While we are in the death throes of the U.S. Senate filibuster rule, I can't help thinking about the incredible amount of time elected legislators spend ignoring so many other issues. Think about it. Consider how much time the filibuster fight has consumed, only two days into it, in the greatest democratic institution ever conceived. Now consider how much residual time the filibuster fight has consumed among the press, the PACs, the interest groups, the blogosphere, and everywhere else people are obsessing over this. How can we possibly reconcile spending this much time debating the merits of approximately 10 people?
It seems to be a common theme among the Republican agenda this spring. They pushed through "emergency" legislation to write a special law for Terri Schiavo (and only Terri Schiavo). They passed a bankruptcy law that blatantly panders to a handful of credit card companies while ignoring the affect it will have on millions (yes, millions) of Americans. Now, they (and by "they" I mean the Senate Republicans minus the roughly dozen moderates) are again twisting logic and mincing words in order to create yet another false crisis, which they will conveniently blame on the supposedly "obstructionist" Democrats.
Republicans are the obstructionists. (And, to be fair, Democrats are doing their fair of sometimes unnecessary grandstanding.) While they crassly invented legislation to keep Terri Schiavo alive, while they pass corporate giveaways in their military funding and bankruptcy bills, while they dust-up controversy over the filibuster, while their messianic president trots from red state to red state cooing his Social Security lullaby, humanity suffers. Not just Americans, but humanity.
What do I mean by this?
Ask the average American what the filibuster is and why it's currently being debated. My guess is that (s)he would have a vague notion of what's going on. Very vague. Ask the average American how the occupation of Iraq is going, how stable Afghanistan is, where or what is happening in Darfur, and I would bet the answer you receive is quite uninformed, if intelligible at all.
Since the beginning of the Iraq occupation I've feared the numbing of American sentiment, meaning progressively shorter casualty reports in local newscasts until one or two or three American deaths are just a single monotonous sentence within the program. Through the process of repetition, death and destruction in Iraq have become ingrained in the national psyche and an accepted fact of daily life. It no longer surprises us. This is, perhaps, the most ruinous result of that war. Once the bloodshed no longer matters, the occupation no longer matters and it can be allowed to continue with far less questioning each day. Does anyone recall the very specific reasons we went to war in the first place?
Iraq, however, is at least still in the national psyche. Television news (national and local) no longer covers Afghanistan so Americans are left with the perception that we've turned that country into a Central Asian Shangri-La. Yet, the president is sequestered within the capital city, warlords rule half the country in Middle Ages-style fiefdoms, heroin is practically its only cash crop and its only export, and the Taliban is still blowing people up. That's not even mentioning this whole Newsweek flap.
And Darfur? That may be the issue that depresses me most. After the Holocaust, the world community whole-heartedly sermonized "Never again." Yet, it has happened again and again. Cambodia, Armenia, the states of the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and now...again. Sure, Bush, after much debate, has called it "genocide." But he, as well as Congress, has done little to stop it, and has not spoken about it since his reelection. Interventionism is a sticky subject, but something needs to be done.
On top of that, as Jeffrey Sachs has recently written, at least 20,000 people die every day due to extreme poverty. Poverty that is preventable.
So are any of our supposedly morally correct Republican leaders addressing any of these issues. Are any of them really trying to save lives. Are any of them working for humanity?
No. They're working for themselves. They're working for their own political life and their narrow right agenda that incidentally enough does not even include the supposedly moral values issues they ran on. Remember abortion? Remember gay marriage? I don't think Bush and Co. has given one soundbite to either issue since last November 2. Their obvious pandering is so pathetic and I have to believe that someday people will see through it.
For the zero people who read this, I apologize for my vehemence. I needed to get some things off my chest.