Panhandle (W.Va.) Grassroots for Democracy

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On the importance of hope

Long ago, a veteran police sergeant and I went to the firing range alone to go shooting.

He was the firing range instructor for his department and he gave me the same lesson he gave the new officers.

So I shot with my right hand for a while and then he told me to shoot with my left. I asked him why it was important to shoot with my off hand. And he said sometimes you're not in a position to fire from around a corner without exposing yourself more unless you're shooting with your left, but more importantly if you're ever shot and can't fire with your right to learn to fire with your left. It was important to not quit fighting just because you're wounded. And I asked 'Why?' again, which I do when I don't know the answer. He said when people are wounded, if they think they're going to die, they are more likely to die. But if they stay in the fight for survival, they're more likely to survive.

Which leads me to Billmon.

Here's what he wrote, possibly partly in response to something I wrote here but more of it was directed in unacknowledged response to Steve Gilliard.

Gilliard can always speak for himself. So I'll address this in regards to Billmon's despair. (And if you think Billmon is writing from irony or out of sarcasm and not from some dark place your knowledge of human nature is as poor as your reading comprehension.)

My view is this:

But here is where you and I differ. I still have hope. I have hope that people are wakening up to the desperateness of the situation and they're going to get to work digging our way out. We're going to push the Republicans who led us into the disaster out of the way first and we're going to push out the Democrats who enabled them, beginning with the worst of the lot Sen. Joe Lieberman. But we're not going to stop there. We're going to go through the whole bad lot of them here and across the globe.

His response:

I had hopes once that the Democratic Party could be reformed, that progressives could burrow back in or build their own parallel organizations (like or even Left Blogistan) and eventually gain control of the party and its agenda -- much as the conservatives took over the GOP in the 1980s and '90s.

But I think we've run out of time. Events -- from 9/11 on -- have moved too fast and pushed us too far towards the clash of civilizations that most sane people dread but the neocons desperately want.

I know time is short. With each heart breaking death, it is short.

Regarding Billmon, it's like all he can see is the cliff we're heading over and has tunnel vision regarding it. And it's a bad cliff. Don't get me wrong.

They're certainly free to follow their party over the cliff (we're all going over it anyway) but I'd at least prefer to do it with my eyes open.

Look, I am often as unhappy with the Democratic leadership as anyone else. But I also recognize that under the Republican-controlled Congress, there is often little that can be done to have a sensible debate about the Iraq war. We all saw how they twisted Rep. John Murtha's bill and put forward their own that was completely unreasonable.

Yet few Democrats, West Virginia's own Rep. Nick Rahall being one of the few exceptions, took the position I would have wanted. Here is Rahall's statement:

Instead of this balanced approach, the House passed a one-sided resolution citing Israel's right to defend itself - just as my resolution did - but also blamed the pro-American, pro-democratic government of Lebanon for not ridding itself of the extremist gang Hezbollah.  I voted against this one-sided approach, not against Israel.

I do not think we need to enter this fray militarily but we can play a role diplomatically with an even hand.  Last week I urged the President to call Israel's Prime Minister to ask for a cease fire, a cooling off period.  I echoed the call President Ronald Reagan made to Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1982, when President Reagan said "enough is enough" and encouraged a cease fire between Israel and the P.L.O.

It is easy to suggest that Lebanon should manage its borders and maintain its own security and rid itself of Hezbollah as the House resolution stated.  If Lebanon got the billions in foreign aid from the Congress that Israel receives each year, the task would be much easier.  The facts speak otherwise.  The young Lebanese government striving to reflect democratic ideals frankly does not have the ability to rid itself of foreign entanglements.  In fact, Israel itself militarily occupied Lebanon for almost two decades and was not able to stamp out insurgents striking at Israel.   This is an issue for the world community.   The United States should defend Israel, and at the same time defend democratic governments in the region.  This goal is the best way for us to secure Israel's future.

Christ's Sermon on the Mount included the charge, "blessed are the peacemakers." People can disagree, but I can not recall from the pages of history any people who have annihilated an enemy for all time.  The United States since becoming a world power has generally played this key role. The President's couch potato diplomacy will probably end soon, but in my mind it can not end soon enough.  The problems the Middle East faces can not be solved by military means.  History has proven this.  We should call for an end to all military actions on all sides, and work for a peaceful solution.  This is Israel's most promising future.

That is a view I wish more Democrats and Republicans in Congress had taken. That is the view I wish President Bush held.

I cannot control what they do any more can I control what Hezbollah does or Israel does.

What I can do is to work to change the party mostly likely to align with my views. And that is the Democratic Party.

You make progress forward one step at a time. We win an election and gain a majority or closer to a majority in Congress, we make progress. We get a Democratic majority, we begin putting up primary opponents to beat the Democrats who aligned with the Republicans against peace and against humanity and the environment.

That is how we change the government for the better. Unless you want an armed revolution and that is not a view I currently support.

Even if time is limited, we should keep moving forward. We cannot know what the future is certain to bring.

In the scenario Billmon paints, his domino theory of nations falling to the Shi'as with Iran's government gaining control of Iraq and then Syria, he ignored the fact that while Syria might sponsor Hezbollah, the leaders of Syria are highly effective -- brutally so -- at clamping down on those attempting to bring theocracy to their secular dictatorship. So the picture he painted of Iran's military spreading into Iraq to keep the "peace" there then into Syria right next to Israel's border is not a foregone conclusion.

Worst yet, Billmon's position in the piece I criticized takes the view that nothing matters anyway so why bother. That is not a position I'm willing to ever accept.

Perhaps he's right that there isn't time. Perhaps he isn't. But I'd rather try to make the change happen than to say it doesn't matter as he did.

But there is cause for hope, slight though it might be.

If we quit, our chance of making the world a better place is gone, possibly forever. If we keep fighting we survive.

I'll leave off with one more anecdote. My best friend, a police lieutenant, once answered a call to break up a bar room fight and ended up having the five people fighting unite to turn on him. He was one of only a handful of officers working the entire county that night and backup was 30 minutes away. Ask anyone who has ever been in a real brawl how long it takes for someone not a trained professional boxer to run out of steam and begin sucking wind even when you're fighting just one opponent.

But he held on and kept fighting and when he finally heard the sirens coming far off in the distance he got a second wind. By the time backup arrived, he had the five brawlers in custody.

He won because he didn't quit.

Sometimes you just got to keep struggling even when the odds are overwhelming. We don't have a choice if we want to survive.


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