Public Comment

Commentary: Citizen Silence on Bush Regime Must End By Ariel Parkinson

Tuesday March 07, 2006

Hitler managed the Holocaust. He managed it so that in Germany everyone knew and no one knew. There would be worse news tomorrow. The wastes were picked up; the busses ran. Everyone knew, and didn’t know. It was happening. It happened. In his introduction to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Shirer comments that Hitler was able to commit his high crimes and misdemeanors because the Germans were too torpid, too stupid, and too blind. 

That is America, now. We are habituated to a state that supports and protects us, yes, most of us, and in many ways. For the last six years those who tap in to the remaining relatively objective records and reports learn more every day about the Bush administration’s systematic violation of the support, protection, decency and trust between people and their government, between people and each other, which is the social compact. And nothing happens. 

It was patiently and laboriously proved within two years that Bush stole the presidency in 2000. Nothing happened. 

It was patiently and laboriously proved within one year that he again stole the presidency in 2004, and a report requesting hearings was submitted to Congress by the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. Nothing happened. 

As each successive reason for the war evaporated it has become clear that the motivation for the war is war itself. We know these things; a fluctuating, unorganized plurality has known them, expected them for many years. Now that Bush has been able to appoint two doctrinaire Republicans to the Supreme Court, he controls all three branches of the government—the executive, by theft, the legislative through his lobbyist allies, and the judicial, by luck: the immense, powerful apparatus of the federal government as a network of lies that includes the party in control and the divided, timorous party of the “opposition.” The state, its powers and privileges, is taken, private property, no trespass. 

What is left? The people are left: California, the Bay Area, Berkeley. Four years ago a million Americans, on the street and in public assemblies, and millions more across the planet, gathered to protest the planned invasion of Iraq. Two years ago millions of Americans supported for president a candidate who said “We want our country back.” Who said, clearly and unequivocally, the nation’s wealth should be spent for the common good, for education, medical care, care for the environment—not to destroy life, not to enrich further the already very rich. 

How? By again taking to the street. By walking with strangers, who become not strangers, but comrades. By showing that we are, already, a community. Key leaders in this community must be the people who directly represent us: Barbara Lee, our representative in Congress. She is already heroic —the only member of Congress to vote against the Bush Blank Check for Invasion, and Undefined, Unending War. She is on the Committee to Impeach Bush. She is a leader in the effort to get a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. We need the voices of Tom Bates, our mayor, and Loni Hancock, our representative in Sacramento, too. We need their support for town meetings, their counsel and help to draft and prepare material for distribution. And then we need teach-ins, here in Berkeley, and in other areas—Stockton, Fresno, Chico, Monterey, Modesto. Lee has already held several town meetings (in each case, the announcements, unfortunately, were extremely late). Bates and Hancock are skilled and excellent in many ways. On the spreading blight of jingoist imperialism, spreading from our doorsteps across the planet, they have been austerely silent. The savagery, the greed, the blight is unified, a handful of directors and their beneficiaries situated on the power points of control. We too must be unified. We are potentially the incalculably greater force. And we shall win. 

We are the community that initiated and by example spread public opposition to the Vietnam War. We pulled down a freeway. We started up recycling of waste resources. We protected free speech on the UC Berkeley campus, and the movement spread. Our citizens turned on other citizens who turned on others to insist through legislation to keep San Francisco Bay a bay and not a river. 

Think globally, act locally is often a good rule. There are times when thinking and acting must be the same. We are caught in, and we must respond to what Martin Luther King called (on the night before his murder) the “fateful urgency of now.” 


Ariel Parkinson is a Berkeley artist and poet.