“He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not is a bigot. He that dare not is a slave.” ~ Andrew Carnegie

Cards from The Fuhrer Quartett

   

Part 2:
“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy” ~ James Madison

One of the justifications used for calling Obama a tyrant or dictator is that he has signed Executive Orders. As of March 2010, President Obama had signed 43 Executive Orders. Between 2001 and 2002, W. issued 85 executive orders (54 and 31 respectively) compared to Obama’s 56 executive orders issued between 2009 and 2010. Lest anyone think that I am playing loosely with the facts, this information is available to anyone on the Federal Register of the National Archives. Let’s put that in context: 

Total Executive Orders Signed

GW Bush 268
Clinton 363
G. Bush 165
Reagan 380 

Lenin Card in The Fuhrer Quartett

Critics also contend that Obama is a tyrant because he ignores laws, although I’m not sure which laws he is ignoring. An article in boston.com states that as of 2006, Bush “claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution . . . Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws—many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander-in-chief of the military.”  

And let’s not forget all of the signing statements issued by Bush in lieu of presidential vetoes. Signing statements are those documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. Bush repeatedly used signing statements to state that he does not have to obey certain laws because he is commander in chief. 

By the way, that argument being bandied about by tea baggers and the like regarding taxation without representation? Hello? This is a representative government, and there has not been a president in recent memory who has not increased taxes. By the way, that whole tea bagger thing, you know, being a resurrection of the original tea party? “The Tea Party originally was for taxation without representation . . . These people have representation. The majority voted for Obama, and this got a majority vote. To call it a Tea Party movement makes no sense,” contends Patricia Kelley, 75, a social work professor emeritus at the University of Iowa. Kelly said that co-opting a historic event in American history for an Obama backlash is wrongheaded. 

For example, Ronald Reagan, the republican that right-wingers love to mention as the bastion of all things conservative, increased taxes by $132.7 billion between 1982 and 1988. 

“When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.” ~ Plato

And those who compare Obama to King George by saying that our president has acted in the same way as the monarch the founding fathers excoriated? Let’s discuss just a few of these: The revolutionaries claimed that the king “sent out swarms of Officers to harass the people, combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.” Are Obama’s “swarms of officers” the census takers? Of the last three censuses, two were conducted under Republican presidents, and all involved sending census takers throughout the country to gather information. 

Or are the “swarms of officers” referring to the right’s protest against the term czar, as in energy czar, education czar, car czar (what?)? To clarify, czar is a media term referring to an appointed official who is in charge of a particular policy; I believe the term was first used during Reagan’s administration: drug czar. The first president to use czars? Well, that would be FDR (some say Andrew Jackson), who had 19 individuals in appointed positions. By the way, W. had the most, with 47 appointees, 31 of whom were referred to as czars, which is why critics are correct in saying that Obama has more czars (35) but fewer appointees (39). 

Hitler Card in The Fuhrer Quartett

“Combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution”: Is this a reference to the 2nd amendment? According to one conservative, “At the heart of gun control in the United States are Democratic tyranny and the Democratic oppression of black people . . . The Democrats on the Progressive Left will continue to pursue our disarmament.  Only unarmed men and women can be made the slaves of tyrants.” Um, okay, but as far as I know, that amendment hasn’t been repealed. 

“Pretended legislation”: is that healthcare reform? Let me ask you this: Is this country based on majority rule? Did reform pass with a majority? Or is the reference to Obama’s planned suit over Arizona’s immigration law? The way in which our Constitution is drawn, federal statutes prevail over state statutes (e.g., 14th amendment). I’m pretty sure that President Obama wasn’t around when this was decided. 

“Logic:  The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.” ~ Ambrose Bierce

Of course I would be remiss if I did not mention Godwin’s law: i.e., the ultimate reduction of a commentary thread results in someone being called a Nazi. And there is the predecessor to Godwin’s Law, the “reductio ad Hitlerum,” identified in 1953 by neocon philosopher Leo Strauss, by which any person or argument could be demolished by even the most tenuous association with Hitler. All of this, of course, relates directly to the growing trend to compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler, you know Tea Baggers, Republicans, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin. The list is long and growing.

No, using the Hitler card to denigrate a politician is by no means a new tactic; it is, however, an offensive tactic.  Ron Rosenbaum, in an article for Slate, said this:

“Calling Obama a tyrant, a communist, or a fascist is deeply offensive to all the real victims of tyranny, the real victims of communism and fascism. The tens of millions murdered. It trivializes such suffering inexcusably for the T.P.ers to claim that they are suffering from similar oppression because they might have their taxes raised or be subject to demonic ‘federal regulation.’

Listen up, T.P.ers: The Nazis were not Socialists. The Socialists were not Nazis. They were blood enemies. In fact, the Socialists fought the Nazis, while conservatives and nationalists stood by and thought Hitler would be their pawn. Hitler, need it be said, was not a Socialist. He hated the Socialists. Had thousands of them murdered as soon as he came to power.”

Rosenbaum’s article uses Nikita Khruschev’s “Secret Speech” of 1956 as the basis of his argument against the tea baggers debasement of “language with their false use of words, contesting that tea baggers should read the speech if they really want to know about tyranny. He states that

They’ve [tea baggers] made a graven image of alien evil out of him. Obama: communist, Muslim, Kenyan, Manchurian candidate, fascist, socialist, capable of all varieties of political malevolence. A supervillain, with superpowers. Who requires super lies to combat.

It’s time to take on these superliars and stop them from spreading their poisonous ignorance.

“Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand with a grip that kills it.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

I found the following analysis particularly relevant in the current climate that freely compares Obama to Hitler and this administration to Nazi Germany: 

When you get right down to it, our sitting President and Adolf  Hitler are pretty much the same person, except Obama hasn’t suspended democratic elections, implemented a policy of cultural nationalism, embarked on a massive expansion of the armed forces, created a class system based on ethnicity, assumed control of the national media, staged an attack on the legislative branch, implemented a eugenics policy or invaded a sovereign nation. 

He is black, though. If you hate Barack Obama’s politics and you’re also a racist, the election of our first black President is doubly galling. You know what else is galling? The fact that Adolf Hitler—generally agreed to be the worst human being of the modern era—was a racist, too. 

By relentlessly connecting Barack Obama with Hitler, the right gets to associate Nazism with socialized medicine, charismatic leadership and big government, instead of corporatism and fantasies of empire

I think the following quote that I found on a forum actually comes closest to defining why so many people are afraid of Barack Obama: “He dares to act just like every other President, while not being 100% white. That’s enough to make him a tyrant in the eyes of the extreme haters.” 

Quit hiding your racism behind your declarations that your freedoms are being subsumed by a socialist agenda. Quit painting Hitler mustaches on Obama’s visage. Hitler was not a socialist; he was a fascist. They are not the same thing. Fascism organizes under a corporate perspective. Fascism has a basic disdain for human rights, is inherently racist and sexist, disdains intellectuals, promotes rampant nationalism, and uses fear to control the masses. 

Here endeth the lesson. 

More later. Peace.

Music by Jann Arden, “Looks Like Rain”

“The belief that one’s own view of reality is the only reality is the most dangerous of all delusions.” ~ Paul Watzwalick

  

                The Fuhrer Quartett: German Card Game Featuring 32 Despots . . .                 Updated Version of Go Fish

 

Harris Poll (March 2010) found that
67 percent of Republicans polled believe that Obama is a socialist
45 percent believe Obama was not born in the United States
38 percent say that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did”
24 percent believe that Obama is the antichrist, a biblical figure who foretells the end of the world.

You have probably noticed that I have a problem with the misuse of words, the bastardization of language, the misrepresentation of terms. I believe that if I am going to use a word, I should at least have a passing acquaintance with its definition and application, and most certainly, that should be the case with anyone. Therefore, I feel a pressing need to expound on the word tyrant and its companion word tyranny.  

Tyrant is being bandied about willy nilly by many politicians, would-be politicians, and politicos, and I fear that most of those using the word really do not know what it means. Tyrant derives from the Latin tyrannus, meaning “sole ruler.” The term did not have a negative connotation until 5th century Athens, at which time democrats identified tyrants as those with uncontrolled power. “They easily became violent and mean despots, surrounded by sycophants. Democracy, in this philosophy, was the exact opposite: people were free to speak and power was controled and balanced” (Livius).  

“The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy” ~ Charles de Montesquieu
Mao Card in The Fuhrer Quartett

In its most basic sense, a tyrant is a person who seizes power without the means of constitutional or hereditary power. In the classic sense, Plato and Aristotle define a tyrant as  “one who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others.”  

A tyrant places the interests of an oligarchy over the interests of the general population. To clarify, an oligarchy exists when power resides in a small, elite segment of society that wields control for selfish purposes; the oligarchy may be members who are tied by wealth, bloodlines, religious disposition, or who are members of the military, not to be confused with a democracy, which is rule by smaller groups representing the masses by winning power through public support (elections). The main difference between an oligarchy and a democracy is that power can be challenged in a democracy. Aristotle used the term oligarchy negatively to refer to a debased form of aristocracy in which power was in the hands of a few corrupt individuals.  

Historically, several names instantly come to mind when speaking of Tyrants: Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Lenin, Mussolini, Idi Amin, Pol Pot. The main thread that ties these rulers together is death. I read one article that compared Mao, Stalin and Hitler by the number of people who died under their regimes:

  Deaths Killings Murders
Mao 40 million 10m 10m
Hitler 34 million 34m 15m
Stalin 20 million 20m 20m

  

However, these numbers have factors that affect the totals. For example, under Mao’s rule, almost 30 million people died from famine. Hitler’s totals include those who were casualties of WWII. Statistics on tyrants vary widely. Take Idi Amin, better known as The Butcher of Uganda: The number of people who were killed, tortured, and/or imprisoned by the dictator is listed at anywhere from 100 to 500,000. That’s quite a variance.  

Different sources contend that Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge, killed anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million Cambodians from 1974 to 1979. Pol Pot’s attempt to form  a Communist peasant farming society resulted in the deaths of 21 to 25 percent of the country’s population from starvation, overwork and executions.  

“It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.” ~ Henry A. Wallace

Okay, why the history lesson? I think that opening today’s news and reading Boehner’s declaration that a “political rebellion” akin to the American revolution of 1776 is brewing kind of set the tone for my day. I mean, every single day I read yet another quote calling President Obama, Democrats, and progressive Republicans tyrants. Take this gem:  

“If you are one of those pastors who willfully allow yourself to be used as an agent by some hypothetical tyrannical government to enable an illegal government to carry out their tyranny against the American people you will be guilty of treason . . . What Obama, the Democrats, and the willing weak Republicans are doing is the same as many of the things the King of England was doing. They are enemies of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A final word – Resistance against tyranny is not rebellion. It is righteous!”   

Or this:  

“I’m interested in saving our republic from tyranny, ‘Obamacare’ tyranny, any kind of tyranny.”  

Or this:  

“Obama’s Health Care Reform Bill along with numerous other actions and proposals are no different than the tyranny from the Crown of England against our forefathers. He and his Marxist allies in Congress and the media need to be quickly retired.”  

Marxist allies? Wait. Is he a socialist or a communist? They aren’t the same thing, you know. No wait. You obviously don’t know.  

end of part one . . .

  

Music by Ray Charles, “Drown in My Tears” 

“The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis, and we’d have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.” ~ William Styron

Old Underwood Typewriter

  

“For if he like a madman lived; At least he like a wise one died.” ~ Cervantes
Old Royal Typewriter

I’ve been thinking about William Styron, can’t say exactly why. Styron is best known for writing The Confessions of Nat Turner, Lie Down in Darkness, and Sophie’s Choice, but he also wrote a beautiful memoir called Darkness Visible, which is probably my favorite work by Styron.

Darkness Visible (published first in Vanity Fair in 1989) relates the author’s battle with depression and his eventual recovery. The title is taken from John Milton’s description of hell in Paradise Lost:

No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.

I remember picking up Styron’s memoir in Barnes & Noble one Saturday afternoon, and sitting in the cafe and reading the entire thing while drinking a latte. It was one of those winter afternoons spent doing what I love to do most: combing the shelves of a bookstore and finding a treasure. I finished reading it, bought it, brought it home, and read it again.

I suppose Styron’s account of his own illness touched a place in me that was easily relatable. It was only a few years after Caitlin’s death, and I still wore my depression like a raw wound. The book is packed up in one of the storage bins—of course—or I would reread it this afternoon.

“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.” ~ Enrique Jardiel Poncela

I finished two more books last week, but I haven’t felt like writing the reviews yet. I really liked one of them, and I was enjoying the second one until it began to seem that the author had two separate storylines that didn’t quite converge. It felt forced. I don’t like that.

Still blastedly hot here. Our air conditioners are going full tilt, which is making the electric meter turn and turn, just adding up all of those megawatts, or whatever it is they use to measure usage. As is the way with most things in this house, the air conditioner that works the best, that cranks out the coldest air consistently, is the one in Eamonn’s bedroom. The one in our bedroom is limping on its last leg, and having to run it continuously is taxing the poor beast.

Late in the day yesterday, Corey and I got in the pool to try to cool ourselves; the pool water was as warm as bath water, not the cool, refreshing respite that my body expected. The dogs didn’t mind, though.  Tillie and Shakes will play pool ball in any kind of weather. If only people could find joy in the simplest things in the same way that dogs are able to appreciate the most that which is the smallest.

“Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean.  Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.” ~ Theodore Dreiser, 1900
Old Typewriter for Sale in Thrift Store

I had wanted to get a post written today as I’m not at all certain how much longer we will have Internet service. We are also likely to be losing phone service soon. Such is life.

Perhaps you wonder how or why I can put all of the minutiae in these posts for anyone to see, how I can share what might be considered embarrassing without any concern. I have thought about this very thing myself: Do I do myself a disservice by holding nothing back in this forum? I don’t think so. I mean, if I cannot be completely honest here, in this self-made outlet for myself, then where on earth can I be honest?

Yes, the fact that we are still juggling bills, losing services, living on the edge, so to speak, is nothing of which to be proud. But for us, it is a fact of life, or rather, the fact of our lives in this moment. Years from now when I think back on this time, these unending days of wanting a sense of normalcy, these trying times that task our patience and ask so much of us—later, when I come back to these entries and read about the circumstances of our life, I will be able to remember things as they were and not idealize them or romanticize them into being something they weren’t.

Part of my reason for wanting accurate accounts is that I realize that my memory is faulty, as it is for most humans. How many of us remember exactly how bad or good something was without adding or detracting from the truth? I’m not saying that I want to relive these days, but rather that I want to be able to remember the things I fretted about, the things that worried me, the ways in which we sought distraction from reality.

“Writers are not just people who sit down and write.  They hazard themselves.  Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.” ~ E.L. Doctorow
Pittsfield Historical Society: Old Typewriter on Display

Maybe I’m kidding myself. It certainly would not be the first time that I have deluded myself into believing something that was not exactly true. I mean, I fancy myself a writer when that may not be the case. Will I let that stop me from doing this? Doubtful.

All I know is that putting these words on these pages is the best way I know of keeping my sanity. For many years, I kept things inside until they exploded. That’s no way to live. It’s bad for the soul, and it’s hell on a relationship. Sitting here in my corner, pausing before the keys, allows me to sift and assimilate, pronounce and validate. Perhaps five years from now I’ll read this entry and think to myself, “what a load of crap.” But at least I tried.

The three of us, Corey, Brett, and I move through these days in the ways that best suit us as individuals. Admittedly, many people probably see the loss of the Internet as not a big deal, and when it comes down to a choice between groceries and Internet service, well, food wins. But the Internet is not a luxury for any of us. Each of us uses this connection to the outside world in our own way: I read—news about the oil spill, what’s going on in politics, other blogs, stories about current events, whatever—and then I write. Brett communicates with his friend in Greece, and he comments on forums that he finds interesting. Corey is always looking for something new to learn, whether it’s a particular movement in history, or the healing properties of a plant, or a recipe for homemade mayonnaise.

Regardless, we are, in a very real sense, a family that is dependent upon today’s technology as a form of sustenance. I do not see this as a bad thing. Rather, I see this as survival.

More later whenever. Peace.

Music by Sugarland, “Just Might Make Me Believe.” One of the songs of my life.