Thursday, March 22, 2007


This past Monday marked the 4th anniversary of the war in Iraq. The weapons of mass destruction did not exist. The oft-touted “mushroom cloud” was never possible. Iraq had no nuclear capability. The yellowcake from Niger proved to be a myth from a forged document. We were told we would be greeted as liberators. The welcome wagon still hasn’t been rolled out, 4 years later. Iraqis, who don’t agree on much of anything these days, are united in their wish that we get the heck out of there. We were told the war would pay for itself, with all that Iraqi oil. Instead, the US treasury is shoveling more than $1 billion a week at a war we aren’t winning. Many Iraqis still don’t have electricity or running water. The road from Baghdad to the airport is still not safe. The cost in lives is immeasurable.

As I write this, the US military death count is 3, 228. We don’t count the numbers of dead Iraqi civilians. We hear a lot of phony concern about the Iraqis, from our war president. Remember the purple fingers, and all of the talk about making life better for Iraqi women? It’s hard to believe that we really sincerely care about the Iraqi people, if we don’t respect them enough to count their dead. The Bush administration knows that if we the people had the full count of the dead, that our opposition to the war would be too strong to ignore. I can’t begin to fathom that kind of cynicism, combined with that kind of censorship.

This past Monday, a small peace vigil, planned at the last minute, was held in Conway, at the intersection of 16 and 153. I held a sign that read simply,“PEACE.”
During the last four years, I’ve participated in numerous peace marches, demonstrations, and vigils. I’ve watched public opinion, as expressed by motorists, change. Four years ago the one fingered peace salute was very common, as were all manner of crude epithets. Four years later, the motoring public has changed its tune. Support for ending the war is overwhelming. On Monday, the traditional peace sign was much in evidence, as were honking horns, and thumbs up gestures.

There were gestures of disapproval. A few angry young men burned rubber going around corners in the intersection. There were a few one finger gestures. Most puzzling of all to me, as I stood holding a sign reading “Peace” were the thumbs down gestures.
I’ve been thinking about them all week, trying to interpret what message they could be sending. Were they war supporters? Maybe. Were they just reacting to what they no doubt perceived as a bunch of “hippies” standing around with signs? Maybe. The most frightening possibility is that they believe peace is a bad idea, under any circumstances.

Much has been written about the ideological polarization that has taken place in this country. It’s been carefully created, and nurtured, in fact. “You’re either with us or against us” was a bit of propaganda that insured a deep division between those who believed the facts being presented before the invasion of Iraq, and those who did not. Many, who believed what they were told at the time, have come to understand that the US invasion of Iraq was based entirely on lies and manufactured evidence. That still leaves a population of folks who are so bound to their ideology that they can’t admit that the war is a disaster. They’re the ones who use terms like “cut and run” – another propaganda sound bite. Apparently “stay and die” is preferable to these folks.

Our president once said that he was “a uniter, not a divider.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Right after 9/11, when we needed a national focus, he advised us to go shopping. We had a window of opportunity to heal some of the polarization that’s taken place. The Uniter chose to continue that divide, pitting us against one another with his rhetoric. The division keeps us from working together, to move forward, and work to rectify the mistakes of the last 6 years of this administration. That divide causes people to defend and justify criminal conduct, because they can’t admit the people on their side are wrong. That divide creates anger, hate, and violence. That divide is hurting our nation, our state, and our communities.

A neighbor in Jackson recently commented that in the old days, people would get together at town meeting and hash things out – sometimes fighting tooth and nail, but at the end of the meeting, everyone walked out and went back to being friends and neighbors. It’s different, now, she told me. People simmer and resentments fester. Those simmering resentments mean that it’s difficult for folks in the community to join forces and do what’s right for the town… as well as the state, and the country.

How do we end this polarization? How do we become more united, in these United States? How do we begin to work together, for the common good? I don’t have the answers to those questions, but one thing I am certain of is this: we must start with peace.

“The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

HB 791

On March 14, the NH House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB 791, a bill that would grant civil marriage to NH's gay couples.

This is my testimony:

My name is Susan Bruce. I’m from Jackson, NH. I am here today as a woman, a wife, a mother, a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation, and an advocate for social justice.

We all agree that families strengthen our communities, our state, and our country. You will hear a great deal of testimony today that invokes terms like “protecting marriage.” I’m not sure what we are trying to protect marriage from. No one here is suggesting we do away with the institution of marriage; in fact, I’m here to urge you to broaden our definition of marriage, to include same gender couples. Families that have already been created will be protected under the laws of our state. More people will be able to marry, more families will be created, and our communities and our state will be stronger as a result. Why wouldn’t we want to encourage and protect the families of our state?

I belong to a religious denomination that embraces diversity, and would gladly marry gay couples, but I understand that this is not the case for all religions. HB 791 grants civil marriage, thereby eliminating religion altogether, which means that no church will be forced to perform a ceremony it isn’t comfortable with. This is both sensitive and sensible public policy.

In the history of our country, laws that discriminated against groups of people have been changed, as we have become more enlightened. Slavery was abolished. Black men were given the right to vote. Women were finally given the right to vote. Interracial couples were given the right to marry. Segregation was abolished – in schools and in our communities. None of us look back and long for the good old days of segregation. The New Hampshire legislature has the opportunity to make the same kind of choice – to change a law that is currently discriminatory. In the decades to come, we will not look back and long for the good old days of marriage discrimination. We will be too busy accepting the congratulations of our children and grandchildren for righting a wrong, and making history.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Sin Eater

Anna Nicole Smith has finally been laid to rest in the Bahamas. For weeks the media has been breathlessly following the story of her death, the subsequent wrangling over her body, and the question of her infant’s paternity – one would think that this woman did something incredibly important to merit this kind of media attention. One would be wrong. Ms. Smith was yet another cartoon blonde with big fake breasts, willing to live her tacky life on the pages of tabloids. The media created her, and are now wringing every last dollar out of her corpse.

Anna Nicole Smith didn’t interest me. I didn’t, and still don’t care what happens to her. I don’t care who the daddy is – but I can’t escape the obsessive media coverage of her unremarkable life. I don’t want to know about Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or Paris Hilton either, but we are all fed a relentless diet of gossip about these silly, self-indulgent women, on the televised news, in the print media, and on the internet. The Associated Press recently engaged in an experiment – they imposed upon themselves a seven day ban on stories about Paris Hilton. No one complained. In fact, many people contacted them to thank them – said they wanted more serious news, more world news, and less celebrity twaddle.

What does and does not make the news is unpredictable. Last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, GOP pin-up girl Ann Coulter said something quite offensive about presidential candidate John Edwards. She said that she had wanted to comment about him, but, “it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word f*gg*t, so I’m kind of at an impasse.” There were hundreds of journalists and political operatives present, and it was all caught on television cameras, but oddly, it attracted almost no initial media coverage. It wasn’t until bloggers and Democrats began slamming Anthrax Annie that it became a news story.

Coulter is a guest at this event every year. In 2006 she distinguished herself by making comments about “rag heads.” There was a minor dust up about that, but not nearly the same as she managed to create this time. Coulter is trying to weasel out of her statement by saying she didn’t mean it as an anti-gay slur – which might hold some water if she didn’t use it so often. She has referred to Al Gore as a “total f*g” and even went as far as to suggest that Bill Clinton was probably gay. Bear in mind that Coulter is in her forties, and has never managed to get married. It’s curious that she chooses to sling these slurs at Gore and Edwards, both devoted family men.

It’s even more curious that the Republican Party continues to use her as a mouthpiece. Oh, they say that Annthrax is just an “entertainer” and shouldn’t be taken seriously. In fact, they blame those of us who despise her bile spewings for giving her some kind of credence. The fact is, however, that they buy her books in bulk, so that her poorly written diatribes make the best seller lists. And they invite her to events like CPAC, knowing full well that she’ll make offensive comments. The right loves Ann Coulter, and not just because she makes a better pin up than Barbara Bush Senior. They love her because she is their sin eater. She can say all of the really offensive things that they would love to say, but don’t dare to. The GOP can sit back and laugh, while she gives voice to their prejudices, and they don’t have to take any responsibility for it. Coulter will do and say anything to get publicity for herself – so it’s a win-win situation for all of them. The losers are the rest of us, the folks who are weary of this kind of nasty politicking.

Republicans in NH are still whining that Democrats won big in November because of President Bush’s unpopularity, and the unpopularity of the war in Iraq. Both the president and the war are exceedingly unpopular, but that’s not the only reason the Democrats one so big. One reason that isn’t picked up at all in the rather right leaning media of our state is that people are fed up with attack politics. The Union Leader’s story of the two GOP warmongers who whined because Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter returned their phone calls is an example of that kind of attack. A search into the seamy underbelly of NH political blogging will reveal a lot of really disgusting discussion taking place, where the Congresswoman is routinely referred to as a “moonbat” and much, much worse in some places. In 2002, Jeb Bradley ran a TV ad that made fun of Martha Fuller Clark for being a slightly jiggly middle aged woman. Bradley is trumpeting his intention to run against Shea-Porter again, so we can expect to see him engage in that kind of nasty sexist attack again. The Republicans don’t just hate our new Representative because she’s a Democrat.

It’s also interesting to note what news isn’t covered. Congressman Dennis Kucinich has been spending a lot of time in NH, with little media attention. He isn’t calling anyone names, he isn’t attacking anyone – he just quietly takes principled stands and sticks to them. He’s not afraid to take a position, he’s not a waffler, and he’s not mean spirited. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak 3 times in the last few weeks. He’s far more confident and more relaxed than he was in 2004, and he’s still speaking about peace, free trade, health care, and education. He is the only presidential candidate that I’m aware of who is in favor of marriage equality. Despite all that he has going for him, the media pointedly ignores him, and most people don’t take his candidacy seriously. It’s a shame, because he has a lot of great ideas. Those ideas should at least be brought to the national table for all of us to discuss.

Maybe Kucinich should claim to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby. Imagine the publicity.

“Journalism consists largely of saying, “Lord James is dead” to people who never knew Lord James was alive.” Gilbert Keith Chesterton