|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. ... -- Luke 2:14
A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti- Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.
Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.
"Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up," he said in a telephone interview Sunday.
Lisa Jensen said she wasn't thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, "Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing."
Jensen, a past association president, calculates the fines will cost her about $1,000, and doubts they will be able to make her pay. But she said she's not going to take it down until after Christmas.
"Now that it has come to this I feel I can't get bullied," she said. "What if they don't like my Santa Claus."
The association in this 200-home subdivision 270 miles southwest of Denver has sent a letter to her saying that residents were offended by the sign and the board "will not allow signs, flags etc. that can be considered divisive."
The subdivision's rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.
Kearns ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn't say anything. Kearns fired all five committee members.
The competing television news images on the morning after Thanksgiving were of the unspeakable carnage in Sadr City — where more than 200 Iraqi civilians were killed by a series of coordinated car bombs — and the long lines of cars filled with holiday shopping zealots that jammed the highway approaches to American malls that had opened for business at midnight.
A Wal-Mart in Union, N.J., was besieged by customers even before it opened its doors at 5 a.m. on Friday. “All I can tell you,” said a Wal-Mart employee, “is that they were fired up and ready to spend money.”
There is something terribly wrong with this juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children and babies. The war was started by the U.S., but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it.
Representative Charles Rangel recently proposed that the draft be reinstated, suggesting that politicians would be more reluctant to take the country to war if they understood that their constituents might be called up to fight. What struck me was not the uniform opposition to the congressman’s proposal — it has long been clear that there is zero sentiment in favor of a draft in the U.S. — but the fact that it never provoked even the briefest discussion of the responsibilities and obligations of ordinary Americans in a time of war.
With no obvious personal stake in the war in Iraq, most Americans are indifferent to its consequences. In an interview last week, Alex Racheotes, a 19-year-old history major at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said: “I definitely don’t know anyone who would want to fight in Iraq. But beyond that, I get the feeling that most people at school don’t even think about the war. They’re more concerned with what grade they got on yesterday’s test.”
His thoughts were echoed by other students, including John Cafarelli, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, who was asked if he had any friends who would be willing to join the Army. “No, definitely not,” he said. “None of my friends even really care about what’s going on in Iraq.”
This indifference is widespread. It enables most Americans to go about their daily lives completely unconcerned about the atrocities resulting from a war being waged in their name. While shoppers here are scrambling to put the perfect touch to their holidays with the purchase of a giant flat-screen TV or a PlayStation 3, the news out of Baghdad is of a society in the midst of a meltdown.
According to the United Nations, more than 7,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in September and October. Nearly 5,000 of those killings occurred in Baghdad, a staggering figure.
In a demoralizing reprise of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, the U.N. reported that in Iraq: “The situation of women has continued to deteriorate. Increasing numbers of women were recorded to be either victims of religious extremists or ‘honor killings.’ Some non-Muslim women are forced to wear a headscarf and to be accompanied by spouses or male relatives.”
Journalists in Iraq are being “assassinated with utmost impunity,” the U.N. report said, with 18 murdered in the last two months.
Iraq burns. We shop. The Americans dying in Iraq are barely mentioned in the press anymore. They warrant maybe one sentence in a long roundup article out of Baghdad, or a passing reference — no longer than a few seconds — in a television news account of the latest political ditherings.
Is it just me or has George W. Bush checked out of the stumbling national crisis we know as 'Iraq'?
I know his name shows up in the headlines. He's meeting Iraq Prime Minister Maliki next week in Amman. Vice President Cheney is shuttling to Saudi Arabia. And all of this is being billed as a part of a new and broader 'regional' approach to getting the conflict under some measure of control.
But I don't hear the president. Not his voice. The one thing that's been a constant over the last three and a half years is the president as the voice of American Iraq policy. Whether he's the author of it is another question entirely. But the voice and pitbull of it, always.
And yet since the election he seems to have disappeared from the conversation entirely. Like he's just checked out. It's not his thing anymore.
To a degree, this has been the case since early 2004 -- the point by which it was clear the entire effort was a failure. But politics -- first his reelection and then the 2006 election -- has kept him powerfully in the game, constantly arguing staying the course or cutting and running or how a rebuke for his policies would amount to a win for the terrorists.
But now the rebuke has been given. And what is more than that he validated it, confirmed the rejection by summarily firing his Defense Secretary. By doing so, he admitted (even if he can't quite admit it to himself) that his war policy has been a failure.
With that admission out of the way, there's really no more cheerleading to be done for the whole effort. It's a hard slog, a tortuous battle to find some least bad outcome to the whole affair.
Back when he was riding high President Bush used to say that he 'didn't do nuance' -- a point on which he was unquestionably right. And that being the case, there's just nothing left for him to say. No more chest-thumping or rah-rah or daring his opponents to say he's wrong. So he's just gone silent. Like it's not his problem any more.