Sunday, March 14, 2010
Somehow I've kept this bumper sticker since the presidential election of 1972, which I was too young to vote in. Surrounded by other anti-war family and friends, I was surprised and devastated when President Nixon defeated George McGovern. This "Re-Elect the Dike Bomber?" sticker was put out by Nixon opponents who wanted to cut to the chase: Nixon was a war criminal not a presidential candidate. The "dikes" in question refer, of course, not to butch lesbians but to the civilian agricultural infrastructure of Vietnam that Nixon spent much of his presidency trying to destroy.
I'm reminded of this bumper sticker by the repeated inability of Americans to empathize with the millions of people in foreign countries effected by American interventions, or American policies, or American self-interest, or, as it is best summed up, by American arrogance. Recently Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a liberal Democrat, rightly attacked the American media for its fixation on the bizarre personal scandals of congressmembers rather than on liberal Rep. Kucinich's just defeated bill calling for withdrawl of US forces from Afghanistan. An admirable sentiment. But Rep. Patrick characterizes the Afghan war as having taken "1000 lives," a number that completely erases the thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis, including likely thousands of non-combatants, killed by "NATO" (ie, American) forces, or even those killed by Taliban suicide bombers, all of which deaths might be laid at the feet of the ongoing American effort to do whatever the hell it is trying to do in that part of the world.
It's kind of like how the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, undeniably a horrible horrible crime, is seen by Americans to be somehow worse than the deaths of ten? a hundred? a thousand? times that many people in Iraq in George Bush's unprovoked attack and its unending aftermath. All those innocent civilians killed "accidentally" by US airstrikes; all those Iraqi pedestrians and motorists casually murdered by Blackwater mercenaries, do their relatives not weep for these sudden and senseless deaths just like the relatives of those killed by the 911 hijackers?
"Re-elect the Dike Bomber" was a call to hold Nixon accountable for what he actually did. It was brave, accurate, and a landslide of Americans turned out not to give a crap as they voted for an ugly, corrupt, lying sleazeball; just as they did years later in sweeping Reagan and re-electing Bush. Why are Americans so blind to what is being done in their names?