Image from National Archives of the U.S.

The Eve of the Revolution
Monday, Nov. 1, 2004

Planet Waves

ONE way or another, today is the eve of the revolution.

Whether we like politics or not, or believe it to be remotely meaningful or personally important, we have reached the end of one particular road, and the edge of one particular experience of life, and have arrived at the point where another begins.

Tomorrow is perhaps the day we will vote out of office a man who stole the presidency, pulled off his "moderate" mask and screwed over the United States and the world. Or it's the day we will vote to support someone we think is the great savior of democracy, the brave warrior, regular guy and the enemy of our enemies. Or it's the day we may make a real decision and choose a candidate who can at least speak in sentences and think for himself.

Or it may turn out to be the day we discover our electoral system is such a mess we can never trust it again.

But any way you look at it, this is indeed the eve of the revolution -- somebody's revolution: maybe not mine or yours, but a day on which history turns and never turns back.

Whether we look at Tuesday's election as a referendum on the criminal, vicious holocaust being waged against the people of Iraq, or as the choice between "faith-based" and "reality-based" existence (a distinction so kindly explained recently by a senior Bush administration official), we stand on the eve of revolution.

A lot has changed in the United States and the world around it during the past four years. We have seen how much can change in how little time. But it can get worse. It can get worse, for example, because at least in the current president's first term, the Nov. 2, 2004 election was always on the horizon. There was an inevitable reality checkpoint coming, and political strategists like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney knew that. Now we're at that point. This is our chance for a review, with the power to dismiss.

Imagine what could happen were there no such limit during the next four years, because for those in power, there's nothing to lose; the administration's actions will never be subjected to direct review by the people again -- at least not by election.

Perhaps consider whether there will be any democracy at all left after four more years under the present insanity. In the midst of the election controversy of November 2000, The Onion portrayed Bill Clinton, bedecked in medals, dressed in white and wearing dark glasses, as having declared himself president for life. The Onion's jokes never stray far from the truth.

Though there are many frightening and corrupt aspects to this election -- such as voting without actual ballots or receipts, the ongoing exclusion of blacks, poor people and expatriated Americans from the process, and a population addicted to sugar and mindless television -- many issues have been forced to the surface of consciousness. Yes, the Swift Boat campaign ads are disgusting, but they are a sideshow. Politics and policy have become the actual focus. We are hearing high commanders of the military, retired and sitting, say that the Iraq strategy was flawed from before the beginning, that we were lied to, that we took a big diversion from the real war on terrorism, and that now, as a result, we are heading down a very dark road.

This kind of honesty is truly amazing, and it's even being reported -- but it seems that little of it is getting past people's fear. Or it's creating fear; reality can be scary, they keep telling me.

With all due respect, those who believe the United States got rid of Saddam Hussein because he was a bad man, or because he was in cahoots with Islamic terrorists, or somehow associated with Sept. 11, have not done their homework. Devote one afternoon to reading about this issue and you will see. In fact, you will be shocked at the extent of the deception -- and at how readily available good information is if you work Google for a few minutes.

In recent months, George W. Bush has had to explain his lies again and again, fumbling for words and even a coherent thread of thought. He has had to explain why he has plunged this nation into its deepest-ever debt. Lately, we've heard what the man has to say about his war, his tax cuts, about human rights and civil rights. And we have seen him when he has something to lose. It is quite stunning when the commander-in-chief looks like he should be under psychiatric care and still cannot pronounce the word "nuclear." What a moment, when we saw Dick Cheney asked about the $7 billion Halliburton contract for Iraq in front of tens of millions of viewers, and all he could do was grin.

We have also heard another point of view, that of a senator who has been involved in national politics for more than 20 years -- taking the lead on some impressive issues that, unfortunately, don't really work for TV (exposing the cocaine-Contra connection, for example). This is a person who fought in Vietnam, rather than went AWOL. Someone who seems educated enough and distinguished enough to meet with other world leaders. Someone who, as a young man, had the conscience to stand up against Vietnam when he figured out it was obviously wrong, and got his message out far and wide.

Though tomorrow may seem in many respects like another ordinary Tuesday, we stand at a parting of the ways, with a choice before us: a choice of what path to take toward the future. True, this is always the case. We make many decisions that turn out to be monumentally important, and often they are as subtle as deciding which of two ways to come home from work.

Today, it will finally be obvious to anyone who looks and feels. It will be obvious to anyone who studies George W. Bush's face as he speaks, and watches his facial expressions go by as he makes his various incoherent, hateful and blatantly dishonest statements. Listen to the tone of his voice. There is nothing there at all.

It is certainly obvious to anyone who understands that the next president will name three or four justices to the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice. Many of the federal judges Bush has nominated in the past four years have been genuine extremists, with several, according to Sidney Blumenthal of, even going so far as to object to the Bill of Rights being part of the Constitution.

Appointments to the Supreme Court are the one way a president can ensure his legacy continues into the next generation or two, and right now the Conservative Wish List is being worked, big-time.

Do we want to continue a legacy of the president screwing over every constituency except his own, the one he calls the "haves and the have mores"? Bush has ravaged government programs that support children, the elderly, and -- most disgusting of all, while trumpeting his support the troops rhetoric -- have made life extremely difficult for military families in these already excruciatingly painful times. I am amazed that there's not more anger at this last fact.

Yet whether the next few steps are taken blindly or not, at this point it's impossible to go straight ahead, each as individuals, or as a society. We will choose one path or another. As a result, this is a time when many people will split off (voluntarily or not) from the mainstream and go a different way than the seeming majority, or the majority around you. You may need to make a decision about what you value that differs from what your husband, wife, partner, parents or friends may think.

And if you want to have a real discussion, it would be a good idea to equip yourself with facts. They are, as I have said, easily obtained.

We stand on the cusp of when we, Americans -- who run much of the world, consume most of its resources, and give so little back -- can consciously acknowledge that the Earth hangs in the balance of our actions and choices. The global atmosphere is heating up, and nobody knows how long that can continue before the ecosystem breaks down. We have for the past four years watched the federal government treat global warming like it's a joke. It is not a joke, yet to set that right, we need to begin taking action now -- and pray that it works.

At the same time, we can now make the most conscious choice ever about whether we favor a life of preemptive war or premeditated peace on our tiny little planet. Are people sick of war yet? Or for many, is it an addiction?

Symbolically and in reality, we are not only choosing what kind of person we want as our leader. We are making a decision that is based on our ability to distinguish whether someone is actually a man of character. We are choosing who we identify with as the true representative of humanity. We are choosing between rage and reason. Between revenge and cooperation. Between irrationality and intelligence. Between isolating ourselves and telling our most precious allies, France, Germany and the United Nations, to fuck off, or rather, working within the world community -- a critical task right now, and a difficult one even when people have their heads on straight.

We are choosing between a way of existence in which facts don't exist or have no meaning (that would officially be called "faith-based"), and a one where we take conscious steps and look at the path before us before we step ("reality-based").

We are deciding what we mean by "we."

I write this realizing there are many people who don't view what has gone down during the past four years as being particularly unhealthy, just as scary. Most people's lives were completely untouched by the Sept. 11 attacks, the PATRIOT Act, and the subsequent wars on Afghanistan and Iraq -- or so they think. The slow bleeding of resources has hit home with many people, though it's true that the vast majority fail to make the connection.

Those million-dollar bombs could hire a lot of teachers in your town, pay for extended unemployment benefits, or provide better health care. Instead, our country invests almost all of its resources making war, and the personal corporations of the current president and vice president profit directly. This is so disgusting I can barely believe I'm typing these words.

For many of us, particularly those who carry unresolved anger and violence from childhood, the game of Attack and Strike Back is perfectly normal. It even feels good. There is simple justice and logic to it; a sweaty, angry sense of self-satisfaction. Let's get the bastards. But the world is too fragile for that right now; we are too fragile for that, and besides, it doesn't work.

For many people who feel that one religion is superior to another, what is going on makes perfect sense. For those who feel that one race is better than another, we are living in fabulous times, when the money that would have gone to educate our children -- millions of dollars per hour -- is used to kill someone else's children, who happen to be of a different race and color.

For those who deal with the fear of death by hastening it, these are beautiful, even exuberant days. For those whose personal mythology involves the Apocalypse, this is more exciting than a Beatles reunion.

But then there is the stench in the air. It's the reek of greasy smoke you can't discuss with your neighbors, because they'll deny it, or it will upset them.

It is the stench of death in Iraq. But it's also the fear of everything: the mortgage overdue, the empty fridge, foreclosure looming, no health care, your child having problems at school that you have no idea how to deal with.

Violence and believing lies are not the answer. There are solutions available, but they don't begin or end with bombing and killing people.

For those who have the luxury of thinking beyond their own needs, there is the fear of a world that loathes us and is terrified of the judgment of our leaders, with good reason. There is the fear of losing civil liberties so fast we can't keep track of it. There is the fear of the planet striking back, fear of cancer as a result of environmental pollutants, the fear of our children inheriting a world not worth living in.

To live today is to live with a lot of fear, but violence does not make it better. There can be healing, but we have to invest our psychic energy into healing, loving and creation first.

The American public sometimes feels like a cowed and terrified battered wife, afraid to escape the tyrant; it seems she chooses to endure the terrors she knows over the unknown terrors he's convinced her only he can protect her from.

The thing is, in some places, uncomfortable discussions are happening.

Millions -- millions of Americans -- protested the war in Iraq, even before it started. Many people are aware that there are serious problems facing the world, many of which have their source in the United States, and I know many who are willing to change their lives to help stop those problems and create a better life for all of us.

In actual fact, we live in a society where the power of our government originates with the people, and is delegated up to the government. Uncle Sam does not give us our rights; rather, we give the government its privileges. That's one of the more interesting things about the United States constitution. We are a republic, not a monarchy.

This is not flowery talk, but a fact of civics. That power may be difficult to access once it's been assigned, and (as has happened quite a lot lately) it can be stolen and used against us. But in truth, the authority of government comes from us, though nobody is going to return it to us on a powder puff.

Bono, talking about the song Helter Skelter, said it well: Charlie Manson stole this one from the Beatles. We're stealing it back. ++


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Image above: National Archives of the U.S.