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Commentary Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2007 - 00:26:37

Are Americans completely incapable of getting mad as hell?
By Michael Payne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 12, 2007, 00:18

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The brilliant, award-winning movie of 1976, "Network," a satirical film about a fictional TV network, features Peter Finch as the ranting, neurotic anchor who is about to be fired due to low ratings. He needs to vent his anger about this dire situation, as well as his contempt for modern society and the decay of its morality. And so, one night he no longer can contain his intense feelings and begins to shout, "I want all of you to get up out of your chairs, I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your window, open it and yell 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore.'"

Will we Americans continue to be the silent majority that stood by and watched as the White House war machine launched the invasion and occupation of Iraq? Will we also continue to be the same voiceless, sheeple-like society that will once again watch as this war machine launches an attack on Iran, the current monster/bogeyman now lined up in their sights? What will it take for Americans to finally have their fill of this never-ending madness and say, "We are mad as hell and we cannot and will not take it anymore?"

In the movie Network Howard Beale was obviously trying to save his job and increase his ratings by using an outrageous tirade to motivate Americans to rebel against the decrepit, decaying state of the American society as he viewed it at that time. Well, we may not have a Howard Beale amongst us today, shouting at us to wake up and get mad, but we do have an American government that is running roughshod over our Constitution, continuing to promote an illegal, immoral war in Iraq and completely refusing to listen to the wishes of the American electorate. While that should inspire an outrage it has resulted in not much more than a general passive silence.

Following 9/11, Americans watched as Bush & Co. forced the USAPATRIOT Act through Congress; watched as Bush attacked Afghanistan and Iraq; watched as Abu Grahib, Guantanamo, CIA renditions, NSA spying and other highly questionable events took place; watched as Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, failed completely in their oversight responsibilities and totally rolled over as the Bush/Cheney agenda accelerated into high gear.

We are in the midst of a horrific nightmare; a bad dream reminiscent of that tragedy called the Vietnam War. This nation, today, is going through the agony of watching a president, the Congress and a military machine hell-bent on pursuing a senseless, disastrous war with no end in sight -- a stubborn, nonsensical direction that is so similar to the illogical decisions made during the Vietnam War when Nixon, Kissinger and other war-hawks just would not accept the reality of that situation. So they refused to stop the bloodletting -- not until more than 58,000 of our military died and we were expelled from that country. The current chaotic situation in the Middle East cannot wait for a solution until the next election is held or until Bush & Cheney are sent packing.

The question is who in this nation of 300 million will step forward and map out a logical plan that will finally bring an end to this bloody fiasco and allow our troops to come home? At this point there is no one in Washington, DC, or anywhere else in this country who seems to have the wisdom and courage to make it happen. We as a nation are seemingly trapped in a vicious circle where Bush, with the complicity of the Congress, continues to feed more and more billions of dollars into that Middle East black hole that quickly sucks it in, then demands more and more billions to feed those fires that cannot be quenched.

With the 2006 elections, the Democratic Party miraculously became the majority party in both the U.S. House and the Senate. It was a minor miracle and, yes, a chance that America was on a distinct path to stop the misguided foreign policy of the Bush administration and begin a new, rational direction. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid proclaimed that a new day had dawned. The time for change had finally come. John Conyers strongly hinted impeachment, Henry Waxman could hardly wait to initiate numerous investigations. In the Senate, Carl Levin, Patrick Leahy, and others readied hearings. The scene was set for new, energetic leadership to right the wrongs that had been perpetrated by the ham-handed Republican leaders.

Since that time of euphoria, great hopes and aspirations, what has happened? Basically, nothing and I mean nothing! The insane war goes on without missing a beat, more of our troops and Iraqi civilians die, and billions upon billions of dollars are appropriated time and time again. Democrat leadership holds hearing after hearing, demands more and more information, gets nowhere, and then threatens to issue subpoenas, but does not. Bush & Co. and the Republican minority in both the House and the Senate continue on the course that they had previously set, undeterred by all the hearings, demands for e-mails and just thumb their noses at all the threats to subpoena.

There is something very strange about this entire situation. Pelosi was quick to take the issue of impeachment off the table and often reinforces that very questionable position. Harry Reid has the power to dictate exactly what resolutions and legislation will come before the Senate for consideration. Also does it not seem that Nancy Pelosi, in particular, seems to be more or less paralyzed when confronted and continually challenged by the White House? Is there something very questionable and very alarming going on behind the scenes that has changed this scenario from one of hope and optimism to one of passive capitulation for some reason that we may never know? So far, Pelosi and Reid have completely failed to adhere to the wishes of the American people. The calls for them to step down will soon begin in earnest if this inept duo cannot and will not step up.

I watched the recent Democratic debates, moderated by Tim Russert, someone whom I certainly do not admire. But he asked a terrific question that brought answers from Clinton, Obama and even Edwards that absolutely stunned me and, I am sure, many others watching that night. He asked each of them if they would guarantee that they would end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home before the end of their first terms in office. The answer from each of them was exactly the same (just as if they each had been coached by Bush & Cheney beforehand), they each said no! They could not and would not promise that they would do so. Their response to Russert's question was simply unbelievable and should cause all of us to fear for the future.

What should Clinton, Obama and Edwards have said in answer to that explicit question? Here is my take on what they should have said: "I will tell you this. No one can predict the future and what conditions will be like when I assume office. But I will promise you this. When elected, I will do everything in my power to stop this war and bring our troops home just as quickly as possible. If some unforeseen, catastrophic event takes place that jeopardizes that undertaking, I may have to use an alternate, temporary strategy. But, I will guarantee that I will do anything and everything at my command to follow the mandate that was given to me by the American electorate and abide by their wishes to bring this war to an end." I believe that if one of them had taken that position it would have been a grand slam home run, but all three struck out.

One more very important point to make. The Democrats, when they assumed control of Congress, were automatically given prominent access to the bully pulpit, a great weapon and tool for informing the American public of what the issues are and what must be done to solve the greatest problems that our nation faces. Have the Democrats made use of this bully pulpit? No, they have completely failed. Americans badly need to know the Democratic strategies for solving our many problems. In this way the American public can be well informed and support the positions of the Democratic Party -- that is, if they feel that those strategies make sense.

But the Democratic leadership, again Pelosi and Reid, have not risen to the occasion. The question is why? Have they somehow been muzzled? Just why do they not use the bully pulpit to the greatest degree possible? Yes, the mainstream, controlled media is an impediment but clever and determined leadership could find a way around that. There are progressive-minded TV and news outlets; for example, Keith Olbermann of Countdown on MSNBC, and others that could be utilized to good advantage if real dedicated effort were put into an intensive campaign to reach the American mind.

What will it take for this society and the American people to finally say, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore"? The fact is that neither I nor anyone else in America that I am aware of today has that answer. I sincerely wish that some one of us had that answer because the fate of our nation and the entire world is hanging in the balance. I really believe that the American people, in the end, must be the deciding factor in this immense, most critical issue. There has to be a point at which we as a society and a people completely understand that the direction of this nation is on a course of impending disaster if the actions of this Bush administration cause the entire Middle East to erupt into even more chaos and all-out regional war. And that can definitely happen if those in power make the decision to launch massive air strikes against Iran as they threaten to do almost on a daily basis.

Is there not one person in America that has the courage and the fierce determination to come forward and motivate our society to get mad as hell, to finally vent its outrage and to demand that the Iraq War be defunded and brought to a final conclusion? And, at this point, I firmly believe that defunding if the only logical way to end it. Funds should be used to facilitate an orderly and safe withdrawal for our troops.

If there is not one such true American patriot in America, then the people will remain largely passive, silent and unable to express their outrage and dissent. And then our democracy will continue its descent into being no more than a pseudo-democracy that will slowly but surely die.

The question remains: is this society completely incapable of getting mad as hell?

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