We'll try to keep the 3 am insomnia gloominess to a minimum.
A big year-end thanks to all of you who stepped up with strong Kung Fu. We've had great discussions here on everything from screenwriting to the nuts and bolts of electioneering, from patriotism to propaganda, from new media models to comic books to geek tech. A special thanks to our conservative friends who have come to visit, such as John Cole and Gaijin Biker (although nothing will make me happier than when Gaijin realizes Michelle Malkin is insane. But we all have our unfashionable quirks. My love of Doctor Who comes to mind ...) John Cole and I are right now in an odd boat; I think both of us are waiting for the current Administration to go away so we can breathe a sigh of relief, nod to each other and start disagreeing on things again.
A shout out to Juan Cole, also, who does the hard work of deciphering the Iraq Mess. His latest post on the Top 10 Myths About Iraq is a must read -- he doesn't take sides here, he breaks a lot of falsehoods on both side of the discussion with this.
Particularly proud of the fact that you folk raised money for the Army Emergency Relief Fund, and no less than $15,000 for Katrina Relief. We're collecting now for Pakistan Earthquake Relief as the weather gets very, very cold for the tens of thousands of people currently try not to die in tents. *ahem* For all you Spec-Monkeys who read the articles on adaptation, plot & story, agents & managers, movie pitches and the TV pilot pitch process, and the latest one on action sequences, I wouldn't mind seeing a little of the "working on my laptop at Starbucks" coffee money drop in the Paypal for Poor Folk button. Just saying.
Not to be Captain Johnny Buzzkill, but the coming year has got the thumbs a'pricking. I really haven't blogged politically lately (well, five or six times this month, so, yeah, but not with my usual vitriol) because I am genuinely unsettled. There are times I feel like we've reached a tipping point, where all the progressive and conservative grown-ups just looked at each other and said "Right, time to step in here" ... orrrr I'm Ian Holm in The Day After Tomorrow: "Save who you can." It is very, very hard not to discuss other people's reasoning facilities without coming across an an arrogant prat, but here's my point:
-- There were no WMD's in Iraq. At all.
-- The Administration, it's been proved, used intel they knew was bad during the run-up to the war.
-- The Administration sent our troops to war with insufficient equipment, and has both cut funding for their medical care and undermined their families' abilities to survive financially with the Bankruptcy Bill
-- The Administration has rained tax cuts down for the rich, while just recently cutting benefits for the middle class and students -- not to mention the insanity of tax cuts for the rich during wartime.
-- The Administration did not plan adequately for the post-war period.
-- The Department of Homeland Security is a joke. (Oh, and let me be another voice in the chorus: when's the last time we had a terror alert?)
-- This Administration has openly argued that it must retain the right to torture people, even if they don't. Honest. To defend the American Way.
-- The Administration has been illegally monitoring our electronic communications, circumventing even the rubber stamp from the sluttiest Court in the land. Not only that, when confronted with this, the Administration used the opportunity to push the idea that this was okay, because the President has unlimited powers during war. And if that "war" happens to last for another twenty to fifty years, oh well ...
... all this, and people still aren't, well, pissed off. Jesus, people, what'll it take? By any objective standards, standards set by Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike, these folk have done a bad job of securing the Homeland, running a war, and protecting the Constitution in both spirit and deed. What's more, we're not even being allowed to have reasonable, sober discussions about policy because this Administration has validated the "scream and finger-point" methodology for dissent.
Listen, I may well be all for the goddam Iraq War if someone, anyone, could lay out the operational goals and specific strategies, with progress benchmarks, for the conflict. You may scream at me, you may think I'm a traitor for even asking, fine, but my point is even if you think I ought to be in a John Aschcroft Re-Education Camp, you ought to be able to answer the question. But no, that's "defeatist" thinking. Or, I'm "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" the "fine patriotic folks who are working so hard." Because it's not results that matter in this Bizarro World we've wound up in, it's intent. It doesn't matter that the President's broken the law, it's okay because he meant well. A rationalization we wouldn't let our eleven year old get away with, we let the President slide.
The Straw Man has become the default argument. If I want to know the benchmarks, I'm for "cutting and running." See, in my world, the real one, without benchmarks we can't know if something is working, or not working, and if it has to be adjusted so we can acomplish our goal of, say, winning. But nothing is ever adjusted with this Government. It's Plan A, all the time, all the way through to the bitter end, with lots of announcements about how wonderfully Plan A is working right now. "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie" 24/7.
No, I take that back -- occasionally, we will get Plan B, but we will be told "It was Plan A all the time, don't you remember?"
I digress. The reason I despair is that debate in the guise of nebulous Power Point presentations seems to have become the status quo. I once wrote Intelligent Design worried me was because it was more than bad science, it was a symptom of the rise of relativism beyond sane levels; once you start polluting science with "fairness" and opinion, you undermine reason -- and our ability to have meaningful discourse -- itself. I fear that I've been proven right. Even now, some idiots are running ads about all the WMD's found in Iraq. The single, most well-known truth about the war we're currently fighting, and somehow these people can not just run these ads, they can do it with a straight face. That is not the sign of a politically vibrant country. That is the sign of a national mental disorder.
I am sure older and wiser heads will assure me that yes, every generation thinks the country's gone insane. I know I can run to the vapors, occassionally. But with Roy Moore coming up in the South, the coming disappearance of Roe vs. Wade (and its de facto absence in much of the country), 70 Republican Congressmen trying to get rid of "anchor babies" and the Fourteenth Amendment cuz of all them brown folk ... what's worst, I can smell that the people trying to pull off The Big One, the fat bastards in suits who've been nursing hella-grudges since it all went to shit during the Nixon Administration know that this is their last shot. Things are going to get ugly hard, kids, and the reason I despair is because all I have is reason. I can't -- nobody can -- have an intelligent, reasonable disagreement with people who believe that there were really WMD's in Iraq, or that the President shanking the Fourth Amendment is a good thing, or that everything's going swimmingly in Iraq. I can disagree and discuss things with someone who thinks things are going better in Iraq than I believe, sure, but to deal with someone who points out that it's going great is, again, literally beyond my ken.
So what are we to do? Give up? Hell no. But yeah, I'm trying to scare you. I want you scared, edgy, and angry. We all have to find our little niche. Maybe you should be writing angry letters. Maybe you should run for office. (I'm a stand-up comic. I inhaled. I'm out, but you might want to give it a try). Listen, putting aside what I do in my private political life (which is none of anyone's business), all I can acccomplish on the web is try to spread the word, open up discussions, but most of all use a little humor and some rhetorical screwdrivers to call bullshit.
Some websites like Juan Cole's help illuminate complex subjects; there are plenty of legal blogs that aid in parsing out the legality of various governmental actions. I can point to a hundred websites of thoughtful policy analysis and insightful political commentary. This site is not in their league -- we are so far from their league, that if their league were to explode, the sound would not reach us for five minutes. If all Kung Fu Monkey amounts to is a forum where you can sharpen your arguments, hone them, maybe borrow something from my pithy little metaphor factory for your own personal crusade to win over your neighbor/spouse/parent/stranger, then it's working. My job is to help boil down ideas into the memorable bite-sized nuggets which you can not just remember easily, but help make your point effectively and humorously. We throw around the word "meme" on the Web all the time with these stupid little "Four things you'd do ..." challenges, but that's not what a meme really is. It's a self-replicating idea, like a virus, and what I'm trying to do (note: trying) to do is tweak those tiny receptors on the ideas' surfaces so they stick a little better in the virgin brains wherein they land. That's it. It isn't much, but this is MY rifle; there are many like it but this one is MINE.
Because we are in a war here, make no mistake about it. There is indeed a Culture War, but it's not the sides you think, not faith and science, not Democrat and Republican. It's between those who believe in a bright open future and those who seek refuge in the shadowy past. Between those willing to shoulder the burden of fear and those who seek a comforting King. Between the people who know the world is a messy grey masterpiece and those who crave a black-and-white past that never really was. A fundamentalist is a fundamentalist be he from Al-Queda or Al-abama.
For what little it's worth, my New Year's Resolution in 2006, is to disagree more. To dissent -- and welcome dissent and well-reasoned arguments from those who hold opposite views. Because they are not the enemy. The people who say "... just because", in all its myriad forms, are the enemy.
Oh, and to lose twenty pounds. Maybe eat more fish.
A Happy New Year to you and yours,