Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

I am Iraq

Monday, November 24th, 2008

This is a little bit random, but following up on the last post:
I heard someone singing S&G’s “I Am A Rock” the other day, and the following, slight, adjustment of the lyrics occurred to me. Its essentially the same joke as “Iran is a country between Iraq and a hard place,” but the more I thought through the entire song, the more poignant it became. And funny.

Of course there’s a problem with the line “I am an island.” And at first I tried to find something like “I am not Ireland.” But ultimately it became more interesting to imagine Iraq thinking of itself as an island.

So enjoy! Sing along if you know the tune…

“A winters day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am Iraq,
I am an island.

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am Iraq,
I am an island.

Don’t talk of love,
But I’ve heard the word before;
Its sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am Iraq,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am Iraq,
I am an island.

And Iraq feels no pain;
And an island never cries.”

Katrina VII

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Ok, so Tom (who corrects my introduction to him in a comment on Katrina I) told me this one:
Q: What did Bush say when asked about his position on Roe vs Wade?
A:”I don’t care how you get out of New Orleans.”

Tom also sent me this link:

I am led to understand that the politics and policies of the United States are covered in certain parts of the world much more carefully than they are here. There is good reason for this. I would also pay a lot of attention to what someone was saying, if they had all the weapons and I had something they might want, like oil or coffee etc. For example Al Jazeera broadcasts what are essentially transcripts of US policy statements rather than the sound-bites of American media. It is not difficult to argue that civilians in Iraq know more about the official reasons why American troops are killing and being killed in their country than the soldiers themselves or their loved ones. Not that I want to go out on any limbs about the ideological objectivity of Al Jazeera, but I think it’s clear that people all over the world actually have access to quite a bit of American “official” information. Given this, it is safe to assume that these people are listening in on our national conversation (again, we have the guns so it behooves you to watch us carefully). And it strikes me that it must seem strange that in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the people who drop bombs on their cities are arguing about the rescuing of cats and dogs and why weren’t pets part of the evacuation plan.
I am very sympathetic to the concerns of people who own animals and the attachment that they feel towards their pets. It just seems to me that people in Bagdad, many who haven’t had running water or electricity since Hurricane Shock and Awe, are looking at this conversation with the sinking feeling that the extremists are right and these people are immoral devils. Again, don’t get me wrong. I want to live in a country where we can mobilize our military to rescue the only friend someone might have. I think we should expend the energy necessary to make sure we don’t have to split that kid up from Snowball. I think our response to this situation should be that compassionate and touchy-feely. I really do. Sarcasm check… 0.0%…
I just can’t help but think that we’re doing such a lousy job… no, a criminally insane job, being compassionate on the world stage that people can be forgiven for feeling a bit of resentment towards our grieving for our pets.
Legally, pets are property. They don’t have rights, guaranteed and protected in our constitution. They have certain protections against egregious abuse, but for the most part they are seen, legally as below the threshold of deep consideration. In the human vs pet equation the humans always come out on top. This seems tacit, and we’re just lucky it doesn’t come up very often in most of our lives. But for those of you who think that the argument for rescuing pets is ridiculous, it’s interesting to remember that they occupy a legal status similar to Women and slaves of previous generations.
I say: Save the people. Save the pets. But follow that logic out to its conclusion. Save all the humans. Not just the rich ones. Not just the ones that you can relate to. Not just the ones that the media keeps in your concerns. That’s what I say.

We look with horror at what happened in NO. But look, for example, at Iraq. As far as I can tell, the situation is deplorable. It is getting worse. The infrastructure isn’t coming back on line with much speed. We Americans promised that once we took care of Saddam, the lives of the Iraqis would get much much better. These people have been putting up with more than most of us can imagine, and have been doing it for a long time now. News agencies are having trouble keeping correspondents in Baghdad, because even seasoned war reporters are saying it’s worse than anything they’ve seen. We caused this. Now the size of print that we announce our dead soldiers with is getting smaller, and the blurbs are getting shorter and they’re moving deeper and deeper into the depths of our newspapers. And that’s just one of a long lists of things… Life in the 21st. Century. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I’m reminded of Martin Luther King saying that we are a 10 day country. After that we’re on to something else.

I’d like to pass on a thought that Harry Shearer articulated so well in last week’s Le Show: Ladies and Gentlemen. If you want to see looting. Keep your eyes on the aftermath of Katrina. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Three words: No Bid Contracts. Bush and his buddies are going to make the organizers of post civil war reconstruction look like a bunch of amateurs. And it’ll look so compassionately conservative too.
One of the amazing things about Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans is that despite the fact that they are huge public events, there are no corporate sponsorships. The funding of the floats and their krewes (look it up) is a big deal but it’s done in such a way that the floats don’t end up being big beer commercials. Lots of corporations use Mardi Gras to advertise, but Mardi Gras itself doesn’t advertise. I think that’s cool. I don’t want some big brewery now to come in and fund Mardi Gras and want their logo everywhere.

It’s a hurricane. Not a hurri-can’t.(That one’s from Stephen LaVergne)

A reality that is happening in reference to the re-building of NO: Many of the corporations that poured money into facilities and people in the Gulf Coast did so in defiance of scientific reports that they had in their files speaking about the possibility of this happening. Now that it has happened the veracity of those reports is elevated to the point that they are affecting decisions. Many of these reports point out that we have been in a multi-decade lull, hurricane wise, and we are now exiting the lull. The next twenty years or so will bring many more hurricanes, and thanks to the temperature of the gulf being elevated by global warming and the progressive coastal erosion (we lose an area the size of Manhattan every year) the effects of the hurricanes will be worse. This isn’t new information. It’s just being taken seriously for the first time in many cases. The corporate world is going to act on this information with the time honored sentimentality for the bottom line for which they are known.

Here’s a huge problem and I don’t know how to parse it these days: We evaluate the veracity of information we hear on the basis of how much we agree with it. I am down on the Bush administration. Therefore if you tell me that the administration has done something stupid or immoral, I’m more likely to trust the source than if you tell me they’ve done something spectacular and nice. If I start reading an article about the country and it talks about the positive effects of Bush policies, I start to question the writer’s accuracy and motives. If it’s tearing things up, I start Xeroxing it and passing it out on the street.
I’m a great believer in the Scientific Method. I don’t claim to be good at it, but it is a basic governing principal of how I organize my perceptions of the world. In science, the possibility of being wrong is the most valuable thing a thinker can hang onto. For a topical example: Intelligent design (Creationism) isn’t bad science because it can’t be proved. It’s bad science because it can’t be DISPROVED. On the other hand, the theory of evolution makes predictions that can be disproved experimentally or observationally. Scientists put their faith in evolution because it passes tests that could disprove it. Solidity is gained by opening the door to being wrong. This is hard work. It’s just plain hard.
The problem with this country is that the political argument has been made religious by BOTH SIDES. Evidence one way or the other doesn’t make a dent because both sides are working on belief. This doesn’t mean that both side are right (or left). But it means that the conversation itself is dysfunctional and going nowhere.
People like me being right about the ineptitude of our government isn’t helping anyone. Standing at the banks of the new Lake New Orleans and deriding Bush is just as useful as these yahoos passing out flyers on campus here about how “God puts Sin-City under water” (They site Amos “…shall there be evil (calamity) in a city and the Lord hath not done it?” This stuff reminds me of the assertion made in Japan after the war that the nuking of Nagasaki was a consequence of it’s high Christian population.).
I don’t have an answer here, but I think people like me (inclusive of myself) often jump on ideological bandwagons of the left with just as much stupid fervor as our counterparts on the right, but we pretend like we’re being reasonable.

I don’t think it’s news to anybody that Katrina gets compared to 9-11. I’ve heard things like, this is 9-11 in slow motion. It’s bigger than 9-11. It’s worse than 9-11. It’s not as bad as 9-11. It’s just like 9-11. It’s nothing like 9-11.
One thing I have been thinking a lot about is how this Hurricane is not as useful to our government as terrorism. For one thing, it exposed a lot of ineptitude and bad management. The terrorism people saying “We have to get it right 100% of the time,” was a way to prepare us for that 1 time when they drop the ball. A way to prepare us to be sympathetic. There are really no public statements you can make to prepare the public to be sympathetic towards you standing on the tracks looking, slack-jawed, at the approaching train. An important hurricane to talk about in the context of all this is Pam. Hurricane Pam is the name of the computer generated, virtual hurricane that hit NO a year ago July, in a simulation participated in by FEMA and other administration officials. The results of Pam are so close to what happened with Katrina that it is really freaky to watch how Brownie flailed around doing “a heck of a job” while Bush told the nation that “No one could have predicted this devastation.”… but I digress.
One of the reasons why terrorism is so useful is that there is a human in the equation. Since it comes from a person, it can be tied to hatred. We can choose to deal with the confusion of 9/11 by hating Osama Bin Laden. Like some sort of two-way alchemical reaction, fear can be converted to hatred and back to fear again. This is VERY useful for a government. Fear and hatred are two of the sharpest tools in the shed. Our current government is very good at this trick. Very very good. We have a government capable of shifting the fear and hatred engendered by 9-11, to Sadam Hussein. This is advanced blame game. This is blame game extreme. The quote is not “I don’t play the blame game.” It’s “I play the game so well you don’t even see me playing it.”

Just wait. A couple months from now we’re going to mount an invasion of somewhere, cause they were actually behind Katrina. Cuba maybe? Maybe we’ll go all out and invade heaven. I hear we’ve got missiles that can do that, and the shuttle doesn’t seem to be good for much else.

The other night, PBS and NPR broadcast a concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center called Higher Ground. It was a sort of telethon style broadcast to raise money for hurricane relief. Laurence Fishburne was the MC. His opening comments can be heard on the NPR website. I recommend them despite the fact that he indulges the way way overused Gumbo metaphor as a way to describe NO culture. A theme that kept coming up over and over again, almost as much as the Gumbo thing was the way in which NO is the Soul of the United States, which just seems so tremendously hyperbolic, and wouldn’t we say the same thing about… oh I don’t know… Canton Ohio… if it was destroyed. But then they went on to make a pretty convincing case for it. The most compelling (along with quotes like Mark Twain’s “An American has not seen the United States until he as seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans”) being the fact that Jazz originated in New Orleans and that Jazz is the only indigenous American art form with any legs, sets up a kind of ipso-facto, ergo kind of check-mate it REALLY IS the soul of America thing.
Paul Simon performed “That Was Your Mother” with Buckwheat Zydeco. I started to think “Oh geeze. This whole Paul Simon world music thing is just so inauthentic.” But in the middle of the thought I realized that this was the song that made me first pay attention to Zydeco music. The fact that Clifton Chenier is in the Lyrics (He changed it to Buckwheat to honor the big guy with the squeeze-box standing behind him) is probably the reason I started listening to “The King of the Bayou.”

Riffing a bit more on the predictions theme:
The very first time I visited New Orleans, long before I ever though I would be here for any length of time, I saw the “Hurricane Evacuation Route” street signs, the “Sea Level” markings on the side of buildings and the above ground tombs and asked a cabbie who answered by basically describing Katrina. Actually what he described was worse because he described what would happen if a Category 5 actually hit the city dead on. Since then I have always known that NO was a city under Damocles sword. It actually was how I accounted for many things about the spirit of the town. It wasn’t a secret. People talked about it.
Mr. Bush has mentioned how he used to go to NO to revel in its Bacchanalian pleasures. Now even assuming a certain level of inebriation, I find it hard to accept that he never heard about this scenario. If he didn’t, that fact says something about his basic curiosity as a human being. If he did and it didn’t stick with him, that says something else about him as a human being. This guy is running our country? I wouldn’t lend him my car (maybe he can borrow my iPod but he has to give it right back).

…oh yeah… Almost forgot. Here comes RITA!!