Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, and the 2002 recipient of Amnesty International’s Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. A foreign correspondent for nearly two decades, reporting on many wars over his career, he has been employed by The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times, in addition to writing for several other publications. (Source: Wikipedia)
In the last decade Mr. Hedges has emerged as one of the most uncompromising, consistent, and cogent anti-war voices in America.
Unquestionably, his writings have edified and even inspired me. However, I must confess that I have avoided reading Mr. Hedges for some time. Beyond the desire to adhere to a self-imposed modus operandi that says “read more articles and fewer opinion pieces (in order that I may form my own opinions, rather than merely regurgitate those of others),” I was concerned that Hedges’ voice was too strident, and that the more I read him, the more difficulty I would have communicating with mainstream Americans (which would be a personal disaster, as it has long been my aim to shape myself into an effective conduit of vital facts to my fellow citizens — who have been relentlessly propagandized from all sides, resulting in much confusion and despair, in my observation).
Having recently reacquainted myself with Mr. Hedges’ sage words, including his latest (excerpted above), I can now see the error of that craven decision. Under my own auspices, relying almost exclusively on mainstream sources of news and information (where I have learned to harvest the wheatier facts amid the chaff of ubiquitous spin), it seems that I have come to share Mr. Hedges’ viewpoint… making my political views identical to those of a “political pariah,” to borrow Hedges’ phrase.
I have trod this path in good faith, and it has led me to this lonely place: I believe that the words of the Constitution should mean something. I believe that laws need to be enforced and applied evenhandedly (not just exploited to turn poor people, disproportionately brown people, into virtual slaves in America’s overcrowded, cruel, and dehumanizing prisons).
I believe that systemic fraud, wars of aggression, torture, assassination, and genocide are not just morally wrong but historically discredited (grotesquely short-sighted and ineffective), and that Benito Mussolini’s vision of a perfect synthesis between corporations and the state (his definition of “fascism”) is as destructive in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century… no matter what Chief Justice John Roberts and Antonin Scalia think.
Bizarrely (to me, at least), such views have fallen out of favor, making me somewhat unintelligible, I fear, to most of my fellow citizens.
The majority of my “conservative” friends and loved ones — and the majority of my “liberal” friends and loved ones — most likely find my views on this subject somewhat eccentric and quaint, or they think my interpretation of these “platitudes” overly literal.
(If I were not so well loved by these individuals, I would be very lonely indeed.)
As it is, with the nation’s nominal “conservatives” contemplating the likes of Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Michelle Bachmann in 2012 — and the nation’s alleged “liberals” rallying around Barack Obama (who has cemented the most radical and, frankly, totalitarian policies of his predecessor, while greatly enhancing the interests of an oppressive American oligarchy) — I fear I am finally running out of hope… not for myself (though, as an artist in an increasingly restrictive society, I doubt I’ll find many official patrons or sanctioned outlets for my work), but for OUR future, the future of ALL of the world’s citizens: Americans, Chinese, Africans, Europeans, Australians, South Americans, Russians, Indonesians…
The vision of last century’s fascists, thanks to a meticulously shrewd refining of their methods, has been very nearly fulfilled. The ethos is the same. The results are the same (per the World Health Organization, nearly nine million children under the age of five die every year of wholly preventable causes; and 90% of the victims of our wars are civilians — 40% higher than in World War II).
It is only our willing acceptance of the fascists’ vision that has changed. (Nietzsche, Orwell, and Huxley did their best to warn us — and, more recently, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, John Perkins, and Naomi Klein tried to inform us — but, in the end, we failed to listen.)
Bigotry, soma, and surveillance turn out to be a pretty potent combination, especially when buttressed by nearly universal despair. (Very few people, in my experience, hold out hope for a better world… and who can blame them, with our freedoms evaporating as swiftly as the planet’s life-sustaining systems?)
BUT I WILL NEVER GIVE UP.
The beauty and innocence of the human spirit — the fundamental decency of all of us (Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jew; black, white, yellow, red; conservative, liberal, etc.) — will ALWAYS give me some sliver of hope for the future. Even in the face of massive ecological collapse, with the prospect of human suffering on a scale never before witnessed, I believe it is possible that humanity may yet see a better day.
I continue to hope that one day humanity will learn that the most revolutionary mind of the 20th Century was not that of Adolf Hitler (fuck you, TIME Magazine), who did something age-old and common as rain (albeit in particularly glaring and despicable fashion), but that of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who did something rare and glorious, providing a beacon to oppressed peoples everywhere, in demonstrating the practical application of Christ’s “turn the other cheek” philosophy.
Sure, Osama bin Laden didn’t see it. But Martin Luther King, Jr. did. And many others also understand the wisdom of refusing to answer violence with more violence (“an eye for an eye, leaving everyone blind”).
If President George W. Bush were an actual Christian, he would have seen it, too. But both he and his successor are far more in the vein of Mussolini… which is why fascism is winning today.
Just as Osama bin Laden was a very poor exemplar of Islam, America’s leaders (political and institutional) have done very little to make America, in practice, a “Christian nation.” Instead, we are the leading butchers of humanity in the modern world.
But we can change. Whatever creed you follow, good values are good values. We just need to remind ourselves of their practical implications… and stop following charlatans.
HERE’S A RECIPE FOR REAL CHANGE:
In 2012, if you fancy yourself a conservative, why not risk a vote for Ron Paul? He’s that rarest of politicians in today’s America: a non-fascist, unwilling to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people in the name of “Freedom.”
In 2012, if you fancy yourself a liberal, why not risk a primary challenge to Barack Obama, whose Nobel Peace Prize, as a matter of pure political calculation, has been carelessly saturated in blood? Let’s see if Ralph Nader is willing to hold his nose and run as a Democrat; let’s try to draft him… before it’s too late. (As matters stand, with Obama’s poll numbers cratering — with the entitlement-slashing waters he’s muddied and disastrous foreign policy, lauded by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — the Democratic Party is already showing signs it’s terrified that 2012 is going to be a banner year for conservatives… Do we really want all three branches of government controlled by Republicans again? That’s the outcome we’re really courting, with the status quo!)
Think about it: Can you imagine how much real hope America might inspire if 2012′s presidential race involved a contest between Ron Paul and Ralph Nader? My god, we might even have a real conversation in this country again, featuring two principled individuals dedicated to the Constitution and the Rule of Law, who actually mean it when they say “OUT OF IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN!”
If we Americans — Tea Partiers, Republicans, Democrats, and Liberals — really hold the values we profess, we will not hesitate to abandon the “safe” totalitarians currently “leading” the 2012 pack. Because, once in office (as Barack Obama has demonstrated beyond all doubt), they will surely abandon us.
(And, for my friends on the left, worried about Nader’s chances against one of the “leading” Republicans, do you really think that the brilliant, articulate man of conviction, Ralph Nader, would have any problem whatsoever in defeating an establishment candidate: Rick “Good Hair” Perry or Mitt “Flip-Flop” Romney? Really, we have NOTHING to lose… unless we stick with Obama, which means we lose regardless.)
My friends, it’s time to ditch the corporatists (whatever their brand) and work to elect the folks the establishment keeps telling us are “unelectable.” (That would be the very same establishment that’s been wrong about virtually everything over the last 30 years… from “compassionate conservative” George W. Bush to “socialist-leaning liberal” Barack Obama!)
RON PAUL vs. RALPH NADER in 2012!
It’s about the only chance we have for restoring real HOPE anytime soon, so my advice is to start agitating for real CHANGE — as soon as you finish reading these words.
Organize, lobby, register to vote (and enlist a friend on the other side of the ideological aisle to register with you) TODAY…