Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Many of us have struggled to make sense not just of the Cheney shooting incident, but of the secrecy surrounding it and the apathetic response of the American people -- as well as that of Texas law enforcement agencies. The metaphor most meaningful for me -- since, after all, the shooting has functioned as a kind of Rorschach test for the Left -- is that 78- year-old Whittington stands for the 230-year-old United States: We have all been shot in the face by the Bush Administration.
And, like Whittington, we will survive.
Most Katrina victims survived (though there is not enough money to claim the bodies of those who did not, still buried inside the remains of their 9th Ward homes) and the 2006 Mardi Gras proceeds with gritty determination. Sure there are what the NYT calls "cracks" in that society: 19 schools running in stead of 117; 7 public defenders instead of 52; 2,000 hospital beds in stead of 5,000). But life in New Orleans goes on.
Civil liberties will survive: outspoken and courageous senators like Russ Feingold will continue to speak out against tyranny. And most private conversations will remain private. Since hardly any of us is a terrorist, having our phones tapped poses no palpable threat. The telephone and the Internet will survive.
The environment will survive despite the body blows it has been dealt: it still snows in America and more people than ever ski and snow-board. Polluted beaches still beckon vacationers. American powerhouses Ford and GM -- despite having laid off about 60,000 workers -- make sure our roads are still crowded by happy drivers. HOV lanes remain uncrowded despite drastic fuel costs.
The Middle East will survive unconscionable bombing and destruction: Iraq will eventually have some form of government. And, outside of three thousand dead soldiers, even the horribly maimed will survive. Some will walk again, and those who were not too emotionally traumatized may actually thrive.
Seniors will increase in number, surviving as most get their needed medications. And though there are 45 million Americans without health insurance, most of them remain healthy enough not to strain our health care system. The system works: life expectancy is greater than any time in human history.
But surviving was not enough for the founders of this nation -- for people who shouted out "Give me liberty or give me death." It was not enough for the authors of what even strict constructionists call our living Constitution. We have been shot in the face from close range by a dangerous and inhuman administration -- an administration led by people so callous about human life and dignity as to turn our young into cannon fodder.
It is an administration that the day after 9/11 had the organizational wherewithal to round up the entire bin Laden family and whisk them away from our teeming shores, but turned its back on American citizens devastated by hurricanes and floods. We -- all of us -- have multiple wounds in our body politic, wounds that threaten our heart and soul.