On Thursday, William Rivers Pitt took a hopeful, even pious view of the Nov. 7 elections as a first, essential step to putting the United States back on a path consistent with the fundamental principles of its Constitution and the core values of the Declaration of Independence. -- "The back of the 'Neoconservative Revolution' has been broken . . . The Project for the New American Century, and all that was spawned from it, has been relegated, for now, to the dustbin of history." -- For Pitt, who fully embraces the notion of American exceptionalism ("Nothing like this has ever existed anywhere, ever"), the real meaning of Nov. 7, 2006, is a ringingly affirmative response to doubts expressed in the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (invoked in Pitt's piece) whether a "nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal . . . can long endure." -- "All we have to tie together this amazing and confusing [American] experiment," says Pitt, "are a few old pieces of paper. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are the only truths that each and every citizen of this country have completely in common. They are our unifying theme, our organizing principle, and we share this together because the basic idea was, and remains, that these belong to us and defend us and set us, now and forever, free." -- The failure to even mention the Democratic Party shows how much wishful thinking there is in Pitt's piece, but the editorial director of the Progressive Democrats of America shows he's aware of this when he closes on a militant note: "The real work begins now." ...
A DEEP, DEEP BREATH
By William Rivers Pitt
November 9, 2006
I will sew no silken seam on a fine May mornin',
You can bide your time 'til your time runs out,
So take this as fair warning ...
-- "Shepherd Lad," The Battlefield Band
Let us be absolutely clear on what has taken place. This was not simply a midterm election, not just a historic running of the table, not just a scathing repudiation of virtually everything the Bush administration has stood for since they swaggered into Washington six long years ago.
It was so very much more than this.
The back of the "Neoconservative Revolution" has been broken, perhaps not for all time -- simply because nothing truly evil ever really dies -- but for a good long while. The ideology foisted upon an unwilling public by the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Ledeen, and the rest, the ideology that has given us slaughter in Iraq and a ravaged reputation abroad, has been exposed and eviscerated. The Project for the New American Century, and all that was spawned from it, has been relegated, for now, to the dustbin of history.
As unutterably massive as this is, it still does not capture the entirety of the event.
There are many things that make the United States of America unique, but one stands out above all. Every other nation on Earth has within it cultural, religious or historical threads, often stretching back hundreds if not thousands of years, which bind its people together.
When you see the Orangemen march in Ireland, when you see the Serbs mark the anniversary of a massacre that happened 900 years ago, when you see the British celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, you are witnessing an echo out of time that, for good or ill, silently reminds the people of those countries that they have a shared heritage which stretches back dozens of generations.
The United States stands apart from this. We are an invention, the product of an idea, the children of a dream. We come from everywhere, and though our history is stained with far too much bloodshed during the unfolding of our own history, the sum total is an amalgamation of the best and worst of the human experience. Nothing like this has ever existed anywhere, ever.
All we have to tie together this amazing and confusing experiment are a few old pieces of paper. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the only truths that each and every citizen of this country have completely in common. They are our unifying theme, our organizing principle, and we share this together because the basic idea was, and remains, that these belong to us and defend us and set us, now and forever, free.
It was not always so, and remains today a dream unfulfilled, but in the end, that was the genius of it all. These three documents, and the ideology behind them, were created to be self-improving entities. Much remains to be done to move along the "more perfect Union" Lincoln spoke of, and that work will never be completed . . . and that is the point. These things are ours, and they are all that we truly have to bind us together, and our purpose as citizens is to bend our will toward the creation of that more perfect Union.
Before the sun came up on Wednesday, that shared heritage had been under a savage, unrelenting attack by men and women who have no respect for the idea and the dream which makes us all that we are as a people. The right to a trial has been shattered, the right to stand before your accuser has been removed, the right to be secure in home and person from governmental intrusion has been swept by the boards, and all by a president who once referred to the Constitution as "just a God damned piece of paper."
These cancers have not been cut out simply because of an election, of course. But the first, vital step towards repairing our shared heritage was taken on Tuesday night, simply because we have at long last returned to the basic Constitutional requirement of checks and balances within this government. No longer will the best interests of the people be slapped aside by people who have no patience for the process that was laid out by wiser and better men. Some logs have been thrown in the road, and for now, a real chance for healing has been gifted to us by the very democratic institutions these people would shun and shatter. The power of the vote, so often maligned and disdained, has been restored.
A more perfect Union, indeed.
Much remains to be done. The departure of Donald Rumsfeld from the Pentagon will not heal Iraq, nor will it bring back to life the soldiers and civilians who have died thanks to the hubris of others. The cornering of Dick Cheney has not sapped him of his power. George W. Bush remains an incurious front man whose very existence in that seat of power will stand as a constant threat to the safety and security of this nation and the world entire.
"U.S. envoy tells Iraqis election won't change policy," reads the Associated Press headline from Wednesday. That, in and of itself, says all we need to know about what remains to be done. For the first time in far too long, however, an opportunity has arrived to do more than scream into the thunderstorm and damn the rain.
The real work begins now.
--William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.