Mister Ed's Journal - Archives
One of the most dangerous duties assigned to a Civil War soldier was that of flag-bearer. In the line of battle, the standard-bearer was a conspicuous target to opposing soldiers, who would concentrate their fire on the hated flag of their enemy.
One young man who took that deadly duty upon himself, and changed the tide of battle, provided the inspiration for the Wisconsin state song. Today, his heirs fight a fierce battle of another sort.
On November 25, 1863,in a bone-chilling drizzle under ominous skies, 18,000 Union troops huddled at the base of Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga, under the hellish fire of the guns and artillery of the Confederate forces on the heights above. Among them were the tattered remnants of the 24th Wisconsin Infantry, reduced to 150 men by the day's fierce fighting.
Their situation was dire and desperate. A charge up the steep slope against fortified positions would be virtual suicide; a retreat across the open plain at their backs would make them even easier targets.
Suddenly, there began a stirring in the ranks. Without orders, across the base of the ridge, scattered groups of men began to rise up and fight. In groups of two, of three, of ten and twenty, they began a spontaneous, disorganized charge against their tormentors on the lofty heights.
Watching from a distance, General Grant was furious. "Who ordered that charge?", he demanded to know. "No one, sir", came the reply. "They are acting on their own".
As the soldier who carried the battle flag of the 24th Wisconsin fell to an enemy bayonet, another soldier bravely rushed forward to snatch the flag. That second color-bearer quickly fell, decapitated by an enemy cannon-ball. From his dying hands, the standard was seized by a ruddy-faced young man scarcely eighteen years of age: Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur.
Already wounded and weakened in the earlier fighting, young MacArthur turned to face his horrified comrades. "On Wisconsin!", he bellowed above the din. "On Wisconsin!"
The men of 24th Wisconsin rose as one, and doggedly followed MacArthur as he struggled up-slope, defiantly waving his flag while a hailstorm of enemy fire raged all about him. Across the breadth of the ridge, Union soldiers fought to keep pace. At last, the exhausted MacArthur reached the summit, and planted his tattered flag. The seemingly impregnable Confederate positions had been smashed through in six places, and the Siege of Chattanooga had been broken.
Today, in the state made proud by an indomitable eighteen-year-old, a battle now rages. Like the men of 24th Wisconsin, the people are in a desperate position, beset by seemingly invincible tormentors occupying lofty positions. Like their forbears, they bravely forge their own way forward, neither wanting, nor needing, nor heeding any orders from distant "leaders". And now, just as before, their courage and determination causes countless others to take heart, and take up the battle.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Champion of the right,
"Forward", our motto,
God will give thee might!
Okay, here I am, five years and a thousand DU posts later. I've kept the same dumb signature line tacked to the bottom of every post, and I'm afraid I haven't always lived up to it. I've interjected my share of nonsense into the conversation around here.
But that signature line has also been a reminder to me to shut up, listen, and learn. I've lurked almost daily these five years, and I've absorbed a hell of a lot of information. And this, above all, is what I've learned:
It's the money, stupid.
It's the money.
It's not a lack of "balls" or "spine" that causes politicians to vote against the interests of the people who elected them. It's not a sense of "moderation" that causes them to disappoint you or betray you time after time.
It's the money.
Call 'em DINOs, RINOs, Blue Dogs - call 'em what you will, but what they really are is people trying to hold on to their jobs, just as you and I try to hold on to ours. And what they have to do in order to keep their jobs is to whore themselves out for great big gobs of corporate cash. If they're too proud, too moral, or too principled to do that, then tell 'em Sayonara - because their opponent in the next election will gladly accept that filthy lucre, and bury them in the mudslide of advertising it will buy.
Oh sure, there are exceptions - you got your Dennis Kuciniches, your Bernie Sanderses, your Paul Wellstones. But most of 'em, to a greater or lesser degree, have to kiss that corporate ring when the lobbyists come a-calling, or else start checking the classifieds.
That's the way it is here on our side of the aisle. Over on the other side, it's the same - only worse.
Historically, a culture of corruption like this can be very resistant to change. But until and unless it does change, the causes most dear to you are going to be on the slow track, or more likely just side-tracked completely.
Peace? Justice? The rights of women, racial minorities, gays? The welfare of children? The preservation of the earth? Or maybe just the ability of a plain ol' workin' Joe or Jane to live a decent and dignified life? No matter what matters to you, it has to take a back seat to the demands of corporate lobbyists. And mostly what they're demanding is that our politicians keep finding newer and better ways to divert even more of our tax dollars to the interests the lobbyists represent.
This is the central front in the war on - well, really, the war on us. If we don't win this battle, then nothing else can be won. And surprisingly, it's entirely within our power to win. We don't have to change any laws. We don't have to change a system. We only have to change ourselves.
What if we voters, en masse, just stopped buying their bullshit? What if we out-and out rejected every slick ad underwritten by corporate donors, every slime attack financed by some bogus front group, every campaign press release disguised as a "news story" and trotted out by the corporate media?
What if each of us just started with ourselves, and made up our minds to reject politicians who won't reject corporate cash, whenever and wherever we can afford to? What if we convinced our friends to do the same, and they convinced their friends, and the attitude spread until the taint of corporate patronage actually became a political liability instead of an advantage?
I know this will probably not come to pass. But the hell of it is, there's just no reason it can't, or shouldn't, or couldn't.
The power to take back our nation rests entirely with us. And ultimately, the blame for failing to take it back also rests with us.
If there's one thing that unites all DU'ers, it's an abhorrence of the Bush White House. There is no DU'er, anywhere, who would not like to see Bush and Cheney out of office at the earliest possible moment. On that we can all agree.
Despite these sentiments, however, it's become clear to me as I read DU that impeachment is simply out of the question. For one thing, from what I read, it's just plain impossible. No matter how heinous and numerous the crimes of Bush and Cheney, no matter how thoroughly the crimes are proven, no matter how bright a national spotlight we shine on the proceedings, legislators are going to vote along party lines. That means impeachment will readily pass through the House, but the Senate will balk at conviction. All Republican senators will conspicuously and publicly demonstrate that their allegiance is to their party - not to the law, not to the voters, not to the nation or the Constitution they swore to uphold and defend.
Besides, impeachment proceedings would take up a lot of time and resources that could be devoted to more important things. They'd stir up a lot of controversy, and who needs that? It could take so long to prosecute Bush and Cheney that their terms could be almost over before any sort of conclusion is reached.
Modern history is rife with examples of what can happen when people fail to be guided by common sense. I'd like to offer up a few of those examples, in the hopes that, on the topic of impeachment, people in the Democratic party will simmer down and let cooler heads prevail:
1: Lake Placid, 1980
The proper goal of the U.S. Nationals - raw, under-funded, and under-practiced - was to simply make an honorable showing at the Olympics, which the mighty Soviets had always dominated, and always would.
But, goaded on by their ambitious, over-reaching coach, the players allowed their youthful recklessness and imprudence to drive them headlong into a confrontation that will always be sadly remembered as the greatest tragedy in the annals of Olympic hockey.
2:The 2006 Elections
At the beginning of 2006, it was clear that the Democratic Party had no reasonable hopes of gaining control over both houses of Congress. The Republicans had a stranglehold on power. They dominated all three branches of the federal government. They had the wealthiest corporate donors in their corner. They had a firm grip on the media megaphone, and they were not about to share it.
As always, Democrats were fractious and disorganized. To make matter worse, Howard Dean was hell-bent on squandering precious resources in Republican strongholds with his "50-State Strategy". Under these circumstances, the thing for Democrats to do was to hunker down, hold the line, cut our losses, and keep our powder dry for the next election. We failed to do that, and now look what's happened.
3: The Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955
This may be the saddest example of all. What on earth were the Black folks in Alabama thinking? Oh, sure, you and I may be full of sympathy for them - but what good can sympathy do for them once they've lost their jobs because they were too proud to ride the bus?
Car pooling? We have to be realistic here. How many African-Americans in the Deep South were able to afford their own automobiles?
Facts are stubborn things, and the fact is that the White opponents of the boycott had all the power on their side. They had the police. They had the money.They had the judges and the local government.
And who did the Black people have in their corner? A young, idealistic preacher with his head in the clouds and his heart full of lofty ideals. It was pretty easy to see how that lopsided battle was going to end up.
Yep, those who knew best and cared most about the well-being of Southern Blacks could see that the best thing for them to do - unbearable as it may have been - was to pipe down, pay their fares, and move to the back of the bus. Better to live to fight another day.
DU'ers: On the question of impeachment, please - let modern history be a lesson to all of us!
Disclaimer: I know that sarcasm is much harder to convey in print than it is in speech. I very much want to avoid angering hockey fans or true-blue Democratic party stalwarts. I especially want to avoid angering those who revere human dignity and human rights.
Thank heaven the DU administrators, in their infinite wisdom, provide the trusty tag. Please know, then, that the screed posted above is an example of heavy
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