Saturday, August 19, 2006

Let it never be said that a single individual cannot make a difference

I've been worrying about the state of the world and the fate of humanity for a long time now, and acting whenever, wherever, and however I could to nudge things in what I felt was a more promising direction. Most of the time these earnest efforts have been exercises in futility.

For instance, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, thoroughly alarmed about the threat of nuclear holocaust hanging over us all, I threw myself into research and activism on nuclear weapons, the Cold War, the US-Soviet arms race, and so on. I attended and organized conferences on the topic on my university campus, got involved with Pugwash, made several visits to the USSR to engage directly in official and unofficial dialogues with people there, penned articles and edited newsletters, networked intensively with leading activists in the British women's peace movement while at Oxford, attended demonstrations, went briefly on hunger strike...well, you get the general idea.

And to what avail? Nil. In 1980, as my activism got under way, the "doomsday clock" of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stood at seven minutes to midnight. The time today? Seven minutes to midnight.

In 1990, inspired by the results of the December 23, 1990 plebiscite overwhelmingly in favor of Slovenia's independence, I sent a telegram to American President George H.W. Bush from the Šiška post office in Ljubljana, urging him as a fellow freedom-loving American to support Slovenia's aspirations for democracy and independence. He failed notably to take my advice. Instead, on the eve of Slovenia'’s formal declaration of independence on June 25, 1991, Bush's Secretary of State James Baker made a visit to Belgrade to convey the message that the United States would not object to the use of force by the JLA to keep Yugoslavia together as a single country. Given the choice between backing the communist, ultra-nationalist, dictatorial regime controlled by budding war criminal Slobodan Milošević, and supporting the brave dissenters of Slovenia struggling peacefully for greater democracy, pluralism, and market-based economic reform, Bush ignored my plea and came down firmly on the side of the former.

In November of 2002, during a period of temporary residence in Indiana, I published a guest editorial in the Lafayette Journal and Courier proposing that the highly touted, handsomely funded, soon to be established "Purdue Homeland Security Institute" include a study of American foreign policy among its "critical mission areas" if they were serious about preventing future terrorist attacks. Among other things, I suggested they offer an introductory course to students majoring or minoring in Homeland Security called "Blowback 101."

They didn't adopt any of my suggestions, and the Purdue Homeland Security Institute four years on has not had any effect whatsoever on America's terrorist-creating foreign policy. (It may well have played a major role in the Department of Homeland Security's designation of Indiana as the national center of terrorism, with 8,591 potential targets, but that wasn't my idea so I can't claim any credit.)

In 2003, I made two trips to the Indianapolis office of Senator Richard Lugar as a member of citizen delegations organized through MoveOn. The first was in January before the invasion of Iraq, to encourage Lugar to use his influence to prevent it happening, and then again in October, to urge him to vote against Bush's request for another $87 billion to fund it. The impact of our respectful but impassioned antiwar statements on Lugar's thinking? Zero. Bush got his war and his funding, thanks to the enthusiastic support of Lugar and so many others in Congress.

Another senator who blew me off is Joe Biden, who was all over the airwaves on February 5, 2003, touting the support of "New Europe" for a unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq, with or without a UN mandate, and horrifying the Slovenes whose unconditional backing he was falsely claiming. I contacted his office multiple times, in writing and by phone, pointing out factual errors in his statements and requesting, in the interests of public accuracy, that he issue a correction. His response? Zilch.

And then there's all those letters to the editor I've written, which never get published or read or have any impact whatsoever on the public debate.

So given this string of failures, why the fuck do I still bother?

Because every so often, I score a victory. I have an impact. I make a difference. And these accomplishments, however small, these signs of progress, however incremental, are what give me the strength and the inspiration and the resolve to carry on.

Case in point: the other day, via a link from WIIIAI, I came across an ad by John Spencer, a Republican challenger to Democratic incumbent senator Hillary Clinton. The original version of this "hard-hitting and factual" ad proclaimed that "Islamic facists still hate us and want to attack us," and that Hillary Clinton was making their job easier by voting against vital programs, leaving America vulnerable.

I left a comment pointing out that it should be Islamic fascists, not facists. And you know what? When I checked back a couple of days later, the error had been corrected! I am convinced this was due directly to my own personal intervention. I could have remained silent. I could have looked the other way. I could have left it up to someone else to speak truth to power. I could have spent the time enjoying a walk in the countryside with my dog instead of trolling the sites of unhinged conservative politically aspiring neonuts who attack my values and hate me for my freedom. But conscience and a highly trained proofreading eye drove me to speak up, and by damn, I made a difference.

And who knows, my influence may not stop there. I also encouraged people to join the struggle to oust Clinton, who plays politics with America's national security, by voting for Jonathan Tasini.

Oh fuck it, maybe I should just go back to dog-blogging.

Battle scene from the global struggle of ideas between Australian shepherds and border collies


Blogger sgazzetti said...

Great photo. I would like to see the addition of dialogue balloons, though. Maybe something like, "Your demands are ludicrous!" -- "Our position is firm!".

"Blowback 101". I love it.

Even unhinged conservative politically aspiring neonuts need copy editors. Or maybe I mean 'especially'. Margaret Mead would be proud of you.

8:35 PM, August 19, 2006  
Blogger ka-ma said...

If only there were more people like you! Just don't give up! I love your blog, it keeps me informed about things I normally couldn't find out by myself and I am very grateful for that.And there will always be need for brave people to stand firm and speak up about the injustices of the world.

BTW, love the photo, your dogs look great!Please give them a nice behind-the-ear scratch in my name!

12:19 AM, August 20, 2006  
Blogger Jean said...

Great idea about the balloons! I'll ask my more computer-savvy daughter to teach me how to do that with the photo editor. I like your suggestions, would welcome more. Maybe we should organize a contest. "We will never negotiate with the terrorists!" "We will stay the course!" "We will not cut and run!" "Die, infidel!" "My God's better than your god!" (sung to the tune of the old KenL Ration dog food commercial--is anyone else here old enough to remember that?)...this could be fun.

Lyra (the border collie) got a scratch behind the ears, and Olivia (the aussie, aka the Hell Bitch) got a belly rub in your name. But whose side are you on? You can't stay neutral in a conflict of this magnitude and importance, you are either with Lyra/Olivia (circle one) or you are with the enemy.

4:16 AM, August 20, 2006  
Blogger ka-ma said...

Oh dear, now I got my self into a K-9 dispute. Let me think....whose side I want to be on? For the moment I will pronounce myself neutral, since I don't know which one of them enjoyed the rub I sent more.
And I do agree with jds that a dialogue balloons would make things even more exciting. That said, I will look forward with anticipation for more news from the doggie front.

12:16 AM, August 21, 2006  

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