Flannery O'Connor, a Southern, orthodox Christian writer, when asked about the violence in her stories, replied: "You must shout to the hard-of-hearing."
She wasn't talking about the hearing impaired; she was talking about people who rigidly refuse to see things in any way but their own, and who invent self-serving tautologies in order to maintain their view of the world. She added, "Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood."
Nevada's honorable U.S. Senator Harry Reid understands, and he shouted on Nov. 1. Playing by the Senate's own rules, he forced his colleagues to address the stalled investigation into prewar intelligence that supposedly misled President Bush into launching a "crusade" (the president's word, not mine).
There was "flawed intelligence" all right, but I'm reluctant to accuse our intelligence sources of not doing their jobs. The buck stops at the president's desk. We deserve the truth, and I'm proud that a Nevada senator is "doing the people's business," as President Bush so often reads from his tired script.
The reactions from the Republicans are predictable. Instead of addressing the issues, they've learned their lessons well from propagandist Karl Rove. Like the president, they repeat the same hollow phrases; they frame issues with the same false information; they define the state of the world for a passive citizenry that reliably does not scrutinize its leaders for logical or factual errors.
It's not original with Rove, of course. Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, "Propaganda must confine itself to a very few points, and repeat them endlessly."
Hence Nevada's new Republican Party chair called Senator Reid "an embarrassment to Nevada." Pat Roberts, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Reid's move was "an unfortunate stunt." Republican Senator Trent Lott said "the stunt" was "highly inappropriate." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called Reid's move "a political stunt" and "a pure stunt" and "a slap in the face" and "an affront to me personally" and "an affront to our leaderships" and "an affront to the United States of-of-of America."
And then there are the politicians who want to play it safe by playing dumb, but there is tedious repetition in their messages as well: State Sen. Randolph Townsend said he wasn't familiar enough with what happened to comment; Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick said he wasn't paying attention; U.S. Representative Jim Gibbons simply washed his hands of it and suggested that we Nevadans were on our own.
Same predictable reactions, same predictable language, from Bush's cronies. Also predictably, none spoke to the issues, because discussing the issues might actually lead to the truth, whatever that is. Hitler also wrote, "Propaganda must not engage in an objective search for the truth, which might equally serve the other side ... Rather, it must, unceasingly, serve its own truth."
Why would the Republicans stall the search for truth in the first place? Do they fear the possible outcome of the committee's investigation, which might, in Hitler's words, "equally serve the other side"? Don't they believe that the American people, who put their children in harm's way on the mere word of the president, deserve the truth? Why do we stay silent when our elected officials launch childish personal attacks against a fellow senator who is simply doing his job?
All Sen. Reid did was to demand the truth. What honest man would call the search for truth a "stunt"? This time, no amount of endless repetition of empty clichés, calls for false patriotism, or mean personal attacks can define Sen. Reid's actions as anything but honorable and long overdue.
When the bright light of scrutiny was focused on the Senate Intelligence Committee, what else could Sen. Roberts do but concede: "We have agreed to do what we already agreed to do, and that is to complete as best we can Phase Two of the Intelligence Committee's review of prewar intelligence in reference to Iraq." If Sen. Reid had not raised his voice to force action, how long would it have taken the Senate Intelligence Committee to actually do what it had already agreed to do?
Whatever the outcome of the committee's report, we ought to hear it. Then we can put all of this foolish bickering aside and attend to regaining America's place in the world as a humane, truly democratic nation.
Thank you, Sen. Reid, for waiting patiently before shouting. Let's pray that you shouted loudly enough. If not, then I hope that you will raise your voice again and that other honest men who seek the truth will join voices with you.
n Marilee Swirczek lives and works in Carson City.