January 31, 2006

Bush's Renewed Declaration of War on Dissent

I will probably comment on additional aspects of Bush's State of the Union address in future essays. The falsehoods, misrepresentations, invalid dichotomies and other errors and dishonest tactics were so numerous that it would take someone several days at least to list and dissect them all.

For the moment, I only want to comment on one part of Bush's remarks, because it struck me with considerable force. Note these two passages in particular:
In a system of two parties, two chambers, and two elected branches, there will always be differences and debate. But even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of good will and respect for one another - and I will do my part.
Followed just a couple of minutes later by this:
Our coalition has learned from experience in Iraq. We have adjusted our military tactics and changed our approach to reconstruction. Along the way, we have benefited from responsible criticism and counsel offered by Members of Congress of both parties. In the coming year, I will continue to reach out and seek your good advice.

Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy. With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison -- put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country - and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress: however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our Nation has only one option: We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in its vital mission.
I give Bush's writers credit for brazenness, and for the scope of their ambitions. Every American should be absolutely clear about what Bush is attempting here.

It is quite something for Bush to insist that "even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone," and that we must all "act in a spirit of good will and respect for one another" -- when the party he heads immediately and repeatedly demonizes everyone who disagrees with any aspect of his foreign policy as being on the side of the terrorists, and as aching for the defeat of the United States and for our national humiliation. Not only has Bush not done his "part" in this matter: he and those who do his bidding have consciously, continuously and dangerously done the exact opposite in every conceivable way.

Let me emphasize the conclusion of the second excerpt above. In that passage -- after approving "responsible criticism" and praising the "duty to speak with candor" -- Bush announces that "our Nation has only one option." It's his option, of course, as announced and implemented in his foreign policy.

Now, that's a neat trick. If there is, in fact, "only one option," then there is nothing at all to discuss. Of course, like so much else in his speech tonight, this is a stupefyingly and ludicrously unintelligent lie. Of course there are other options, including with regard to the course of action in Iraq in the coming months.

But what Bush has announced tonight -- in what is clearly an indication of the major strategy to be followed by Republicans generally in the elections this fall -- is that, oh, yes, certainly you may disagree. That's part of the greatness of the American system, after all, and there is that First Amendment too (damn it). However, you may disagree only on the terms and in the manner that Bush, at his will, allows. This is also the strategy that many of Bush's most vehement defenders have been following for several years.

We should remember that this tactic was adopted by the Bush administration immediately after 9/11. Only three months after that day, in response to criticisms of the hastily-passed (and largely unread) Patriot Act, Ashcroft intoned: “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this, your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and ... give ammunition to American’s enemies.” Thus was the tone and method set early on.

So Bush has now announced, in the significant setting of a State of the Union address, that he will continue to prosecute his war on dissent to the fullest extent possible. If you choose to offer criticism or disagreement, make certain that it is "responsible" and "respectful" and "civil." And always, always remember that there is "only one option" -- the one that Bush has already chosen. If enough Americans believed this drivel and followed Bush's advice, neither he nor any other politician would ever need censorship: people would shut themselves down completely in all the ways that matter. National debate about momentous issues of policy would cease forever.

I found these passages worthy of note because of certain issues I began discussing earlier today -- and because I know that far too many Americans will agree with Bush entirely. In the first part of a new series, "The Limits of Politics," I offered an especially relevant passage from Alice Miller. She discusses how the principle of obedience instilled in most children at a very young age -- obedience even to rules that are unintelligible and senseless (and far too often, obedience especially to such rules) -- is the ultimate explanation for why "politicians mouthing empty cliches ... attain the highest positions of power by democratic means. But since voters, who as children would normally have been capable of seeing through these cliches with the aid of their feelings, were specifically forbidden to do so in their early years, they lose this ability as adults."

She goes on:
Our whole system of raising and educating children provides the power-hungry with a ready-made railway network they can use to reach the destination of their choice. They need only push the buttons that parents and educators have already installed.

Crippling ties to certain norms, terminology, and labels can also be clearly observed in the case of many thoroughly honorable people who become passionately engaged in political struggle. For them, political struggle is inseparably associated with party, organization, or ideology.
In the same excerpt that I offer there, Miller explains how a profoundly different upbringing can lead to the opposite result -- and she offers the example of Sophie and Hans Scholl, who became famous because of their work in the German resistance movement known as "The White Rose." The Scholls were able "to see through Hitler's platitudes at the Nuremberg Rally," while most of their peers "were completely won over by the Fuhrer" and continued their enthusiastic participation in Nazi youth organizations. In a similar manner, many Americans today are won over by Bush and his equally empty platitudes.

No, of course we have not reached anything close to the nightmarish horrors of the Third Reich, at least not yet. But the point I make in that essay is that the principles and mechanisms are the same. And so is the danger.

In the second part of "The Limits of Politics," which I hope to post tomorrow morning, I will examine how these same mechanisms lead to certain group dynamics. They, too, have a great number of profoundly uncomfortable echoes today -- and they also carry many very great dangers.

AND: More on these issues here -- Bush and the Legions of the Damned.

The Limits of Politics, I: The Roots of the Politics of Power

I have now reposted my lengthy essay about Tony Kushner's magnificent play, Angels in America, at The Sacred Moment: A Hymn to Life. That article remains among the handful of my personal favorites in all my writing over the last three years.

When I first published that essay, a few of my close friends remarked that they weren't sure I myself fully understood how radical the implications of my themes were. At the time, I resented those comments -- not a great deal to be sure, but it was irksome to me in a minor way. I felt like saying: "Well, I wrote it, for goodness' sake. Of course I understand what it means!"

Now, with the passage of a couple of years and having done much more thinking and reading, I see that they were right. Before I explain what I mean by that, let me briefly make a prefatory point. If you wondered what I meant by "dancing" in this post, Angels in America is a wonderful embodiment of the quality and the approach to which I referred. Kushner's play deals with the most complex and multifaceted issues, and its events often focus on terrible pain, disease and death. And yet Angels is suffused with great wit and humor, with endless imaginative inventiveness, and with an almost incommunicable sense of profound joy. In the midst of its dramatization of great suffering, the play always, always dances. That is true for many reasons, and I will be discussing some of them in future essays.

With regard to the theme of this current article -- "The Limits of Politics" -- I was especially struck by this passage from my Angels essay, where I identified some of the issues Kushner's play raises:
[W]hat is the relationship between the political ideas we espouse and our persons, and our emotions? To what extent are our political theories shaped, and sometimes even distorted, by what we feel? Are our political ideas of value in themselves, even when they're cut off from or contradict our inner sense of ourselves? And many more issues are suggested in the exchange between Louis and Belize -- and one of them is critical to one of Kushner's central themes. At one point, Louis says there are no "angels in America," that there is no "spiritual path," that everything is only political. Here and throughout the play, Kushner thus raises these additional questions: what is the relationship between the spiritual and the political? Between the spirit and the body? Which is more important? Do we need both? How can a political theory properly account for our spiritual needs? Should it?
This provides an important clue to the source of the joy that Angels in America conveys, and it returns me to some of the implications of the earlier piece that I myself had not fully appreciated.

For many decades, and especially today, our public debates have been lamentably superficial and tragically limited in the way they approach political questions. The entire "spiritual path" has been almost entirely banished from consideration. In today's cultural atmosphere, I should immediately emphasize that by "spiritual," I am not referring to a God or gods, and what influence they should have on the public sphere, if any. I am using "spiritual" to refer to concerns that are much deeper, more complex and, blasphemous as some may view it, of infinitely greater significance.

On questions of domestic policy, almost all commentators sound like dessicated technocrats -- and the same approach infects and dehumanizes even the most momentous issues of war and peace, and of life and death. It is not at all the case that the more delimited issues in foreign policy, for example, are unimportant. Certainly, whether the invasion and occupation of Iraq help or hinder the fight against our actual enemies is a question of the greatest importance. There cannot be any reasonable dispute about the answer, since the Iraq catastrophe has only aided a worldwide jihadist movement, one which regards the United States as its primary enemy. Similarly, how we should deal with the possible threat represented by Iran is of immense significance, which is why I will complete my series on Iran shortly. (Here are the first two parts of that discussion: Part I, and Part II.)

But almost no writers will address the deeper questions: what explains humanity's long and virtually unbroken history of violence and warfare? Why do we appear to be so in love with destruction and death? I have addressed these questions in a number of essays -- most notably in The Voice of the Thug, and the Harbinger of Horrors Still to Come, and in When Life and Happiness Are Not Enough, among other articles. But most commentators, including almost all bloggers, never discuss these issues at all.

That reluctance, if not outright refusal, seriously to address and to try to come to terms with the underlying causes has been explained in Alice Miller's work. By way of contrast, I offered some specific examples of the often sickeningly trivial nature of most contemporary political discussions in the very first piece I wrote about Miller. Every day offers more stories demonstrating the truth of the mechanisms that Miller has identified, yet the majority of people will not see it. I remain convinced of the truth and the unique importance of Miller's writing, so I will attempt once again to explain the explanatory power of her work, from yet another angle.

Kushner's approach in Angels in America, including the paragraph from my essay excerpted above, suggests that we have deadened our souls in a crucial way, that there is a fundamental part of what constitutes our selves from which we have become irrevocably disconnected. As Miller demonstrates, using countless examples of actual life histories including the histories of many famous writers and artists (such as Sylvia Plath, among many others), that disconnection first occurs in our childhoods.

In fact, the truth is much worse than that: the methods most commonly used to raise children are designed to deaden our souls, and to prevent the growth of an independent, genuine, vital self. No, most parents do not realize this consciously -- which makes the danger only greater. Most parents simply reenact what they learned from their parents. Miller refers to traditional child-rearing methods as "poisonous pedagogy." In an earlier Miller essay (The Demand for Obedience), I offered Miller's own definition of this phrase:
Poisonous pedagogy is a phrase I use to refer to the kind of parenting and education aimed at breaking a child's will and making that child into an obedient subject by means of overt or covert coercion, manipulation, and emotional blackmail.

In my books For Your Own Good and Thou Shall Not Be Aware, I have explained the concept using concrete examples. In my other books I have repeatedly stressed how the mendacious mentality behind this approach to dealing with children can leave long-lasting imprints on the way we think and relate to one another in our adult lives.
In that same post, I went on to say:
I want to emphasize (and I will return to this subject at greater length soon) that, despite the common acceptance of spanking and corporal punishment as "legitimate" means of obtaining obedience from children, it is probably true that the much more common forms of "coercion, manipulation, and emotional blackmail" are not physical in nature at all. The damages and costs resulting from the demands of parents and educators for adherence to rules which are arbitrary and nonsensical to the child -- and to most thinking adults as well -- are terrible to contemplate.
There are several interlocking parts of the mechanisms that Miller describes that must be kept in mind -- and these parts help to explain what is missing from our political debates. The first part is obedience to the demands of the parent and/or other authority figure -- the second part is denial of the pain experienced by the child himself, when he is made to "conform" to arbitrary edicts and to suppress his own spontaneous, genuine emotions -- the third part is idealization of the parent and/or additional authority figure, since the child depends on the parent for life itself and dares not challenge the parent or the parent's "good intentions" -- and the final, inevitable part is the denial of the pain experienced by others. If we fully acknowledge the injuries sustained by others and the pain they experience, it will call up our own injuries. Because this would call into question our most fundamental sense of ourselves, this cannot be permitted. In this manner, the deadening of the soul -- which began with our own souls -- must expand to deaden us to the full reality of the selves of others. (These issues are all explained in much more detail in the earlier Miller essays, and I will soon be posting a Table of Contents for all the Miller pieces.)

Some further excerpts from Alice Miller's own work are very illuminating with regard to these issues, and to their relevance to the current essay. The following is from one of her first books, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware. We should note the revealing subtitle: Society's Betrayal of the Child. As Miller once again makes clear, it is our childhood experiences -- and learning to internalize completely the obedience-denial-idealization mechanism -- that explain so much of our adult behavior.

And those earliest experiences and their resulting psychological damage also throw light on the nature of politics and political debate:
There is a good deal else that would not exist without "poisonous pedagogy." It would be inconceivable, for example, for politicians mouthing empty cliches to attain the highest positions of power by democratic means. But since voters, who as children would normally have been capable of seeing through these cliches with the aid of their feelings, were specifically forbidden to do so in their early years, they lose this ability as adults. The capacity to experience the strong feelings of childhood and puberty (which are so often stifled by child-rearing methods, beatings, or even drugs) could provide the individual with an important means of orientation with which he or she could easily determine whether politicians are speaking from genuine experience or are merely parroting time-worn platitudes for the sake of manipulating voters. Our whole system of raising and educating children provides the power-hungry with a ready-made railway network they can use to reach the destination of their choice. They need only push the buttons that parents and educators have already installed.

Crippling ties to certain norms, terminology, and labels can also be clearly observed in the case of many thoroughly honorable people who become passionately engaged in political struggle. For them, political struggle is inseparably associated with party, organization, or ideology.
Since the ominous threat child-rearing practices pose to peace and survival has always remained hidden, ideologies have not yet been able to perceive this situation or, if they do perceive it, to develop intellectual weapons against this knowledge. As far as I know, not a single ideology has "appropriated" the truth of the overriding importance of our early conditioning to be obedient and dependent and to suppress our feelings, along with the consequences of this conditioning. That is understandable, for it probably would mean the end of the ideology in question and the beginning of awareness. Accordingly, many ideologues who consider themselves politically active are like people who, if a fire breaks out, would open the windows to try to let out the billowing smoke (perhaps contenting themselves with abstract theories about the fire's origin) and blithely ignore the flames leaping up nearby.

My hypothesis that Adolf Hitler owed his great popularity to the cruel and inhuman principles of infant- and child-rearing prevalent in the Germany of his day [see the Hitler chapter in For Your Own Good] is also proved by the exception. I looked into the background of Sophie and Hans Scholl, two university students in Hitler's Germany who became famous as a result of their activities in the resistance movement, "The White Rose," and were both executed by the Nazis in 1944. I discovered that the tolerant and open atmosphere of their childhood had enabled them to see through Hitler's platitudes at the Nuremberg Rally, when the brother and sister were members of Nazi youth organizations. Nearly all their peers were completely won over by the Fuhrer, whereas Hans and Sophie had other, higher expectations of human nature, not shared by their comrades, against which they could measure Hitler. Because such standards are rare, it is also very difficult for patients in therapy to see through the manipulative methods they are subjected to; the patient doesn't even notice such methods because they are inherent in a system he takes completely for granted.
Miller's footnote about the Scholls should also be noted:
In the words of Ilse Aich Scholl: "When my brother came back from Nuremberg he seemed completely changed: tired, depressed, and uncommunicative. Although he didn't say anything, we all sensed that something must have happened having to do with the Hitler Youth. Little by little we learned what it was. The senseless drills, the militaristic parades, the drivel, the vulgar jokes -- all this had been shattering for him. Having to line up from morning till evening, speeches and more speeches, and then the artificially whipped-up enthusiasm. There was no time left for rational discussion.

"What had happened in Nuremberg irritated Sophie, as it did all of us. Nuremberg -- this did not yet cause an open break, but it was probably the first step separating us from the world of the Hitler Youth and the German Girls' League" (Hermann Vinke, Das kurze Leben der Sophie Scholl [The Short Life of Sophie Scholl], p. 45).
Today, in the United States, we see all this on display every day. Very fortunately, we have not seen the full catastrophe to which these dynamics can lead -- at least, not yet. But the crucial point is that the mechanisms are identical.

How else can we explain the phenomenon of intelligent people who proclaim their allegiance to "American values," to individual rights and to liberty heralding Bush as the great defender of those same values -- even as he acts to undercut them at the most fundamental level? How else do we account for the blatant contradiction inherent in the idea of launching a war of aggression against a third-rate country that posed no threat to us -- supposedly in the name of "peace" and "democracy"? What else can explain the continuing refusal of the most vehement hawks to acknowledge the devastation suffered by those we supposedly are "liberating," the Iraqis -- or suffered by the members of our own military? How else do we explain the means by which intelligent commentators end up justifying the use of torture, commentators who contend that we have "no choice" about turning ourselves into the very same monsters we say are our enemies?

As Miller's work explains, these are people who suffered terrible injuries as children, but who were forced to deny their own pain in the name of "obedience." This first denial leads to all the subsequent ones -- and it leads to the denial of the pain experienced by others. In an extreme case, it can also lead even to the denial of an indisputable historical fact such as the Holocaust. Mel Gibson denies it -- because his father does. Gibson dares not question his father beyond a certain point, or to challenge his idealization of the primary authority figure. When we become adults, and when the mechanism remains in place, the same idealization spreads to include political authority figures, and our nation's military.

Thus we have the "crippling ties" to "norms, terminology, and labels" -- and we have a populace that is unable to see the truth behind "politicians mouthing empty cliches." They were forbidden to see the truth as children, and the blindness expands when they are adults. The same blindness may well lead to worldwide conflagration once again, as it has in the recent past.

It should be emphasized that, while the most extreme and dangerous examples of these mechanisms are presently to be found in the United States among Bush's defenders, most of those who criticize Bush are only marginally better. They do not challenge Bush's program on the deeper level indicated by Miller, and most of the political debates we witness are conducted in only the most artificially circumscribed terms. Thus, even those who denounce Bush usually avoid the most significant and meaningful issues -- and in the end, they are helpless to prevent disaster from overtaking all of us.

I will explore these issues further in the upcoming parts of this series.

January 29, 2006

Why Alito Should and Must Be Filibustered: The Power of "No," Revisited

[I will have much more to say about the Bush administration's unceasing fundamental attack on the rule of law during the coming weeks. For the moment, I will only note that this attack has been going on without pause for several years. It hardly began with the revelations about Bush's warrantless wiretapping. If that particularly egregious example of Bush's belief that whatever he does is legal solely because he does it serves to wake people up, fine. But in fact, they could and should have woken up much, much earlier. There have been many manifestations of this attack for a long time -- and it is only the abject failure of our media and most commentators to understand the most basic principles of political thought and analysis that has permitted these attacks by the Bush administration to go unanswered for years.

There are numerous other and more significant examples of this failure, and I will be discussing some of them soon. But here is one revealing example, one that involves a blogger: I heard a fairly well-known liberal blogger interviewed on a well-known liberal radio show recently. The blogger was explaining the dangers represented by the Alito nomination. He contrasted the Alito case with the Roberts nomination, and he said that Roberts "had no record," so it was easier for the Republicans to get the Democrats to accede to the nomination -- which many of them did, to their eternal shame.

In fact, this is entirely wrong: on the issue that is now the most critical -- the question of the scope of executive authority -- Roberts does have a record. It may be only one case, but the decision that Roberts joined just before his nomination was announced states clearly and unequivocally that, in wartime, the President can do whatever he wants, even with regard to American citizens -- and that he is subject to no oversight at all, not from Congress and not from the courts. Read this Emily Bazelon article for more details about the Hamdan case and its significance. On a question of this magnitude, one case is more than enough. It is unforgivable that the Democrats completely surrendered on the Roberts nomination, and that they put up no fight at all.

It is true that the record is much longer, and much more damning, in the case of Alito. For that reason, Kerry is entirely correct to maintain that this is where the line must be drawn -- if one gives a damn about individual rights and if one wants to prevent the intallation of an utterly unrestrained imperial presidency. If the Democrats are unable to put up a strong fight against the Alito nomination, they may as well leave Washington altogether. The individuals that a President puts on the Supreme Court represent his most significant and far-reaching legacy: a legacy that is longest in duration and that has the greatest scope. (I say that on the perhaps unjustified assumption that Bush will not blow us all to kingdom come before he leaves office, a subject to which I will return when I complete my series on Iran this week. If Bush should finally instigate a war that covers much of the globe -- and a war which may well involve at least tactical nuclear weapons -- then the makeup of the Supreme Court may be of little moment, along with everything else in our lives.) On his record, one can only conclude that Alito, like Roberts, will be prepared to grant the President absolute authority to act in whatever manner he chooses as long as the neverending "War on Terror" continues -- and that he will question or restrain that authority only in minor ways, and on points that are of comparatively little significance.

This is not a risk that anyone who is capable of understanding these issues to any extent at all should be prepared to take. If the Democrats roll over for this nomination, they will have committed group suicide. No one should ever trust them again on any matter of importance -- and certainly not with regard to issues of individual liberty, or war and peace.

I am not naive or unrealistic: the Democrats may well lose in the end. But when the stakes are this high -- and here, the stakes encompass everything that matters with regard to the future of our country -- you must fight, even if you lose. If the battle is waged with an understanding of the profound importance of the issues involved, at the very least the public will be more aware of the nature of the struggle by the time it is over. As a result, more people will be prepared to fight the next battle more effectively. Up until now, the Democrats have employed the opposite strategy: each surrender makes them progressively weaker, thus rendering them more incapable of fighting when the next crisis arises.

I first published the essay below on July 6, 2005. It was entitled: The Moral Bankruptcy of Our National Politics: The Power of "No." It makes the more general argument regarding these points.

When you are asked to accede to that which you know to be deeply immoral and wrong, and to be ultimately destructive of what once made the United States the great nation it was -- and if you care about honor, decency, your own life and the lives of your fellow Americans -- then you must say no, even if you are almost certain that you will lose.

A very powerful "No" could provide us with more time, time that is desperately needed to right our nation's course. It might save us -- and at the very least, those who say "No" will save their own souls and consciences. If the Democrats in Washington are unwilling or unable to act in this manner, they will have damned themselves. They will no longer be any concern of mine -- nor, I would submit, should they be a concern for anyone who understands the nature of this battle and who gives a damn.]

Every time I begin to harbor the barest glimmer of hope that the Democrats might serve as a brake on the worst excesses of the increasingly contemptible and loathsome Bush administration, the Democrats act in a manner to confirm that they are almost the equals of Bush & Co. insofar as their complete moral bankruptcy is concerned. In the end, the Democrats consistently reveal that they possess no confidence whatsoever, and they they especially and most depicably lack moral courage in even the most minuscule amount -- and that all they care about is political power.

Of course, to believe for even a moment that the Democrats might finally summon the smallest bit of bravery requires that one forget that they provided no opposition whatsoever during Bush's lie-fuelled drive to his "optional" and disastrous invasion of Iraq, and that they thus continued to accede to the completely unconstitutional notion of "Executive war." And I don't want to hear about how Congress voted only for a "limited" resolution, which fell short of war. If an ordinary citizen following the news in the summer and fall of 2002 could figure out that war was inevitable, how stupid do the Democrats have to be -- or how stupid do they believe we are -- to think they can get away with this transparent rationalization of their cowardice? Don't answer that; any accurate reply would be exceedingly rude. Besides, everyone knew what the members of Congress were voting for, the retrospective lies of cowardly and calculating politicans to the contrary notwithstanding.

And now, even though a few Democrats make meaningless noises about the necessity for "goals" or "benchmarks" in Iraq -- requests that the administration will fulfill whenever and however they damned well feel like it -- almost all the Democrats say as one that we must "stay the course," that we cannot "cut and run," and similar gutter phrases which insult anyone of modest intelligence. After all, if they called for a withdrawal of our troops, they would be accused of being "unpatriotic" and of "not supporting the troops." [Added 1/29/06: I cannot help but observe that the treatment accorded Murtha proves this observation true beyond all dispute.] God forbid that even one Democrat should put the honor and decency of the country he swore to serve above his own political survival. On top of this, the Democrats happily vote for every appropriations bill for Bush's catastrophic misadventure, even when an atrocity like the Real ID Act is buried in its bowels. The Senate supported that one without even one vote of opposition. Miserable, contemptible bastards.

More recently, we had Durbin's craven collapse when the pressure became too much for him -- even though the "outrage" was completely phony, carefully orchestrated, and based on a profound misrepresentation of what Durbin in fact had said. But today's bit of news seals the Democrats' collective fate as far as I am concerned: they all deserve to reside in the same hell that the Bush administration and its most devoted supporters should inhabit for the rest of time.

Our news item concerns one Alberto Gonzales. As you may have heard, Mr. Gonzales was confirmed as the Attorney General of these United States only a few months ago -- despite certain monumental objections to his suitability for that high office which would have sufficed to consign him to a lifetime of cleaning exceedingly filthy toilets in a more civilized age. Some brief background is needed before we get to the Democrats' final announcement of their surrender of all moral authority to the Republicans.

I could have excerpted many similar articles to make the following overall point, but for reasons that will become apparent, this article by Marguerite Feitlowitz is especially appropriate. Here are a few key passages:
It seems surreal: The president's nominee for the highest legal position in the land is a proponent of torture. In his notorious Jan. 25, 2002, memorandum to Bush, Alberto Gonzales clearly fancies himself a shrewd thinker, a smooth operator when it comes to finessing the inevitable outrage of our allies when they learn that we have violated the Geneva Conventions. His suggestion for rebuttal to, among others, Secretary of State Colin Powell, who argued that the Conventions applied to the Taliban and al-Qaida? "First, some of the language [of the Conventions] is undefined (it prohibits, for example, 'outrages upon personal dignity' and 'inhuman treatment')." Are personal dignity and inhumane treatment really so mysterious? So fungible?

The universal horror elicited by the photos of Abu Ghraib attests to the innate human ability to recognize humiliation, degradation and abuse. As we saw in those photos, young soldiers -- acting in accordance with the climate established high up in the chain of command -- displayed, mocked and toyed with the genitals of prisoners who had also been beaten up, deprived of sleep, chained, hooded and made to stand for hours on one leg on elevated boxes lest they fall into the gaping jaws of trained attack dogs. According to Gonzales' reasoning, none of these practices constitute torture unless they result in years of protracted suffering or "organ failure." In other words, only if a prisoner dies, or almost dies, can one know if one is actually committing torture.

I spent nearly seven years interviewing survivors of the torture centers of Argentina's "dirty war" (1976-83): relatives of desaparecidos ("disappeared"), human rights experts and activists, peasants and labor leaders -- in short, three generations of Argentines from all walks of life whose families were torn apart by the dictatorship. Torture is a crime that never ends: It is written on the body, inscribed in the mind and seared into the soul. Neither individuals nor regimes nor societies survive unscathed. The secrets and shame, lies, guilt and corruption last for generations -- censoring rational thought, inhibiting democratic impulses, hobbling democratic institutions.

Democracy relies on trust, on a social compact. Torture violates every precept, every moral value, associated with democracy, a form of governance the Bush administration purports to cherish. Yet the growing evidence of the U.S. government's policies on torture directly threatens our ability to defend basic human rights, and to promote democracy, both at home and abroad.


Gonzales in his memo asserts (as though it weren't an old, long-disproved chestnut): "The nature of the new war places a high premium on ... the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists ... in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." Yet reliable information is rarely gotten through torture: Prisoners die, pass out, become incoherent or are simply too traumatized to talk. My own research, and that of other experts, documents that the vast majority of those subjected to torture know nothing of any military value. The idea that a terrorist attack can be thwarted in the nick of time in the torture chamber is more a daydream of perverse "heroism" than sound military or intelligence policy.

Torture does not make us safer or more secure. (We need only read the headlines.) Torture defiles the perpetrators. (Look again at the photos of our criminal young soldiers at Abu Ghraib.) Regimes that torture send out the message that a penchant for brutality is a valuable skill set, a ticket for advancement.

Alberto Gonzales has paved the way of his own advancement with memos that are intellectually slovenly, that impute definitive powers to the executive, and whose attempts at shirking the basic moral precepts of international humanitarian law are not very skillful. If he is confirmed as attorney general, our nation will be shamed, shunned and endangered.
In addition to her work with survivors of torture, I selected Feitlowitz's article because she cites an article that I have previously excerpted at length: Darius Rejali's lengthy examination of why torture is profoundly wrong and deeply destructive from every perspective. My earlier entry has a much longer discussion of these issues, but permit me to remind you of just the opening of Rejali's two-part article:
Few things give a rush quite like having unlimited power over another human being. A sure sign the rush is coming is pasty saliva and a strange taste in one's mouth, according to a French soldier attached to a torture unit in Algeria. That powerful rush can be seen on the faces of some of the soldiers at Abu Ghraib, a rush that undoubtedly changed them forever. The history of slavery tells us that one can't feel such a rush without being corrupted by it. And the history of modern torture tells us that governments can't license this corruption -- even in the cause of spreading democracy -- without reducing the quality of their intelligence, compromising their allies and damaging their military and bureaucratic capabilities.

The abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib prison were originally blamed on a few American soldiers. Various investigations into the exact chain of command are underway, but they already point to policy decisions made at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Indeed, the recently revealed memos written by Justice Department lawyers in August 2002, at the request of the CIA and the White House, concerning treatment of al-Qaida suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and by Pentagon lawyers in March 2003 (in which it was argued that the president and those he has empowered to conduct torture of foreign prisoners are immune from prosecution under international law) are evidence that the government was seeking ways to legally circumvent the Geneva Conventions. "The question put to lawyers was how the president and the others could commit war crimes and get away with it" is how Anne Applebaum put it in the Washington Post Wednesday.
And it was Alberto Gonzales who was centrally responsible for providing the means and the legal "cover" for "getting away with" war crimes. This is the man who is now Attorney General of the United States.

In recent days, Gonzales' name has been floated as a possible nominee to the Supreme Court. On his record and with regard to this issue most of all, that Gonzales should be considered for longer than it can take to utter his name is a deeply disturbing sign of the level of barbarity and lawlessness to which we have already sunk. Moreover, Bush & Co. are engaged in what appears to be a very skillful game -- and I have thus far only come across one commentator who seems to recognize that game for what it is. In discussing the "perception game" that the Bush administration is playing, Tim Grieve writes:
Does this sort of perception game matter? Of course it does. Just ask yourself this: How is it that, over the last few days, you've found yourself wondering whether Alberto Gonzales would be such a bad justice after all?

The White House and the Republican leaders understand the game, and they're usually pretty good at playing it. So somehow, at the very moment that the president himself speaks out against "special interest groups" on "the extremes," the New York Times finds itself the recipient of leaks from this series of conference calls between Washington Republicans and leaders of the religious right. The press and the blogs will play up the notion that there's a fight between Bush and his base over O'Connor['s] replacement, but we're betting that's exactly the story line the White House wants to have out there right now. Given the constant communication between Bush administration officials and leaders on the religious right, we can assume that, if the White House wanted to pass along a request to cool the rhetoric, it could have done so without a sea of leaks to the New York Times, a statement from the president and on-the-record quote from Bill Frist's chief of staff, who told the Times that all the "extremism of language, if there is to be any, should be demonstrably on the other side. The hysteria and the foaming at the mouth ought to come from the left."

Some of the usual foamers are bristling at the request -- or, at least, making a good show of bristling in order to help Bush achieve the separation from the right he'll need to sell the kind of nominee they want on the bench. When Gary Bauer tells the Times that the administration "shouldn't be reluctant to talk about the values we hope the nominee will embrace," it's all part of the stage show, and guys like Bauer -- knowingly or not -- are just playing their roles.
And Harry Reid is perfectly happy to play his own part in the Republicans' game. I am deeply sorry to say that he probably isn't clever enough to even begin to realize how big a sucker he's being played for:
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday pronounced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, but added, "I don't know if he'd have an easy way through" Senate confirmation.Reid also chided conservatives for criticizing Gonzales while Bush was overseas. "I think it's too bad the president has to respond in Denmark about statements from the far right," he said. "People here have gone a little too far."

Gonzales was confirmed as attorney general by a vote of 60-36 earlier this year as Republicans overrode Democratic critics who said he had helped formulate White House policies that led to torture of prisoners held overseas as part of the war on terror.

"Alberto Gonzales is qualified. He's attorney general of the United States and a former Texas judge," Reid said. "But having said that he's qualified, I don't know if he'd have an easy way through."

Republicans have a 55-44 majority in the Senate, with one Democratic-leaning independent. Barring a filibuster, a unified GOP would have enough votes to confirm Bush's selection to the court.
I note that Reid and 35 other Democratic Senators voted against Gonzales' confirmation as Attorney General. But despite that fact, Reid now pronounces Gonzales "qualified" for the highest court in the land. I'll make any Bush supporters who might wander by happy, and employ a Nazi comparison which will thus allow them to disregard any and all facts and arguments that call their prefabricated beliefs into question: one may properly call Gonzales "qualified" for any public office at this point in the same manner one might have said that judges in the Third Reich were "qualified" to hold their positions -- simply because they had been judges before. Aside from the much more significant and compelling moral and legal considerations, this gives circular reasoning a bad name.

And Reid can't keep himself from getting in his cheap and pointless little dig at the religious right, thus playing right into what Grieve probably correctly identifies as the Bush propagandists' game -- and Reid then tries to leave himself a tiny bit of wiggle room by saying that he doesn't know if Gonzales would have "an easy way through." Such inspiring moral leadership! It makes you want to leap to the barricades in defense of civilization and basic decency, doesn't it?

Note to Senator Reid and any others who might be severely brain-damaged at this point: you said Gonzales was "qualified." You gave the battle away. Further doubts or qualifications don't matter. Game, set and match to the Bushies.

If we are on our way into hell in this country -- and we may well be -- the Democrats will have helped to grease the path, every damnable inch of it. Let me be clear: in our nominal two-party system, which today is actually a one-party system devoted solely to expanding government, with fights only over details and who gets the biggest part of the spoils and who has the most power, the Democrats are still the only potential source of opposition at the moment. So I write these admittedly very angry essays with a purpose. But while my tone may be deeply angry, I obviously think that the facts support my judgments. And the Democrats are proving themselves to be almost as despicable as the Republicans. I include the "almost" simply because the Democrats are not the initiators of the most barbaric acts perpetrated by the Bush administration. But acceding to such acts and granting them one's moral sanction is almost as bad -- and from one perspective, it is even worse. The Democrats often like to portray themselves as being more concerned with what are generally regarded as the virtues and values of a democratic republic such as ours. But their continued, unending surrender to the Bush forces continue to give the lie to such pretenses.

But my purpose is the simple, obvious one: for anyone who might read my entries on this and related subjects, I am simply trying TO WAKE THE DEMOCRATS THE HELL UP. What in God's name will it take to get the Democrats finally to show some resolve, some determination, and a willingness to put up a meaningful battle about issues of transcendent importance?

As Margaret Feitlowitz says with complete justification, our nation has already been "shamed, shunned and endangered" by the confirmation of Gonzales as Attorney General. If the Democrats offer no resistance to Gonzales joining the Supreme Court should Bush nominate him -- significant resistance and for the right reasons, mind you, not their standard "token" objections -- there will be no hell wretched or cruel enough for them.

I well realize they probably would not win. But on those occasions when you are confronted by monstrous inhumanity and by an action that would be the equivalent of a once-great nation spitting in its own face and throwing its own founding principles into the mud before the entire world, you must say "No" -- even if that is all you can do, and even if you know that you will still lose.

If enough people said "No," we might still avoid the fate that seems more inevitable every day. The famous and now cliched statement is fully applicable here: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Today, the Democrats do nothing, or as close to nothing as humanly possible. Because the Democrats still provide the illusion of opposition -- but only an illusion, without any substance or meaning behind it -- they allow people to convince themselves that we actually have had a debate that mattered. Of course, we never have such a debate any longer: we didn't have one about the invasion of Iraq, we are not having one now about the occupation of Iraq, and it appears that we may well not have one about the next Supreme Court nominee. But the fact that people can pretend that we have deliberated about these momentous decisions is an especially dangerous lie -- a lie made possible by the Democrats' performance.

If the United States should finally end up in the dustbin of discarded, decayed, corrupt civilizations, future historians should not wonder why. This is why: we turned our backs on what we had once stood for when we were sufficiently scared, when it seemed "expedient" to adopt the methods of those we said were our enemies, and when standing for justice, rights, and the dignity and worth of the single, lonely individual mattered the most -- and when the future of the world possibly hung in the balance.

And almost no one in public life had the courage to say that single word and mean it, even to his last breath if that was what this uniquely important battle demanded:


Related Essays:

On Torture (multi-part essay)

Walking into the Iran Trap, I

Walking into the Iran Trap, II

The Waiting Game

To the New Empire Builders

Andrew Sullivan condemns the kidnapping of "innocent women and children in order to put pressure on their husbands or relatives" by the U.S. military. Sullivan concludes his brief entry by noting that "we slowly descend toward the level of the enemy. Because King George can."

Given Sullivan's overall views -- and the foreign policy he champions to this day, one which is devoted to spreading Western-style "democracy" by the use of military force followed by prolonged occupations, used even against countries that are no threat to us -- this falls into the same category as Sullivan's repeated denunciations of torture. Sullivan's condemnations of barbarity are surely better than defending or minimizing such atrocities as so many hawks do, but only in the most superficial sense.

In an article from last summer, Naomi Klein recalled the film, "The Battle of Algiers," and the character of Col. Mathieu, who is based on the actual French commander, Gen. Jacques Massus. When challenged about France's use of torture, Mathieu calmly replies that torture "isn't the problem":
"The problem is the FLN wants to throw us out of Algeria and we want to stay. ... It's my turn to ask a question. Should France stay in Algeria? If your answer is still yes, then you must accept all the consequences."
Should the U.S. stay in Iraq? Sullivan's answer is still yes. If he were honest and capable of understanding the principles involved, he would realize that he too must accept all the consequences.

As I explained the more general issue in the second part of my series "On Torture":
But ... Sullivan’s second thoughts do not go nearly far enough. Sullivan has not given up the program he endorses at all—or even seriously questioned it. He still believes "in this war as a war of liberation and increased security." This, too, fails to pass the sanity test. Sullivan apparently has never read the numerous articles by any number of experts on terrorism (genuine experts, I emphasize, not dilettantes who blog in between jaunts to Provincetown and walking the dog)—all of whom have pointed out at great length that the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as every other aspect of Bush’s “War on Terror,” have only served to increase the actual dangers we face.

But none of this for Sullivan. (None: "I’ve long admired Bush’s recognition of the life-and-death struggle against Islamist fascism as the central task of his presidency. And it’s hard not to value his grit in pursuing what will, I think, eventually be regarded as critical wars in the defense of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. He comes across as a genuinely kind and warm man, of solid values and clear objectives.") Sullivan still wants his American Empire (with his other hero, Tony Blair, as a very junior partner), he still wants American hegemony, and he still wants us to impose "freedom" by force on countries that have no history or culture to support a political system modeled on ours. He’s still an apocalyptic crusader, seeking to create a new world through sacred violence and death just like his hero, Bush.

He just doesn’t want any of the mess. Here’s another news flash for Sullivan: if you want empire and military domination of large swathes of the world in an endless, woefully defined “War on Terror,” lifelong detentions and torture are an inseparable part of what you’re going to get. That kind of mess (and much worse) is woven into the very fabric of the program you so enthusiastically supported—and which you still support.

Of course, to understand that brutality, cruelty, torture, death, the disregard of individual rights, and the undermining of what are supposedly “American values” inevitably accompany the drive to empire requires that one is capable of grasping the lessons of history, that one can engage in meaningful and accurate analysis of political and cultural dynamics—and that one can think.

It also assumes that a person understands that he cannot continually express admiration and support for the political equivalent of Al Capone—and then recoil in shock when he sees that blood has been spilled on his immaculate carpet. Oh, the horror! His carpet has been soiled, and his soul is tormented—while countless other people are maimed or dead.
That same essay has more about these issues. And the final two parts of my series "On Torture" -- here and here -- analyze the ultimate failure of Sullivan's condemnation of torture. There are several aspects of that discussion that I will be explaining in more detail in the near future.

Related Essays:

The Demand for Obedience

When Life and Happiness Are Not Enough: The Tragedy of the Unborn Self

[All of the entries in my series "On Torture," together with brief descriptions of the the individual posts, are listed here. And an explanation of my temporary retreat from blogging and what my plans are now will be found here. My personal situation remains extraordinarily tenuous but, even if I should be unable to continue writing at some point, all of the essays will remain available in the future, barring Blogger disappearing or some similar calamity.]

January 27, 2006

When the Pain Can Be Borne No Longer

From Doug Barber, a former Army reservist who served in Iraq:
My thought today is to help you the reader understand what happens to a soldier when they come home and the sacrifice we continue to make. This war on terror has become a personal war for so many, yet the Bush administration do not want to reveal to America that this is a personal war. They want to run it like a business, and thus they refuse to show the personal sacrifices the soldiers and their families have made for this country.

All is not OK or right for those of us who return home alive and supposedly well. What looks like normalcy and readjustment is only an illusion to be revealed by time and torment. Some soldiers come home missing limbs and other parts of their bodies. Still others will live with permanent scars from horrific events that no one other than those who served will ever understand. We come home from war trying to put our lives back together but some cannot stand the memories and decide that death is better. We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out.

Others come home to nothing, families have abandoned them: husbands and wives have left these soldiers, and so have parents. Post-traumatic stress disorder has become the norm amongst these soldiers because they don't know how to cope with returning to a society that will never understand what they have endured.

PTSD comes in many forms not understood by many: but yet if a soldier has it, America thinks the soldiers are crazy. PTSD comes in the form of depression, anger, regret, being confrontational, anxiety, chronic pain, compulsion, delusions, grief, guilt, dependence, loneliness, sleep disorders, suspiciousness/paranoia, low self-esteem and so many other things.

We are easily startled with a loud bang or noise and can be found ducking for cover when we get panicked. This is a result of artillery rounds going off in a combat zone, or an improvised explosive device blowing up.

I myself have trouble coping with an everyday routine that often causes me to have a short fuse. A lot of soldiers lose jobs just because they are trained to be killers and they have lived in an environment that is conducive to that. We are always on guard for our safety and that of our comrades. When you go to bed at night you wonder will you be sent home in a flag-draped coffin because a mortar round went off on your sleeping area.

Soldiers live in deplorable conditions where burning your own faeces is the order of the day, where going days on end with no shower and the uniform you wear gets so crusty it sticks to your body becomes a common occurrence. We also deal with rationing water or even food. So when a soldier comes home they are unsure of what to do.

This is what PTSD comes in the shape of - soldiers can not often handle coming back to the same world they left behind. It is something that drives soldiers over the edge and causes them to withdraw from society. As Americans we turn our nose down at them wondering why they act the way they do. Who cares about them, why should we help them?
Only a few days after writing this, Doug Barber killed himself.

As the article notes, we might well never have known of this tragedy:
The death of Mr Barber is one of numerous instances of Iraqi veterans who have taken their own lives since the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein in spring 2003. Concern is such that the Pentagon has recently instigated new procedures for monitoring the mental health of returning troops. But his story would not have been told but for a group of determined activists and a British journalism student who was among the handful of people the reservist e-mailed just minutes before he killed himself.
Much more about Doug Barber and his death in this post: Abandoning Those Who Fight.

Related Essays:

The Suicide Taboo: About the underlying dynamics of suicide, relying on the work of Alice Miller (who discusses Sylvia Plath's history as a notable example of the pattern involved), together with a story about other military suicides and some personal observations.

The Ignored Casualties of War: A story about how the ravages of war kill veterans in other ways as well.

The Indifference and Denial that Kill: A discussion of a lengthy article about Iris Chang's life and work -- and what may have led to her suicide at the age of 36.

"Suck It Up": The Denial Continues, and Kills Once More: An examination of the same dynamics in the suicide of a New Orleans police officer in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

When the Demons Come: The second half of this essay discusses the demons which plague many Vietnam veterans -- the same demons that finally came for Mr. Barber -- and the continued denial engaged in by many of today's warhawks.

January 24, 2006

On Dancing

At the opening of his fascinating series of conversations with Joseph Campbell entitled "The Power of Myth," Bill Moyers tells the following anecdote:
Joseph Campbell believed that everything begins with a story, so we begin this series with one of his favorites. He was in Japan for a conference on religion, and he overheard another American delegate, a social philosopher from New York, say to a Shinto priest, "We've been now to a great many ceremonies and have seen quite a few of your shrines. But I don't get your ideology. I don't get your theology."

The Japanese paused as though in deep thought, and then slowly shook his head. "I think we don't have ideology," he said. "We don't have theology. We dance."
Expressing a similar view, Jamake Highwater concludes his very provocative book, Myth and Sexuality, with these thoughts:
Perhaps the endless transformation of our bodies into visions of the cosmos will find its current resolution in that most ancient mythology of all: the one that was doubtlessly among the first cultural possessions of human beings when they were newly evolved upon the earth. Perhaps we will be done at long last with our obsession with the "wickedness of the body" and the endless ritualization of transgression. For centuries we have comfortably lived with the brain's insolent recreation of itself as mind. Perhaps we can finally begin to live with the more ancient mythology that envisions the fragile, vulnerable, and utterly perishable body as indistinct from soul.

The physicist Niels Bohr has told us: "The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth."

Dr. Carl A. Hammerschlag came face-to-face with Bohr's concept in a hospital in the American Southwest where he has worked for many years as a physician and psychiatrist. One day, while making his morning rounds, he encountered an old man. "I didn't know he was a Pueblo priest and clan chief," Dr. Hammerschlag explains. "I only saw an old man. He asked me, 'Where did you learn to heal?'"

Dr. Hammerschlag rattled off the details of his medical education, internship, and certification. The old Indian smiled. "Yes," he said, "but do you know how to dance? You must be able to dance if you are to heal people."

At first Hammerschlag was confounded. But over the years he gradually came to understand the great value of what that old Indian taught him. The poet W.B. Yeats also understood that mordant metaphor of dance, for it was Yeats who asked that most simplistic of all questions about the human body: "Who can tell the dancer from the dance?"

For Yeats, as for the Pueblo priest, the body is indistinct from the spirit.
I offer these stories not to condemn the genuinely great and revolutionary achievements of the West, or to challenge the profound, inestimable worth of what we generally refer to as "Enlightenment values." I offer them to make a more modest suggestion: that the fundamental approach inculcated in all of us by our cultural traditions of thousands of years does not represent the only way of viewing the universe and our place in it. We take our approach as a given to the extent that we usually think of our conception of the universe as entirely overlapping with the actual nature of existence itself.

I would submit that this is an unnecessarily limiting manner in which to approach the most important questions that concern us -- and I would additionally submit that our way of framing the world enfolds a deep streak of violence and destruction within its basic fabric. Some might argue that this violence appears to be inherent in being human: in War Is A Force that Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges notes that "historian Will Durant has calculated that there have only been twenty-nine years in all of human history during which a war was not underway somewhere."

But I think certain aspects of the philosophical, religious and moral framework that dominates Western thought exacerbate the problem, and worsen it immeasurably. The two stories above suggest another way of viewing the world, and they also remind us that there is an ancient legacy that has been almost completely lost to us. That worldview from eons ago conceived of our lives as part of a great, eternal cycle. It was not a cycle without pain and loss, but inevitable pain and loss were embraced and overridden by an all-encompassing sense of endless renewal and growth. People danced in that world, all the time.

I am sorry in one sense that I took this blog down several weeks ago without notice (or, at least, without clear notice), but I can truly say that I had no choice. I needed some time to reflect, and to reconsider how I wanted to continue with my writing. Once again, I had become caught up in writing about issues that cause me much more pain and frustration than they provide pleasure or stimulation. It became impossible for me to continue in that manner. At the same time, I was unable to get attention for what I considered my most valuable writing. It has been an immensely difficult time, and I will probably have more to say on this subject in the future.

I decided that I needed another kind of site for the writing that concerns me most. I've created that site now: The Sacred Moment. I know that it may look like just another blog, but I hope that, in time, it will prove to be more than that. The layout is still being worked on, but the basics are there. I've reposted my series On Torture, as well as many entries from my lengthy series of essays based on the work of Alice Miller. I'll be reposting many of my other Miller essays, including a number that haven't been available on the internet since the data base of my first blog was corrupted in the fall of 2004. (I'll also be posting a Table of Contents for the Miller essays, once I've restored more of them and determine a reader-friendly way of organizing what will probably be in excess of 50 essays.)

There are a great many subjects I want to write about at The Sacred Moment. I'll be explaining the title of that blog very soon, when I offer a lengthy consideration of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, including both textual and musical matters, the myth from which the opera's story derives, and the series of dualities that Wagner questions and reformulates -- dualities that are the underpinnings of the West's central stories and philosophies. A number of the additional subjects I'll be discussing at The Sacred Moment are suggested by the stories and observations above. And I will still write about politics and current events -- but only about events or trends that I view as of unusual importance. Most of the debates and controversies that consume political blogging are forgotten by the next week or month. To be honest, I view the great majority of those discussions as ultimately trivial and of very marginal interest. There are deeper reasons for my frustration with contemporary political debate, and I will explain them soon in an essay that will be posted here. That piece will concern the death of politics in any genuinely meaningful sense in our time, given the terms in which most current debates are conducted. Because Iran continues to be in the news, I will repost here my earlier entries on that subject and complete the series on Iran that I had begun. Events that may well lead to a conflagration that might destroy large parts of the world certainly merit some consideration, and I see almost no one making certain points that I think require explanation.

I had previously spent the time I did on political issues of the day in part because I had hoped those posts might attract a larger audience for what I consider my more valuable writing, such as the series On Torture. That strategy proved unsuccessful. So I have a question for readers: Do you have any ideas or suggestions for how I might market my writing? I admit that I feel largely at a loss, and completely stymied and frustrated on that score. I would be very grateful if you would write me with any thoughts you might have.

So there is a great deal of writing that I still very much want to do. I simply don't know where the audience for it might be, or how to contact it. But I will tell you this: The Sacred Moment and this blog will not be taken down again. Even if I'm unable to continue writing at some point, the essays that I have written will remain available for those who are interested. And as I indicated, I will have more to say concerning what I've been thinking about and why I am proceeding in this manner as time goes by.

Thanks for dropping by. I'll be back very soon, and I will continue reposting earlier essays on both blogs over the next several days. For politics, you should come here.

But if you want to dance, then I hope that The Sacred Moment is a site where you will choose to spend some time in the future.