Crossposted from MY LEFT WING
I am convinced that by the time you make it to national office in the government of the United States of America, the chances are extremely good that you will have lost virtually every scintilla of principle, every shred of idealism, every iota of fervid desire to serve the public good that ever existed in your once-eager soul.
Witness the boilerplate response of one prominent Senator to an email sent by one of his truly concerned constituents, regarding the GENOCIDE in Sudan:
Thank you for contacting me regarding Sudan. I appreciate hearing from you.
As many as 300,000 civilians have been killed and nearly 2 million have been displaced in the Darfur region since April of 2003. Both the Senate and the Secretary of State have characterized the atrocities in the Sudan as "genocide." You may be interested to know that the Iraq-Afghanistan Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 109-13), which became law on May 11, 2005, provided more than $350 million for Southern Sudan and the Darfur Province. In addition, I voted to provide an additional $300 million for humanitarian relief in Sudan and $95 million in emergency funding for assistance to refugees in Sudan and Chad in 2004.
I also supported the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (S.1462), which unanimously passed the Senate on November 18, 2005. This bill authorized increased logistical aid to the African Union forces already on the ground in Darfur, and by pushing for limited NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) reinforcement of those forces. It also supports the introduction of a U.N. Security Council resolution supporting an expansion of the African Union's efforts in Darfur.
You may also be interested to know that the President's fiscal year 2007 budget proposes more than $440 million for the U.N. mission in Sudan, a $66 million increase from last year. It also proposes approximately $236 million for overseas assistance in Africa, some of which would assist Sudanese refugees to get resettled. Please be assured that I will keep your concerns regarding the situation in Sudan in mind as I continue to monitor this important matter.
Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
For more information about my work for [insert state here], my role in the United States Senate Leadership, or to subscribe to regular e-mail updates on the issues that interest you, please visit my Web site at http://_____.senate.gov.
I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
My best wishes to you.
United States Senator
Those elected to offices of national prominence in this country are, I am sure, perfectly decent human beings. At least, they must have been, at some point. No one comes out of the womb so totally deadened to devastating human suffering and GENOCIDE as to refer to it as an "important matter" which he will "continue to monitor."
Surely, in the privacy of dinner with friends, this Senator relaxes that Senatorial sphincter just enough to admit to all present, "I am at my wits' end trying to behave in a civilised manner with regard to the GENOCIDE in Sudan. Sometimes it feels like there's a timebomb ticking inside me, and in 30 seconds I'm just going to burst out of my Senatorial Chair and my Senatorial Suit and run screaming up to the dais, "STOP THE GENOCIDE IN SUDAN! STOP THE GENOCIDE IN SUDAN!"
Probably not. But wouldn't it be something? Something to behold, to be sure -- and it would be SOMETHING. As opposed to NOTHING.
I'm a little nauseated by the structure and tone of the Senator's letter, to be frank. Yes, I understand that it's procedure to answer a constituent's query with a list of what YOU are doing about the issue, with information you feel might enlighten your concerned constituent...
But let's face it. That's a fucking form letter, with facts and stats inserted in the appropriate places with respect to the subject.
Here's what I just don't get: "I WILL CONTINUE TO MONITOR THIS IMPORTANT MATTER?"
I'm a naive fool, I guess, because when I imagine a Senator taking effective action with regard to GENOCIDE, I like to picture her bringing all US government work to a halt, using her microphone to call on ALL governments to bring their work to a halt -- Say! We could create, oh, I dunno, let's call it a Union of Nations, to directly intervene on behalf of those being, you know, SLAUGHTERED.
So, let's say thousands of us did write and/or call our Senators and Representatives in the House... and that most of us received in reply a form letter much like the one quoted above.
What to do now?
Do it again.
DO it again.
DO IT AGAIN.
And keep doing it until the form letter says "Cease and desist."
Then turn your attention to, perhaps, another state's Senators and Representatives in the House.
Make so much noise they cannot turn away.
I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it.
We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be!
We all know things are bad -- worse than bad -- they're crazy.
It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we're living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, "Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone."
Well, I'm not going to leave you alone.
I want you to get mad.
I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first, you've got to get mad.
You've got to say, "
I'm aTHESE ARE HUMAN BEING[S], GODDAMNIT! My life hasTHEIR LIVES HAVE VALUE!"
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell,
The Senator in question, incidentally (and it IS incidental), is Senator Harry Reid, responding to a constituent who emailed me his response.
Update [2006-3-7 15:39:21 by Maryscott OConnor]:
That's not the point. Of course he sent a form letter. I am not excoriating Senator Reid with this essay. His was merely the motivating factor TODAY for my writing something about Sudan. It could as easily have been something else. Please do not mistake this as a screed against Reid, or, indeed, against ANYONE.
THIS IS ABOUT SUDAN, this is about DARFUR, this is about GENOCIDE. And what the HELL can we do about it. Well, all I know is, when the representatives get inundated with phone calls and letters, they get moving.
People are being killed and tortured and raped and starved to death. Children, for god's sake! The LEAST we can do is write a fucking letter.