A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Day Everything Changed

I was working as a cabinet maker on September 11, 2001. My benchmate John Rehark--Catholic, frenetic, and rabidly Conservative--had his usual newsradio going when the first reports of the infamy started coming in. I can still smell the freshly sawn Finnish birch and red oak and still feel the vibrations of the random orbit sander in my right hand at the mere thought of that morning.

To touch that memory now is like running the fingers over a string of pearls--vivid little tableaux branded in the mind by emotion--such as the morning of May 2, 1970 when I walked quietly around the corner of a University Library, past a redolently sweet group of old-fashioned flowering quinces, and--suddenly and unexpectedly--into a hail of exploding tear gas canisters. The hair that then brushed my shoulder blades, and the texture of the white terrycloth shirts I favored brushing against my chest, are still as vivid as ever.

So many years have passed from the one, so few from the other. And yet, as we have seen in this Presidential campaign, they are inextricably intertwined. The Vietnam War made us who we are now, and the attack on the WTC and the Pentagon was an attack on who we are now. Who are we now?

Maybe after several thousand dead civilians and 1000 dead soldiers there are a few answers. We mourn the dead of the WTC and the Pentagon openly, wear them in our hearts, on our television screens, and on our sleeves. We hide the dead from view when they return from Iraq, and they only appear on television as an obvious and transparent political football to kick and pass back and forth from the Right goalpost to the Left goalpost.

We are the country of political Bad Faith and we have been so since the Gulf of Tonkin incident those many years ago. Bad Faith is in our air, Bad Faith is in our water, Bad Faith is in our ears, and Bad Faith is in our eyes. Nothing will do but that our own agenda triumph so completely, and our fellow American adversaries are defeated so utterly, that they are driven out of political life, and, perhaps, even out of the country itself. We all wish our leader of choice not to compromise, not to govern, but to rule.

The saddest thing of all is that when I go out onto the blogosphere to post, so many of my friends, both Conservative and Liberal, are of an age too young to really remember now what American politics was like before the coming of the Bad Faith, to really remember when leaders compromised and governed with the loyal opposition, rather than trying to rule in spite of them.

Because I am old enough to remember it, I post comments primarily on the blogs of my political opposition, and consider most everybody over there to be my friends, whether they reciprocate or not. I say "most everybody" because there are one or two whose coarse language and rhetoric of deliberate insult would try the patience of a saint. I am no saint.

We got a brief, sweet taste again of what that older America was like between The Day Everything Changed and the battle of Tora Bora. We were united in purpose, agreed in strategy, and had the support and good will of most of the sane people in the rest of the world. Then the Bad Faith returned. I'm not concerned to argue at the moment whose fault it is or why, but it is simply a fact. The Bad Faith returned and we are up to our nipples in it even as I write.

Perhaps The Day That Changed Everything didn't really change that much at all. Maybe its up to us to actually change everything if we really want it changed. I'm willing to try, so I'm still posting comments on those Conservative blogs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO: Joseph Marshall
RE: Exorcise Your Ghosts

"We are the country of political Bad Faith and we have been so since the Gulf of Tonkin incident those many years ago." -- Joseph Marshall

You may be possessed or troubled by an evil spirit, compadre. I'd recommed that you perform an exorcism.

Were not the Democrats, vis-a-vis LBJ and Bob MacNamara responsible for the Gulf of Tonkin hoax?

I'd recommend you distance yourself from such.

RE: Another Glass Of Water

"We hide the dead from view when they return from Iraq..." -- Joseph Marshall

Remember that poster with the faces of all the dead soldiers in a collage to look like the face of President Bush?

What was that caption? They tried to make it look as if it would damn the president.

I saw it and saw a different caption: Faces of Honor. But then again, that may be a function of where I came from; 27 years in the service of my country.

Some people look at a flag-drapped casket and see nothing but grief. I look at it and see someone who took the words of Christ literally, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend."

And therein may be the quintessential difference between us; our view of death. From my perspective, death is not a tragedy. It's the finishing of the last sentence in a paragraph, that is not the last paragraph in a story.

Some sentences end with a period. Some with a question mark. Those in these caskets with an exclamation point. But it's only the end of a single paragraph. There are so many more beyond that.


[One of the greatest blessings of virtue is the contempt of death. -- Montaigne]

8:38 AM  
Blogger jane m said...

Joseph, you are a poet. Most eloquently described memories of two most horrible days. I was 28 when Kent State took place and I believe my comprehension of that event differs somewhat from yours but I was not a conservative by any means at that point in my life. So the difference is probably not terribly political. The malaise you seem to feel about our country is almost baffling to me. Most I know have a good life and feel optimistic about the future. Nevertheless, you are indeed a very deep thinker and maybe such are destined to be gloomy.

Thank you for your invitation to visit. I'll read your musings with interest and leave a note when I feel I can offer an alternative or add to your thoughts. You are far more philosophical than I and I feel much more articulate although there is that gloominess...

8:40 PM  
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