Tuesday, December 20, 2005



Ronin (2004)

Americans are all ronin now.

From the JFK questionable Wikipedia:

A ronin ( Japanese: ronin: literally, wave man -- one who is tossed about, like a wave in the sea) was a masterless samurai during the feudal period of Japan that lasted from 1185 to 1868. A samurai became masterless from the ruin or fall of his master, or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege. The term originated in the Nara and Heian periods, when it originally referred to serfs who had fled or deserted their master's land.


Traditionally in Japanese culture, ronin were generally somewhat disreputable; a target of humiliation or satire. Although it was considered undesirable to be a ronin, as it meant being without a stipend from a lord, it was also considered necessary to the life experience of any true samurai. There was once the expression, "Seven times down, eight times up," which signified that a samurai would be dispatched on a year-long wandering mission seven times over his career, each time returning to the service of his lord.

The undesirability of ronin status was mainly a discrimination imposed by other samurai. As thoroughly bound (though unusually literate) men, most samurai resented the personal freedom enjoyed by wandering ronin. There are many tales of just ronin, defending poor villagers against haughty, arrogant samurai who would kill anyone unlucky enough to offend.

On the other hand, there are also stories of the lordless, undisciplined, unemployed, and bitter ex-samurai, left over prior to the 1868 Meiji Restoration. These de facto ronin were little more than urban troublemakers, who were in desperate need of a new cause.

Bring it on!!!

And this is all in the context of war, and the more we learn about, you know, what took place in the past, the more we're going to be able to better prepare for future attacks.
--George W. Bush, Meet the Press, 2-8-04

[Comic panel from The Ronin and the Lily (2001) by Sandy Carruthers]

We Americans have all become ronin. We are wave people. The society we once knew -- the America we once loved -- is gone. We wander the country now -- lost. Although we served no master, our nation has fallen into ruin, and we meander without purpose or principles.

We are hypocrites to lecture any nation on civil liberties and freedoms. Our leader admits to authorizing illegal and unconstitutional surveillance on our own citizens. No warrants. No disclosure. Worse, however it denies and equivocates, the Bush administration has openly argued for the use of torture, used legalisms to render the Geneva Convention "quaint," arrested detainees without due process or hearings, and squirreled away "enemy combatants" to gulag-like "black sites" for "extraordinary rendition" (a la torture in the relaxed restrictions of foreign lands).

Just ask yourself. Does such behavior embody American ideals? Is this who you think we are and what we should represent? Are you feeling a little lost yet?

No? Oh, right. I know the sad spiel cycle. 9-11 changed everything. We do not torture. We will protect civil liberties. We need Orwellian police powers to fight the terrorists. The real blame should fall on the nay-sayers and leakers of gulag-op and cooked intelligence memos (disclaimer: outed CIA agents not applicable). If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists. Protesters betray the troops. Anti-war activists are traitors and defeatists who hate America.

I think I'll slowly draw my sword here. Listen up. I do not hate my country -- quite the contrary. But, since the installment of BushCo, I have come to hate what it has become.

And I really resent being labeled a defeatist because

* I categorically think torture is wrong. No wiggle room. Those who practice it are sadistic and uncivilized.

*I value science. I want cutting edge science consistently supported and taught in classrooms -- not a makeover of creationism. I want scientists to have the tools they need to tackle diseases. Free up stem cell lines. We once led the world in experimentation and discoveries. Now, we're cro-mag.

*I think a president who takes us to war under false pretenses should be impeached. I think a president who authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without judicial review and restraint should be impeached. That's not defeatist. That's patriotic -- and, by the way, it is my business -- as a citizen. And, as an aside, I don't really care if the president gets a few extra-marital blowjobs. That's his business -- not mine. Let's check the big board. Yup. The blowjob body count is still at zero.

*I insist on supporting the troops with more than read-my-lips service. Carve up a few more of those bronto H2s and make sure there's enough body armor for everyone. How about shaving a pittance off those precious, deficit-stoking tax cuts for billionaires to triple benefits for veterans? What? We can't do that? Why not? Are you -- a defeatist?

*I resent having my intelligence insulted. I know a euphemism when I see one. Under BushCo, these descriptors are red flags for Orwellian doublespeak. Healthy Forests means Stump Central. Clear Skies means Toxic Clouds. Enhanced Interrogation Techniques means torture. We torture human beings. We lie about such violence. We point fingers in an attempt to shame those who expose such lies and violence. It's becoming a cultural mobius loop.

*I am convinced pre-emptive war based on lies for whatever crooked NeoCon design is immoral and not worth the lives of our loved ones and Iraqi civilians.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his speech accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature remarked:

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle.

Eat that, Mr. War President. I'm tired of this ronin life -- surfing from one cable news channel to next -- searching for understanding and meaning and feeling an ever dwindling hope the USA can ever be rewound back to the country I remember and love. 9-11 should not change everything. It doesn't give you license to lie and spy, Mr. War President. It doesn't allow you to pre-screen dissent and shout down my freedom of speech by questioning my patriotism and loyalty, Mr. War President. And it certainly doesn't place you above the law. After these five smirking years, at long last, have you left no sense of decency?

And while you're busy in the last throes of turning the corner of smearing your critics, could you find the time for some hard work on just one more thing. It's my Christmas wish. Yes, it's sloppy sentimental and a bit old school but sure strikes a chord this year. It's a little concept known as

All we are saying is...

on Earth

[Photograph found here]

See that, Mr. War President? No matter how hard you try to stamp it out...


thelily said...

The emperor isn't wearing any clothes, baby. If Bush's recent attempt at oratorical articulation is any indication (and we don't have many of those), he's scared shitless of the American public. We just won't fall in line, dammit.

So Those Who Don't Agree are unpatriotic, unamerican, and certainly unchristian. It's fairly easy to dismiss dissenters after all that name-calling. It has that tangy McCarthyism aftertaste.

If there's any up-side, it's that a rogue wave is still a wave. Your Ronin art is sad and beautiful and mercurial. It gives me pause.


cruelanimal said...

Funny you should mention McCarthy. Haynes Johnson's latest book, The Age of Anxiety, draws connections between McCarthyism and BushCo tactics. An interesting read.

He also wrote my favorite book about Reagan -- Sleepwalking Through History.

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