Theobertarian Dictionary 8 "Priorities" (Zarqawi, Gay Marriage, Flag burning, etc)
I was thinking about a short story by Ursula Leguin, The One Who Walks Away from Omelas, which deals with the idea of social tradeoffs in the starkly vivid way that ficition has of connecting the dots in the haze of the real world. Leguin’s inspiration for her story was Shirley Jackson’s, The Lottery, a New Yorker story that caused hundreds of subscription cancellations. Supposedly for the rest of her life, people pestered Shirley Jackson with the question, “Where the heck is this barbaric town?” or alternatively “Tell me where it is, so I can go watch.”
Shirley Jackson would always have to explain that there was no such real town, at least that she knew of, and she always refused to discuss any greater meaning for the story itself. All this started me thinking which in my case usually looks a lot like day dreaming. The difference these days is what used to be passing thoughts now wind up in this blog. I found myself having passing thoughts about some of the following situations.
So through the magic of repeated usage, I am learning the Theobertarian definition of “Priorities”:
What if the 500 pound bomb used to execute Zarqawi had simply been a videotaped beheading? Not many people have mentioned that the other guy killed with Zarqawi was his “spiritual advisor”. Imagine if someone who hated the President decided to blow him up while he happened to be in church. Actually, that’s not as likely as most people have been led to believe. Like Ronald Reagan, W apparently doesn’t attend church all that regularly himself. In any case, who else would you be willing to blow up in order to get Zarqawi? Would it have been an event worth celebrating if it were three or four little children? What if they used stem cells from a non-approved line to make the bomb that killed the guy? Talk about culture of life!
So, what price would you pay to get rid of a serial killer like Zarqawi (assuming he was as directly responsible for all those deaths like most seem to believe)?
How many Iraqi children would you kill to make sure that Gays aren’t allowed to marry legally? At some point, you have a certain amount of time to talk and get things solved. If you spend a lot of time and resources on the one, it’s time taken away from dealing with the other. We might have let 10-15 die in exchange for that debate. But saving marriage is important because, well duh, family and children are fundamental institutions in our society that deserve their own constitutional amendment. So what are family values worth? After all, look how well prohibition worked.
Would you give up your most significant civil liberty so no one burns an American flag and gets away with it? Truth is that many Americans believe that like all the other finest things in life, Civil Liberties aren’t just for everybody. For example, those three guys who hung themselves at Gauntanamo didn’t deserve a trial or even charges because someone told us they were way too dangerous. The suicides were, after all, a publicity stunt to hurt America’s image. Clearly, it is not the same thing as say being tortured by dogs snapping at your genitals, being jump started like a car battery, or being forced to be part of a stack of naked-hooded men (btw about that gay marriage thing?) in that this was not an activity planned by their hosts. How is it our fault if one of these three suicides turns out to be some guy who happened to be innocent and got stuck in Cuba indefinitely?
On the other hand, Karl Rove, got every benefit of his civil liberties when he was called to testify before the grand jury five times. He had an attorney, he was told when and if he would be charged with a crime, he had freedom of movement in the meantime. Need I mention that not being indicted for an act of terrorism against those who speak out against their governement is the equivalent of winning the Nobel Prize, being beatified, or being awarded with the Medal of Freedom (well maybe scratch that last one). Not getting indicted after an extensive investigation suggests that you have behaved in exemplary fashion and is the clearest imaginable sign that you deserve your boss’s every confidence. I know this, because the President just told me so. In the meantime, I’m waiting for Barry Bonds to get a White House appointment as head of the FDA.
We do need to understand that 9/11 changed America and makes a flag amendment more necessary than ever. After all, the flag is now being soiled in so many other ways, we’re going to need a law to make sure that people respect it. In fact, our government respects the flag so much that they won’t permit anyone to photograph flag-draped coffins so no one will think about people actually dying on behalf of our flag.
How much would you pay for a really good photo opportunity? Is it worth the price of several good pre-school programs? Maybe a couple full time researchers on alternative energy sources? The President doesn’t have to answer that question about that shot of him shaking hands with Nouri Al-Maliki, the new Iraqi prime minister. What better sign of the stability of the Iraqi government than the fact that this is their second prime minister in the first six months? The President doesn’t have to answer that question because he doesn’t pay for the photo, we taxpayers do. Don’t worry, if you make a whole lot of money, he’s already taking steps to make sure you pay less personally for that trip. Doesn’t the White House know that you save a bunch of money if you book two weeks in advance and stay overnight on a Saturday. One time he flew there like the day before Thanksgiving which is clearly the most expensive day of the year to book a flight on short notice. At least if he was going to do that, they could have given him a real turkey to carve.
I still say, you want to show me a real turning point in the war, maybe you can give a speech in the middle of Baghdad. Doesn’t the fact that they have to sneak you in suggest that things are still bad even worse than they were that Thanksgiving? And what is this thing you have about war zones and no one knowing exactly where you are until it’s absolutely necessary? Fwiw, I like surprise parties too, but Presidential visits in countries that are truly under control don’t looke like installments on “Punked”. Could you see maybe Al-Maliki sitting in the bathroom with someone knocking on the door going, “Mr. Prime Minister” the President of the United States has come to visit, you need to come out right away before they helicopter him out of the green zone and you better shave cause they’ve got a bunch of photographers here too and you’re going to be in every paper in the world in the next five minutes. Maliki, pulls up his pants, flushes, cuts himself shaving a couple times, runs to the closet for his good suit with the flattering body armor, and Ashton Kutcher pops out with a camera crew.
Next week, the Prime Minister of Iraq could be on “Pimp My Ride” with maybe an uparmored Humvee. Am I the only one who thinks it would be interesting to like redo a homeless person’s shopping cart on that show?
How many children’s lives would you stunt in the name of I earned it so I get to do what I want with it? I suppose if you made the money, it is yours. Look at Ken Lay, he built a house with the money he earned, or was that the money of the thousands of employees and shareholders he ripped off? Gets so confusing sometimes to figure out who really earned it. Look at Paris Hilton, Richard Mellon-Scafie, and Eddie DeBartolo. Each of them, earned it right from the beginning. Okay, so they inherited it, but that means someone in their family earned it so they could keep it.
You’re right, it should be their money, not the government’s money. Okay, but what about it being money for those children who deserve decent health care, education, and social services so they have a chance to grow up and compete to earn it too? Just because you earned it, doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t share it. So you don’t want to give the money to the government. May I ask what you’re really spending it on and whom it benefits?
There’s a lot of talk about eliminating the Federal inheritance tax. I say this as someone who inherited money himself at one time. Wouldn’t a society that believes in the invisible hand and the power of the free market have a 100% inheritance tax? In that way, economic Darwinism would really identify the most deserving instead of those who just happened to be related by blood to say Ken Lay or paragons of free market virtue and predatory capitalism like J.D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates.
I actually agree with pretty much everything the Gates Foundation promotes for high school reform, but I don’t necessarily base my faith on the promise that things will get better on that lone private initiative. Government does some things better than those who “earned it” do out of largesse. One of those things is to ensure access to quality education for all from pre-school to the end of college or trade school.
I say we look to better examples of those who earned it that are dedicated to government service like Halliburton. Think of the billions they generate by investing and being invested in by government. Surely, they’ve earned those no bid contracts with the blood of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. As the President says, America fights for a clear vision for the future and that’s a free enterprise system exemplified by companies like Halliburton. The enemy in the War on Terrorism fights for nothing affirmative, which explains why they are so willing to blow themselves up on behalf of their cause while none of the Bush or Cheney family will on behalf of theirs.
The simple fact is that the Lottery is very real except in 2006 it’s millions of American children. Welcome to Omelas, population 260 million, Love it or Leave it!
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