September has two dates, my father’s death anniversary and the anniversary of martial law, that tend to make me pause and reflect (hence my Arab News column for this week). September 11 served as a reminder, too, of Ferdinand Marcos and his birth anniversary (his death anniversary will be September 28, Diosdado Macapagal’s birth anniversary). The rumored political restoration of the Marcoses will be another blog entry altogether.
I certainly saw him (Marcos) often enough on TV growing up, but I don’t remember anything Ferdinand Marcos said — though I can recall quite a few things that were said about what he had to say.
Not until I was 14 did I experience what it was like to be thrilled by a speech. Not just one, but three. In that year, there was a famously contentious contest for the Democratic Party nomination for president. In those days, the American networks provided extensive coverage. One night (we were living in Washington, DC that year), my father parked me in front of the TV and said, “I want you to see what a real democracy is like.” A staunch admirer of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and possessing a strong bias against the Republican Party (“they are the enemy of Philippine independence,” he always used to say), he felt the Democrats were the only ones worth watching.
I listened to Jesse Jackson (part 2 and part 3), to Mario Cuomo and to Teddy Kennedy: their words, and the electricity that sparked between them and their audience, and between those in that convention and members of the television audience, and I knew what a powerful — and positive — rhetoric can have (and find echoes in the speeches of those who have heard yours; compare Quezon, circa 1922, to Williams Jennings Bryan, who’d opposed the American conquest of the Philippines 24 years before; I think the former was quite clearly inspired by the latter).
The broadcaster who writes his own copy, is speechwriter and orator, too. From the time I first heard his recordings, “I can hear it now,” (listen to episode 1, online) I admired Edward R. Murrow very much; first simply for his dramatic style of reporting (listen to his live broadcast from Buchenwald). Then, reading his life only made that admiration grow. The recent, critically-acclaimed movie of his life, Good Night, and Good Luck, is as good an introduction as any (and there’s never enough: read Val Limburg’s reflection on Murrow’s legacy).
Last night I came back from ANC to find an email in my inbox, pointing to the special 911 commentary of Keith Olbermann.
I hadn’t heard of Olbermann until last night. I wish I’d known about him sooner. But I’m glad that email was in my inbox; I’m glad it led me to his blog. And i’m glad his commentaries are available on line.
The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.
Those who did not belong to his party — tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election — ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications — forgot that.
History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation’s wounds, but to take political advantage.
Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President — and those around him — did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, “bi-partisanship” meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President’s words yesterday, “validate the strategy of the terrorists.”
They promised protection, and then showed that to them “protection” meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.
The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had ‘something to do’ with 9/11 is “lying by implication.”
The impolite phrase is “impeachable offense.”
Today, in the same subtle terms in which Mr. Bush and his colleagues muddied the clear line separating Iraq and 9/11 — without ever actually saying so – the President quoted a purported Osama Bin Laden letter that spoke of launching, “a media campaign to create a wedge between the American people and their government.”
Make no mistake here — the intent of that is to get us to confuse the psychotic scheming of an international terrorist, with that familiar bogeyman of the right, the “media.”
The President and the Vice President and others have often attacked freedom of speech, and freedom of dissent, and freedom of the press.
Now, Mr. Bush has signaled that his unparalleled and unprincipled attack on reporting has a new and venomous side angle:
The attempt to link, by the simple expediency of one word — ”media” — the honest, patriotic, and indeed vital questions and questioning from American reporters, with the evil of Al-Qaeda propaganda.
That linkage is more than just indefensible. It is un-American.
Mr. Bush and his colleagues have led us before to such waters.
We will not drink again.
But back to today’s Omniscient ones.
That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.
And, as such, all voices count — not just his.
Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.
But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.
Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.
And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?
In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?
The confusion we — as its citizens — must now address, is stark and forbidding.
But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note — with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.
The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.
Who knows what will be said of Olbermann in twenty years, either by admirers or detractors — or his audience. Will he be hailed as a Morrow for the present era? Will his writing be as fondly remembered as I.F. Stone’s life and prose, by Christopher Hitchens, himself highly controversial? But to read Olbermann, now, is all that matters, now.
(researching this entry brought forward a fantastic site: American Rhetoric: look at their list of the 100 Top American Speeches of the 20th Century, with full transcripts and in many cases, actual recordings).
In other news, I’m glad to say that The Explainer on ANC now has its own blog, being maintained by Fool for Five, and with hosting sponsored by Abe Olandres and Ploghost. Thanks to Mamutong for noticing the new blog. Philippine Commentary, incidentally, comments on last night’s show.
In the papers today, amusing headline for the day: Aliens control PLDT.
Newsbreak on the door being closed to Filipina nurses in the UK.
In the punditocracy, the Inquirer editorial describes Michael Defensor’s remarks to third-termer councilors as “quackery.”
Lito Banayo explains why the peso’s strengthening:
The reasons the peso is gaining strength vis-a-vis the American dollar are: one, the dollar is itself weakening versus other world currencies; and two, the internal supply and demand situation. There are more dollars than the economy can absorb. Our eight or so million overseas workers remit something like 15 billion dollars annually to their families and other dependents in the country. Contrarily, there isn’t such a heavy demand for dollars. The few survivors of our decrepit manufacturing industry are not importing as much raw materials and factory supplies, so their dollar demand is low, even at this time of the year when inventories are being built for the yuletide market. Wholesalers who import finished goods have cut down on their inventory build-up, predicting sluggish sales this Christmas compared to previous years. In fact, retail sales have been in the doldrums for months on end, and even bargain sales periodically announced have not coaxed consumer interest.
Dante Ang endorses Jun Magsaysay.
And in the blogosphere,
And the tale of a beleaguered monarchy in Tonga.
This upset me greatly, in Airs in G’s blog. Upon the death of his grandfather, a veteran,
When my aunt went to the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office to present my lolo’s death certificate and ask for a Philippine flag to drape over his coffin, the clerk curtly told her, “Out of stock ang Philippine flag namin e.” We had to make do with a flag borrowed from my aunt’s office. Ah, the imbeciles.
Señor Enrique plugs the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.