By the time I was paying attention, they had a declining influence over the American government's decisions. In my opinion their greater contribution to the culture was a fairly steady stream of gaffes, and being a highly identifiable group for comedians to joke about, satirists to satirize, and writers to use as the basis for memorable - if somewhat two-dimensional - characters like Frank Burns of M*A*S*H.
That was then, this is now. Acid rain, the terrible dangers of electrical transmission lines, and global warming, have replaced "commie plots" as effective rallying cries. Although not for the same people as were swayed by the likes of Wisconsin's Senator Joseph McCarthy, of course. It's hard to imagine a politician building his or her campaign on the claim that there are some number of known communists in the State Department.
Or, if some politico was crazy enough to try - winning a state or national election.
Hugo Chavez, Weather Control, Democracy and All ThatThis afternoon, discussing western-hemisphere politics and cultural history with my oldest daughter, we ran over the idea that democracy was the only viable, or for that matter, decent, form of government.
The idea died at the scene.
Our conversation ricocheted in another direction: which has even less to do with the general topic of this blog than this post.
The encounter with one of the basic assumptions of many Americans - that democracy is the only "right" way to run a country - reminded me of something I wrote about a year ago:
Hugo Chavez is the leader of a constitutional democracy. Venezuela's current constitution dates from December 30, 1999 - and President Chavez was elected in 2006 by a respectable margin: 62.9% to 36.9%. The next election for the Venezuelan president is in 2012.1
Military Rule as the Ideal Form of GovernmentNo, I don't really think so, but look at this:
You see?! That 'proves' that military rule is superior to old-fashioned monarchies, theocracies, and constitutional democracies.
- Government by Religious Leaders
Example: Afghanistan under the Taliban
- Government by Monarch
Example: Saudi Arabia
- (15/19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis)
- Government by Elected Leaders
Result: Terrorists - and pirates
- Government by Military Ruler
Result: No terrorism (and no pirates, either)
- Assuming that the elections were as faked as critics claim
What's Wrong With This Picture?Pretty obvious, isn't it? I carefully selected examples that supported my claim. That can make for effective propaganda, but it's not good reasoning.
As a matter of fact, I don't have the visceral, reflexive revulsion that many Americans have toward the idea of having a country run by military or religious rulers. I think it depends on what individuals are running the show, and which side of the eighteenth century most of the country's people live on.
(December 29, 2008)
As a matter of fact, December 21, 2012, is when a "Long Count" cycle of the Mayan calendar will end - assuming that the current Long Count started on August 11, 3114 BC. If it started on August 13 - which is possible - the cycle re-starts on December 23, 2012. It'll also re-start in the spring of 7138, summer of 12263, autumn of 17388, and so on.2
Western civilization's calendar uses a base-ten numeric system, and involves centuries and millennia. We just experienced the end of one of our 'long cycles' - December 31, 1999 - and Y2K went past without an apocalypse. (Yes, there was a real issue with legacy software - which encouraged some long-overdue upgrades and re-engineering.)
I don't expect to influence people who are convinced that:
- Commie plots are behind every disagreeable event
- We're all gonna die from
- Acid rain
- Cholesterol (high or otherwise)
- Global warming
- The end of a Mayan calendrical cycle
- "Guinea, Military Rule, and Terrorism: Beware Hasty Judgment"
(December 29, 2008)
- "Chavez asking Cubans to 'bomb clouds' amid drought"
Reuters, via Thomson Reuters Foundation AlertNet (November 15, 2009)
- 1 Venezuela
World Factbook, CIA (last updated November 11, 2009)
- 2 Mayan calendar
Hugo Chavez may, eventually, be the basis of a character as colorful and memorable as Frank Burns. From today's news:
"Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez says he will join a team of Cuban scientists on flights to "bomb clouds" to create rain amid a severe drought that has aroused public anger due to water and electricity rationing.
"Chavez, who has asked Venezuelans to take three-minute showers to save water, said the Cubans had arrived in Venezuela and were preparing to fly specially equipped aircraft above the Orinoco river.
" 'I'm going in a plane; any cloud that crosses me, I'll zap it so that it rains,' Chavez said at a ceremony late on Saturday with family members of five Cubans convicted of spying in the United States...."