The Audacity of Government

30 03 2008

. . .is the chosen theme of Ira Glass for “This American Life” today, a riff on Obama’s Audacity of Hope, and what a show. You won’t believe it or want to, even as you know every word is true.

The first vignette should especially intrigue (amuse? appall?) Dana, Dawn and other Canuck-connected listeners.

The Audacity of Government

We’ve noticed a trend in a number of actions taken lately by the United States government.

Tiny things, things you probably haven’t heard of, but with big implications. Harassing widows. Defying a century-old and utterly benign treaty—with Canada!

So we’ve decided to spend an hour admitting and talking about the fact that everyone knows is true: America’s become a jerk.

“This is really tyranny . . .”

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11 responses

4 04 2008
Nance Confer

Wait a minute now — I don’t think you are allowed to say harsh things about America. If you do, you get labeled as some sort of fringe radical. And endanger your candidate’s chances at the White House!

But DH and I aren’t running for anything so we were talking last night about the astounding things this Administration has done and gotten away with. And then when they are caught, they claim they won’t do it anymore.

The latest was the only-disclosed-because-the-ACLU-sued attack on the Constitution’s cute little protection against unreasonable searches — http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/04/02/2001-doj-memo-justified-w_n_94778.html

WASHINGTON — For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn’t apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism.

That view was expressed in a secret Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.

. . .

The Administration just does what it wants and gets away with it. Then, when they are caught, if they are caught, nothing happens.

No wonder some people rant about this country. I’m a white suburban Mom feeling pretty ranty some days!

Nance

4 04 2008
JJ

Taking a moment to focus on a small thing I’ve been noticing later (not to pick on you, Nance) — this will sound really clunky but it’s what goes on in my mind, just sayin’ —

No matter how furious I am about political leaders red or blue, I still feel like “us” and my government is never a “them” no matter who’s in office. Over the years of reading all the ranting about “the Bush administration” as “them” I’ve realized that in my own mind, it isn’t those guys but my guys. Even when I am ranting about someone or poking fun about some specific, it’s my country and theirs, and we really are supposed to be united by that one government. Does that make sense?

When Bill Clinton was president even as he was lying to me with impunity and I wanted to stand up for young women interns against sexual harassment and no one red OR blue was listening to my non-partisan outrage, it was the same way — not “them” or “that administration” but “the president” and the Congress, etc.

I never bought the meme that Gore was really elected president and de-legitimizing the government itself because we oppose who is leading it at the moment, never sat right with me. To me it is always “our” or “the” attorney general, whether it’s Janet Reno — shipping Elian Gonzales back to communist Cuba and a dad that the boy’s mother dies trying to escape from — or Ashcroft or Gonzales or (blanking on the new guy’s name.)

Maybe it’s because I’m old and schooled in the traditional American values and memes? — or just that I’ve been non-partisan so long that it’s more natural for me to accept both reds and blues as equally “legitimate” parts of the country’s leadership, like them as individuals or parties, or not.

I do feel equally free to criticize both, as we know, right? 😉

4 04 2008
Nance Confer

As well you should. There’s plenty to criticize on both sides.

But the current Administration doesn’t seem to live in the same country you and I value.

It doesn’t seem as if they get it. That this is OUR country, not THEIRS to do with as they like.

The sort of things this Administration has been getting away with are not in keeping with any traditional American value and memes I ever learned about.

Nance

4 04 2008
JJ Ross

Did you ever feel that way about other administrations, R or D? Do you think you would in the future? I’m really curious . . .

4 04 2008
Nance Confer

Sure. Trampling on the Constitution would get my attention every time. 🙂

Nance

4 04 2008
JJ Ross

Yes, I think I got that. 😉
But anything ELSE?

5 04 2008
Nance Confer

I don’t know what you’re getting at here, JJ. Do I get upset with D politicians too? Yes. Do I remember being as upset with Clinton as I am with Bush? No. Do I think what Clinton did was as serious? No. Did I love all of Clinton’s policies? No. Do I was to slap Nancy Pelosi silly sometimes? Yes. Do I feel particularly outraged by this particular set of holier-than-thou the-rules-don’t-apply-to-us rich guys? Yes.

What are you asking?

Nance

5 04 2008
JJ Ross

Gosh, none of that — I was only wondering about the “Clinton administration” concept as apart from “us” or “America”?– or the “Reagan Adminsitration, the Ford Administration, the Carter administration, etc. — and do you think you’d feel the same if Obama or HIllary Clinton becomes president? Would it be “our president” or “the Obama Administration?” Our president or “the second Clinton administration?”

That’s all. I just don’t know how to think of it that way, never do no matter how I dislike it, and so I was asking if you ALWAYS do or only sometimes, depending . . .

6 04 2008
Nance Confer

Oh. Well. Sometimes I think of it one way and sometimes the other. How’s that for helpful? 🙂

The past two terms I have felt more disconnected from the far-reaching machinations of the current administration than I remember feeling about others. Not that I felt personally close to any of the others. But I had the feeling that they at least were playing by the same rules. Respect for law and all that. And they were scoundrels and got caught out at times too. But their general philosophy of governance didn’t seem to be greed and power and destruction at any cost.

This administration is “special” to me. As DH, a few years my senior, has a “special” feeling about the Nixon administration. Others have been annoying in their own ways but this one manages to push everyone away as they continue on their merry way. So at times I might get close to thinking about any administration as “ours.” But this one isn’t one of those times. 🙂

And I don’t think it’s just a matter of D versus R. I would think as many Rs as Ds are outraged by the disregard for the law this administration has. As disappointing as that must be if you voted for them and believed in them.

Like being disappointed in Clinton, I would think. He was, and still is, a disappointing man. His destructive behavior was more limited though.

Nance

6 04 2008
JJ

Like your DH I’m old enough to have voted for the first time in 1972. Lots of Youthful idealism like now, except too late for Kennedy or Roosevelt, too early for Obama. Darn, so this year maybe I can join the movement and be young at heart if not just young? 😉

6 04 2008
JJ

OTOH, if as Ira Glass suggests, it’s not only which administration’s in power that makes “America” seem like a jerk to the rest of the world, them we’d better temper our idealism, extend the audacity of our hope toward much more than a change of occupancy in the House with the Ringing Phone.

We the people need to change ourselves, reexamine what we’re doing with our franchise and our society . . .
We really are the people and it’s still “us” when we make bad representative choices and politicize problems to the point that no progress can be made.

You know how I admire Philip K. Howard’s book, The Death of Common Sense? I don’t think there’s any possible administration or charismatic fresh young leader, who will by being elected to office, make the American system less jerky and extravagantly, stupidly wasteful. We need Change period, not just a change of president.

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