Thursday, June 30, 2005

What "Cut And Run" Really Means

I used to like Dennis Miller. In fact, my wife and I went to see him perform in San Francisco in the mid 1990's and, despite my wife's overt disgust with the mysoginistic bent of his routine, I had to admit I still found him fairly funny and interesting.

But then he went to the Right. Miller has been telling anyone who will listen the last few years that, for him, "everything changed after September 11." He has long cited the attacks of that day as the watershed event that turned him into a card-carrying member of the conservative movement.

"I'm shocked it didn't change everybody as much as it changed me," Miller has said, while frequently suggesting that we need to be as macho as possible in world affairs and that true American values mean we don't "cut and run" in the face of terror.

For once – at least since about Autumn of 2001 – I agree with Miller.

I didn't realize it at the time, but the grotesque losses we suffered on 9/11 would truly test our national character more than any event of my lifetime. Do we stick with the values and hard-learned lessons of our past in the face of these new challenges or do we let Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda truly ruin our country by becoming a shadow of the great nation we have always been?

Sadly, under the regime of George W. Bush, it has most assuredly been the latter.

A great nation uses a horrendous event like September 11 to reinforce the things that have always made us the envy of the world and that, at least until our recent history, made us the standard to which other countries aspired. A people of character suck it up and resolve to remain a beacon of hope, equity and civil rights, while fighting documented enemies as strongly as we can.

Dennis Miller and his ilk say we can't cut and run – and they're right.

But what we've seen happen in the last three years is not something that should invoke pride in Americans. We've watched a president and vice president whose lies have become so commonplace that they seldom even make the news. We've watched as our military men and women are killed or maimed in a war that has nothing to do with terror and everything to do with George W. Bush and his crew selling fear to suit their ideological and financial agenda.

We've seen a world go from loving us on September 12, 2001 – many governments declared "we are all Americans today" – to a global pariah with nary a friend who believes in our word or the promise of our deeds. We saw astounding pictures come back from Abu Ghraib, in which prisoners under our watch were tortured and, in some cases, killed. We have become willing to let the president mortgage our present and our children's future to spend money on a war that didn't need to be fought.

And we've seen our country become one where roughly half of our citizens believe that all of this is OK, if they can go to bed at night with the misguided notion that they are safer.

We are a good people. But we have seen a steady decline in what made us so admirable. We have allowed our government to fool us into believing we are safer by lying to us, killing our young, abandoning our children and the elderly, screwing the environment, murdering tens of thousands of innocents in a foreign land and ruining a reputation that previous generations worked so hard to build.

In the face of challenge and terror, we have continued to let George W. Bush and the Republican party debase our nation's soul and trash the values that have made us great. In other words, the Republicans are allowing a few terrorists to change the very essence of our country.

And that, Mr. Miller, is the real "cut and run."