A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine named Ann (named changed for this column) subbed on my co -rec volleyball team. I think Ann is basically a good person at heart but when she says things like "Liberals are destroying this country," she loses me. We got to chatting about my future career as a teacher and she said to me, "You know, Mark, you better be careful about what opinions you give in class because you could get into trouble." I asked her what she meant.......exactly. She told me that I should just stick to the facts. No opinions. Just facts. I got to thinking about how interesting that might be so that's the real reason why I wrote last week's (and this week's) column. Ann, if you are reading this column, how were my facts from last week? You inspired me!
Anyway, I wanted to really try to cover just the basics. No interpretations or long tirades. Facts, only. After I read the facts as they sat there on my blog, particularly #2, I have to say that I got pretty angry. Again. And it's the same anger I have had for the last five years. To me, the facts speak for themselves.
I mean, people, c'mon! It has been five years and we still haven't caught the two men (left) most directly responsible for 9-11? And somehow Bush has the approval of over 50 percent of this country in his War on Terror? I don't get it. It's not just that the Democrats are weak, although that is a part of it.
Maybe the answer lies in how neocons think. Maybe if I really got into their head I could get an answer to this burning question and end my frustrations. That's what I figured last week, anyway, so I decided to ask my favorite new Neocon, Merrill, who I am sure can help us truly understand these simple facts.
Merrill is a regular at the gym I go to. She also works there part time. I've had the occasion to chat with her about many things. One day a while back, the subject of politics came up and I knew right then and there that I was in the presence of a proud Neocon. To her, President Bush was the savior of the United States. She could not understand for the life of her why people were so critical of him and why they were questioning our government. They were all traitors. After all, he was/is protecting our country! She, and her father (who she champions quite often) were both Marines. Anyone who is in the armed forces should be a Republican, she has said. Democrats have always been weak and appeasers. I had a ton of fun that first day we talked as I got to hear about: John Kerry the Traitor, Al Gore the weasel, and Clinton...well, he is the devil incarnate. As all of you can probably tell, Merrill will be a regular guest on Notes.....well, let's just say forever.
Last week, we got to talking about my facts that I posted on the blog. She did not like them. She, along with her father, felt that they were liberally slanted. I had her explain to me how this was so and she did. Here is what she said:
Fact #1: President Bush said the following four things last week: 1. The United States attacked Iraq because we believed they had WMDs. 2. It turns out they didn't. 3. Iraq was not responsible for 9-11. 4. If we leave Iraq, terrorists will gain control of all of the oil.
According to Merrill, Iraq had WMDs and our government is hiding it from us. This is to keep us from worry and to keep us safe. I have to admit I thought our government was hiding them too, at one point, although not for her reasons. I gave up on that theory when I realized how much Bush Co would benefit if it was true. The Democrats would not win an election for the next 50 years.
Merrill also believes that Iraq attacked us on 9-11, not Al Qaeda, and that's why we are at war. When I told her that Osama bin Laden admitted to the attacks, she refuted his importance and said that, like President Bush feels, bin Laden doesn't matter. She did agree that the last item mentioned was true and that, while she acknowledges that Bush said those things, it was actually the liberal media's coverage of the event that took it out of context. When I told her I was watching the whole thing live and that he did say those things and mean them, she said it was just my bias and should really not be so naive.
Fact #2: Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahari, as the heads of Al Qaida, are responsible for the 9-11 attacks. They are both still at large, hiding somewhere in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
At this point in the conversation, I finally got her to admit that bin Laden was a bad guy. She blamed Clinton for letting him get too big. When I informed her that several Republican senators, including Trent Lott and Bill Frist, criticized Clinton for bombing a bin Laden camp in 1998, she said that was a lie. And that I was biased. Since she had served in the Marines, she knew for a fact that our government was always on the trail of evil doers. We may not know it all the time but we should trust that they are after them and protecting us. .
Fact #3:American companies are making money in Iraq.
This fact didn't seem to bother her a wit. Capitalism, to her after all, was the best system in the world. She asked me if I was a communist because I had a problem with American companies making money in Iraq. I told her that I had a problem with financial gain which directly resulted in human suffering and death. She told me that the media likes to show only the bad things coming out of Iraq and not the good things so my information was suspect.Fact #4: Roughly 2400 US Soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq. More have died outside of Iraq as the Armed Forces do not list deaths outside of Iraq, from wounds received in Iraq, as casualties. Fact #5: Tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens have lost their lives in this ongoing conflict. Many of them have been children.
While she did not doubt the number, she reiterated that the media focuses too much on death and not enough the positive things happening in Iraq. I asked her if she had seen any of the pictures from Iraq of the dead children. She has children herself and I guess I wondered if she felt anything at all for them. She just shrugged and said, "Well, that's war."
Then I tried a different tactic. I asked her if she was a Christian. She said she was a proud evangelical Christian. I asked her how Jesus would feel about the War in Iraq. She said she didn't know but she did know that our current leadership was filled with good, decent people who just want what is best for our country. They are all good Christians who have been much maligned by liberals and the media who all hate Jesus and want to destroy the United States.
I thought about my conversation with her for the rest of the day. I couldn't help but wonder what happened to her in her life to have such an enormous anti-information filter in place. Was it fear? Was it the unknown? One thing is for sure. For the first time, since I can remember, I did not yell at neocon and call them an idiot. I wanted to but in the end, I just felt profoundly sorry for her. Now, I know most of you will say that everyone is entitled to their opinion. That's fine, well and good but when her opinion begins to directly effect the welfare of my children by the policies put in place by the people she supports and votes for....well, then I am most definetly not going to leave her alone or any other neocon who goes to the polls with their heads filled with propaganda. I may not yell at them and call them stupid but I will gently remind them of the facts as I see them.
So, I guess my question for all of you is.....are these the facts I should be teaching kids when I start my career in two years? When children and teenagers ask me what happened, what facts do I present them with? The rose colored version of history according to Merrill or what actually has happened? Are my facts distorted?
I remember a conversations I had with Crabmaster not long after 9-11 in which he said that if Bush did not catch bin Laden by the 2004 elections, he would be one term president. That did not happen. Merrill helped me to understand why this did not happen. People believe what they need to believe regardless of the facts. We live in a world of perception, not reality, and that has never been more true than the last six years.
I think that, based on these facts, we are less safe against terrorism than we were before 9-11. We are less safe under Bush and there is no doubt in my mind of this.The people that are running our country, through their myopic greed for wealth and power, have allowed this to happen. We have taken our eye off the ball and those of you out there who disagree with me have the luxury, if I am right, of not having a country left with which to say, "I told you so" when the real shit comes down.
What that real shit is and when it is coming down will be in my next column. This column will be posted on Sept 11, 2006. I am working on a "5th Anniversary of the 9-11 attacks" piece and I want to take my time with it so there will not be a new column until that time. This day also marks the 5th Anniversary of Notes From The Front so I really want to make it a big deal.
Tell your friends and stay tuned!!