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Inaguration Blues 21 JANUARY 2005 - The glaze of ice on the streets of Raleigh afforded me the opportunity to witness live (via sattelite of course) the Second Coronation of Bush the Younger. That in itself is not noteworthy, since there will doubtless be any number of chances to see the instant replay, or at least a highlight reel of this abomination. What struck me about the President's inaugural address was that within mere moments, he'd actually said something I could agree with.

"At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together."
The words he used... in the 21 minutes and 18 seconds he took to regurgitate Karl Rove's 2083 words, George W. used the words "freedom" and "liberty" 44 times. That's once every 29 seconds, or every 47th word. I couldn't help but be reminded of Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride saying, "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

So I looked them up.


free·dom (fre´-dum) n.
1. The condition of being free of restraints.
2. Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression.
3. Political independence.
4. Exemption from the arbitrary exercise of authority in the performance of a specific action; civil liberty: freedom of assembly.
5. Exemption from an unpleasant or onerous condition: freedom from want.
6. The capacity to exercise choice; free will

lib·er·ty (lib´-ur-te) n.
1. The condition of being free from restriction or control.
2. The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing.
3. The condition of being physically and legally free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor.
4. Enjoyment of the rights enjoyed by others in a society free of arbitrary or unreasonable limitation or interference; Immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority.
5. Freedom from external (as governmental) restraint, compulsion, or interference in engaging in the pursuits or conduct of one's choice to the extent that they are lawful and not harmful to others.
6. A breach or overstepping of propriety or social convention. Often used in the plural.
7. An act of undue intimacy [syn. familiarity, impropriety, indecorum]

Sounds about right, doesn't it? Unless of course, you are one of the hundreds or thousands who are currently being detained indefinitely without charges of any kind brought against them. Simply being a "suspected terrorist" is apparently enough to land you in the pokey for keeps. No right to counsel, no habeus corpus, basically no Fifth or Sixth Amendment rights at all. Two-plus centuries of American Constitutional law heaved cheerfully over the side.

Unless you consider the nearly 36 million Americans living below the poverty level1 to be "exempt from an unpleasant or onerous condition". Unless you see the 45 million Americans without basic health insurance as having the "capacity to exercise choice" other than the choice between medical care and starvation1 . Apparently President George sees it exactly that way.

"In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence." Maybe he'd like to reconcile that with the steady decline in real median income that has been going on ever since his first term began.

If you consider the armed occupation of another nation to be "political independence":
If you consider living in fear of a middle-of-the-night intrusion of your home by foreign soldiers "immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority":
If you ignore the "breach or overstepping of propriety or social convention" that results in the wholesale slaughter of civilian men women and children:
Then maybe you can let George skate on his definitions of "freedom" and "liberty". But there's more.

"For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat."
According to data compiled by iraqbodycount.org between 15365 and 17582 civilians had lost their lives during the invasion and occupation of Iraq at the time of this writing. Studies by Johns Hopkins University suggest that the actual figure may be several times that many - possibly exceeding 100,000. Nearly 1400 American service members have paid with their lives to support Bush's foreign adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? Because whole regions of America "simmer in resentment and tyranny, feed hatred and excuse murder". You can recognize them by their vibrant red color on the election maps from last November. So to make the staggering number of needless, senseless deaths go down a little easier, our President wraps them in the warm cloak of "advancing the cause of freedom". And it works. It works because, as Hitler noted, "The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force."

Hitler was also quoted as saying, "The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category." Calling George W. Bush a "leader of genius" might be a stretch, but he certainly seems to be endowed with this ability. Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national living in (probably) Afghanistan, takes out three major targets in one assault. And the President responds by invading Iraq? Maybe they all look alike to him. Or maybe he just needed a plausible reason to conquer the world's second largest oil reserve.

Because let's face it, if we really wanted Osama, we'd have him. You can take it to the bank. We had him cornered, then outsourced the job of bringing him in to the Afghans. We, after all, had bigger fish to fry. Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction. We got Saddam. A despot with an entire army at his disposal, with more secret hideaways than Howard Hughes, with enough body doubles to make Iraq look like a "Where's Waldo" book, we got him. And we got him in a matter of a few months. And we devoted all these resources to tracking down the man who didn't destroy the World Trade Center and kill several thousand of our citizens. But Osama eludes us. There can be only one reason why bin Laden isn't warming a bunk in Leavenworth as we speak: we're not looking for him.

Perhaps that's because an incarcerated Osama isn't scary, but a free-roaming Osama lying in wait is very, very scary indeed. As long as the boogeyman is still on the loose, George feels he has a license to dismantle the Constitution brick by brick, despite swearing an oath on the family bible before the Chief Justice and a few hundred million others to "preserve, protect, and defend" it. The very document that defines our liberty as Americans has been under constant attack by the very people who are charged with upholding it.

The President would have us believe that he wants to return America to its roots, to its fundamental principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Could the framers of the Constitution possibly have envisioned the USA PATRIOT Act? And if they could, what would they say? No, those pioneers of the American Way could not have foreseen the tragic events that gave the administration the impetus they needed to repeal the Bill of Rights. But make no mistake, the PATRIOT Act did not spring full grown from the ashes of 9/11. The cites in it alone would have taken a staff of paralegals a week or more to research. The provisions in the PATRIOT Act are the product of months or possibly even years of work just waiting for an opportunity to be employed.

In sum, the inaugural address was a numbing declaration that the administration isn't going to bother trying to justify its actions any longer. They're simply going to repackage them with wrappings depicting the "cause of freedom" and we are to accept whatever they do as advancing the march of liberty across the globe. And if a few million people are massacred along the way, well, that's just the cost of doing business. Freedom, after all, isn't free. Right?

But perhaps the most chilling quote from the inaugural address was this:

"All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself - and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character."
Once again I agree with the text of the quote - I too, ask all citizens to believe the evidence of their own eyes. But once again a quote from der Führer superimposes itself on the subtext: "When an opponent declares, 'I will not come over to your side,' I calmly say, 'Your child belongs to us already... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.'"

Four more years of this? When those are done, will there still be an America that anyone will recognize? Finis


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1 DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, and Mills, US Census Bureau, Current Population Reports Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003 http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p60-226.pdf