2002 January : Soapbox
Dear Gentle Reader:
Well, this is a bit of a cheat. The Soapbox is supposed to set the tone for the upcoming issue of Voices in the Wilderness, but I am writing this at 11 PM on 2002 December 31 -- literally, at the eleventh hour. Anything later and it would go into the next issue. :)
I guess it's good to take a moment and look back and then look forward. What has 2002 brought us? What will 2003 be? It's been sixteen months since the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and we seem no closer to "winning" the war on terror. Indeed, it would appear that whole new fronts are opening up ... We face the prospect of a war the President has chosen (Iraq) and one he did not foresee (Korea). Hopefully the developing debacle on the Korean penninsula will not actually descend into real combat, since everyone knows that the Second Korean War would not be the cakewalk that Americans have come to expect, nay, demand of their military. Those pesky Communist Koreans have actual tanks and stuff, not to mention one or two nuclear devices and the crazed dedication to use them.
As for the war in Iraq, it doesn't seem like anything can stop that now. Perhaps it was foreordained since the Florida mess, when despite a gap of 500,000 votes, George Bush II somehow catapulted to the Presidency. I remain open to the idea that the threat of Saddam Hussein justifies military action. But there is no way that this President can make that case and not expect people to see his fervor as the playing out of some tawdry Oedipal pyscho-drama.
I for one will withhold my approval until I hear President Bush call for the one, logical, and legitimate action left to him. I thought of this a few months ago and every day, the question returns with renewed intensity: If Saddam Hussein is as bad as they say, if he has done even a tenth of what is claimed, if he has abused his own people, slaughtered his neighbors, and threatened the peace of the entire world... if all these things are true (and they are), then why hasn't he been indicted for crimes against humanity? Why hasn't the United States called for the world community to deal with the man who -- our President seems to think -- is the root of all evil?
The answer, the only answer I can come up with, is chilling: This administration is so opposed to even the idea of international law that it will not take any action that might lend legitimacy to international tribunals. Never mind that we convened the most famous of them, and that we structured and informed them, that international tribunals have always been the intercontinental embodiment of American ideals of justice. Because an international court might someday, some way, somehow restrict the unbridled projection of American power, we shun and ignore even so patently clear a case.
I love my country deeply. I'm the sort of sap who stands tall and says, with conviction, that these United States are the last, best hope of humankind. I long to see our people living our ideals, and our ideals illuminating the world. But I'm also a realist. Although we are top dog now, we will not be so for the rest of human history. It just isn't conceivalbe. Yet we stand at a crossroads in the development of the speices. Done right, we could ensure that in the future, we are all "top dogs" -- that no nation, no people trample the will of others, that all share in peace and prosperity. We can craft a world where you don't have to be number one to be safe. We stand at a moment in history where, just maybe, we can transcend history.
But standing athwart us is a princeling run amok and his cabal of retroguard cronies. At the very moment when American ideals of freedom, of justice, of responsible government, and of personal dignity perch poised to infuse the world, we have a President who has belatedly discovered realpolitik. At the hour when we most need a visionary, we have a technician ... and not a particularly good one, at that.
What's in store, in 2003? More of the same, I fear -- an accelerating rush toward an American no one has chosen in a world no one could foresee. 2003 is the Year of the Apogee. All is in flux, as we interpret the tea leaves of one election in hopes of diving another. It is, I believe, the last chance for the sleeping giant to awake, for the ordinary people of the States to shake off their coma, rub their eyes free of the grit that has accumulate -- their last chance to see.
What will we make of the chance we are offered?
Peace, dignity, and freedom,
-=-Bernard HP Gilroy

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