Published on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 by the Madison Capital Times (Wisconsin)
What to Say About 2003
What can be said about a year in which George Bush abandoned more than 200 years of American diplomatic and military precedent to launch what he acknowledged to be a pre-emptive war against a country that posed no realistic threat to the United States or to American interests?
What can be said about a year when the Bush administration poisoned relations between the United States and nations with which we have been our friends and allies since Revolutionary War times?
What can be said about a year when, as the nation's manufacturing industries stumbled under the weight of a record trade deficit, the Bush administration began negotiating a Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement that promised to shutter even more U.S. factories and drive even more family farmers off the land?
What can be said about a year when even conservative jurists said the executive and legislative branches had gone too far in undermining civil liberties, environmental protections and corporate regulations?
What can be said about a year when, even as Americans complained in louder voices than ever before about the lack of diversity in the media, the Federal Communications Commission voted to lift controls on media consolidation and monopoly?
What can be said about a year when, after a decade of neglect by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of lessons from abroad and obvious warning signals, mad cow disease was found in an animal on a Washington state dairy farm?
What can be said about a year when mad president disease continued to infect the White House, as George Bush served another year in position for which he was not chosen by the majority of American voters?
What can be said about a year when Dick Cheney continued to take care of business for Halliburton?
What can be said about a year when Don Rumsfeld approved defense-contractor war profiteering at levels so extreme that even some of his Republican allies grimaced?
What can be said about a year when the most lamentable lawyer ever to enter the Department of Justice, John Ashcroft, continued to serve as the attorney general?
What can be said about 2003?
Perhaps the best that can be said of the year that will pass into history at midnight is this: There are only a few hours left.
But we would like to say something else.
For all of the frustrations of 2003, it was, as well, a year of exhilaration, a year when the people began to stir.
2003 saw the rise of a vigorous anti-war movement that spread far beyond the usual bases of activism to involve millions of Americans - in places like Baraboo, Mount Horeb and Viroqua - in defense of American values. Bush may have gotten his war, but he also inspired an unprecedented level of citizen involvement in foreign policy issues. And that activism is not going away.
2003 saw family farmers, union members and environmentalists from Wisconsin join their peers from around the world in Cancun, Mexico, for protests that played a significant role in upsetting plans by the World Trade Organization to dismantle protections for farmers, workers and communities.
2003 saw close to 3 million Americans contact the FCC and Congress to object to the FCC's attempt to lift media ownership caps. As the year came to a close, close to 2,000 activists from across the United States and around the world converged in Madison to hear Bill Moyers' rousing call for a national movement to reform the media so that it nurtures democracy, not just the corporate bottom lines of media conglomerates.
2003 was a year when millions of Americans found their activist voices. And if those voices were not heard fully in the year that is passing, we hope and believe that they will be heard in the year to come.
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times