We are those we help elect

There are a number of sayings found in several cultures – with many variations to the theme – all basically asserting that we can be defined, or at least characterized, by the company we keep; the most famous among them found in Cervantes’ Don Quixote: “Tell me what company you keep and I’ll tell you what you are.”

In much of the Western world, where many of us somewhat naively believe that we truly govern ourselves, one could extend the saying to include as company those officials we help elect, the political trustees who presumably govern on our behalf. It is the behavior of such officials that offers us a ringside view of our tattle-tale democracy; and, even more importantly, of ourselves. Nowhere is this more evident than in Capitol Hill, where time and again Americans prove to the entire world they are those they help elect.

Case in point: the recent debates in both House and Senate in reference to the situation in Iraq, resolutions introduced and resolutions passed. The entire proceedings proved to be an embarrassment to anyone with just a passing level in intelligence, education and civic demeanor. Rather than debate, the lawmakers provided a litany of imbecilic and blush-worthy monologues. Such undertakings said much about the caliber of those individuals who represent us in Congress, but it also spoke volumes of the rest of us who helped them get there.

Take the inane resolution passed June 16th by the 109th Congress: House Resolution 861 – declaring that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.

The resolution, submitted by Rep. Hyde, provided all of fifteen “Whereas” consisting of statements containing one or more of those reprehensible i’s in any discussion or debate: idiocy, inaccuracy and irrelevancy; and a seven-part “Resolved that” which given the invalidity of the “whereas” became meaningless. A resolution designed for home consumption, one intended not to antagonize voters in their districts in November, allowing them to be reelected – a 98% probability for incumbents if historical records are maintained. [That rate in and of itself brings to question the existence of anything which might resemble “true” democracy.]

The “whereas” in the resolution included statements of idiocy, such as the presumption that terrorists are driven by hatred of American values; or, that US Armed Forces, and other friendly forces, are scoring impressive victories in Iraq, including finding and killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi… statements of inaccuracy, such as the terrorists’ aspirations for Iraq and the broader Middle East; or the reiteration as to why Saddam Hussein needed to be taken out; or, that the sacrifice of those Americans killed or wounded was in the cause of freedom; or, the make-believe insistence that the US is part of a meaningful coalition… and statements of total irrelevancy, starting with the subject of intimidation and ending with a call to nations of the world to promote peace and security by supporting American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. All niceties for the home front!

The resolution was passed by an intellectually and morally deficient membership of the House, although 153 members (37% - all Democrats) voted against it, directed to what the Republican majority feels is the tails side of the American hawkish citizenry coin, “absolutely no cut and run.”

A sensible proclamation, one catering to conflict resolution – and not continuing or additional confrontation – might have declared, instead, “that the United States needs to address the Global War on Terror as an outgrowth of a long-existing flawed foreign policy for the Middle East, and seek new directions which would bring just remedies to past actions, including the mistreatment of Palestinians and the invasion of a sovereign nation: Iraq.” All “whereas” and “resolved that” to be drawn from that master statement or premise. That would have proven to be an excellent start, one welcomed by friends, enemies… and the many nations that, while being neither, see the United States as a greater terrorist threat than the declared jihadists who are fighting Goliath with the only weapons their desperation avails them.

The nations of the world should be concerned not just with the Cowboy now in charge of this ranch, but with all the ranch hands… the rest of us. Those in the world who feel Bush is a political anomaly that eventually will go away, and who prefer to think of America as Alexis de Tocqueville’s model for a democratic nation, are in for a rude awakening. This is not the United States c. 1820-1840. In this twenty-first century, more so than ever before, we are those we help elect, and that includes reasonable leaders as well as psychopaths.

Indeed! We are those we help elect… unflattering as that is today.