“Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” -Rep. Michelle Bachmann, April, 2009
TODAY I really wanted to spout off about the Republican contenders for the presidency, namely the comedy team of Bachmann and Perry. We have Bachmann, the homophobic, government hating, ex-IRS tax agent who has shown a complete inability to open her mouth without sticking her foot in it, and Rick “the hair” Perry, the rootin-tootin Texas cowboy who doesn’t really believe in science or know what his own schools actually teach in matters of which he speaks publicly. He is contemptuous of government too, but actually has President Obama to thank for his ability to balance Texas’ books with those nasty government stimulus funds he took, yet still badmouths every chance he gets. I haven’t heard him thank the President yet. I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
BUT as I began to collect the voluminous data proving some of the GOP candidates to be mental midgets (and lying sacks of you-know-what ), I came across a story about a historical event that I would hazard a guess most Americans have no idea even took place. I began to wonder if the aforementioned political buffoons even know this watershed incident happened. I realized at that moment that this is what scares me the most about this current crop of politicians. Many of them have no real concept or understanding of how the historical chain of events mold present-day matters of national concern. The President of the United States has a ridiculously daunting job which requires that he or she know a lot about the past in order to make decisions about the future. The president needs to make quick decisions and if he is not versed sufficiently the resulting decisions could be catastrophic . Yes, this is certainly not the only characteristic which makes a good leader, but it should at the very least be a given and required at the outset. The episode in history I refer to has very direct and very tangible implications today. Fifty years ago, our government (in coordination with Great Britain) overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran.
I assume that most Americans today know about the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 when 52 Americans were taken hostage by anti-western Islamist militants for 444 days. What most Americans don’t know, but should, is that the crisis was partly a result of a coup d’etat that took place in 1953, led by the United States and Great Britain and dotted with names like Roosevelt (Teddy’s grandson), Swartzkoff (Norman’s dad) and Eisenhower. The CIA developed a covert plan to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and elevate the Shah of Iran, Mohhamed Reza Pahlavi, to power. This coup d’etat came about because Mosaddeq had the audacity to nationalize the oil industry which the British had controlled for decades. Iranian oil kept Great Britain running. Unfortunately, the Iranians decided that oil flowing from their soil should benefit the Iranian people–not the British, and both the United States and Great Britain freaked out. The CIA sent Roosevelt to bribe military officials, street gangs, journalists and religious leaders. The goal was to stir up fervor and topple him from power. In the ensuing mayhem and riots in the streets, completely drummed up by American and British intelligence and bribe money, 800 people were killed and the Shah of Iran was brought back to power. The Shah ruled for the next 26 years as a brutal and authoritarian dictator. Mosaddeq was jailed and spent his life under house arrest and his supporters were jailed and beaten. The United States and Great Britain maintained their access to cheap and abundant oil and Americans went to bed each night knowing nothing of their government’s covert role in destroying another country’s government and economy and burgeoning democracy as people died in the streets. Sweet dreams.
Blowback from this episode helped account for the hatred of our government and by extension, Americans, by those Iranians who held our citizens hostage for well over a year. The Shah was a hated leader, Iran was never to see a democratic form of government again, and the seeds of anti-Western hatred were sown, flowering with the birth of the likes of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
So what? The point I wish to make by highlighting this one event is to make a plea to every citizen to get informed about lots of things. I wish I had a penny for every time I have heard someone say, “But why do they hate us so much? We are good!” Unfortunately, our history has lots of “incidents” just like this which the rest of the world DOES know about. Americans, by and large ARE good people. But we also turn a blind eye to many things our government has done which is not so good…especially to other Peoples of the world. I’m sorry, but that is a fact. That does not mean that we should condone terrorism by any stretch of the imagination. That is an abomination. But what it means is that we are not doing the hard work to become educated about things we need to know and about things that affect our lives. If we are not an informed citizenry, by extension, we open ourselves up to be hoodwinked by charlatans. That is what I see going on today more than ever. I really believe we are being dumbed down. We spend a lot more time playing video games, Facebooking (guilty as charged), and NOT reading. At the same time, many of these power-hungry hustlers want to hold very high offices in our government. It is hard enough to find decent, capable leaders to run things. If we set the bar so low as to elect simpletons and hucksters, we have no one but ourselves to blame. Historical events, ideas, names, dates and places count because we cannot form coherent, smart policy for ourselves and with other nations if we do not understand how we got to where we got to. WE should demand that people running for the highest office in the land tell us the truth and know AT LEAST as much about how the world works than we do. WE should demand that candidates Bachmann, Perry, and the embarrassing attention whore Palin (who is still playing her coy little games and may or may not run) stop consistently mis-informing, lying, and distorting everything from science to economics to when Elvis was born (don’t mess with the Elvis lobby). Bachmann has been proven to be an almost complete and total liar. For goodness sakes, her own mom called her out on a stupid lie last week! Check out a great resource, POLITIFACT, to see what kind of verbal diarrhea she spews consistently.Turn off FOX News and The Housewives of New Jersey and read. Educate yourself.
Without going into a longer history lesson here (you can google up this coup and read all about it on your own), what I do want to address is how we do ourselves no favors by being ignorant of our history. We also do ourselves a disservice when we allow people to dominate our political discourse who have dubious credentials when it comes to the world stage. I think this is why I get so upset by clowns like Bachmann and Palin who show themselves to be empty-headed dunderheads when it comes to a comprehensive understanding of history, geography and cultures of the world let alone anything to do with a petri dish or stuff found floating around under a microscope. Nope. If it ain’t in the New Testament, it ain’t true! They regurgitate their passion for the Founders and the Constitution, but they in reality have very little understanding of either. They are the talking points queens. Catch ’em in a lie and they double-down. Point out their mis-statements and they deflect and obfuscate. If we allow these type of candidates to be taken seriously on the national stage we run the risk of electing leaders who can “inflict a variety of damage” as Mic says so elequently in Rocky III. Palin had to be TAUGHT 20th century history by John McCain’s handlers during her vice-presidential flirtation. A woman who could have been a heart-beat away from the presidency couldn’t point out where Afghanistan was on a map and didn’t know who was involved in World War One. I’m beginning to wonder if she could pass a citizenship test.
Right now, we are a nation that is focused squarely on the economy and jobs. However, any President we elect arguably has much more of an ability to shape a world where nuclear proliferation, terror cells, and unstable dictators threaten our existence than is able to effect economic policy that makes any kind of massive dent in growing the economy. As we have all too painfully witnessed, if Congress is unwilling to work with a President, gridlock and ineffectiveness reigns. However, the president communicates and meets with world leaders regularly. I cannot imagine people like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin or even a Rick Perry conducting serious foreign policy talks with world leaders with their obvious intellectual gaps. Cowboy Rick was a pretty mediocre college student who actually got a “C” in gym class and eked out only two A’s in his entire college career. By all accounts, he was a joke. Perry painfully exhibited his nescience this week when he said that he didn’t know how old the earth was (“I think it’s pretty old”), claimed climate change is a hoax (although close to 97% of the world’s best and brightest disagree) and lied when he said that everyday more climate scientists are reversing their thinking. They most certainly are not. He also told a kid in a crowd who was obviously smarter than the Governor that evolution was a “theory” out there, with a lot of “gaps in it.” I think Perry needs to do some evolving. Even when confronted with those awful things called “facts”, Perry refuses to budge. Watch this video where he is confronted with the fact that Texas spends lots of money on abstinence education, but ranks third in teen pregnancy in the country, so perhaps this is a failed approach. Perry simply denies, denies, denies… crickets…then denies some more:
Golly that was painful to watch, wasn’t it?
In a particularly disgraceful moment on the campaign trail, he called the chairman of the Fed ‘treasonous’. Sarah ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ Palin added her two dim-witted cents in agreement with Perry. Treasonous? That’s one of those words that no one should ever throw around lightly. For all of those Constitution-loving Tea Party right-wingers, the Founding Fathers took great care in defining treasonous behavior in that document:
“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”
For Rick Perry to throw that word around so easily about a man serving the interests of our nation, whether you agree with his policy or not, it is a prime example of the shocking lack of substantive knowledge and self-discipline that is saturating public discourse today. The willingness of candidates to toss around flippantly that dog-whistle type of rhetoric is anathema to citizens who demand that our leaders have a cogent grasp on world events and our own immense and important history . Bachmann’s fear of “the rise of the Soviet Union” may seem like a silly and unimportant gaffe to her staunchest fans, but for a lot of us, it reinforces our belief that she doesn’t know her diddley from squat. Don’t think for a minute the world doesn’t look at someone like her and laugh. Palin is a total joke on the world stage. Perry doesn’t know that his Texas schools (among the country’s worst by the way) do NOT teach creationism. Oh, I know they desperately want to, but they don’t quite yet, Rickster. We still have a little holdover from the Constitution you love so much called the First Amendment. Read about it sometime. These may not all be major historical gaffes, but they highlight the alarming trend of speaking of things of which there is no command of the truth or the facts. Sadly, too many Americans allow these politicians to get away with it. Michele Bachmann is the queen of mis-information and yet her supporters gloss over her disturbing intellectual deficits. Her record for screwing up historical names, dates, places and events is exceedingly lengthy and has become an almost daily occurrence. This tells me she is not just making innocent mistakes of fact due to fatigue or normal human error. She trips over her own tongue because she lacks sagacity. She lacks a fundamental understanding of a lot of things that as the leader of the free world, she inherently needs to know. I’m sorry, but she has proven herself to be joke. She is all talking points, no substance. Perry thinks that he can pray for rain as an antidote for drought. God wasn’t listening those days I guess ’cause the drought got worse after Perry’s proclamation for three days of prayer. Hey, I’m down for religion and prayer and all that good stuff, but I still do like for our leaders to at least attempt to problem-solve on their own once in a while. Pray on your own time, buddy. What would be nice would be if you actually used the brain God gave ya to think up some solutions. Amen!
When we accept people like Bachmann and Perry even after they have shown themselves to be lacking, we shortchange ourselves. We deserve better. But it is our job to remain vigilant and informed. Our national leaders need to understand not only our past, but the world’s historical past in order to make the right national and international policy decisions. Would you let a pilot fly a plane without knowing the basics of aeronautics? Hardly. Would you like a doctor to operate on you if he barely passed medical school or received a degree from the internet? Not likely. Would you let a carpenter build you a home who didn’t follow any building codes? You would be a fool if you did. Why then would you vote for people who have proven they lack even the most elementary grasp of basic facts of historical or scientific understanding? Why would you so easily allow these people to dismiss scientific facts in favor of biblical interpretations of everything from evolution to greenhouse gases to how to end droughts? Why is it now fashionable to disparage the “elite”, as if it is shameful to have an education? I am no fan of Governor Chris Christie, but I give him credit for at least admitting he had a lot of work to do before he would run for president. He takes the job seriously and I am sure he is preparing himself through sober study. As smart as he is, he knows that he needs to know more. It is a national embarrassment that we are electing these nincompoops who make up their own facts as they go along. They may not do the immediate physical damage that a bad pilot or inept surgeon may, but they certainly can inflict a variety of damage upon our country if given the chance. I do not so much fear the rise of the “Soviet Union” as much as I fear the rise of ignorance.