Friday, September 16, 2005

The Handwriting on the Wall

In the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel there is a story of a King of Babylon, named Belshazzar, son of King Nebuchadnezzar, who while holding a banquet for the nobles of his court using the goblets and chalices taken from the great temple in Jerusalem suddenly observed the fingers of a human hand writing on the palace wall. The king turned pale and his knees knocked together, as you might expect of someone already guilty for desecrating the artifacts of another people's religion, especially one inspiring such worshipful loyalty during the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews!

The words written on the plaster wall were: "Mene Mene Tekel Uparsin," common enough Aramaic words, but they did not form a sentence and to the king they were code for something, perhaps something dire. So, the king called for his wise men, but they were dumbfounded. There was a Jew in Babylon, Daniel, who had been a key interpreter of dreams to Nebuchadnezzar at the time Shadrakh, Meshak, and Abednego were committed to the flames, (but emerged unscathed), you will recall. The king's wife luckily remembered this tale, and was responsible for Daniel being recalled to the palace for his wisdom. (Cherché la femme!)

Daniel, understanding that the king had never humbled himself before Jehovah, and obviously in possession of intelligence about an approaching army, decided to interpret the words to mean, "God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end," "You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting," and "Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians" — all from the four cryptic words! And, of course, in this story it became so. That very night the king was slain and Darius the Mede (or perhaps it was Cyrus the Persian) took over Babylon the very next day. Ever since we have been attentive to the handwriting on the wall!

(There is, of course, some controversy about the Biblical rendition of these events and, for literalists, the inconsistencies with other histories compromise the notion of Biblical "inerrancy" ... but that's another essay.)

I have chosen this story from the Old Testament not because of its slightly faulty and errant history, but because it adequately describes what "handwriting on the wall" is. It is the plain truth writ by persons unknown and unseen large enough that, by tradition, all can see, but the king cannot be sure he understands, for he is subject to fits of guilty anger and paranoia. For the king something has to take place to be understood.

Well, the event has taken place; it was Katrina, the lifter of veils and the peeler of scales from eyes, the perfect storm that laid bare the twitching seizured incompetence of the Bush government.

As you by now know, George has more or less taken responsibility for the problems of the federal response to Katrina. Accepting "the buck" after so many deaths that could have been prevented is a futile and arrogant gesture, a cynical death-bed conversion. He should not hope with this tiny act of contrition to avoid a complete and independent investigation. In an age of terrorism our safety is at stake and we need to know what to fix and why.

But, the full meaning of the slovenly and inept federal response to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, like that of the Babylonian graffiti, is that the reign of George W. Bush is essentially over.

I am not calling for him to be slain or for the descendants of the Medes and Persians to take over our government. I am simply saying that the handwriting is on the wall! One columnist after another is writing about the end days of the George W. Bush administration. Pundits and wise men, conservative and liberal alike, are saying (at last) that the emperor has no clothes.

There will be various commentators who try to interpret the response to Katrina differently, but they will be ignored. The facts are there for everyone to see, the handwriting IS on the wall! The response was horrifyingly inept and, it is very reasonable to say, the ineptitude of the response was deliberate!

Bush and his company of fools have been destroying government agencies since before 9/11. The FDA is a shambles, FEMA is an unholy mess, the Supreme Court will soon be a reactionary citadel in the middle of modern America, EPA is hopeless, and BLM is an agency of timber interests. In agency after agency the Bush rule is to contract with friends, privatize the service, and reduce, nay, pillage government. This is the government of the party that declared its purpose to reduce government over the next twenty-five years to the size that it can be then be "... drowned in the bathtub." It is the party of nihilism and destruction, the party of madness, yet arrogance.

Bush and the neocons, the "starve the beast" Republicans, have destroyed our vital services in their mad and reckless onslaught against "big government." Clearly, with FEMA and DHS in such disarray we are all but helpless in the face of terrorism. George has done his worst. He has wasted our ground forces in a fabricated war; he has not yet found the demonic Bin Laden; he has not made the world one bit safer for democracy, for liberty, for justice, for our families and friends! He has trashed our hopes and spurred our fears. In actual fact, the policies of this Bush government have stimulated the recruitment of terrorists from all across the planet, and we will reap the whirlwind of their angry insanity. But, must we endure Bush for 39 more months?

Yes. We must endure, but we need not immolate ourselves on the embers of the Bush regime. In thirteen months we can change the Congress and throw out the nihilists and pillagers. In fifteen months we can seriously consider impeachment of both Bush and Cheney. By then the list of high crimes, misdemeanors, and treason will be a flood the likes of which only New Orleans has seen.

In the meantime, though, we must remain vigilant and permit Bush nothing of consequence. The way to do this is to insist on the independent investigation of the federal response to Katrina and clamor for open and full hearings. Write or call your Representatives and Senators today. Send them email, but do it, the fate of our country and ourselves hangs in the balance! George must be "grounded" like the naughty boy he really (still) is.

Uh, what's that George?

George W. Bush, President of the United States of America


Right back at ya, boy, right back at ya!

James Richard Brett