Blogs by Cynth'ya Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org
Freedom is a concept to be chosen, not forced.
5/8/2004 1:08:25 PM
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Patriotism comes in MANY colors. See Washington Post Article below for more insight into this blog or go to www.washingtonpost.com to read riveting stories on current events.
Even during these very sensitive political times, we all must remind ourselves that the remarks posted in the Poetry Section of the Authors Den is NOT a place to express personal views on a subject to the point where it becomes recognizably partisan. That is the purpose of the "blog" and "articles" section.
My POEM, "Ugly 'Mericans" was taken as a political insult by one of the authors here in the den.
To me, poetry is a way of expressing my first amendment right with dignity and freedom. If people have beef about something, they can put it in an article, an op-ed in their local or national news paper/website, or in a blog.
Personally I believe a lot of lifestyles and ideas are not convenient to one's personal development and growth, but I do not condemn the way a poem is written. Regardless of nationality, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or lack of, I feel that my poem was openly condemned by an AD author and I posted the following on my site underneath the poem in question. And last time I looked, neither Bill O'Reilly, Shawn Hannity nor Rush Limbaugh registered as readers or authors in this place where we are supposed to be respectful of other writers' thoughts.
Below is what I observe an solidly written, factual Washington Post article that shows how "selective" our nation is regarding what the current White House body politique refuses to recognize as "Terrorism" in their own back yard. Violence is violence, it matters not by whose hands the violence was exacted (even in the President's neighborhood when children are shot, and he says absolutely nothing.)
So, whether the thugs are in D.C. or in Iraq, regardless of their nationality, tell me: What's the difference?
Article Title: "The Bad, the Ugly and the Good" by Colbert I. King, Washington Post Columnist, and "A Wretcued View of America" by Philip Kennicott, Washington Post Journalist.
The Bad, the Ugly and the Good
By Colbert I. King
The Washington Post, Saturday, May 8, 2004; Page A19
The first week of May brought fresh evidence of the best and worst we have to offer. The degenerate side got most of the play both at home and abroad. The week also produced something to shout about. The bad overshadowed the good, however. I'll tell you about the good news.
But first the stomach-turners.
On the Home Front:
We had a candlelight vigil in the District on Tuesday night. It's the kind of event we do so well. Preachers and politicians come out and tell the tearful gathering, in trembling voices, to stop the killing, to take back our streets and to start loving one another, henceforth and forevermore. Then everybody goes home.
Of course, that won't stop the killing. The bodies kept falling after the last vigil was staged a few weeks ago in Southeast D.C. The stop order was also ignored on Monday night. That's when a bullet crashed through a window in Northeast Washington, striking 8-year-old Chelsea Cromartie in the head as she was sitting on the living room sofa minding her own business.
Her funeral is today.
Politicians and preachers are expected to show up in good voice. But today's eulogies won't end the homicides. Just as emotion-packed sermons at funerals for last year's 248 homicide victims didn't halt the violence. Because -- and this is the part funeral orators never get around to addressing -- we can have all the prayer vigils and soul-stirring, home-going services we want. The killing will continue as long as guns, and the miscreants in our city who use them, are as plentiful as the air.
We keep asking God to solve the problem for us, as if the Almighty hasn't already given us the means to solve the problem: ourselves. Truth is, we'd just as soon beg someone else to bail us out.
Which gets us to the other unspoken verity: The thugs terrorizing our neighborhoods aren't masked marauders riding in from beyond the Beltway to rape, plunder and murder. They are our own.
They live in our communities. They attend our schools. Their mothers and grandmothers, and sometimes even fathers, walk our streets. Their families attend our churches, patronize our barber shops and beauty parlors and shop at the same Safeway or Shoppers Food Warehouse or Giant.
We watched some of those shooters and drug dealers grow up. And we knew even back then that some were headed for nothing but trouble. That's what we did about it, too: nothing. Except maybe to "turn that child over to God in prayer" and then go on about our business.
We still keep hoping and praying that, with each horrific death, other youths with attitudes and guns to match will be shocked, saddened and shamed into putting down their weapons; that they will renounce violence in all its ugly forms and begin walking the straight and narrow path, never to stray again.
It's not going to happen.
The sight of a friend's body roped off by yellow police tape will only inspire the onlooker to shoot quicker or run faster. The kind of intervention that will help is strong, swift punishment, and the participation of people willing to commit their time, talents and energy to pulling back some of these kids who are teetering on the cusp. The youths with weak family support especially need help. The problem is that the rescue effort is short-handed.
People in the community who can do the most have to make do with less. Folks such as Harold K. Bell, founder and president of Kids in Trouble Inc., know what to do. Groups such as Project Northstar and Good Shepherd Ministries are among the many shoestring operations around the city that could do more, too, if they had more resources. But that means getting around the city contract hustlers who have the inside track.
Iraq and U.S. Puzzle Palaces:
Unlike, perhaps, President Bush, I have read cover to cover the executive summary of the Article 15-6 investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, a report that was wrongly classified secret. Don't let anyone try to tell you this is only a case of a few sadistic but leaderless Army reservists running amok at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Yes, the sexual abuse and cruel humiliation of Iraqi prisoners did occur at the hands of Americans abroad. But the failure to recognize the enormity of the horror and the effect those abuses would have on U.S. influence in that part of the world for years to come is collective; it encompasses the U.S. Central Command and Washington.
Everything about the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners inside Abu Ghraib -- and its potential for igniting an international firestorm -- was known in March when Taguba submitted his written report with findings and recommendations. Were it not for the press, namely CBS and Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker, the public and Congress would still be in the dark.
That the president didn't know the full extent of the abusive and degrading treatment until he turned on the tube makes him appear as he really is: sublimely out of touch with the realities of the war he started. That George Bush's Pentagon kept him in the dark for weeks on end just shows its cavalier attitude toward the commander in chief, who is ultimately responsible for all that it does or fails to do.
But why should those at the Pentagon worry? They miscalculated on weapons of mass destruction, and Bush did nothing. They misled the nation on postwar Iraq, and the boss did nothing. So what if they clammed up on the one event that will set back American credibility in the Middle East for decades?
And what of Congress? Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) nailed it when he told the House on Thursday: "When it comes to Iraq, the House [Republican] leadership gets its talking points straight from the White House. " Under Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the House has become a rubber stamp for administration policy, Van Hollen rightly observed, and "has abdicated its institutional responsibilities."
They also look like amiable dunces, he might have added.
# # #
"A Wretched New Picture Of America: Photos From Iraq Prison Show We Are Our Own Worst Enemy."
By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 5, 2004; Page C01
Among the corrosive lies a nation at war tells itself is that the glory -- the lofty goals announced beforehand, the victories, the liberation of the oppressed -- belongs to the country as a whole; but the failure -- the accidents, the uncounted civilian dead, the crimes and atrocities -- is always exceptional. Noble goals flow naturally from a noble people; the occasional act of barbarity is always the work of individuals, unaccountable, confusing and indigestible to the national conscience.
This kind of thinking was widely in evidence among military and political leaders after the emergence of pictures documenting American abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. These photographs do not capture the soul of America, they argued. They are aberrant.
This belief, that the photographs are distortions, despite their authenticity, is indistinguishable from propaganda. Tyrants censor; democracies self-censor. Tyrants concoct propaganda in ministries of information; democracies produce it through habits of thought so ingrained that a basic lie of war -- only the good is our doing -- becomes self-propagating.
But now we have photos that have gone to the ends of the Earth, and painted brilliantly and indelibly, an image of America that could remain with us for years, perhaps decades. An Army investigative report reveals that we have stripped young men (whom we purported to liberate) of their clothing and their dignity; we have forced them to make pyramids of flesh, as if they were children; we have made them masturbate in front of their captors and cameras; forced them to simulate sexual acts; threatened prisoners with rape and sodomized at least one; beaten them; and turned dogs upon them.
There are now images of men in the Muslim world looking at these images. On the streets of Cairo, men pore over a newspaper. An icon appears on the front page: a hooded man, in a rug-like poncho, standing with his arms out like Christ, wires attached to the hands. He is faceless. This is now the image of the war. In this country, perhaps it will have some competition from the statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled. Everywhere else, everywhere America is hated (and that's a very large part of this globe), the hooded, wired, faceless man of Abu Ghraib is this war's new mascot.
The American leaders' response is a mixture of public disgust, and a good deal of resentment that they have, through these images, lost control of the ultimate image of the war. All the right people have pronounced themselves, sickened, outraged, speechless. But listen more closely. "And it's really a shame that just a handful can besmirch maybe the reputations of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines. . . . " said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday.
Reputation, image, perception. The problem, it seems, isn't so much the abuse of the prisoners, because we will get to the bottom of that and, of course, we're not really like that. The problem is our reputation. Our soldiers' reputations. Our national self-image. These photos, we insist, are not us.
But these photos are us. Yes, they are the acts of individuals (though the scandal widens, as scandals almost inevitably do, and the military's own internal report calls the abuse "systemic"). But armies are made of individuals. Nations are made up of individuals. Great national crimes begin with the acts of misguided individuals; and no matter how many people are held directly accountable for these crimes, we are, collectively, responsible for what these individuals have done. We live in a democracy. Every errant smart bomb, every dead civilian, every sodomized prisoner, is ours.
And more. Perhaps this is just a little cancer that crept into the culture of the people running Abu Ghraib prison. But stand back. Look at the history. Open up to the hard facts of human nature, the lessons of the past, the warning signs of future abuses.
These photos show us what we may become, as occupation continues, anger and resentment grows and costs spiral. There's nothing surprising in this. These pictures are pictures of colonial behavior, the demeaning of occupied people, the insult to local tradition, the humiliation of the vanquished. They are unexceptional. In different forms, they could be pictures of the Dutch brutalizing the Indonesians; the French brutalizing the Algerians; the Belgians brutalizing the people of the Congo.
Look at these images closely and you realize that they can't just be the random accidents of war, or the strange, inexplicable perversity of a few bad seeds. First of all, they exist. Soldiers who allow themselves to be photographed humiliating prisoners clearly don't believe this behavior is unpalatable. Second, the soldiers didn't just reach into a grab bag of things they thought would humiliate young Iraqi men. They chose sexual humiliation, which may recall to outsiders the rape scandal at the Air Force Academy, Tailhook and past killings of gay sailors and soldiers.
Is it an accident that these images feel so very much like the kind of home made porn that is traded every day on the Internet? That they capture exactly the quality and feel of the casual sexual decadence that so much of the world deplores in us?
Is it an accident that the man in the hood, arms held out as if on a cross, looks so uncannily like something out of the Spanish Inquisition? That they have the feel of history in them, a long, buried, ugly history of religious aggression and discrimination?
Perhaps both are accidents, meaningless accidents of photographs that should never have seen the light of day. But they will not be perceived as such elsewhere in the world.
World editorial reaction is vehement. We are under the suspicion of the International Red Cross and Amnesty International. "US military power will be seen for what it is, a behemoth with the response speed of a muscle-bound ox and the limited understanding of a mouse," said Saudi Arabia's English language Arab News.
We reduce Iraqis to hapless victims of a cheap porn flick; they reduce our cherished, respected military to a hybrid beast, big, stupid, senseless.
Last year, Joel Turnipseed published "Baghdad Express," a memoir of the first Gulf War. In it, he remembers an encounter with Iraqi prisoners. A staff sergeant is explaining to the men the rules of the Geneva Convention.
" . . . What that means, in plain English, is 'Don't feed the animals' and 'Don't put your hand in the cage.' "
And then, the author explains, the soldiers proceed to break the rules. The ox thinks like a mouse.
"My vanquished were now vanquishing me," wrote Turnipseed, heartsick.
Not quite 50 years ago, Aime Cesaire, a poet and writer from Martinique, wrote in his "Discourse on Colonialism": "First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism."
Are we decivilized yet? Are we brutes yet? Of course not, say our leaders.
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