Monday, January 14, 2008

Campaign 2008: The world's strangest debate -- where only one side gets to speak
(Photo is of a painting by artist Op Das. Yes I know it has nothing to do with the article but it's Art for Art's Sake!)

Imagine that you have a teenage daughter -- it's a stretch, I know, but bear with me. Then imagine that your teenage daughter is on her high school debate team.

"Mom," says your adolescent progeny, "next week we are going to debate about NAFTA. Me and Amanda and Justin will be taking the opposition point of view -- that NAFTA is a bad thing. We need to come up with reasons why the U.S. should get out of NAFTA."

You are aware that NAFTA is a really important issue and you are all excited and pleased that she even knows what it is -- let alone that she will actually be studying up on the subject. "NAFTA is taking away too many American jobs," you tell her, "and I'm glad to hear that such an important issue is being discussed." Then you hand her an article from the Berkeley Daily Planet about the dangers of globalization and start making plans to take a few hours off work to go watch the debate.

"The U.S. government from the Reagan administration on," states the BDP article, "has provided subsidies to major industries to move to low-wage areas, and produced agreements in many countries for establishing export production zones — that is, zones in which production is only for export; they add little to the local host economies, and create international assembly lines whose only coherence is the multi-national corporate structure that controls it. The effect of this process has been to gut the industrial base of the U.S. economy." That's news the debate team can use!

"The subsidiary internal effect," the article continues, "was that the military, the one industry that could not run away because it was strategic, gained economic hegemony by default. The U.S. economy fell into the hands of the military-industrial complex." That's a great argument against NAFTA. It has left us with only one major industry -- killing, murder and death. How can you argue against that one? You can't. Now your offspring is good to go.

The day of the big debate arrives. You, the proud parent, go find a seat in the front row -- but then you can't spot your daughter! However, just as you are starting to panic, her teacher steps onto the stage of the cafetorium and announces, "We have a nice surprise for you. This NAFTA debate will be broadcast on national television!" You get all excited! Your daughter is going to be on ABC, NBC and Fox News -- live! You beam with motherly pride.

But then what the teacher says next absolutely floors you. "The side that is debating pro-NAFTA will be broadcast live onstage from here. But the side debating against NAFTA will have to debate from the school parking lot. And with no cameras at all." What! And they call this a DEBATE? I don't think so.

But wait. It gets worse. The week after that, the same thing happens again, when the topic is the effect of war on the American economy. "Can the U.S. military afford to stay in Iraq?" Once again the side supporting spending trillions of dollars on war gets to debate on national television but the opposing side -- the one that debates that we should spend that money more wisely or that we don't have that amount of money to spend at all -- is once again stuck in the parking lot.

Your daughter quotes the Berkeley Daily Planet again. "The Army burned 40 million gallons of fuel in three weeks of combat in Iraq, or almost two million gallons per day, an amount equivalent to the gasoline consumed by all Allied armies combined during the four years of World War I." She states that the U.S. military is the largest user of petroleum in the world and for this reason alone America cannot afford to keep up funding its various wars. But to no avail. No one is listening to Amanda and Justin and your daughter who are way out in the freaking parking lot. Everyone -- except for you, the Mom -- is back in the cafetorium where it's warm and comfortable and they can be on TV.

Your daughter gets very discouraged. And she learns a very unwanted lesson -- that when the side in the parking lot continually losses the debates because the judges are in the school cafetorium with the TV cameras and no one is out in the parking lot, then it's not really a debate at all. And you complain to the school board but to no avail. The networks are paying them for use of the cafetorium. Choose between money and truth? Which do you think they will choose?

So. Where am I going with this little parable? You know where -- the 2008 presidential primary debates. How can they actually even be called "debates" when the basic issue they are debating is so critically important to the very existence of our country if not to our planet -- whether or not globalized mega-corporations own America outright or whether "We the People" are still in the game -- but yet despite the crucial importance of this issue to everything we hold dear, the debaters who represent the mega-corporations parade themselves time after time in front of ABC, NBC and Fox News and get their say ad nausea -- while the critically crucial interests of the American people, the American economy, democracy and the U.S. Constitution are all out in the parking lot getting cold.

PS: What would I recommend that the American people do to protect their own interests? That's a no-brainer! Let's all put on our jackets and coats and go out into the parking lot too. Let's listen to the other side of the story, OUR side of the debate. We will be glad that we did -- and so will our children and grandchildren. And then my next recommendation? Vote for Dennis Kucinich, of course!