Kerry to Bush: I’m sorry, I believed you

After watching the debate, it is clear that the President wants us to believe that he was as ill-informed as anyone else about WMDs. He said repeatedly that Sen. Kerry “saw the same intelligence as I did” and judged Saddam Hussein a grave threat. Yet, because he was the president of the United States, who gets unlimited access to intelligence–more than the Senate–he was the ultimate interpreter of the threat and all of us trusted and supported him as he decided whether to attack or not.

The point of the debate is not whether we are sending mixed messages to the troops and allies through our questioning of President Bush’s decisions and policies, as Bush insisted, it is to discuss and come to agreement as a nation about the future policy of the nation. Senator Kerry’s kill line could have been: “I am sorry, Mr. President, for having come to the conclusions I did based on what I was told by your administration. I trusted you, I was wrong to do that.”

But, of course, the rules prohibited that kind of direct statement between the debaters.

The Great Enlikenment

At certain times in history, such as during the Great Enlightenment, differences have been sought out and appreciated. Differences of opinion and, especially, departures from the generally accepted wisdom of the age, have been important to the growth of thought, the evolution of society and industry.

Today is the age of the Great Enlikenment, to coin a word. Everything and everyone is lumped into categories in order to make sorting through the vast amount of information we face more manageable. Differences are minimized and undervalued.

The Great Enlikenment is good sometimes, at least it has salutary qualities, in that it makes teaming up with others by identifying a common goal or enemy quite easy. It also makes mass markets viable, because different products and services are lumped together by people of little imagination and, eventually, the differences disappear through competition and consolidation, so that vast amounts of revenue can be funneled through a narrowly defined organization. The Great Enlikenment makes fashion possible, even the “rebels” who redefine fashion, because sooner rather than later, we’ll be dressed like the rebels. It makes George W. Bush possible, because when he looks out from a podium, he sees people screened for their agreement with his policies.

The cost of the Great Enlikenment, however, is that it erects arbitrary similarities that are largely meaningless to align different phenomena and groups. It promotes simple-minded political differences at the expense of pluralities of opinion that color the debate over public policy. It promotes nationalism and racism, because borders and genetics are simple definitions of what is alike and what infects that perfect simpatico. The arbitrary similarities allow us to tolerate our neighbors, who, even if they play the stereo too loud or don’t mow their lawn, are, at least, the same race or national identity as us. The Great Enlikenment allows us to feel better about ourselves than we do about others, while simultaneously counting others as our comrades.

Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about what another four years of Bush—and the virtually assured attempt that will come with that outcome of the election to ensconce Bush as ruler for life—means for the United States. And, seeing the bright side of the darkness, as one must in this situation, I think it will be a revolution in American thinking and perception that will begin with the realization that the Great Enlikenment has blinded us to the possibilities for change and transformation that surround us. We’ll see past the simple differences and learn to appreciate our subtle differences and how to use the gaps between us as building blocks rather than barriers.

The thing is, when a people have lost control of their society, ceding the direction of society to a fanatical and extremist cadre, they almost always wake up. Then, the changes really begin.

Because, from time to time, the people need to be lied to

President Bush told Fox News he had no regrets about putting on the flight suit and giving the “mission accomplished” speech last summer. In fact, he would do it again.

I’d guess we’ll see that speech sometime in October. Maybe with the election pressing in on him, he’ll have actually deployed troops to capture bin Laden or one of his top people.

The problem with this president is that he believes the people need to be lied to in order to keep them on the path he deems fit for them.

And, as a tribute, here’s one of The Bushies strips, back from the archives….

An Economy of Fear Cannot Stand

I’ve posted a long piece at Red Herring about the deportation of Cat Stevens from the United States and what it says about the closing of the American mind:

Can an economy of fear survive?

Now I’ve been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating, why can’t we live in bliss

Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

The United States has stopped an aircraft bound for the Washington, D.C., rerouting it to Bangor, Maine, in order to de-plane the author of the lyrics to Peace Train, Yusef Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. Just how afraid have we become and what is it doing to the U.S. economy and business opportunity?

Look, forget the fact Mr. Islam is a Muslim for just a moment. Distance yourself from the knee-jerk reaction some people have to Muslims, especially when they are cast in news stories presented by U.S. government officials. If you believe, as we do, that the economic freedom enjoyed in the United States is a key to the nation’s greatness, then all the other freedoms – to speak, to travel, to disagree – have to precede the success of the economy, or prosperity will be choked off.

Read the whole essay.

Interesting television

Were I to write a television show, it would be about the same characters each week, but they would all have different histories in each episode. Sometimes the hero would be the villain or the daughter the father, and characters would develop over time based on the decisions they made in these different roles. Like Julio Cortåzar‘s Hopscotch, a book whose chapters can be read in any order. It took a long time after the “invention” of the novel by Cervantes for writers to really experiment with the form. Reality TV may be all the rage, but it’s not really any kind of art; someday, TV could be more frequently artful, but by then I’d imagine it will be written and produced like small theatre today.