Thursday, August 31, 2006
"We are not descended from fearful men."
I won't bother to link to Keith Olbermann's takedown of Rumsfeld and this administration from last night. It's all over the net and I'm sure you've seen it. (What the hell. It's here. ) I just had a couple of thoughts while watching this barnburner.
The first is that Olbermann read one of the best speeches I've ever seen on broadcast television. Ever. He deftly turned Rumsfeld's proposition that the critics of the war in Iraq are appeasers of fascism, on it's head and effortlessly dovetailed that into the threat of American fascism as it's manifested itself through our history in names like Nixon and Joe McCarthy.
But more importantly it struck me for the first time as I watched Olbermann's speech that I've finally found something to be thankful of with regards to the Bush presidency. It's put me back in touch on a visceral level with what it truly means to be an American.
Over the course of the last couple of years I've read and re-read the constitution probably a dozen times. I've read the federalist papers for the first time since college. I've read supreme court decisions such as United States v. Butler and Griswold vs. Connecticut, even though I'm no lawyer. I just wanted to know what the constitution meant by "promote the general welfare" and what the Supreme Court saw as the limitations to our privacy.
I've read again that wonderful document that started it all: the declaration of independence. The words of which have blown past me without reflection every 4th of July. This time I thought about the words, about the frame of mind of the men who wrote that document telling the most powerful man in the world to "shove it." I thought about their stunning courage in that act. How they risked everything for an idea.
I've dug out my old high school civics textbooks and contemplated the seperation of powers. I can think of no other invention of the framers written into the constitution that meets the importance of that doctrine. Everything we are as a nation stems from that initial recognition by the framers of the constitution that even the best of men could be corrupted by power.
History's come alive for me. Particularly the middle part of the twentieth century. I have wondered for some time what the average German went through as the Weimar republic collapsed to the Nazi putsch. Why did so many good people just go along for the ride? Why were heroes so few and far between? I'm starting to better understand the answers to those questions.
My kids have come out for the better as well. They've participated in a civics lesson far more important than anything they could've read in books. They've learned by watching this president that leaders aren't infallible and that, in a democracy, the people are the ultimate check on the abuse of governmental power. That's why bad governments try and keep us afraid. They're afraid of the people.
So thank you President Bush for making me a better American. It may not have been your intention but that's the ultimate result. Through your ineptitude and disdain for the country you've actually done us a great service in forcing us to stop taking things for granted. I salute you for that.