"I Know Who I Am, and Who I May Be, If I Choose"
-- "The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la
Mancha" by Miguel Cervantes
“Sir, in regard to --"
"Who're you talkin' to?"
It was just a split second -- a collective intake of breath -- but reporters genuflecting before George Bush last April at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, got the message. They got it, as Bush likes to say -- loud and clear. From that point on, it was...
"Mr. President --"
Watching the media herd jostle to gain the attention of the ill-natured and juvenile "Mr. President," it was difficult to discern which was more pathetic -- an unprofessional Bush delighting in forcing a reporter to grovel for access to his wondrous self, or a professional journalist allowing himself to be called "Stretch" while eagerly groveling.
The US media long ago abdicated their charter, that of being vigilant watchdogs over those in power, and of serving as honest brokers and trustees of the public interest. Walter Williams, University of Missouri's first Journalism Dean, addressed this a century ago in his Journalist's Creed wherein he wrote, "Acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is betrayal of this trust."
Unfortunately, Williams did not foresee a need for having a watchdog over the watchdog. He believed -- as did so many of us who emerged from Journalism classes wide-eyed and bristling with determination to fall on our ethical swords to protect the U.S. Constitution against all comers -- that journalists inherently had the integrity to police themselves, and any imposed control would be an insult to the profession.
But while we weren't looking, the watchdogs over those in power somehow became those in power. To today's media Goliaths, "public service" is whatever it takes to ramp up ratings and corporate profits. They apparently have no qualms about circling their wagons around such a woeful failure as George Bush because he brings home their bacon -- or he fronts for the guys who do. To those CEOs who now own the mainstream media, biting the hand that feeds them would be the ultimate betrayal.
Given his reality-challenged "vision" of ridding the entire world of evil and riding shotgun for God by personally delivering the gift of freedom to the few who remain, one has only to look at the clueless, "look ma -- no hands" Bush to suspect that making this guy look presidential -- or even remotely sane -- can be a chore. It's work. Hard work. Really hard worky work...
The media appear to be dug in too deep to back out now. Although the hole they're in is scandalously deep and wide, they have no choice. They must keep digging. And digging. They're forced to save Bush's backside in order to save their own, else how will they explain at this late date their covering up the lies of a man-child who delights in being an international bully -- who applauds himself for irrationally "seizing opportunities" to decide the fate of the entire human race, no matter how much devastation he leaves in his wake? How else can they defend hiding from the public a monster-child teetering atop a mountain of body bags containing the remains of almost 1,300 US citizens -- arrogantly braying he "would do it all over again" if he had the chance? The problem is not just with the fawning dogs in the media. The rest of us are also to blame -- people who choose to remain silent while hoping someone else will stop the madness -- the jackasses in Congress who trot out the theory that backing down, "swallowing their pride" and moving to the middle will somehow garner them presidential favors. As Erasmus pointed out in The Praise of Folly, "What is more courteous than the way two mules scratch each other?"
Americans steadfastly refuse to notice the massacres ordered by a mad commander-in-chief and carried out by a berserk defense secretary, even as their fellow citizens are blown to bits in the process, and innocent men, women and children are gunned down in cold blood as they try to flee the carnage.
No one even blinked when Fox News military "analyst," retired Lieutenant General Tom McInerney recently diagnosed what our mission in Fallajua should be -- "We must be ruthless, especially in the area of collateral damage," he said self-righteously. "We shouldn't be concerned about collateral damage. All the good civilians are gone. If we must make Falluja Carthage, then let's make Falluja Carthage..."
It appears that truth can no longer be discerned by looking at things as they really are, but only through hysterical punditry wherein the most shocking and usually the loudest "opinion" wins. Those few who dare to speak out against war crimes committed in their name are accused of being unpatriotic -- of not supporting the troops, even as their continued silence ensures that more Americans are injured, maimed and slaughtered each day. The "troops" are dying because the silence imposed by "Mr. President" and his attendant media courtiers condemns them to death.
Bush's pre-puberty vision is one of uberhuman heroes and knights whose power comes from a higher realm, and it is far more colorful and exciting for the media to sell than the more mundane scenario requiring reason and utility. If you think about it, "Mr. President" is little more than a deadly Don Quixote who, upon seeing a cluster of windmills, cried to his squire...
"Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we could have wished; for you see there before you friend Sancho Panza, some thirty or more lawless giants with whom I mean to do battle. I shall deprive them of their lives, and with the spoils from this encounter we shall begin to enrich ourselves; for this is righteous warfare, and it is a great service to God to remove so accursed a breed from the face of the earth."
As Cervantes said of his ludicrous hero -- "The encounters between the ordinary world and Don Quixote are encounters between the world of reality and that of illusion, between reason and imagination..." Cervantes explained that Quixote got away with it because "There is a powerfully imposing quality about Quixote's insanity; his madness always had method, a commanding persistence and coherence. He makes us feel a sense of inevitability because of the spectacle of remaining so unflinchingly faithful to his own vision..."
Like Quixote, it matters not a whit to Bush that he is perceived as crude and uncouth, or that his actions are condemned by thinking people throughout the world. What, after all, can they do to him? As "Mr. President," Bush revels in being master of the universe -- incapable of making mistakes -- scorning those who would hold him accountable. He has set himself, not only above, but outside the law. If Bush is capable of feeling shame, he is far more capable of shrugging it off. No problem there.
Unfortunately, there is no corner of the universe beyond America's borders where Bush is welcome. The US media blacks out the hundreds, thousands -- tens of thousands -- of enraged world citizens who turn out en masse, armed with insulting placards, to protest his setting foot on their soil. Bush was literally chased out of Ireland in July by cranky citizens and by rogue Irish journalists who fell off-script to ask him why he thought he was so unpopular throughout Europe, and his trip to Canada last month was beset with rumors of his possibly being indicted for war crimes if he ventured near Ottawa...
Why do they hate him? Bush boasts it's because of his freedom -- and he's right. Because of his freedom to destroy homes, cities, entire nations -- his freedom to bring death and destruction to terrified civilians -- and his freedom to seize and occupy whomever and whatever he wants -- whenever he wants.
They hate him because of the mangled wreckage he leaves in his wake, such as demanding that homes and businesses along a route he was to travel in Nigeria last year be bulldozed so that his vision would not be impaired by the plight of the poor. They hate him because, while Nigerian residents watched in despair as all they owned was destroyed, he spent 15 minutes in Uganda staring vacantly at children infected with AIDS, promising billions of US dollars that, just hours before, his Republican minions in Congress had voted to seriously curtail...
The silence of the media about the demands their president makes on other nations is deafening. The boorish audacity of first demanding to address the European Parliament in the lead-up to the Iraqi invasion and then refusing to do so unless they promised him a standing ovation and guaranteed there would be no protests or heckling was completely ignored by the US media, as was his recent opting out of addressing the Canadian Parliament for the same reasons.
Cervantes would be green with envy at the clash between illusion and reality that played out during Bush's London visit in November, 2003. Although the Queen refused, Bush demanded that Buckingham Palace be renovated to include "bomb and airborne assault proofing" as well as blast and bullet-proof windows and curtains.
Bush arrived with a protection squad of nearly 700 to bolster the 5,000 British boots on the ground, 100 journalists, a personal chef, a food taster, four cooks, medics and a 15-strong sniffer dog team. Special agents and snipers were ordered to "shoot to kill" protesters who got out of line. The giant windmills in London whirled so threateningly that Bush and his journalists were in virtual lockdown at Buckingham, which is probably why there were no "public interest" articles written about this fiasco. When the Blackhawks finally whisked them away, the Queen's prized, century-old rose garden was stomped and shredded beyond repair.
Why do they hate him? Don't even ask...
The silence of the media makes them willing participants in Bush's ghoulish slapstick-comedy worldwide crusade. Likewise, Americans who remain silent are enablers who encourage him to go unhindered, splurging his political capital on a bloody, open-ended genocidal spree.
Perhaps if we all chant and cheer and applaud Bush loudly enough -- if we stand, arms aloft and recite "The Bush Pledge," we won't feel the disgrace and shame we so richly deserve.
Perhaps we won't hear the scornful hisses of the rest of the world...
Ain't that right, "Mr. President"?
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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