Before I go any further let me get one thing straight: I want our country out of Iraq as much as anybody; and I want this administration and its cohorts to be seriously investigated on the charge that they led our nation into an unnecessary, unprovoked war, based on dubious (at best) intelligence. OK, if ya don’t know, now ya know…
As I’m sure many (of the 3 or 4) of you reading this know that the man in command of the 160,000 or so US service men and women, General David Petraeus, and the ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, are testifying – and I will use that term loosely as, from what I understand, the two men were not required to be sworn in under oath – before Congress on Capitol Hill. They are there to deliver a report on the current status of political and military progress (or lack thereof) in Iraq, specifically as they relate to the “surge.” While most people were unable or unwilling to watch the proceedings unfold in real time, as they took place mid-Monday, the majority of Americans either read or watched the coverage provided by our ‘mainstream’ media.
The coverage, of course, focused on the fact that, according to Crocker and Petraeus, the surge of roughly 30,000 US troops that began deploying back in February has made some progress militarily in trying to secure Iraq in order for political reconciliation to take place amongst the various sects vying for their share of power. However, the report on said political progress was much less than optimistic.
Also in the media’s coverage of the hearings you will find an account of committee republican’s ire over MoveOn.org’s full page ad in the New York Times whose headline reads: “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” and whose content attacks the General’s integrity. Petraeus – Betray Us: that’s cute, well maybe New York Post cute, but in the Times? Boy I’d love to know who came up with that clever rhyme and how long it took. Of course this irresponsible decision, on the part of what has become a very out-of-control MoveOn.org, provided, hand wrapped and bow tied, the ideal platform for conservatives to grandstand and to demonize a legitimate dissenting point of view. Rather than the total focus of media coverage being on the nature of the report and the fact that it still appears the plan is to remain in Iraq indefinitely, a large portion of the news has to deal with republican reaction to a petulant swipe at a decorated General. Its almost as if MoveOn.org and the right-wing are in cahoots – they’re working right from the republican playbook. Thanks for nothing, MoveOn. Its about time to take some of your own advise. YOU ARE NOT HELPING THE SITUATION.
And then there is this color pink. I don’t know about any of y’all, but after the whole Anna Nicole Smith pink train wreck, Donald Trump’s pink tie, and men wearing pink dress shirts, I feel that this color should forever be retired, like a great ball player’s jersey number, to only represent the fight against breast cancer.
The Code Pink ladies were out in full force at the hearings – and by “full force” I mean a handful of them clad in pink shirts and funny hats, tucked away in the back corner of the room – and provided what could be best described as comic relief. They shouted and carried on and acted and dressed like clowns, and they were removed and arrested. Also arrested for disorderly conduct were Cindy Sheehan and her sister among others. This was the third clip-and sound-byte worthy aspect of the coverage. On a day when both sides of the argument were presented with a debatable account of America’s present course of action in Iraq, this is how the anti-war movement is being depicted. Rather than focus being on the thoughtful and articulate questions and statements from Congressman Tom Lantos, a screaming lady in pink, being gently dragged out of the room by two young officers, stole the show. Meanwhile, the lasting image from the right is Rep. Duncan Hunter in the enviable role of defending a 4 star Army General. Bravo, Code Pink; thanks for nothing. YOUR ACTIONS ARE SELF-SERVING AND PLAY RIGHT INTO REPUBLICAN HANDS.
See, my issue here is all about perception. The message isn’t the problem, its how the message is packaged. No one understands this better than the republican party. Think about it: they were able to paint a Vietnam war-hero as some reckless showboat, while simultaneously diverting the nation’s attention away from the shady (at best) military career of our commander-in-chief. Masterful.
I write this on the 6th anniversary of 9/11 and the significance of the timing cannot be understated. On a day where we all will be reminded of the horrors that took place in New York, Pennsylvania, and D.C., and on a day in which we mourn for those lost in them, Republicans will no doubt pounce at the opportunity to extol their powers of protection. The republican party has maintained control of our government since 9/11, in spite of astounding failure and incompetence in all its levels (to say nothing about corruption), by packaging themselves as the Protecting Party; and in the years prior to 9/11, as the Pius Party.
At this point in American politics, many of us have been polarized and pushed so far from the center aisle that we’re pressed up against the wall, and the people on the other side appear blurry and indistinguishable. But amongst us there are still some people dwelling in that great chasm in the middle. These are the people who work very hard to provide America’s promise to themselves and their families. These are the people who leave the house at 6, get home at 7, and after eating dinner, hardly have the inclination or energy to watch Bill O’Reilly or Keith Olbermann (though I am a religious ‘Countdown’ viewer – Keith is the best!). There’s just not enough time in the day for most working-class Heroes to sift through the barrage of infotainment they are beset by. I even find myself getting diverted by the Britney and Lindsay news of the day, as it is so hard to resist the simple act of clicking and being whisked away to TMZ – that’s why newspapers are still great, because compared to the internet, you’re a shackled audience.
The convoluted point I’m trying to make here is that in a world where our collective attention has been increasingly spread thin, the packaging of messages have proportionately increased in importance. In the brilliant book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, which examines social trends, and how small things make a large difference, the author describes the “stickiness” of trends, ideas and messages, and how subtle changes in their presentation can have a profound impact on how sticky they become.
The democratic party must learn how to reign in, or disassociate themselves from, these fringe elements, that have come to symbolize the packaging of their message. The republicans have packaged, “Let us rule, and you will sleep safe tonight,” in Cowboys, border patrolling militias or ‘minutemen,’ and the might of our military. The democrats have wrapped their message in impotent threats, Nancy Pelosi, and MoveOn.org, and topped it off with a big pink bow. Now I ask you, if you didn’t know any better, which one would you open if they promised a sense of security contained within?
Please forgive the uncouthness of the title of this essay and following statement: but pink is for pussies.