Bob Herbert: Villain or Hero, in a burning mad world?

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Let us speak, my friends, in terms of pure logic. Free of personal, emotional, or political considerations.

A highly respected national columnist speaks a plain, and when stripped of personal, emotional, or political considerations, obvious truth:

Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House.

Americans should recoil as one against the idea of preventive detention, imprisoning people indefinitely, for years and perhaps for life, without charge and without giving them an opportunity to demonstrate their innocence.

Can anyone disagree with that? It is af ter all, the very basis of the Rule of Law. Innocent until proven guilty. Proven guilty with due process of law. That IS the very basis of Human Rights, right? That The State can’t just go around locking people up willy nilly. It is THE slippery slope.

Once you decide “some people” can be locked up without proof….and without due process, what is to stop The State from expanding the category of “some people” to include “some more people?”

Can anyone, if they put aside personal, emotional, or political considerations, disagree with that?


And yet we’ve embraced it, asserting that there are people who are far too dangerous to even think about releasing but who cannot be put on trial because we have no real evidence that they have committed any crime, or because we’ve tort ured them and therefore the evidence would not be admissible, or whatever. President Obama is O.K. with this (he calls it “prolonged detention”), but he wants to make sure it is carried out – here comes the oxymoron – fairly and nonabusively.

Proof of guilt? In 21st-century America, there is no longer any need for such annoyances.

Just as, if we can, we put aside personal, emotional, or political considerations, no one can honestly say that torture is ever really justified, or excusable, by truly civilized people or a truly moral nation.


That is, free of personal, emotional, or political considerations, another plain and obvious truth,

Isn’t it?

In a simple world, in a normal world, in an easy world, in a sane world, the answer to these questions would be as plain and obvious as the truths they relate to.

But we do not live in a simple world, in a normal world, in an easy world, in a sane world.

We live in  world of madness. Madness created by the madmen that created the Official Bush Program of Systematic Torture. Out of their admitted panic and terror following the attacks of 9/11.

Madness created by a group of, beneath their sheep’s clothing, a group of racist, delusional, religious fundamentalists uninterested in anything besides their own power, and creating a world with that power that corresponds with their delusions of an impossible world as it should be, instead of dealing with the world as it is. Yes I am speaking of the Republican Party. A Republican Party that is now nearly universally disapproved of by the American People.

Yet in this insane world, these racist, delusional, religious fundamentalists are still treated with FAR more respect than they deserve, and still wield a hugely disproportionate amount of fire. Seeing as how they are disgraced. Seeing as how they are proven time and time again in sex scandal after sex scandal to be vile hypocrites. Seeing as how they all of their policies and positions have been proven to be bankrupt on every level.

Seeing as how after eight years of being given almost absolute power, they destroyed everything they touched, from the economy to foreign policy, to disaster response, to destroying the very planet we live on with willful neglect.

This was the madness we were subjected to, this is the madness we still live with today.

In this world of madness, to have the ability to do the right thing….one must occasionally do the wrong thing. In order to do all the things he thinks he CAN do, President Obama feels he cannot do the right thing, at least not yet, on Equal Rights for all and on, stunningly, actually investigating people who have admitted actually torturing people, and have been proved by a bi-partisan Senate report to have actually established a well-organized, well-funded, systematic and planned Official Program of Torture.

These are the two best indicators and examples of just how mad our world is. Everybody knows Gays should have Equal Rights under the Law…because the Laws says everybody should have Equal Rights, and makes no exceptions. But they don’t, and apparently, in this mad world, there is just nothing that can be done about that.

Everybody knows that even a single act of torture is wrong, immoral and illegal let alone a well-organized, well-funded, systematic and planned Official Program of Torture. but not only is the main villain of the piece allowed to go free, he is actually given millions of dollars worth of air time to attack the very President who is keeping him out of jail by blocking said investigations! AFTER admitting that he authorized the torture of at least three men.

Both of these conditions are plainly and obviously insane.

Yet both are not only tolerated and accepted….but actually defended!

We live in a mad world where a faction of hypocritical religious fanatics who have overwhelmingly lost two elections in a row, are only even approved of by less than a third of the populace, are somewhat routinely involved in sex scandals even as the preach against sex, and by any objective measure used the time when they were in office to fuck absolutely everything up beyond recognition…..

And yet are STILL ‘more powerful’ than the Party that won the elections and that have proved themselves to be marginally competent….at everything but wielding their overwhelming political power

And this madness is still being perpetuated by a cancerous news media, that as John Stewart said, is actively HURTING America. Every day. In nearly every way possible, Their madness stems from approaching and cons idering the absolutely critical issues we face as nothing more than a game. A game of escalating gotcha, a game competing to to raise the satiation of the appetite of Americans with the spectacle that they have become addicted to…

In order to avoid EVER thinking about the real, hard, critical conflagrations that have set our mad world on fire.

And that is the world we live in. A mad world. A world on fire with change, both positive and negative. A world that DEMANDS we deal with it on it’s terms, not our artificial, mad, ones.

In this mad, chaotic world where a new fire seems to break out every day, and bloom into a blaze before our stunned an inadequately evolved psyches can even acknowledge the last fire, let alone rationally deal with the latest one, or find real solutions to the many fires already burning out of control.

A world that the most powerful nation in the world …and it’s people and even its politicians…. deals with by using one overarching strategy. Denial.

We deny that our world is mad. We deny that our world is on fire. We deny that the world is uncontrollable, because to our fragile psyches, a false sense of control is the only tool we have to convince ourselves that this world is not mad, and chaotic, and on fire with changes too rapid to keep up with.

We cling t o our illusion of control exactly as a drowning man clings to flotsam. We transfer our hopes and fears and fears, and fears….into the hands of anyone who is better at maintaining the illusion of control than we ourselves are.

We transfer our proxies of independent thought and individual will to any authority figure who is able to give the appearance of confidence, competence and control. We hope, without ever vulnerably admitting we need saving, for someone to save us from the madness we dare not face ourselves.

And really….who can blame us? We didn’t ask for this.

But here we are.

We didn’t start the fire.

And neither did Barack Obama. But he volunteered and fought hard to be in charge of fighting it, fighting ALL of these fires.

As many here point out, he has many, many fires on his plate, so to speak. And all of them are critical. And ALL of us have our individual fire that is of course, the most critical to US. When our own house is on fire, we naturally want the man, and he is just a man, in charge of putting out fires to put out ours first.

And really….who can blame us? We didn’t ask for this.

But we do. We do blame each other, and we blame the fireman, and we blame whoever tells us not to blame others, even as they bla me us for blaming them, etc. etc. etc.

So…here we all are. Confused, scared, with no real control and thus in a state of at least partial denial. All stuck on a mad world that is ever increasingly on fire and with undeniable evidence telling us that the fire is only going to get worse, worse to the point where in a few decades the fires will combine to burn up the atmosphere that we, and our children, and our grandchildren need to live, on this mad planet.

The fireman, no matter HOW good he is (and thank destiny that a good, or at least better, fireman showed up just in time) cannot put out all of the fires on his own. There are too many fires burning too bright.

No authority figure can do the job, no matter how hard we wish that he can. And so the job is left to us, to each little, relatively helpless, confused, one of us.

Which brings us back to Bob Herbert….and his ilk, of which I immodestly count myself a very minor member.  Is he a villain, as some would claim, for stating the plain and obvious truth? The truth that there is a fire that not only is the fireman not even attempting to put out, but is actually adding fuel to? Isn’t he just making the fireman’s job harder as he attempts to save us all?

The fireman obviously has to set his own priorities. Which fires to fight first and which to, as horrifying as it is, which fires to ignore.


He has chosen to ignore (at minimum) the fire that Bob Herbert writes of. He has chosen to ignore the fire that Leon Panetta speaks of in his interview with Jane Mayer

It turns out, however, that Panetta initially supported the creation of a truth commission. “I’m not big on commissi ons,” Panetta told me. “On the other hand, I could see that it might make some sense, frankly, to appoint a high-level commission, with somebody like Sandra Day O’Connor, Lee Hamilton-people like that.” The appeal was that Obama could delegate to others the legal problems stemming from Bush Administration actions, allowing him to focus on his ambitious political agenda. “In the discussion phase”-early in the spring, before Obama decided the issue-“I was for it,” Panetta said. “Because every time a question came up, you could basically say, ‘The commission, hopefully, is looking at this.’ ” But by late April Obama had vetoed the idea, fearing that it would look vindictive and, possibly, inflame his predecessor. “It was the President who basically said, ‘If I do this, it will look like I’m trying to go after Cheney and Bush,’ ” Panetta said. “He just didn’t think it made sense. And then everybody kind of backed away from it.”

Or is Bob Herbert a hero, for standing up as, really, just another little, relatively helpless, confused, one of us? Albeit with a louder voice than most. Was the little boy who pointed out that the Emperor had no clothes a hero or a villain?

This is, in a way, the pivotal question of this pivotal time. And it has absolutely NOTHING to do with Barack Obama.

It is all about each one20of US. (Which is of course what Barack Obama has said all along.)

If the fireman cannot, and indeed he cannot, put out all of the fires himself…… what do WE do? What is OUR responsibility?

In this mad, burning world, there is only one thing, one solution that has NEVER been tried. And since despite the noble but somewhat understandably incomplete efforts of the fireman, he simply cannot put out every fire, it must be time to try it the one solution that has NEVER been tried.

Which is, not coincidentally, the same solution that the fireman himself continuously urges us to adopt.


For the first time in history, We The People, all over the world, all seven billion of us, have the technological tool to lead the leaders. To lead them out of this mad world and into a new world.

THAT is our responsibility. THAT is what our world and our time is calling on us to do.

All WE have to do to do this…..

Is to put aside our fear, our confusion born of listening to dueling authorities, and most especially our deni al….our denial of our own power, and to overcome our divisions to join together.

ALL of our divisions come from one source, our confusion born of listening to dueling “authorities.”

ALL of us agree, every human alive outside of the existing power structure and its selfish, self-serving dueling interests, on what we want.

We want peace, we want love, we want enough to eat and a warm place to live for us and our children. We want a clean healthy planet and productive work to do. We want equality and we want justice. And we want a voice.

That’s it.

What more than that do YOU want?

But the dueling madmen in charge of our mad world have convinced us, somehow that that is not what we want!

They have convinced us that we must hate each other, that we must compete with each other, that we must kill each other… over things that simply do not really matter.

They have convinced us that we must fight over food and water and resources, when in a sane, sustainable world their is plenty for all.  They have convinced us we must fight over God’s love, and whose God is right, when God loves everybody, including those who do not believe in God! They have convinced us that we must have MORE than our neighbor to feel good about ourselves, though that only leads us to hate our neighbor. And they have convinced us that in order to do all of these destructive things, we also have to destroy our planet.

They have played on, for all of mankind’s time on the planet, mankind’s worst nature, they have fed it and encouraged it and used it to gain power and control.

Why do we let them do that to us?

Because we knew of no other way.

In this pivotal time, in this time of change, in this time when none of the existing system actually works, it is time to invent a new system. A new way.

What is that new way? Who knows? We are at an ending, and at the very beginning of a beginning. No authority figure, no priest or president or prime minister can do it for us. It is up to us and only us.

IF we can do this, we can save our planet. IF we can do this we can build a new world. IF we can do this, we wont need a Barack Obama OR a Bob Herbert to be either a villain or a hero. IF we can do this……we will ALL…. Be The Hero That We Are Seeking.

But just as WE need to do this, there is only one person that CAN do this…..YOU.

And deep inside, you know that to be true.

After all, Smokey has told you so all of your life!




    • Viet71 on June 26, 2009 at 00:52

    Jesus.  This isn’t 1969.

    Obama is controlled by Goldman Sachs.

    The question is not, how do we sit back?

    It’s how do we rebel?

    OK, I’m 64.  And some of you are of similar age.

    • TMC on June 26, 2009 at 01:27

    ALL Americans are not outraged by this trampling of the Constitution. I am outraged and have been writing letters and signing petitions almost daily. While I was not as enamored of Obama as many were, I did expect that he, as a Constitutional lawyer, would restore the rule of law. I did not expect that he would become complicit in covering up Bush’s war crimes and then supporting a most unconstitutional policy of indefinite detention. What has become of this country?

     Thank you, budhy. Your mom and your family are in my thoughts.

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