For any of you who have had the great fortune never to have played the game Risk, know that it’s a game of hostile takeover—a war game, though its not a reach to make it analogous to corporate takeover, which, let’s be honest, that’s what most war is. And without a doubt, Risk is about my least favorite game… EVER! But as elder son (I’ll call him C1) is just in from a couple months in D.C. and on his way out again in a couple weeks, my own game preferences were recently overruled.
At the start of the game, C2 (younger son) says to me, “Mom, choose someone to represent your force.”
“No, Mom, come on. This isn’t Candy Land. You need a serious warlord—a killin’ machine. Look, he doesn’t have to be a bad guy. George Washington—he was decent—or maybe Eisenhower. Or even Barack Obama!” and he says the last with a Cheshire grin.
It gave me pause. C2 knows well my disappointments and fears where Obama is concerned; no doubt, he was baiting me. So I sat for a few moments, contemplating Obama as a warlord and killin’ machine, till with all the righteous indignation I could muster, I said, “I’m stickin’ with Gandhi. And these little green things aren’t killin’ anybody; they’re planting flowers… or, or… I don’t know—figs.”
“Whatever,” he said, rolling his eyes, and he began dealing the country cards.
Obama the Warlord: He’s got an ever-increasing kill list (including a 16-year-old child who, some think, was punished with his life for the anger his father expressed at U.S. bullying), and a battery of expensive drones to do the dirty work for him; he’s no doubt creating terrorists by the second for all the violence his administration wreaks on civilians and whole families in the Middle East; he’s extended the reach of surveillance on the American people to include telephone and email correspondence as well as anything searched on the Web, and he’s convinced a huge chunk of the population that the 4th Amendment is irrelevant to law abiding citizens (until such day, that is, as they’ve stepped in the way of corporate interests with something like… a voice), and he’s managed this constitutional destruction simply by keeping us fearful; he’s shredding any journalist’s ability to report truth by declaring whistle-blowers traitors then going after said traitors with the full force of legislation that’s been manipulated to the ends of corporate power (How does an abuser perpetuate abuse? By isolating the abused from truth); and he’s given Monsanto permission to make of the U.S. populace lab rats for its GMOs, without any responsibility should consequences ring cancerous or otherwise. Corporate takeover of education, of food supply, of medicine…
And when Obama appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the audience stood on its feet, applauding him as he entered stage left–a standing ovation.
These last few weeks, I’ve been trying to understand what it is that makes of people sheep to the party line… that even as their party (Republicans and Democrats alike) spits on all that embodies the ideals they hold dear, the sheep hold tight, defending the party that is very nearly devoid, in action, of anything they proclaim to be true. Republicans, do you really believe that your party still holds true to the values of small government? Democrats, does our party still care more about the interests of working and middle class Americans than corporate profit? What happens between the politician’s articulate (albeit pretended) position, the citizen’s embrace of the values proclaimed, and the truth of a politician’s record that is nowhere close?
Is it that our egos become so invested in party politics that to say our guy (or gal) is wrong is to somehow say that I, myself, am wrong and that’s just too painful? Or is it a simple resignation… at least he’s better than the other guy. Maybe it’s the idealistic yearning after someone who really does have the interest of the people at heart, so much so that we would rather pretend that it could be so, than embrace the reality that it’s not and that we have a responsibility to hold our politicians accountable. Maybe.
But I suspect the biggie for many of us, myself included, is that we become bogged down in a career that we embrace to the exclusion of all else, including research into the political activity that affects that career… intimately. We think that we simply must trust what the politicians say they are doing because there isn’t time for the fact-checking required of responsible citizens. And, sadly, what I have learned in recent months is that what I came to despise in education—even to the extent that I quit—was the result of political activity that I ignored to my own detriment. The whole rationale behind a free press and a citizen’s access to truth is that power itself is corruptible, even to those who begin with noble motives. So no matter how busy I am, I can’t lie down on my citizen’s job of staying informed, best done through sources that are unbeholden to corporate cash. There aren’t many… PBS isn’t one, nor CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and certainly not FOX; tough to find truly unbiased news, though there’s hope in the type reporting offered by Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.
Years ago, during the election season before Clinton’s 2nd term, I told some neighbors that I didn’t think I’d be voting for Clinton. Knowing that I was a staunch Democrat, they were a little taken aback. I told them that I thought a president garnering blowjobs from a twenty-something-year-old had some power issues that I didn’t trust. My neighbors, a lesbian couple, who, I now understand, worried for the civil rights issues that colored every choice they made (where to live, who to trust, when to tell) told me that I should focus on policy over any of his private relationships and failures. Okay… and I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, but here’s a glimpse of what policy under Clinton got us: He gave us NAFTA and the begins of dismantling the middle class as jobs went overseas, to say nothing of the decimation of economies and civil rights abuses in other countries; he offered de-regulation of banks, rendering us vulnerable to the housing crash of 2008 and the second that economists tell us is lurking in wait; he gave us three-strikes-and-you’re-out and the decimation of black communities and DOMA; he gave us a war in Yugoslavia while he ignored the genocide in Rwanda, and he did it all with a charming smile. And although under the current president we see an opening to civil rights for gay and lesbian couples, am I to say that the loss of middle class jobs, the gains to corporations, the spying, the drone murders, the potential for GMO poisoning, the dismantling of public education… is it all okay for that one issue? Don’t get me wrong… I celebrated the news, watched all the breaking coverage; I was thrilled for what it meant to me personally and for what it meant to every gay and lesbian couple and their children. But I can’t imagine that I would say to a Pakistani child who lost her family in a drone strike, But look, Honey. Look at the state of civil rights in America. Look how gay and lesbian couples are getting married now. I live in the land of the free. And did you see how the President called Kris and Sandy after the Supreme Court announced the decision? Isn’t he swell?
Figs and flowers.
Back to Risk: Toward the end of the game, as my little green pieces were covering most of the continents, the boys began pushing me to take Gandhi’s name off the table:
“Come on, Mom. You’re giving Gandhi a bad name here.”
“Yeah, Gandhi would never even play this game, and he wouldn’t call war figs and flowers just to make it sound better. You’re taking over the world!”
And to the extent that we bury our heads in the sand calling victory in the single issues the figs and flowers of plenty, or calling what is inhumane the figs and flowers of righteousness, simply because our politicians tell us so, I fear we are inviting tragedy on our houses the likes of which this country has never known. I hope I am wrong.
Then, rolling the dice to attack C1, I said, “I’m Barack Obama, and I’m coming after you in the Middle East.”