From a sun-splashed Rose Bowl to wintry Iowa

For this chronologically-challenged socio-political commentator, multitasking is severely restricted to a couple of things: one active, writing; and one passive, undemonstratively viewing sports on television. Bi-tasking would probably be a more appropriate name.

So today, on this New Year’s afternoon, I am trying to write my first column of the year while watching the Rose Bowl on TV; reminiscing about New Year’s ‘63 when I was seating at that stadium wearing student body-white in what came to be known as the greatest Rose Bowl game ever – Ron VanderKelen, the legendary quarterback for Wisconsin, almost stealing the glory from Pete Beathard and the USC Trojans in those final 12 minutes.

While the teams from Southern Cal and Illinois take to the field, I can’t help but think of the first political primary contest which is to take place in two days: the Iowa Caucus for 2008. It’s been three decades since this middle-America state stole the thunder from New Hampshire’s primary by giving the spotlight to presidential aspirants while also keeping the limelight onto itself. A state probably best known for giving the nation the time-tested standard in educational testing for basic skills, ITBS, has been now trying to add to that prestige, but this time in the dubious realm of American politics.

Unfortunately for Iowa, the reality of American politics might not even be worth minimal spinning efforts, for the US may be the only nation on the face of the planet purporting political diversity while sporting only one and one-half political parties: Republicans and quasi-Republicans wearing ID tags as Democrats; both attached to Corporate America by the same bi-forked umbilical chord that provides continual nourishment (money).

A caucus, presumed to be a North American Indian word of Algonquin origin, was a sort of official get-together for Native American chiefs who ruled before the White Man came and implanted his own rule. Now, duopoly string players – career political bosses – use caucusing to make policy decisions and also select loyal party candidates to run for office… as it will happen this January 3rd in Iowa.

It is difficult to make any sense as to the number of ways in which Republicans (11) and Democrats (4) select their delegates for the presidential conventions, but something is strange and different about Iowa. For a state not even scratching 1 percent of the nation’s population, both political parties assign it a very “undemocratic” high share of political influence, based on the state’s percentage of delegates: 1.68 for the Republican Party and 1.41 for the Democratic group, which also tells us in an unmistakable way that Republicans consider Iowans at least 15 percent “more relevant” than do Democrats. Democracy American style… from the very heartland!

Do we really care which candidate wins in Iowa in each of the two parties? Aren’t all major candidates from both parties really painted in the many different shades of red (force, power, aggression and shame) as exemplified by the stated beliefs of Romney, Clinton, Giuliani, Huckabee, Obama, and McCain? Edwards, more of a populist, may be the only major acceptable candidate outside of the red zone, and more into the purple domain (healing ability, dignity and compassion). Needless-to-say, people like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, both proponents of peace and foreign policy change, are considered not to have the “right stuff” to run the nation, much less lead the empire. Why would Americans want to give renewed hope to Palestinians or other people in the Middle East and South Asia! After all, that’s Israel’s decision, not America’s!

As the game in Pasadena is coming to a close, I feel that those Trojans from USC are extremely gifted at playing our game of football (American football), and perhaps should have been made a contender for the BCS championship; besides, the team appears to be well-coached beyond the game itself, and familiar with the term “cruel and unusual punishment;” and probably made aware before game time that the statement is not only listed in our Constitution (Eighth Amendment), but also adopted by the UN (1948) in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article Five). It was intended for individuals, but it seems valid to apply it to teams, peoples and nations; after all, everyone deserves to be treated with a modicum of dignity.

Pete Carroll’s team did not have to worry about holding back, for it was a very good Illini team they beat 49-17, and the final score is definitely not an indication of USC inflicting cruel and unusual punishment by running up the score.

Entering 2008, I’ve come to the realization, for the umpteenth time, that both football and politics are played differently in our nation from the way they are being played in the rest of the world; and that the United States has neither mankind’s consent nor a divine mandate to establish, and then enforce, the rules of those games; and that trying to spread democracy forcefully, and gratuitously, in our own “American style” is certain to be considered by other nations and peoples as inflicting on them cruel and unusual punishment.