As a boy I remember two fathers talking in the neighborhood playground about the punishment one of the fathers leveled against his son that day. The night before a group of boys had set off cherry bombs and other illegal recreational explosives - a policeman arrived; several boys ran away but this one boy didn't quite make it. The father of the apprehended boy told the other father that he had severely punished his son but he was proud to clarify that "I didn't punish him for what he did - I punished him because he got caught." That changed the paradigm. "I didn't punish him for what he did, I punished him because he got caught." The challenge shifted. Personal scrutiny moved from what an action might mean to the invisible and palpable fabric of the world to how to cover your tracks. The world order being enunciated at the playground was that one might commit any act as long as he is very clear about the escape hatches.
As accusations are swirled and diverted away from the center presently occupied by Bush the son and company we can almost hear that playground manifesto playing in the background. You will be punished not for corrupting the electoral process and democratic principles but for getting caught. You will not be punished for manufacturing an energy crisis in California and setting the stage for Enron to gouge that Democratic state; you will not be punished for whatever you did or didn't do in relationship to September 11th. You and yours will only be punished for getting caught.
Bush the father made it clear shortly after 9/11, when it was safe for him to appear before cameras, that unsavory people need to be engaged so we can get the information we need to protect ourselves and "our" interests. By extension one might assume he believes that unsavory practices need to be practiced in order to protect ourselves and "our" interests. In his thinking, these practices may have to be covert and undetectable. Whatever the moral consequences of these acts may be, the only important consequence, which must be avoided at all expense, is getting caught. Getting caught implies incompetence and unsteady alliances and disqualifies you from the rewards of power. Secrecy in this present administration and the aversion to investigations and the insistence on closed-door hearings are all related to the paternal imperative of not getting caught.
Strangely and perhaps inevitably, the next generation of the Bush tribe is obsessed with getting caught. The twins, Jeb's son and daughter, all seem to have a pathological need to be caught. This is an endearing trait from these new citizens of the playground. Either as an act of rebellion or an unconscious need to warn us, or perverse curiosity, they move inexorably toward the one thing that the family seal says they must never do.
The learned techniques for not getting caught are diversion, attack, a joke, more diversion, blame shift, scapegoats, refusal to be asked questions, irritation at being asked questions, short press conferences, tightly monitored press passes, no e-mails, sealed papers, purged records and playing dumb. All we're left with are these sinking syndromes of symptoms. As we watch suspicious behavior we are warned that unless there is solid empirical proof no one should theorize about or analyze this behavior. No one should "go on fishing expeditions." Like paint around the figure of a victim on the street all we have to work with is negative space.
The search for evidence is called insulting, folly and dangerous. There's just this feeling that hovers like a gas or a powder. Something needs to be found out or discovered but it resists and eludes questions and scrutiny as if by some special order. The checkmated populace can only suspect or applaud. The media is working hard to generate the applause and explain away the suspicions. It's a confused citizenry watching the unfolding and perplexing information that is eked out of the baffling echelons of our ruling elite.
Air Force Lt. Col Steven Butler, on the verge of retirement, gave his views to a local paper about what he felt the president knew and why he didn't act on it. Colonel Butler had his doubts and his opinions - he made them public. He wrote that Bush "...did nothing to warn the American people because he needed this war on terrorism. His daddy had Saddam and he needed Osama. His presidency was going nowhere." And he added - "This guy is a joke." Who knows how long he harbored those thoughts. He could have kept them to himself but he didn't and he will now be court-martialed. Either he didn't care about being caught or he wanted to stand by his disobedience to the oath he took, in which he said that he would defend his country from all enemies - foreign or - domestic. It could be he felt by speaking up he was obeying that oath. Either way, the Colonel will be tried for treason. Neither Bush nor Cheney nor Katherine Harris nor Jeb Bush nor the US Supreme Court will be tried for treason.
Another way not to be caught is to keep changing the channels. Bush will restructure Homeland Defense in dramatic and heroic fashion dazzling the people with his authority and concern for the safety of the American people as he continues to foment chaos and rage in every other part of the globe.
While listening to a baseball game on my car radio the announcer let us know that, "This game is being broadcast to our military men and women in 177 countries around the world. We want you to know we're thinking about you and we hope for an hour or two we can take your minds off more important matters." Not the least of those important matters is that our military is in 177 countries.
Those who make the connection between terrorism and our government's military actions and policies are told there is no such thing as "moral relativism" as if observing a law of physics is making a judgment. We know that swatting a hornet's nest or entering a lion's den and taking the cubs will cause something happen. It's a fact. But laws of physics are vulnerable to self-righteous and self-serving myopia.Violence begets violence - we've heard it again and again and we are living it. The Bush proposition is that our violence is good and the violence it generates is evil. Avoiding "the slippery slope of moral relativism" is another way to avoid getting caught. Be in charge of making the rules as you go along and not only will you not get caught, no one will have the right to come looking for you.
The action of Bush and his board of directors is not that dissimilar from the action of Ken Lay or Jeffery Skilling or John Gotti - do whatever it takes to keep the power and the profits - break and amend all technical and spiritual laws. In this serious playground the "adults in charge" will only be punished if they get caught. Until they are caught we are the ones who will continue to be punished.
Bill C. Davis is a playwright http://www.billcdavis.com/