June. It's time for another commencement address to another set of graduates. So, Class of 2003, what have we learned?
I guess it's already trite to say that we know even a C student like George Bush can rise to the top. Lately it seems like he's even gone past being Resident, he's become BUSH ALMIGHTY. Can you just picture him shouting from the top of the Washington Monument now? Well if you can't, I can! Cue the lightning and thunder!
I am Bush Almighty, know my great works!
I have brought you tax cuts a plenty, enough to buy an average dinner at McDonald's every week this year! You must believe in me when I tell you that these tax cuts will create jobs.
My omniscience has been given to my cohorts in the Department of Justice through the Patriot Act and the Total Information Awareness System, so that I may know all and see all that they do, no matter who they are. My cohorts are always doing righteous work, and so shall never have to tell anyone, not even a judge, what they are doing. You must believe in me when I tell you that our enemies will soon be destroyed and we will give up these tools when the danger is gone.
I have built a golden Roadmap To Peace in the Middle East. You must believe in me when I tell you all will follow it without complaint!
I have brought low two kingdoms where dangerous infidels ruled. You must
believe in me when I tell you that our enemies possessed weapons of mass destruction. As soon as my cohorts find their leaders I will bring them before you in chains!
I bet he'd go on like that for quite awhile, promising mercy to France and Germany and others who have strayed, as long as they now promise to follow him in all his ways of course.
Bush Almighty can get away with saying just about anything these days. There was a really good line the Administration was saying a few weeks ago about why they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Are you ready for this? They haven't found any because the Iraqis "must have destroyed them." Well golly gee! Wasn't that what we were trying to get them to do, Dubya? But no, they were so devilishly clever! They never used their terrible weapons in battle, but instead the sneaky bastards destroyed them JUST TO FOOL US.
Who is being fooled here? Seriously, I think Dubya's actually starting to believe some of his own rhetoric regardless of the facts. He keeps insisting that we're winning the War On Terror and that Iraq is learning all about democracy, in spite of new bombings and steady shipments of freshly filled body bags. Nine more of our boys died just the week before I wrote this.
Have I got a solution to this? Hell no, I'm not that smart. I'm just sad that it's come to this after I and lots of others, millions actually, around the world failed to make enough noise to stop this madness before it happened. And I'm trying to attach some small amount of responsibility to this supposed leader, whom much of the country seems to worship unquestioningly right now. Bush Almighty indeed.
I guess that's what makes me so angry. People seem to have such a double standard when it comes to THEIR guy in power. There was a deadly funny piece by Ted Rall a few weeks ago that had Al Gore doing exactly the same things Bush has done, but instead of cheering, the Republicans were shouting him down about every bit of it! I'm sure that's the way they would have reacted, but in real life it isn't Gore up there, it's Bush. It looks like the weapons of mass destruction were just an excuse and our principle target got away, AGAIN. So, why isn't any Republican calling the attack on Iraq a botch job?
On the economic front it's just as silly. Tax cuts didn't stimulate the economy before, why is it that everyone in Washington thinks they will work now? And here's one that Ted didn't cover at all: why is it that Republicans think it's right to cheer as Bush runs up insanely huge deficits, hundreds of billions, maybe even a trillion dollars worth, yet the same Republican people are trying to get a recall vote against Governor Gray Davis here in California, who is trying to deal with a deficit of only $38 billion or so? It isn't like I'm a huge fan of Davis, I'm just amazed at this incredible double standard they are applying. If it's time to recall Davis, isn't it time for a Bush recall too? Where is the outrage?
And you know what's going to happen as we lower taxes, the Feds will cut back services because they don't have money for anything besides the military and subsidies to their friends' businesses. I'm sure that's all part of the Republican plan, to cut back on social programs they don't like. Then the state and local authorities will have to increase taxes to restore services, so we're not really going to lower taxes much. But Bush will be able to claim he's cut Big Government back, by chopping things like environmental protection and Head Start, while still spending billions each month nurse-maiding an infant democracy on the other side of the world.
And speaking of state tax money, did you hear that Texas is trying to dismantle the faith-based social services program that Bush started as governor? It seems in the rush to give money to faith based groups, Texas also relaxed the state standards on health care licensing, so virtually anyone could be approved to run any kind of health care, such as a drug treatment program. The state found themselves paying for all kinds of sloppy programs, some well meaning but ineffective, some fraudulent, but all legal because all they had to do was claim help from a higher power. Texas is finally waking up to the fact that they need some higher standards instead.
This week The Almighty Resident is on a triumphal tour of Europe, partly because the bill for our allies' support is coming due. Dubya is visiting Poland to personally thank them for sending troops to help us conquer Iraq. Their reward is being allowed to purchase $10 billion worth of F-16 fighter jets, interest free for ten years. Bob Sheer of the LA Times has pointed out that Poland sent only 200 soldiers sent to Iraq, so that works out to $50,000,000 per soldier in loans which we'll probably never see repaid. Only the folks who make the F-16 win.
Early in May Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar came to Washington and thanked President Bush for adding Batasuna, a Basque separatist group, to our list of approved terrorist organizations. Four trivia points if you know where the disputed Basque territory is. It's kind of like Spain, Portugal and France's version of Kurdistan. Basically it means we've got another ancient ethnic people that our spooks are now approved to watch. I wonder how much it's going to cost to monitor their internet chatter in hopes of thwarting their efforts to basque in the sun. Sorry, to create a Basque state. No word yet on anything like a Welsh Separatist movement in England, but I guess that would be next, after all, Tony Blair sent a lot more troops than the Poles or the Spanish.
I've seen bumper stickers on some brave souls' cars that read "Somewhere in Texas there is a village missing its idiot." I don't wonder who they are referring to, but I am starting to wonder about the idiot part. It's easy to make fun of Dubya when he misspeaks, but Bush may be a lot smarter than his occasionally garbled diction makes him appear. Actually no, George Bush's not that smart, he's a True Believer. He believes that God rescued him from alcoholism. He also said in the 2000 campaign that Jesus was his favorite philosopher and he read his words a lot. He probably believes that God chose him to be President too. I guess that "miraculous" one vote decision in the Supreme Court is evidence enough for a True Believer.
Dubya probably won't admit it publicly but I bet he takes his Bible so straight that he also believes the world is only 6000 years old and God put fossils in the rocks to fool our scientists. Oh, he doesn't mind if we use science of the sort that helps us target weapons better, but any scientific theory that contradicts the Bible, well, that would mean that the Bible might be wrong, and then that might mean that he isn't chosen by God to be President, and that would mean he'd have to start drinking again! We don't want that so we'd better keep those blinders in place, right?
Let's just read the things that support what we already want to do. Centuries ago, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about a Just War, creating the concept of Christians fighting. Up to that point they had been famously non-violent and his rationalizations shifted Christian values so that you could still find a place in Heaven even if you had killed in wartime. Onward Christian Soldiers would never have been possible without Aquinas and Lord knows some nasty business has been done by some of them in Jesus's name since then. I think it actually goes completely against what Jesus was talking about. And by the way I finally read a number for innocent civilian deaths in Iraq about two weeks ago in the LA Times. 1700 people, plus about 8000 wounded. It's an estimate to be sure, because record keeping is lousy in Iraq. And before you go gloating that at least Dubya didn't kill more people than Osama Bin Laden, know that this figure is for Baghdad alone. I've seen no numbers on how many Iraqi soldiers died this time, but plenty has been written on how we destroyed whole divisions of Saddam's forces, which would mean tens of thousands of soldiers. Does anyone think Jesus would have been proud of us?
I think Jesus's Sermon On The Mount is better than Aquinas's writings if you want to know how to be a good person. I asked a Christian friend about it a few weeks ago and he admitted that the Sermon was very hard for a Christian or anyone else to live up to, especially in this materialistic age when lots of people believe that success in business is a sign of God's favor. I like that part of the Bible, some other good parts are Psalms and Proverbs, but even in those books there are laments written during the Babylonian Captivity that contain some pretty horrific images born of terrible suffering.
Still, we go to the Religious Cafeteria and we eat only what we want to eat. We can rationalize away a war, we can rationalize away economic injustice, anything our religious leaders tell us, even unto believing that George Bush is doing a mighty wonderful job as Resident. George tries to encourage this too, never failing to thank the faithful for their prayers whenever he gets a receptive audience. I actually think he's sincere when he does that. But I am sure he thinks playing up to his Christian Right supporters is good politics too.
If Bush asked me to pray for him I wonder what would my prayer be like? Well number one, I'm kind of out of practice in that department. Number two, it would be a private conversation and I wouldn't tell you the particulars anyway. However, I'd certainly pray to help Bush have more wisdom and compassion, and not to resort to what's politically expedient all the time.
So when do we graduate from this reliance on ancient superstition to guide our actions and to make our decisions? We may never leave it completely behind.
Humans need a moral compass and even though a lot of bullshit gets marketed in his name, Jesus is still one of the better ones to follow. Just balance it with some reason. Don't blindly follow anyone, even Bush Almighty. And exercise long enough to work up a sweat each day. Buy low and sell high.
And that's about all the advice I can give to the Class of 2003.
Right now I need to take a time out in the Closet because I'm very envious of Ted Rall. I had a similar idea to his a few weeks back but he beat me to the punch, and Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, so I've got to sit in the corner until it passes. Thanks for reading and until next month the Closet is closed.
Official Disclaimer: The Publisher and Editors of Cosmik Debris Magazine just want to make it
clear that whether or not Mr. Pipes is correct in his assessments, George Bush is a pushy little
puppet who says "God" but means "Karl Rove." Hard for him to make the distinction when he looks
upward and behind him through the alcoholic fog, though, so we don't blame him for just this
one thing. Hey, we were all President once. Well, no, actually none of us were, but... Tell
you what, let's just stick to the good old fashioned disclaimer of "What Rusty says is his
business and we ain't gonna tell him to knock it off, so leave us the hell alone." Thank you.