Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Give 'Em Hell Harry (III)

the scribe’s going to weigh-in on the war (again), because the beast (this blog) needs a feeding.

Everybody's got an opinion on Harry Reid and the Democrats’ latest attempt to end the war.

You’ve read over and over how they lost, got it wrong, will need to rethink their strategy.

But it is a victory for those of us who want the war ended and voted to put Reid’s party in control of Congress.

It is important to understand the Democrats are not losing the vote to stop the war; instead they are losing procedural votes to end debate.

You may or may not know that the U.S. Senate, once considered the greatest deliberative body in the world, permits unlimited discussion of issues.

In his “The Assault on Reason,” Al Gore points out they are all so busy raising money that they hardly ever show up to the Senate chambers any more, but that’s a topic for a different post.

In the House you get a certain amount of time, three or five minutes, and after that other representatives can yield a portion of their time to you, but at some point it is time to shut up.

To make a senator shut up you need 60 of 100 total votes. That’s what they’ve been voting on; shutting up Republicans promising a filibuster, which is a way of killing a bill through the application of verbal diarrhea.

The Democrats have the votes they need to pass the bill, just not enough to shut the Republicans up and that is what the GOP has been reduced to: the party of war babbling about war until there is war and more war.

Which, by the way, is costing this much to date.

Reid sent out this e-mail in which he accused the Republicans of obstruction.

the scribe says tough nuts Harry.

What? You scribe? Turning coat?

Yup. Let’s be clear, the scribe is for Democracy, not the Democrats. There is a rich irony in a guy who, as minority leader, promised to “screw things up” if he didn’t like what the (p)resident and his rubber-stamping majority were doing.

You may remember the Democrats were leaning heavily upon the 19th century parliamentary tactic that is the filibuster in an effort to prevent the Republicans from returning us to the Stone Age with their Biblical take on everything.

The Republicans were going to apply something called a “nuclear option” by eliminating this tool of minority resistance from the then-minority Democrats.

It was ghastly, terrible, frightening and finally did not come to pass thanks to Sen. John Warner of Virginia and some other level-headed GOPers who put institution and country ahead of party.

Not coincidentally, some of these same level-headed Republicans have abandoned w.’s war even as their more muddle-headed colleagues pray for a “surge” of good luck.

So long live obstruction! the scribe sayeth. It is one of the least American traits built into our governing system and it has saved us time and time again.

Those seven senators Reid needs to achieve “cloture” (re: shut up the Republicans) must count for a little while longer the soldiers’ deaths, like drops of Chinese torture water on their foreheads, before they come round.

But they will come round.

Below is a letter from a poet rejecting Laura Bush’s invitation to some White House she-bang or other. It takes courage to reject the gifts of power, and somewhere down the line she will pay.

So highwayscribery says thanks.

Laura Bush
First Lady, The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents--all of us who need the pleasure,and the inner and outer news, it delivers.

And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers.

Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women's prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children. Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students --long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers.

When you have witnessed someone non-speaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing.

When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely non-speaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit -- and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person's unique story and

So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC.

I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country -- with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain -- did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top"and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and
religious chauvinism -- the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.

I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness -- as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing -- against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, high-handed actions of the Bush Administration.

What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from
the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed
this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting
"extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will
be tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is a good, well phrased letter. I applaud the writer.