Thursday, November 09, 2006


Power corrupts. Having been in control of both branches of the Congress for over a decade, the Republican Party had it coming. More than that, the Executive branch has wielded its power for years without caring much what even its own supporters in Congress thought. I just read an intelligent review in a European newspaper according to which people will see, a generation from now, the Bush-Cheney era as the darkest period in the American democracy. The war and occupation of Iraq get the acronym M.O.M. from me, which stands for ‘Mistake of Millennium’. Everything about it smelled rotten from the start, but a majority of people, politicians included, were easily brainwashed. ‘True’ stories of WMDs and the 9/11 link were manufactured somewhere in the White House and Pentagon, and the previously honest-sounding Colin Powell lied through his teeth in his speech at the United Nations. Granted, Saddam Hussein was one of our world’s terrible dictators, but there are a great number of others as well, even more dangerous ones as we have recently awakened to realize. It was not the job of the United States to play World Police, and to go after Iraq, just because we felt it was small enough for us to be victorious, and because the oil reserves the country has were going to not only pay for the war, but more importantly enrich American oil companies. Of course both assumptions have been proven to be wrong. In the meantime, our country lost its face even with its allies, with the treatment of ordinary Iraqis, not to mention suspected terrorists, breaking every agreement in the books, and by causing a civil war to break out with horrific casualties. It didn’t take long to go from all the goodwill pouring in after 9/11 to be despised by most of the world.

It is not that every Democrat is good and every Republican bad. Politicians in general tend to be corrupt. The Wired magazine has an opinion piece by Lawrence Lessig, titled ‘A Costly Addiction’. Let me quote it: “Practically everyone in Washington, DC, is now dependent in precisely the way our founders feared. All but a few members of Congress devote the majority of their time to raising money for reelection. Doing the job we’ve hired them to do – governing – takes a distant second place. A good politician comes to understand precisely how much his campaign will gain or lose with each decision he makes. Like rats in a scientific experiment learning which lever delivers food, politicians learn the complex dance that keeps them in office.”

What made this election important is that people finally managed to send a unified message, for the need of change. That includes fear for social security, healthcare, education, minimum pay, women’s and minority rights, and of course immigration issues, in addition to the disaster of invading a Muslim country. In the best case scenario the Muslim world will learn to forgive us, the infidels and occupiers, in a generation or two, and the baby boomers can sleep at night knowing that Social Security and Medicare won’t disappear by the next day. Perhaps finally the ever-increasing gap between the rich and poor will narrow; at least it is hard to picture more laws passed in the next two years favoring the very wealthy.

Another encouraging element to the election was that young people were active in record numbers. For a long time there has been a mood of hopelessness, leading to voter apathy. Apparently people have had enough. Hopefully this will also encourage people to act on other matters that desperately require a change, be it in local issues or even in the area of cultural organizations. People in charge of the latter don’t necessarily like to think that these are also, in many aspects, public institutions. Although financed by philanthropists to an extent, most have the backing of public funds, as usually none of the museums, theaters, opera houses or concert halls would be there without the generous support of city and state governments. Also, the non-profit nature of the organizations makes them open to public scrutiny. Instead of accepting decisions made in secrecy, in the style of our Executive Branch, people have the right to know what is going on and take part in the decision making. Change and a fresh approach every few years is usually for the best to all involved, even when the individuals in charge claim otherwise and have the support of local media, just as the Bush-Cheney administration could do no wrong in the eyes of Fox News. Private club atmosphere and secret society mentality have very little in common with a democratic system.

Perhaps, America has some hope after all.