Monday, November 19, 2007

GIVE THANKS TO SCOTT McCELLAN: BUSH KNEW

On thanksgiving we were thankful to Scott McClellan, former White House press secretary, for revealing that Bush knew more than we were led to believe he knew ... in his new book "HE KNEW".

Jay Rosen of HuffPo says:
McClellan's specialty was not lying, or the traditional art of spin but what I have called "strategic non-communication." Lying we understand, spin we have to come to grasp. Non-communication we still do not appreciate; its purpose is to make executive power less legible. Only a stooge figure would be willing to suffer the very public humiliations that such a policy requires of the man in the briefing room.

McClellan was often described as "robotic" because he would mindlessly repeat some empty formula he had concocted in anticipation of reporters' questions. The point here was to underline how pointless it was even to ask questions of the Bush White House. And reporters got that point, though they missed the larger picture I am describing. Many times they wondered what they were doing there.

I will tell you: they were a constraint being made more absent with every exchange they had with the thick-headed and graceless McClellan. In this sense they were part of the Terror Presidency. The agenda was not to get the White House message out; it was not to explain the president's policies. At both of these (common sense) tasks McClellan was simply awful, his performance a non-starter. No, he was part of something larger and far more disturbing; and it would have been disturbing even to loyal Republicans if they had bothered to understand it.

The goal, I think, was to make the American presidency more opaque, so that no one could see in. No self-respecting man would take that job aware of what he was going to be asked to do. McClellan was unaware. He remains so. But he's not the only one.



"Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front." — G.K. Chesterton

Regarding prayer: When the tsunami hit, then the Breslan massacre, then Katrina -- not to mention the Iraq war -- I spent weeks praying for the children and innocent people lost. I felt so powerless, just praying. But then the thought came that there has actually been some healing as a result of all of our prayers. I live far away from these tragedies and these poor souls — and couldn't go to them, or abandon my children and join the Red Cross. But I could give, send money and pray. And in my heart I had the sure feeling that someone had been comforted and given hope. Maybe that is what God is – the silent, invisible transfer of love to another."

HOMELESS IN AMERICA
The other day I was walking the dog behind Trader Joe’s and I passed a shady alcove bordering the alley, in the center of which was a large tree. I peeked into the bushes, and saw a grocery bag. I thought this looked like a private place for a homeless person to rest, but just at that moment I glimpsed a pair of shoes, then bruised legs in camouflage pants standing behind the tree, inside the tree, as if they were hoping not to be seen, trying to blend in with the shrubs. I could hear the owner of this pair of legs trying desperately not to breathe. Was it a homeless person, or just someone who was trying to go to the bathroom in the bushes?

As I passed by, I shouted out: “God Bless you.” I kept walking, and then circled back. Realizing that I was holding in my hand two sticks of string cheese, I went back to the bush and offered it to the person hiding in the trees. “Would you like a piece of cheese? It’s wrapped in plastic, it has its own wrapper.” A woman’s voice rang out, “No, no thank you.” Then, the voice said: “You are so sweet.” I could see she was wearing glasses and had dark hair.

I walked away and said, “You are sweet too.”
Then I started crying… again. The same way I cried for our troops dying needlessly in Iraq, or during the Breslan school massacre in Chechnya, or on Sunday when our minister at church talked to us about the homeless people and how desperately sad they are. It has been dawning on me more and more how truly tragic it is to be homeless — and especially to be a homeless child. It is hard to even say this, but there are over one million homeless children in America.
Can you imagine what it’s like to have no place to rest, no privacy for going to the bathroom — no safe, clean place to put one’s head, no soft pillow that is not infested with cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes or rats? Can you imagine what it’s like to have no place to dress, to bathe, to do homework — or to bring friends home for ice cream? No place to sit and look your mother in the eyes while eating dinner or playing Monopoly. No dinner? God bless these poor lost little souls.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Anne-Marie O’Connor reports: Experts say that there are more homeless children in America than at any time since the Great Depression. About 40% of America's homeless are now women and their children - the fastest growing homeless group.

THE TAPESTRY: NEW ORLEANS

Imagine if the human pageant were just a tapestry — and God sees the complete picture on the finished side — but from our vantage point beneath, we only see dangling threads that keep disappearing as they are woven in and out. As people pass on, certain threads disappear because they are part of a grand stitch that completes a beautiful landscape on the other side. We can’t see the whole picture. We don't know the reason for death and suffering; we don't know what's on the other side, but I'm sure there are many mansions and colors — and the weave creates a majestic tapestry.
In this modern age, I still can’t comprehend why we — the most powerful and technologically advanced nation on the planet — could not deliver drinking water to our own suffering people in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. We couldn’t deliver water to babies and children who were dying of dehydration, heat stroke, hunger and toxic disease. We couldn’t do it on Monday, the day the storm subsided. And on Tuesday, the day the press arrived and showed people stranded on rooftops, President Bush was at an elegant golf resort in Arizona, holding a press conference. A13-year-old girl was found raped to death, her throat slit, inside a ladies room in the Superdome. There was no air conditioning, the sewer system had stopped, the toilets were overflowing, and a man jumped to his death inside the stadium from a second floor tier. What I find strange was that President Bush flew back in the dead of night to intervene in the Terry Schiavo matter, a private family matter that didn’t require government intervention — yet he did not feel the same urgency as he watched the devastating aftermath of Katrina unfold on his television screen. He couldn’t pull himself away from a party to help the dying souls in one of the worst natural disasters in United States history. Later he said, “ “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” He said this, even though a month earlier, he had been vigorously warned and shown footage of the devastating consequences of just such a breach.

I find it so strange that the president of the United States did not respond with any urgency to this tragedy of monumental proportions. He did not order troops or supplies to be sent in right away. Helicopter food drops could have been made immediately. Police and National Guard could have been parachuted in to restore order and protect the innocent. For four days people suffered without water. I don’t understand how we managed to drop thousands of anti-Sadaam pamphlets and parcels of food into Iraq in a matter of hours, but not to our own people in New Orleans. Someone said, “The president doesn’t have a heart for people’s suffering.”

The news footage of looting in New Orleans after Katrina gave certain right-wing pundits fuel for their bigotry. But couldn't they see that the economic system that created such a wide chasm between the "haves and the have-nots” actually created Les Miserables? A culture that constantly advertises salvation through Nintendo, i-Pods and Plasma TVs creates an insatiable craving for stuff. Yes looting is bad, but looting pension funds is worse. Looting votes through gerrymandering is worse. And to think the minimum wage is only $5.75 an hour, while Congress votes lifetime pensions for themselves into the six figures. Reaganomics and the trickle down theory did not work because of the greed of the corporate executives, who continue to take such a large slice of the pie they have to eliminate the actual workers. Ford and GM outsourced thousands of jobs to make their corporate owners wealthier. And churches are not tithing enough to support the needy. A society must take care of the “least among us.” Then we will see amazing things begin to happen. And I'm not talking about a welfare state, by the way.
Helping the poor is Christ’s most vital commandment. He is unequivocal about this. The more you give, the more you are doing the will of God according to Christ’s law to “take care of the least among you” thereby increasing the goodwill of the citizens. And it would actually make our country wealthier, because everyone would prosper. It’s a spiritual principle. It does not make for a stable economy or safe society to have such a large gap between the rich and poor. Tithing is a law of the universe that pays for itself triple-fold. If we are going to mix church and state, at least let it help people, not take away from them and give tax breaks only to the rich.

It’s Sunday and I’m standing in the kitchen peeling garlic for my son’s favorite pot roast. I turn on the radio to NPR and begin chopping onions, celery and carrots. I add the bay leaf to the broth and set it to simmer. As I listen to a broadcast describing the bodies floating in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I become limp with heartache. I see the faces of these poor souls and the loved ones left behind whose grief is so deep, it seems they will never smile again. They are wading in death’s water or standing on its shore or climbing out of its rooftops. Arms outstretched, their faces frozen in horror and helplessness. They are so tired, trying to save the dead. But the ones drifting by do not fight the tide — for they are peacefully asleep.

The tears burn my eyes. My knees buckle, actually buckle and I slump over the sink. I am crying and praying. It’s a sudden jolt, like an electric shock and even though my eyes are over flowing with tears, I see something. During the Breslan school massacre, the genocide in the Sudan, the tsunami in Indonesia and all the hurricanes, wars and catastrophes — I have been praying without ceasing for weeks at a time. I have cried out to God in my house, silently in my car, until crying and praying have become one. And out of nowhere the thought comes to me that maybe my prayers have not been in vain. The thought comes that there has actually been some degree of healing as a result of all our prayers. I live far away from these dead poor souls — and cannot go to them, can’t abandon my children and join the Red Cross. But I can give. And in my heart I get the peaceful feeling that someone has been comforted, given hope, awakened. Maybe that is what God is – the silent, invisible transfer of love to another.