Monday, January 18, 2010

Jets Soar; Ravens Crash to the Ground!

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about how I was thinking of changing my fan devotion from the Ravens to the Jets because, while both teams had roughly the same record, the Jets showed far more fight and passion than the Ravens. Based on the outcome of this weekend's divisional playoff games, I think my first instinct was correct.

The Ravens have suffered from inconsistency all season, and that inconsistency showed itself in the game against the Indianapolis Colts. You just never know which Ravens team is going to show up from week to week: the feisty, dominating team or the lackluster, penalty-prone team. Unfortunately, the latter was the team that played Payton Manning. The Jets, on the other hand, played with guts and gusto against the overrated San Diego Chargers and moved on to the conference championship. Now, it's quite possible that the Ravens could have beaten the Chargers as well and that the Colts will make the Jets look just as bad as they made the Ravens look last Saturday. However, I'm sure Payton Manning is not looking forward to another pounding defense two weeks in a row, and the Jets might just have enough bravado and fight left to knock the Colts out of the Super Bowl. I can only hope Rex Ryan and the Jets can do to Indianapolis what the sad Ravens could not.

J-E-T-S! Jets, Jets, Jets!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ravens vs. Colts - Here We Go Again

Just like three years ago, the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts will meet in the divisional round of the playoffs, fighting for a chance to play in the Super Bowl. This year, however, the roles appear to be reversed.

In 2006, the Ravens went 13-3 on the season placing them as the second seed, which gave them a bye week and home field advantage. The Colts barely made a wild card spot and had to play on the road. The Ravens came into the game rested and confident while the Colts were beat up and hungry. The Colts beat the Ravens soundly and went on the win the Super Bowl.

This year, the Colts secured the top seed in week 14 with a perfect record and benched their starters for the last two weeks, giving them a 14-2 record. They've had their bye week and will have home field advantage. The Ravens squeaked into the last wild card spot and had to play a big game on the road against the Patriots. They are going into Lucas Oil Stadium beat up and hungry. Judging by the way they put a whoopin' on the Patriots, they are very hungry. I'm hoping this role reversal plays out the same way and the Ravens are Super Bowl bound.

The trouble is Payton Manning. There's something almost super human about his ability to win ball games. Even when you have him against the ropes the way the Ravens did earlier in the season, he somehow pulls out a win almost by force of will. It's as if he puts some sort of telepathic whammy on the other team so they will give up and let him score those extra points to win. In fact, I don't even think of the Colts as a team but as Payton Manning and his support players. If the Colts had to lose Payton Manning for a season the way the Patriots did with Brady the previous season, I doubt that they would come out with a winning record. I think they would look a lot like the Cleveland Browns if they had to go through a season with Curtis Painter under center.

But the fact is, Manning is healthy and rested after having not played in almost a month. Of course, this strategy has always worked against them in the playoffs and I have to hope that this will hold true this year as well. Frankly, I don't respect a team that doesn't come out and try to win every week regardless of whether or not they have anything to play for. Sure, they were 14-0 and had already secured the top seed, but saying that you are willing to throw away a perfect record so you can focus on the playoff run is simply un-American, in my opinion. There has to be some kind of bad kharma in being a professional athletic team and simply giving up because you think you have it made. I know the Colts fans are angry, and Payton Manning looked pretty angry about it although he took the company line publicly. This has to come back to haunt them. At least, I have to hope it does.

More importantly to me, I have to believe that last Sunday was not an aberration and that the Ravens will come out again with something to prove. They damn near beat the Patriots in the regular season and they damn near beat the Colts as well. The Ravens settled the score with the Patriots, so they must do the same with the Colts. This is the way it should be if they are to make it to the Super Bowl. The Ravens have to beat the elite teams in order to prove that they belong in that same category. I think this is quite do-able if they stick to the game plan they had with New England and mitigate Payton Manning as much as possible. The trouble is, it's much harder to get pressure on Manning than Brady. Sack Brady a couple of times and he becomes rattled. Even if you manage to sack Manning at all, he seldom loses his focus. He's just too damn good.

So all I can hope for is rusty starters and bad kharma and a really hungry Ravens team. If the Ravens can take out the Colts, I think the rest would be gravy. If they have to face the Chargers, so what? The Chargers are soft and the Ravens have beaten them before. If the Ravens have to take on the Jets, how cool would that be? Rex Ryan and John Harbaugh in a fight for the championship. That's like comic book stuff! I can't wait!

If only there was no Payton.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Registered and Tracked by the Republicans

Yesterday, I received a rather important looking envelope in the mail that demanded my immediate attention. In the upper right-hand corner, it said something about "2010 Obama Agenda Survey." A few years back, I made a donation to the National Democratic Party and ever since I've received tons of junk mail and spam from every liberal group you can think of, so I assumed this was more of the same. However, when I opened it, I found that it was a letter from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. He begins by threatening me with:

"Your immediate action is required."

No hi, how are you? No how's the wife? Nossir, he needs me to hup-to it toot sweet! And what action does he need me to perform so urgently?

"Please read carefully and complete the enclosed 2010 Obama Agenda Survey which is REGISTERED in your name and affixed with a tracking code to ensure that it is accounted for in the tabulated results." (The emphasis is his, not mine.)

Leave it to a Republican to register me and affix a tracking code so I will be compelled to obey his command. He goes on:

"I am sending out this questionnaire to gauge where you and other grassroots Republicans stand on the critical issues facing our nation..."

Wait a minute. Mr. Steele is under the impression that I am a Republican even though I've been registered (in the League of Women Voters sense, not in the tracking sense) as a Democrat since I was 18 years old. It doesn't give me much faith in a political party when they can't even read a voter registration roll. Maybe that's how they messed up with that whole WMDs in Iraq thing.

Before I get too cynical, Mr. Steele informs me that "the Republican Party is not dead and we are not going away." Given the amount of hot air I've been exposed to from Rush and Glen and Fox News, I really had no doubt. Anyway, Mr. Steele wants me to fill out this survey so that I can have a voice regarding what he calls the "Obama Democrat Agenda." Earlier in the letter, he talked about "conservative principles" and Republican ideals and goals. Obama and Democrats have no such things, merely an agenda. The Democrat in me is beginning to feel like some evil communist from the Cold War.

He reminds me again that I am a "REGISTERED participant" and that "no matter what, do not discard or destroy your Survey. In order for our sampling of Republican opinion from your area to be as exact as possible, you must return your survey - even if you leave some of the questions blank."

Ya vol, mein herr!

The letter goes on for three more pages (even my best friends don't write me three page letters) about how the "ultra-biased media" is covering up "Obama's top priorities" such as amnesty for illegal immigrants, raising taxes, and nationalizing health care. First of all, this talk about some sort of liberal media conspiracy really has to stop. All news organizations are owned by massive corporations run primarily by rich old white guys who are primarily Republicans. Everyone knows that Fox News is a 24-hour mouthpiece for the conservatives, and the only real alternative to that is MSNBC, and they only jumped on the liberal bandwagon because there was a commercially sound reason to appeal to a liberal demographic. For the Republicans to act like a bunch of beat up chess club members is really absurd.

As far as their claims of Obama's top priorities, none of the items listed have ever been emphasized by Obama if mentioned at all. Amnesty for illegal immigrants was a Bush initiative, not an Obama priority. Raising taxes will likely occur, but only because of the massive debts started by the Bush administration and their tax cuts. There is no nationalized health care plan on the books. It's health care reform which is focused primarily on how insurance companies conduct business. Of course, the Republicans are totally against government intervention in the practices of big business. We've already seen how well deregulation worked with the banks, mortgage companies, and Wall Street.

I could go on and on about Mr. Steele's other claims, but you've probably heard it all before, and I want to get to this all important survey about Obama's agenda. You've already been set up to believe whatever is asked in the survey must be President Obama's and/or the Democratic Party's view, but they are completely out of left field (pardon the pun):

Do you agree with Barack Obama and the Democrats that taxes should be raised for the sake of "fairness," regardless of the negative impact it is likely to have on the economy?

I guess fairness is not a conservative principle. Sure, it's much better to tax the poor and middle class. They're just going to spend the money on frivolous things like food and shelter. And the bit about "negative impact" on the economy is an allusion to the ol' trickle down economy notion that by letting the rich keep more of their money, they will invest it in businesses to create more jobs and so forth. This was Ronald Reagan's guiding principle, so how did he do? When President Reagan took office, unemployment was at 7.6% before quickly ballooning to over 10%. By the time of his re-election in 1984, unemployment had drifted back down to 7.5%, pretty much the same as when he started. During his last year in office, the rate was down to 5.5%, but it soon went back up during the George H.W. Bush administration. And where was employment during Bush's final year in office? 7.5%. So much for creating jobs Republicans. Of course, the Dow Jones Industrial Average went from around 800 to 2,600 by 1987, but half of that was wiped out in the stock market crash, and we also remember the junk bond scandals and the savings and loan collapse which cost almost 100 billion of tax payers dollars. Who exactly was trickled on here?

Should English be the official language of the United States?

I know President Obama has really been pushing that Esperanto for America campaign lately.

Do you believe that Barack Obama's nominees for federal courts should be immediately and unquestionably approved for their lifetime appointments by the U.S. Senate?

When has any senator, Republican or Democrat, given up the right to question executive nominees. In the immortal words of Chad Ochocino, "Child, please!"

Do you support the creation of a national health insurance plan that would be administered by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.?

Again, this is not on the table and the Republicans know it. This kind of fear mongering is as bad as that stupid terrorist threat level bullshit (I believe it is fuchsia today).

Are you confident that new medicines and medical treatments will continue to be developed if the federal government controls prescription drug prices and sets profit margins for research and pharmaceutical companies?

Because, that's how the system works. All the profits made by the altruistic drug companies are poured directly into new drug research. Better let us charge whatever we want, America, or we won't make any more medicines and you'll die painful, agonizing deaths! Bwahahahaha!

There's more of this tripe, but you get the idea. Mr. Steele and his merry band of fear mongers are scaring the crap out of their core constituency so that they will cough up big bucks to the Republican National Committee. That's right, at the end of the survey is a contribution form so that you may contribute "$500, $250, $100, $50, or even $3o" to help them fight against the evils of Democrats and that half-breed foreigner Barack Obama. That's why this survey is so important that they have to REGISTER everyone who receives it and track their actions. They want their damn money and they want it now!

To soften the sell, Mr. Steele explains that he has to do all this because in the 2008 election, Congressional Democrats out-raised Republicans by 2 to 1. Here we go with the beat up chess club members routine again. The Republicans have a far wealthier base than Democrats, so it stands to reason that the Democrats were so successful because a far greater number of Americans believed in Democratic principles rather than Republican ones. Maybe we were fed up with eight years of an incompetent president and six years of a Republican Congress that never had the balls to stand up to him. Maybe the Democrats had ideas that were not tired and proven wrong over and over again. Perhaps the Democrats really did appeal to a broader section of the country. No, I'm sure Mr. Steele would explain that away as the lies of the ultra-biased media elite.

Since I am REGISTERED and I must return the survey even if I leave some questions blank, I think I will do just that with no questions answered. I will attach a note saying that I am a life-long Democrat and proud of it no matter how much they wish to demonize the "L" word. I'm really more moderate than liberal, and I recognize that the left uses similar tactics as the right, but when a national political party can't even send their propaganda to the correct constituency, I think it's time they reevaluate their ability to lead a nation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Flying the Coop on the Ravens

After watching the first half of the game between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins last night, I'm almost tempted to switch allegiances from my home town team the Ravens to Rex Ryan's Jets. I know, they lost the game last night, and they have about the same record as the Ravens, but at least Rex Ryan looks like he's trying to go to the Super Bowl. After the Ravens' embarrassing showing against the Bengals on Sunday, I'm beginning to question their commitment.

When Rex Ryan left the Ravens to become the head coach for the Jets, not only did he steal two of our best defensive players in Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, I think he stole our drive and swagger as well. The Ravens keep saying our defense is playing aggressively, but I don't really see it, unless you consider unnecessary roughness penalties as sign of aggressive defense. John Harbaugh did such a great job last year of instilling discipline in a once ragged team and limiting penalties. Now, we're looking more like the sloppy Ravens of old, except the defense can't get to the quarterback, can't stop the rush, and definitely cannot stop the passing game. During the preseason when the press brought up how small and ineffective our cornerbacks are, the Ravens kept saying, "Don't worry. We're fine." Well, it's pretty clear they are not fine, and it's a big concern as the schedule gets more difficult.

Of course, we also heard the argument that it was inevitable the defense would give up more yards as the offense improved. The theory went that, as the Ravens offense ate up more time time on the clock and put more points on the board, the other team would have to throw more deep balls to make up for lost time and try to score quickly. As a result, the defense would statistically give up more yards, but they would not let the other team win. That theory held up against soft teams like the Chiefs, the Chargers, and the Browns, but when we had to face tough teams, the Ravens' defense simply let the other team score points and the offense had no response against a tough opposing defense. It seemed inevitable against the Patriots, but our offense looked like the old Kyle Boller/Brian Billick Ravens when we played the Bengals last Sunday. They're simply not as good as they thought they were.

The biggest failure on the Ravens' part, in my opinion, was not snapping up one of the many good wide receivers who were available during the off-season. Now that Joe Flacco has proven himself as a strong quarterback, they needed to get someone reliable that he could throw to besides Derrick Mason. We kept hearing, "Oh, we like the guys we have." Really? Mark Clayton has been a wash out since we picked him up in the draft several years ago and, while Demetrius Williams can make a great play now and then, he's not consistent and injury prone. Even when he's healthy, like last Sunday, Cam Cameron doesn't put him in the game. Cameron's ability to invent and adapt on the fly, so obvious last year, has not been in evidence this year. Even when we win, I'm still baffled by some of the play calling.

But it's really the wide receiver issue that baffles me the most. When I saw Braylon Edwards making such a great show for the Jets last night, I couldn't help but think, "Why didn't we make that trade?" Is John Harbaugh so intent on keeping problem children out of his locker room that he will turn down great talent and a shot at the Super Bowl? Not everyone is perfect, and sometimes you have to take a risk when the need is great. At wide receiver, the need is great. If Derrick Mason gets injured and is out for all or a major part of the season, we might as well turn out the lights. Even Cam Cameron admits that you have to throw in today's NFL to win. Flacco can throw, but who's going to catch the ball?

Beyond players and strategy, a team needs to have a powerful desire to win. That's another reason why I'm so excited about what Rex Ryan is doing with the Jets and not so thrilled about Harbaugh's Ravens this year. When Ryan went to the Jets, he put everyone on notice that they had every intention of being the team to beat this season. A franchise so beaten down by Eric Mangini and the Favre Experiment would now be a team that stood tall. Those two faked punts to get first downs last night proved how Ryan will try anything to win, and it's exhilarating to watch.

While more conservative in approach, John Harbaugh showed similar enthusiasm last year as he reinvented the Ravens into a dedicated, discipline team. This year, Harbaugh seems worn out and sullen. I don't see the same drive, and he's falling into the Billick trap of complaining about officiating to explain away losses. During the preseason, the Sunpaper's Mike Preston talked about how united the team was and that they had a spirit of camaraderie he had not seen with the Ravens since they had been in Baltimore. Unfortunately, I don't see that camaraderie translating into a real winning spirit. I definitely felt more of a drive to succeed last year when there was less at stake.

Of course, it could be that everyone's expectations are too high. It's possible that the Ravens were not as good as we thought they were last year either. The Patriots lost Tom Brady and still managed to have an 11-5 record, the same as the Ravens. Because of divisional wins, we managed to get into the playoffs when they didn't. Those divisional wins were helped greatly by the fact that both the Browns and the Bengals were a mess. Even still, we couldn't beat the Colts last year and the Steelers beat us three times. If we had played the Patriots, we may not have beaten them either.

So far this year, we couldn't beat the Patriots and we couldn't beat the much improved Bengals. Now we have to face the undefeated Vikings and the undefeated Broncos, and we still have two Steelers games down the stretch. If the Ravens can't beat any of these teams, they are truly mediocre. The Ravens need to have a gut check and really decide which team they want to be: the one they were hyped to be or just an average team like so many other teams in the NFL. Harbaugh and his coaching staff have to make key changes now or the season is lost. I think they should look at their former colleague Rex Ryan to see how motivating a team and taking risks to win is done.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hello Muddah! Hello Faddah!

With summer on its way and the kids starting to filter out of school, I got to thinking about that perennial summer ritual of childhood: summer camp. I went to summer camp in 1976 just before my 12th birthday. The place was called River Valley Ranch in Manchester, MD. I checked their Web site to see if they were still around, and boy are they ever. Check this out:

This video is so slick, it looks like something from Nickelodeon, and all those activities almost make me want to go back again. Half pipes! Zip Lines! Go Carts! Paintball! We didn't have anything like that when I was there. I guess with all the helicopter parents nowadays wanting to give their kids the absolute best, they had to upgrade big time to compete. When I was a kid, the parents just wanted a safe place to unload the kids for a week.

There was the horseback riding and the swimming pool when I was there, but we only got to ride the horses once and we went to the swimming pool twice. My aunt and uncle had a horse farm, so riding a horse was no big deal to me, and this was even less exciting because you were basically led around in a conga line by the counselors with no freedom to ride on your own. The equipment was pretty worn out too. One of my stirrups fell off my saddle.

Most of the time we sat around bored out of our minds. There were volleyball nets and some balls, but it was up to us to organize a game. The counselors were generally too grumpy or too busy flirting with each other to pay any attention to us. You could buy little craft kits to tinker with. I bought a leather comb holder kit where you just sewed two pieces of leather together with some vinyl string and you could put a complimentary plastic comb in it. With my tangled curly locks, I couldn't drag a comb through my hair anyway.

Speaking of grooming, I was impressed with the bathroom facilities in the video. When I was there, the showers and toilets were something out of Turkish prison. I remember one afternoon taking a dump only to discover there was no toilet paper in the stall. With no one in the bunk house, I thought I was stuck until I remembered having a packet of tissues in my duffel bag. Holding my pants around my knees, I had to shuffle all the way down the long bunk house to my bed which was right next to the front door. As I riffled through my bag with my pants down, one of the counselors walked in and stared at me like I was about to engage in some unChristian-like ritual of self love. Huffily, I declared, "There's no toilet paper in the stalls!" Rather than make an attempt to find any for me, he just walked away, happy that I wasn't committing a sin.

When I was there, River Valley Ranch was divided into two basic areas: the main ranch known as Frontier Town and the smaller area up on the hill called Fort Roller. The younger kids stayed in Fort Roller and the teens were in Frontier Town. I stayed in Fort Roller. The video for that area looks more familiar to me:

This video is also more blatant about revealing the Christian focus of the camp with the cheesy Christian pop soundtrack and the children waving their arms in the air in praise. I find it a little disingenuous that the Web site has so few mentions of anything Christian. The brochures from the time when I went there were more upfront about their agenda. What they don't tell you in all these slick videos and fancy graphics is that the children will spend most of their time in bible study or being preached to with all the fire and brimstone of a televangelist. If that's what you want for your kids, that's fine, but they should be more upfront about it.

I went to RVR because a friend of mine talked me into it. His family was Southern Baptist and perfectly comfortable with this kind of Christian indoctrination. My family were casual Lutherans who talked about spiritual matters in a fuzzy, touchy-feely sort of manner. I was a babe in the woods when I went to that first revival meeting. There was a Christian music group performing that week which consisted of a family whose style was basically bluegrass, as I recall. In between songs, the father would get up and preach about burning in hell for your sins and eternal damnation and such. Kinda put a damper on the bluegrass music. More specifically, it scared the crap out of me. No more sinning from me, Lord, no sir! That is, if I had committed any sins at age 11. I must have. The preacher said we were all sinners.

We sat through these revival meetings every night for the whole week, and during the day had regular bible study. For some strange reason, though, we were always reading Revelations, like the rest of the bible had nothing to offer. Let's get to the good stuff! The earth will end and only the good Christians will go to heaven. At this point, our counselor said, "You know how much you are missing your family right now? Well, this is only one week. What if you are a good Christian and they are not and you go to heaven but they do not. You'll have to spend all eternity never seeing your family again!" That one brought some tears. No amount of swimming or volleyball will wipe out that buzz kill.

Everything was so Christian-centric, you felt more like you had joined a cult rather than going away for some fun at camp. Every night, the counselors would read us stories from the bible. When one kid asked if we could tell ghost stories instead, the counselor sniffed, "We don't tell ghost stories here; we tell God stories." Then he would try to lead us in singing some Christian songs. One of the ornerier kids in the group would counter with a hymn of his own that went something like, "Get down, get down! Pull your panties down!" At least it had a beat and I could dance to it.

Mercifully, it was only a week and my mother and brother soon arrived to rescue me. My friendship with the boy who talked me into camp soured after that. I didn't talk to him at all for the rest of the summer, and very little after that. I was just shell-shocked by the whole experience. However, it did get me thinking more seriously about my spiritual beliefs and I began to study more about religion on my own, which I suppose is a good thing. And I'll never get that camp song out of my head:

Sing the RVR song,
as you're ridin' along,
over river and dale to the end of the trail,
sing the RVR song!

Jesus Christ by my side,
he's my friend and my personal guide,
over river and dale to the end of the trail,
sing the RVR song!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Orioles Fever: It's Better Than Swine Flu!

I have to preface this blog entry by stating that I never paid much attention to baseball. I'm basically a football guy. Baseball's leisurely pace makes me squirm and the emphasis on statistics bores me to tears. The only reason why I started watching the Orioles games last summer was because there was some early rumors that the team might actually turn a corner and become good again. I remembered how fans used to be so buzzed on the Orioles back when they had players named Brooks and Boog and later Cal and Eddie, so I thought perhaps 2008 was going to be the year that I caught me some O's fever (pronounced "Oeu's fever" if you are a Baltimore native).

Well, the first half of last season, the team was playing fairly well, lightly touching upon that all-important .500 winning percentage. Winning as many as you lost seemed to indicate that we might actually stay in the running, but something wasn't quite right. You could sense that, in the games we did win, we were struggling mightily. The wins didn't come easily or decisively. I suspected that, as the season wore on, fatigue and injuries would take their toll and the team wouldn't be able to hold on. By July, my prediction started to come true. The losses became more frequent. This would not be their big, break-out year. I stopped watching.

This season, even the local sports reporters, who normally act as cheerleaders for the team, were talking about "rebuilding" and "transition," so I knew this year was not going to go well. At least I haven't been disappointed. What makes this year worse is that I don't get that sense, as I had last year, that the players are really pushing hard for a win. There's an initial burst, followed by lethargy and disinterest coming down the stretch. I know it may be unfair of me to say that sitting on my couch eating pretzels, but that's what it looks like no matter what the players say. In fact, watching the games this season feels a bit like the movie Groundhog Day with the same game played over and over again with the same result. Most games this season have gone something like:

- The O's batters come out strong and put several runs on the board early.
- The starting pitcher shows some competence and contains the opposing team for five or (if we're lucky) 6 innings.
- During the 6th inning (or maybe 7th), the starter wears out and either loads the bases or allows a run, so Dave Trembley trots out and takes the ball away from the starter. One of the relievers comes out and this is when it gets ugly.
- The opposing team runs rings around the reliever and racks up more runs than we have.
- The batters, who did so well early on, suddenly forget how to hit a ball. On a good night, we might get one more run, but usually the team cannot score again.
- The opposition wins. Jim Hunter and Rick Dempsey show up to throw around a bunch of statistics rather than just saying, "The Orioles suck!" and calling it a night.

I know this sounds like an oversimplification, but after watching Chris Ray give up 7 runs to the Yankees within 10 minutes of reaching the mound last night, I have to wonder how much more of this pain I can endure. What's the point of having decent starting pitchers if the relievers are going to throw away all the hard work in just a few minutes? Peter Schmuck wrote an article for the Baltimore Sun today talking about the Orioles' new era on the horizon. His view is that young players like Matt Weiters and David Hernandez, possibly injected into the lineup this June, will bring about some kind of change. I don't see how some new blood is going to change a team that has been struggling for over a decade. I guess I'm not a big enough fan to drink the orange Kool-Aid.

I remember back in the 80s, I would sit with my grandfather on warm summer nights and chat while the Orioles were playing on TV. My grandfather watched every game. He was a fan at a time when the Orioles were consistently good. Their quality was almost taken for granted. I envied his excitement over a winning team. We had just lost my beloved Baltimore Colts, who slipped out of town after breaking my heart for five or so seasons. Now I have the Ravens and watching sports is exciting again, but I need a summertime fix. I really want to become an O's fan, but I need a good reason. So far, that reason has elluded me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Torture and the Republicans Who Love It

I've been so tangled up in my fiction writing that I haven't made a blog post for some time. I also think that, since President Obama has taken office, I've simply been less angry about things. Life seems a little more tolerable when you have an administration in office that thinks more along the same lines as you do.

I saw a little bit of the President's speech to members of the CIA yesterday. This was on the heels of his declaration that the U.S. would end torture practices like waterboarding and the news that the practice had been used hundreds of times on key terrorist suspects. Of course, the usual Republican representatives were paraded out to the media to denounce this policy reversal, but what else is new? Their argument is that Bush's policies kept us safe after 9/11, but what else do we have to compare it to? He was the only president in office during that time. Only time will tell whether a change in tactics will make us more vulnerable or not. I think President Obama knows that there are bigger issues here than safety, and I agree.

About a year ago, I was watching an old movie serial, or cliffhanger if you prefer, on DVD. I'm a huge fan of those campy, action-filled stories and this particular serial was made toward the end of World War II. It was called Secret Agent X-9 and starred future Sea Hunt actor Lloyd Bridges in the title role. At one point, Bridges captured a Japanese spy and was interrogating him. The Japanese spy said something like, "You can torture me all you want, I'll never talk!" Bridges replied, "We're Americans. We don't torture." I felt so sad when I heard it. That's what being an American used to mean: play by the rules, live by a code of law, and don't sink to your enemy's level. The Bush adminstration threw that all away, and now those laid-off employees of a failed regime still voice disdain at President Obama's attempt to regain some of what America once stood for.

The Republicans rode on Ronald Reagan's cult of personality for almost three decades, and during the previous campaign, some still evoked his ideals to get their man elected. They have to remember, though, that Bush and his gang were not cut from the same cloth as Reagan's men. Cheney and Rumsfeld were old Nixon cronies who exhibited even greater paranoia and vindictiveness than the 37th president did. Their "destroy the village in order to save it" view of American policy simply makes no sense, unless your only goal is solely to promote the wealth of large corporations and preserve the consumerist enslavement of its citizens. I'm not against capitalism by any means, but we were not founded entirely on the principals of supply and demand, but rather the principals of freedom and civil rights. Yes, our forefathers were wealthy land owners, but I doubt that rampant capitalism was on the mind of Jefferson when he proposed the Bill of Rights.

I'd like to believe that Ronald Reagan, had he experienced a terrorist situation like 9/11 during his watch, would not have endorsed the practice of torture. I know sometimes he exhibited a disconnect between his words and his actions, but somehow I think the notion of torture would have set off alarm bells in his head. He was a product of the Hollywood that made movies like Secret Agent X-9, and he believed in the ideals that those movies professed. The reason why so many loved Reagan during the 80s was because they wanted to live in that Hollywood fairy tale as much as Reagan did, and I think selling a dream goes a long way in motivating people to make that dream a reality.

Right now, the Republican party is focused on a smear campaign to discredit President Obama and undermine everything he is trying to accomplish. Instead of attacking the President, they may want to look inward and recognize how much they lost in their support of policies that are counter to American ideals. During the last campaign, I saw newspaper ads saying, "What would Ronald Reagan do?" I don't think waterboarding would immediately jump to mind.