War of the Worlds
July 17, 2006
Editor's Note: In the daily political battles of our age, we often lose sight of the bigger picture -- the ideals of American liberty that are increasingly at risk in a world where our leaders tell us that our personal safety is more important than the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, that we should trade liberties for security, and that their principal job is to make sure we're safe as we shop at the mall rather than to protect the constitutional system that keeps us free.
We forget, too, how we fit into the historic panorama of freedom and reason as those concepts were passed down to us by the Founders and by the courageous generations of Americans who expanded on those ideals over the past two centuries, from the Abolitionists to the Suffragettes to the Freedom Riders.
We also must be reminded that our ultimate responsibility in protecting these traditions and ideals is not just to ourselves in the present but to the future, or in the quaint phrase of the Founders, to our "posterity," to our children and our children's children. In that context, we are publishing this guest essay by political analyst Brent Budowsky (which originally appeared at Huffington Post):
For a good time, Google the date July 4, 1826.
On that day, 50 years to the hour after the Great Declaration was signed by freedom's greatest friends, Jefferson lay dying, Adams lay dying, thinking of America, speaking of each other.
I'm not the most religious guy, but shall we call that coincidence, or Providence? In some ways I have always considered that day, and those events, the most important in this history of our land.
Were Jefferson and Adams speaking to us that day, reminding us of the legacy that would endure for the ages? Was God speaking to us that day, taking two of freedom's timeless heroes from us, at that exact moment, on that exact day, reminding us, as their dying words were about each other, on that July 4 -- 50 years after the Declaration -- of the most extraordinary legacy that is now in trust in our hands today?
What would they think of our President, who used the holy grounds of 9-11 to declare and wage aggressive war pitting one group of Americans against another, pitting the Executive Branch of the American government against good faith respect for our Bill of Rights, pitting the rule of law and American honor against what even our conservative Supreme Court now holds as illegal detention practices and a litany of abuses and wrongs that offend what Jefferson called the decent opinion of mankind?
What would they think of Democratic leaders? What would they think of the media? What would they think of events that show carnage in the corners of the world, with the voices of aspiration, hope and dreams silenced or retreating in the face of unspeakable tragedy and horrors?
At this writing, the blood is flowing again in the Middle East, so I begin with this thought, to make the larger point: President Bush should immediately appoint President Carter or President Clinton as a special ambassador on an extraordinary mission, in the name of the good people of the United States, to seek a cease-fire and give authentic voice to the five-year-old Israelis and Arabs who deserve better than a lifetime of maiming and death and endless anger and hate.
To the cynics: spare me the talk of how it will not work. We have seen the result of your way. It may not work, but I've been in this capital city of America for a long time and dealt with giants and midgets of all persuasions and cannot remember any other time, when neither political party dared to offer a grand vision that at least tries to appeal to the souls and spirits of young Israelis, Arabs and Americans.
Can we agree that military policy without diplomacy is a one-way road to failure, that diplomacy without military strength is a one-way road to weakness, and that disastrous military policy with zero diplomacy is a one-way road to hell?
Today there is a war of the worlds, on virtually every field of endeavor, and contrary to the partisans, ideologues and profiteers, I would define it this way: it is a war between the dream builders, the dream crushers, the dream exploiters, and standing on the side, as always, the vanity players who's call to action is "what's in it for me."
The original dream builders were Moses taking the Ten Commandments and Jesus speaking the Sermon on the Mount. For we Americans, the original dream builders were the Jeffersons and Adams, the abolitionists who stood bravely against slavery, the Freedom Riders in the 1960s, the Zengers and Upton Sinclairs who wrote truth about power, the Ted Turners who challenged conventional wisdom, the Franklin Roosevelts who told us we have nothing to fear but fear itself, the Robert Kennedys who spoke with passion to blacks and white about justice and the rule of law, the Martin Luther Kings who stood in front of Lincoln and moved us with his Dream.
Its not partisan: in my opinion: Ronald Reagan was a dream builder. As someone who worked at the epicenter of Loyal Opposition during his Presidency, there is much to object to in his vision of conservative government, but much to applaud in his vision of ending the threat of mass extermination from nuclear war. I have written about this myself in the National Review ("Roosevelt, Reagan, Rushmore") and both Paul Lettow and Richard Reeves have written brilliant and important books on this subject.
Agree with me, or not, I remind all of this: for his greatest achievements of enormous historical legacy, his breaking the barriers of old thinking side by side with Mikhail Gorbachev, a profoundly underestimated historical figure, Reagan was demonized, demeaned, and defamed by many of the most prominent voices of the Right at the moment of his greatest legacy. They used words like Pearl Harbor 2, appeasement and surrender to describe Reagan's reaching out to Gorbachev and have earned the right to modesty, a word beyond the comprehension of those who make the greatest blunders but insist they are always right.
The dream crushers are those who say we should be afraid, fearful, and timid; those who believe our neighbors are our enemies; those who inflame their supporters to acts of rage and hate; those who fear the truth and seek to imprison those who report it; those who promulgate the slander that some among us are not truly Americans, which is the most un-American slander of all; some conservatives who speak of God but have no commitment to lift the poor among us; some liberals who love humanity but are not at their best when they deal with people.
The dream exploiters and vanity players say the right things, and should know better, and are just as culpable, or more.
In October 2002 the collective leadership of the Democratic Party were dream exploiters, marching in lockstep, almost unanimously with ideologues and extremists, to war in Iraq.
Through 2004 one of the greatest collections of dream exploiters in the history of politics included the upper strata of the national security establishment of the Democratic Party, who pompously called themselves the "poobahs," and were the lineal descendants of Robert Strange McNamara.
Sitting at their mahogany tables and planning their return to power in a presidency that would never happen, they sold John Kerry on handing away the Presidency by trimming, hedging and wimping his words on the great war of our age.
The dream exploiters can be found on the Right, hustling for war where young men and women die, then reaping huge profits from the sacrifice of others. They can be found on the Left, from those who see the blogs as another cheap way to raise campaign money for their consultants, or those who try to rip off, exploit or cheat some of the most brilliant voices on the Internet with phony teases of support followed by cheap exploitations of their work.
Can we agree on this? Those who have committed crimes of war should be prosecuted and punished under law? Those who have been sent to war without armor and helmets and bandages were called heroes but treated with contempt and neglect by the same people, in both parties, who give magnificent speeches on the Fourth of July, but did nothing for four years to prevent this outrage that persists, too often, today?
Can we agree that the homeless heroes who fought our wars and suffer the hardships today should be treated with the honor and passion of a decent society, not the neglect and harvest of shame from those who let this happen without waging the fight for them that deserves to be waged?
We know the blogosphere has reached center stage in the war of the worlds, when it is attacked by many on the Right, and exploited by some on the Left. Good, great, let us join the fight, wage the battle of ideas, let us fight and compete in the battle for hearts and minds, let us fight and compete in the contest to build and share the greatest dreams, create and expand the largest audience, demand and achieve the support from those who talk well but exploit shamelessly, and who will act straight, or be left behind.
This is not about Democrat, Republican, Left, Right. Let a thousand flowers bloom, let a hundred million voices sing, and let the battle be waged in the voting booth, on television and radio, on movie screens and Internet screens, with publishing houses and editorial boards and advertising eyeballs.
The common denominator is this: we are people who believe in the building of dreams, as Jefferson built dreams, as Adams built dreams, as these two giants, who stood together in creating our Nation, who stood apart on many of the great issues of their day, who died the same day, on different sides of our continent, whispering their last words about each other. speak to us today.
In these difficult days, no one ever promised it would be easy, but as others have said, the battle continues, the struggle remains, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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