"I'M GOING CRAZY!" SENATOR SWEETIE BARACK OBAMA SCREAMED AT THESE REPORTERS OVER THE PHONE TONIGHT. "I'M TRAPPED IN HELL!"
ACTUALLY IN A FLORIDA DEBATE CAMP.
BUT IT FELT LIKE HELL TO THE PRICKLY BARACK BECAUSE HE'D BEEN INFORMED THAT IN THIS WEEK'S DEBATE, HE'D NEED TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING OTHER THAN HIMSELF.
"THAT'S CRAZY TALK! I AM THE MOST INTERESTING PERSON IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD! DO YOU WANT TO SEE MY SCRAPBOOK! I'VE GOT ALL MY MAGAZINES COVER IN THERE."
WE ASKED BARACK IF HE WAS SMARTING FROM THE CRITICISM FOR HIS SOCIAL SECURITY AD ON JOHN MCCAIN THAT HAS SOME CALLING UNSPORTSMAN LIKE CONDUCT ON BARACK AND OTHERS SAYING "THERE IS NO BASIS."
BARACK'S RESPONSE WAS A WHIMPER AND THEN HE WHINED, "NOT MORE ISSUES! I HATE ISSUES! ALL I WANT TO DO IS PUT ON A LITTLE LIP GLOSS AND POSE FOR THE CAMERA."
George Bryson's "Army Ordered to discharge soldier who found religon in Iraq" (McClatchy's Anchorage Daily News) reports that US District Judge John Sedwick has ordered that Private First Class Michael Barnes be released from the US military as a conscientious objector (with honorable discharge). Judge Sedwick found the army's claims that this was some maneuver on Barnes' part to avoid service were assertions the military failed to prove and that "testimony by a chaplain, a psychiatrist, fellow soldiers and Barnes himself proved the contrary." The ruling should shed a light on how the military really isn't in the place to 'judge' faith and that should have been evident in the case of Agustin Aguayo. The military's rejection of Agustin's claim was an offence to faith because it went against the teachings and beliefs of most faiths, with the military arguing, in effect, that faith was a static state of being and that it could not awaken or deepen. Obviously, most faiths advocate that belief that a believer grows in their faith. That can be seen in the stories describing the testings of Jesus Christ. (The testings of, not the teachings of.)
The process isn't going to change tomorrow. And it didn't change greatly during Vietnam. (1968 saw a shake up of the CO process and guidelines.) The peace movement of that period ended the draft and that is and was an important victory but the CO process is something that many members of Congress (at that time) would make sympathetic comments of but the issue was dropped. Following the end of the current illegal war, the peace movement would be smart to pursue this because the policy rarely changes in the midst of a war (of any war).
Religious faith is not necessary for CO status (though the military currently 'forgets' that and is allowed to get away with 'forgetting' it) but we're going to focus on that aspect due to the above ruling.
A counter-argument against CO status (and against war resistance) is, "You knew what you were signing up for." No, you didn't. You couldn't. And that is the story of the trials and testing of Jesus. You may think you do, but there is the abstract and there is the actual.
Stephen Fortunato was a CO during Vietnam and his case was not that different from Agustin's. Like Aguayo, Fortunato had an awakening and stopped carrying his weapon. (Agustin stopped carrying a loaded weapon.) Like Aguayo, Fortunato enlisted, he was not drafted. After his discharge, he attended Providence College and wrote a paper that was widely circulated at the time. In it, he noted:
I came to conscientious objection over a somewhat circuitous route -- via the Marine Corps. At the age of eighteen I freely enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, more out of a spirit of adolescent adventure than anything else, and certainly not because I thought freedom would be better preserved if the government stuck an M-1 in my hands.
With all the passion and exuberance of youth I became a trained killer. I went to classes where I learned how to rip a man's jugular vein out with my teeth. I growled like a tiger when I was told to growl like a tiger. (It would indeed by edifying for religious and educational leaders to see their flocks brandishing bayonets and yelping and grunting on command, like well-trained jungle beasts -- all for the preservation of Western civilization!)
I was told that the Ten Commandments, however worthy they might be in civilian life, had to be suspended in the name of national interest. I was greatly impressed to see that an act perpetrated by the enemy was ipso facto vicious and deceitful, whereas the self-same act perpetrated by the United States was just and praiseworthy.
For two years I did my reserve duty without questioning the purposes or the means of the armed forces. It remained for one of the cruder excesses of military training to wrench me from the spiritual doldrums.
[. . .]
My first break with the ways of the military was emotional and intuitive. The contradictions of war and war preparations became clear and self-evident. It did not become a rational creature to permit himself to be led in cries for destruction of human life; a truly free man would not support a totalitarian system to defend freedom; one cannot bring about peace by threatening to incinerate mankind. No, I came to believe that a free man preserves his freedom by acting freely and not by following those would would herd men into regiments or send people scurrying like moles into bomb shelters. Most important of all, the free man must remain free not to kill or to support killing.
[. . .]
I knew I had arrived at conscientious objection. I was opposed in body and soul to the organized, budgeted, and officially sanctified use of violence called war. I was opposed to the compulsory and regimented aberration from the laws of God and reason, called conscription. I could no longer, in conscience, bear arms.
What course of action was I to take? I had freely enlisted in the reserves. But how free was I? Our society conspires in favor of the armed camp set-up we now live in. At the age of eighteen, I had not once considered military service as confronting me with a moral decision. It is one of the more gruesome paradoxes of our time than in a free -- or supposedly so -- society the atmosphere of choice on such a crucial issue had been so stifled.
Again, in 1968 the military's CO policies were updated and while that can be seen as a small vicotry the problem then is the problem today: the written policy is not really followed. During times of peace, it generally is and we may back off from the issue as a result. But following the end of this current illegal war, a serious investigation by Congress into how the written policy was followed or ignored is needed. Many members of the peace movement advocate for expanding the written policy (I'm not opposed to that) but the reality is that the written policy is yet again not being followed and that many attempting CO status would earn it under the current policy (as is) if it were only followed.
Turning to the US presidential race. The Democratic ticket is Obama-Biden. Yesterday, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric featured a segment with Senator Joe Biden. Couric asked Biden how he was doing preparing for his debate with GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and, "Are you worried that you're going to have to pull your punches a bit because of her gender and you don't want to seem like you're bullying her? It's a different dynamic when it's a male/female thing, isn't it?" Biden replied, ""I don't know, is it? We're sitting here doing it right now, aren't we? Look, all kidding aside. So maybe it's a generational thing but I don't start this thing thinking 'Oh my God, this is a woman, I had better treat her differently.'" On the Obama campaign's recent ad mocking John McCain's computer skills, Biden stated, "I thought that was terrible, by the way." Couric asked, "Why did you do it then?" Biden replied, "I didn't know we did it and if I had naything to do with it, we would have never done it." And chugging down that high road, the Obama campaign unveils a new ad, as Wally and Cedric note, which deals with the very pressing 'issue' of what kind of cars GOP presidential nominee John McCain owns? He owns one car, by the way.
Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and he writes (in US News & World Reports):
The broadcasts of the presidential debates this year will reach 60 million or more Americans. The array of candidates running includes two former members of Congress--Libertarian Bob Barr and Green Cynthia McKinney--as well as me, but viewers will see only two choices: a Democrat and a Republican. The rest of us are not invited.
Few voters likely know that the debate sponsor, the Commission on Presidential Debates, was created in 1987 by the two parties. Don't be fooled by its claim that its goal is to provide "the best possible information to viewers and listeners." Its purpose is to give the parties cover when they bar other legitimate candidates from debating.
Okay, time for action.
The first Presidential debate is Friday.
And we're getting stonewalled.
They won't let Ralph Nader into the Presidential debates.
So, here's what we're going to do. It's a two step process. Step one -- call Barack Obama. Tell Obama he should demand that Ralph Nader be included in the debates. And step two -- e-mail the Commission on Presidential Debates. And let them know you are onto their game. Here are the details.
Call Barack Obama at 866-675-2008.
Hit 6 to speak with a campaign volunteer.
Once connected, politely deliver the following message:
Hi, my name is ... I was wondering if Senator Obama, being a believer in equal opportunity and equal rights, could insist that Ralph Nader and other ballot qualified third party candidates be included in the upcoming Presidential debates? After all, Nader is on 45 state ballots. And he's polling well nationwide. And he could help Senator Obama challenge the corporate Republicans. True, Ralph would critique Senator Obama for his corporate ties also. But isn't that what democracy is about? Could you please leave this message for the campaign manager? Thank you.
E-mail Janet Brown, the executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Here's a sample e-mail:
Dear Janet Brown: Greetings. You must be busy. Preparing for the first Presidential debate this Friday. So, I won't take much of your time. Just wanted to let you know that the American people were not born yesterday. We know the deal. Take that little private corporation that you run. Controlled by the two corporate parties. And funded by big business. For the purpose of excluding independent minded candidates. Friday, two Wall Street candidates are scheduled to be in the ring. Barack Obama and John McCain. The one candidate who represents the American people, Main Street, if you will, will be on the outside looking in. So, here's a simple request. Drop your exclusionary restrictions. And let Ralph Nader into the debates. It will be good for your conscience. Good for the American people. (I believe it was The League of Women Voters that called your corporatized debates "campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity, and honest answers to tough questions.") And good for democracy. Let the American people have a real debate for once. Main Street vs. Wall Street. Thank you. Signed your name.
Onward to November
The Nader Team