Wednesday, September 26, 2007

They lied

The following is a combination of conversations had with various individuals, put together in one account.

On a crisp September afternoon I sat on bench near a local park.  A man, close to my age, sat near me and took in the sights of the cool day.  We happened into conversation about life, family, and politics.  I made the mistake of allowing a stray comment from my lips regarding the war in Iraq.  The man turned to me with a sharp look in his eyes. 

"Why don't you support the troops?  Why do you hate our military?  Why can't you just support the President's decisions?"

At that moment, something inside me snapped.  My body began to shake and my vision blurred.  I had heard these questions before, several times, doing my best to forget the ignorance from which they came.  I turned the other cheek when people asked me "Why do you hate America?" or "If it's so bad here, why don't you move somewhere else?"  I let them question my patriotism, call me a traitor, because every one is entitled to their opinion.  I allowed myself to be marginalized and called a left-wing wacko, though I knew the truth.  In the greatest democracy the world has ever known, I let them tell me that if I hadn't killed for my country, then I had no right to speak.  But not anymore.

Meeting the man's gaze, I narrowed mine. 

"Who told you this?" I began. "Who told you supporting our troops meant supporting endless war; that disagreeing with our administration's policies meant turning my back on my country?  Who told you that I have to follow our President into the pits of a hell of our own making, never questioning the course though my heart and head scream for sanity?  As for our fighting men and women, who told you I've no compassion for their sacrifice or respect for their service?  As I beg my elected representatives to bring them home, so they might be safe until the day a war of choice becomes a war of necessity - who told you that makes me a traitor?  

Who told you after September 11th, that the best thing to do was go shopping; to live our lives as if nothing had changed, only to raise the specter of that gruesome day to evoke fear whenever it was politically convenient?  Who told you that the greatest way to honor those who perished was the dismantling of our liberties in the name of security?  When I mourn the loss of 3000 of my kinsman, why am I any less a patriot when I question the poverty, oppression, and genocide supported by our own foreign policy?  Who told you that the United States was the first nation to ever experience such sorrow, giving us the mandate to tell the world "you're either with us, or with the terrorists?"  

The man was briefly taken aback, but then leaned forward to speak.

"Don't you know we have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here?  Al Qaeda is in Iraq!  What do you want to do, just coddle our enemies?"

"Who told you this?" I responded.  "As the U.S. prepared for war, who told you that Saddam Hussein gave aid and comfort to those who attacked us on September 11th.  Who told you he had weapons of mass destruction, aimed at Israel and packaged just right for an attack on the U.S.?  When no WMD were found, who told you that the imposition of democracy upon a sovereign nation was the best way to promote peace?  As the death toll rose, who told you that human life is only as valuable as its geography; that nearly 80,000 killed in the Iraqi desert in a bungled war isn't as important as 1 life in an American city.  Who told you war would be easy; that the mission would be accomplished before it truly began; that we'd be greeted with flowers in the streets, as liberators; that massive corporations should profit from death, and armed, mercenary groups - like Blackwater - should have the authority to fire upon the free citizens of another country? 

Who told you that upholding ignorance over understanding, and dismissing our enemies as "crazed killers" is effective foreign policy?  When the United States refuses to meet with Syria, Iran, or any nation willing to talk, who told you that this tactic strengthens our credibility; that refusal to learn the language, culture, and folkways of would-be terrorist nations makes us better prepared to confront them?" 

"But they're terrorists!" he said.  "There's only one way to fight this evil."

"Who told you that the only way to fight evil is to embrace evil; by stripping away inalienable freedoms that have been guaranteed for nearly 800 years; casting aside the right of Habeas Corpus -suspended only once - since King John signed the Magna Carta on the fields of Runnymede in 1215?  Who told you the best way to deal with our enemies is through torture and coercion; forcing confessions with Soviet style precision; that "alternative" means of interrogation stops short of violating the Geneva Convention, allowing us to be the "good guys" once again?  Who told you that ignoring our Bill of Rights, showing utter disdain of liberty for all the world to see, would make us safer?

Who told you that our elected leaders should betray their supporters by lying down in the face of opposition; that our basic Constitutional rights aren't worth fighting for; that 51 votes doesn't matter because no one wants to stand up to a filibuster; that there would be no outrage?  When American citizens clamor for public funding of elections, to put democracy back in the hands of the citizenry, who told you it would only create a new level of bureaucratic mismanagement; that we couldn't trust our tax dollars at work?  Who told you that "business as usual" is the name of the game; that politicians should engorge their coffers on the coin of special interests?  When you watched your government being put up for sale, who told you that little green pieces of paper are more valuable than the voices of your own people."

The man's eyes grew wide and he opened his mouth to speak again.

"But you liberals are all the same.  You don't believe in anything.  You oppress Christians while supporting religions that have nothing to do with America.  And no one's ever wrong.  You just want people to do whatever the hell they want, as long as it "feels good".

"Just because I support the separation of church and state," I responded, "who told you that I hate Christians; or that I would hold Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Eckists, Wiccans, or Atheists above followers of any other religion?  Who told you that believing people have the freedom to find truth through their own faith and experience means I have no faith of my own?  When you sat in your church, free to worship your god, who told you that the Constitution established Christianity, or any other faith, as the state religion; that without prayer in schools, somehow our children would never learn right from wrong, peace from war?  Who told you that God would actually bless America over every other nation in Its creation?   

Who told you I didn't believe in the rule of law just because I don't support state sanctioned homicide; that because I cherish life, I want to see murderers and rapists roaming the streets; that I don't believe in punishing the guilty.  Who told you that I believe in the victim mentality; that I have no concept of personal responsibility.  With over 12 million children living below the poverty level, and 38 million people in American households dealing with hunger, who told you that everyone on welfare is a free-loading bum; that health care for EVERY child isn't necessary; that boys and girls should suffer the consequences of their parents' decisions?" 

The man frowned and shook his head, searching his mind for some response.  But I would not relent.

"Tell me, sir, who told you that the marketplace would create well paying jobs, a robust middle class, and end the scourge of poverty; that it would solve the problems of a fragile environment, value labor over capital by supporting workers' rights, and create a level playing field for all regardless of wealth or position?  Who told you that the U.S. doesn't need a safety net; that the market will separate the wheat from the chaff, and we'll all be better for it.  Who told you that unregulated capitalism would be tempered by wisdom, supported by a progressive tax system, address our damaged immigration policy, and create a new world order of mutual trade and cooperation?

With 2.5 billion tons of CO2 forced into our atmosphere by manufacturing plants every year, who told you that we couldn't possibly have an impact on the environment; that global climate change was a myth; that 300 million people burning 20.7 million barrels of oil per day, was insignificant to the health of this planet?

Please sir, who told you that we aren't one world; that it will always be "us and against them"; that the truths we hold as "self evident" reach only as far as our borders; that all men are not created equal; that we are the arbiters of justice, the executioner's blade, and the shining example of democracy that will glow, unblemished, for the next 1000 years."

Who told you these things?

Because, they lied.  

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