectful of dissent, because the dialogue is healthy.

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Mark said...

J -

You make some good points - but you know me - I'm not totally sure about a couple of things...

When the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation the entire premise of our government changed. The AOC was, at it's heart, a confederation - where the "several states" retained their sovereignty and the "central government" had little, if any power. Shays Rebellion demonstrated the fundamental flaw of this system when Massachussets was unable to put down the rebellion and none of the other states would lend aid. It wasn't until similar rebellions sprung up in other states that the same other states sent troops to put down Shays Rebellion. Madison's and Hamilton's problem with that system was that none of the states were really bound to one another. If one had a problem - the others weren't obliged to do anything at all. The Constitution specifically created a strong Federal system to remedy that problem. The only way the nation could function as a nation was to have a central government with the "several states" subjugated to it. But the Federal government did not take all powers - the Constitution notes that "all powers not specifically granted to the Federal Government are reserved to the several states". In the end, I believe that the concept of the Federal System that the Founders had has worked. Besides, no one has shown me a better system...

While I do agree that the Founders might not recognize the Federal system today - I do believe that they could envision a government with many of the powers it has today. This isn't to say that I agree with all of those powers - quite the contrary as a matter of fact - but I guess I'm too much of an idealist in that this is the only system we've got.

I DO agree that the "powers that be" should be more accepting of dissent - that is one of the fundamental rights we as citizens have - ignoring that is just plain wrong, and belittling it is even worse.

Cheers my friend!

J Ballot said...


You make excellent points. I wish merely to make a few observations in reply:

"The Constitution specifically created a strong Federal system to remedy that problem. The only way the nation could function as a nation was to have a central government with the 'several states' subjugated to it."

The Constitution provided for the common defense, which should have addressed the problems of Shays Rebellion and other concerns of Madison/Hamilton, but whether that meant the states thereby surrendered their sovereignty is debatable. And whether the Federal gov't was intended to become as strong as it did (in a relatively brief period of time) is also questionable. Let me rephrase: Hamilton and Madison probably wanted this, but others (like Jefferson) probably did not.

Anyway, the issue of a central gov't with the states as subordinates was not necessarily settled by the Constitution. The Constitution was intended to place restraints on the federal gov't by prescribing its limited powers -- not necessarily to consolidate its authority. The 9th and 10th amendments (as you noted), while dead letters today, speak to this original intent.

Moreover, don't forget it wasn't until Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) that federal supremacy in economic matters was established in jurisprudence. So began the elasticity of the Constitution, where ambiguous clauses such as the Commerce and General Welfare Clauses were stretched way beyond their original meaning, with the federal gov't inevitably empowered by the courts. So the end result, intended or otherwise, has been that the Feds have seized all powers -- and I would respectfully submit that this steady erosion of federalism and decentralism is evidence that the system has indeed failed.

As to what to replace it with -- well, you're asking the wrong guy. I'm an anarcho-capitalist, so I'd be just as happy to see the state wither away altogether. Guess that makes me an idealist, too, just different from most. :)

Always a pleasure to hear from you, especially as our resident historian. Cheers, buddy!

Anonymous said...

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Personally, I welcome our new Galactic overlords.


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