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The Emperor's Threads
Elizabeth Ross

Dedicated to James, in the general hope that you will finally stop and take a good look at the leaders you blindly follow, if for no other reason, for the sake of our son’s future.

fas·cism (fāsh'ĭz'əm)
n.
1. often Fascism

1. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

2. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.

2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.

fascism. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved March 20, 2007, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fascism

Paraphrasing, “I could run things much better if I were dictator,” G.W. became the personification of the cautionary tale for me when he made this important and too often missed observation. Of all the clips and outtakes out there of the presidential gaffs, this one seems to have disappeared into obscurity. Perhaps it is because it is too close to the truth, and too unsettling to be amusing.

I have considered myself a “Heinz Republican” for many years, and still dust off that description when speaking with fellow Pennsylvanians who can remember that statesman. Sen. Heinz probably could have been described as a Goldwater conservative, in that he believed firmly in small government that excludes itself from the personal lives of the people. Of all the politicians I have known in my life, Sen. Heinz was the most likely to have said one of my favorite lines from “The American President”

Before getting into what that particular line is, I have been thinking about the magic of Hollywood. Every once in a while there is a movie that remains powerful because the message it gives, in hindsight, becomes a premonition. In 1995 “The American President” was meant to be a dramatic parody of the Dole campaign. Hollywood was thumbing its nose at the GOP with the Bob Rumson character, and was trying to mimic Clinton to some extent. They failed in that, if only because Clinton could never have risen to level of their President Shepherd. I doubt that anyone involved with that film could have predicted that it would have remained relevant because of a despot stealing the Oval Office twice.

“America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say ‘You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.’ Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the ‘land of the free’.” Michael Douglas said that on the silver screen, but the late Sen. Heinz remains the only politician in my mind who would have even thought of saying it. Why extol the merits of a dead politician from the GOP? His death is a historical marker because he was the last of a dying breed. If he had lived, he wouldn’t have been caught up in the neo-conservative movement, and his widow is living proof of that.

Now we have the opportunity to correct some of the damage done over the past six years. Although the Congress and Senate cannot reopen administrative offices that were meant to address social issues, and cannot remove Bush appointees to the offices that didn’t get the axe, they can exert more pressure than ever before to prevent even more crumbling of the proverbial wall separating church and State.

As Barbara Finlay observes in George W. Bush and the War on Women, “Unfortunately, the mainstream media generally went along with the Bush jingoism for the first years following the 9/11 attacks, failing to analyse his actions critically and ignoring contradictory evidence in a seeming loss of direction and purpose. It took the disgrace of the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina and the mounting casualties and chaos in Iraq to finally awaken some of the media commentators, but by then the second Bush term was well under way. It is ironic that only a few months after Bush won the election of 2004, his popularity rating had plunged to the lowest levels of any president at that point in his presidency (around 38 per cent approval overall), with the sole exception of Richard Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal.”

That irony is not missed often now, even by the mainstream media, nor is the retrospective understanding that Gerald Ford did our country a disservice by pardoning Nixon, thus leaving the door open for all manner of improprieties in the Oval Office. With Valerie Plame Wilson finally coming out publicly about her experience, and the potential airing of Bush administration dirty laundry through film, perhaps we will finally see what really happened, and whether or not “Scooter” Libby is taking the fall for others in the administration.

Finlay devoted over 200 pages to women’s issues during the Bush administration, and it is a book that can only be taken in small doses – for sanity’s sake. It is a thorough listing of the various atrocities committed by this administration against women, the environment, and the world. I started this column with the definition of fascism because that is the political philosophy that most closely resembles that of the current administration. Bush and Co. have been silencing detractors through threats and intimidation, but now it is time to break that silence. Our “emperor” is indeed quite naked, and a much greater man said the antidote to his poisonous tactics many years ago – “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Again, Hollywood and “The American President” points out what the American people need hold as their mantra – “I'm a citizen, this is my President. And in this country, it is not only permissible to question our leaders, it's our responsibility!”