2004: The Lost Year

by Eli Beckerman


December 13, 2004   


"Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely."
—Auguste Rodin, French Sculptor
"Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide."
—Samuel Adams, American Revolutionary

(Swans - December 13, 2004)   As the waning crescent moon of 2004 turned into a new moon, that remaining sliver of light vanished into the darkness of the night.

These things are cyclical. I find some comfort in that. The moon will wax full again. But let's face it. Not everything we destroy will re-emerge. Take the sea mink of Maine and northeastern Canada, for instance. Hunted for its fur, this mammal was wiped out and is gone forever.

It is hard not to look at 2004 as a wasted year. War had been raging in Iraq though the mission was supposedly accomplished. And what is war if not an enormous criminal waste? A waste of our very humanity and its potential, a waste of healthy bodies and healthy minds, a waste of structures and infrastructures that were built without regard for the ease with which they can be brought down by 500 pound bombs, a waste of the lives of innocent people who were cast into victimhood by a state sponsor and purveyor of terror, a waste of the billions of dollars of capital that could help repair the country and create positive change in the world, and a waste of the lives of the soldiers who died in this ancient ritual of fraud, where the poor fight for the wealthy's spoils.

And while the run-up to this war, starting all the way back in 2002 (if not earlier), kept anti-war activists and groups with a broad spectrum of beliefs united, the war's unfolding heightened these differences and sectarian fault lines, and it largely fell apart. While four anti-war candidates in the Democratic Party's primary spoke out forcefully against the war in 2003, the new year saw a softening of the will of the anti-war movement. 2004 began with a basic complacency and the expectation that Howard Dean would be the Democratic nominee.

Peter Camejo's Avocado Declaration of January 1st, 2004, was not so complacent.
The ability of the Democratic Party to contain, co-opt and demobilize independent movements of the people is a critical element in allowing the continued destruction of our planet, abuse, discrimination and exploitation based on race, gender, sexual preference and class, and the immense misdistribution of wealth.
Writing while Howard Dean was riding high, Camejo knew full well that Dean was not the great progressive he claimed to be, nor would he be allowed, whether as a candidate or as a President, to challenge the fundamental injustices of the American Empire. Yet calls for a third-party challenge to the rulers were met with fury.

While there was a chance of Howard Dean's "small d" democratic campaign for president turning into a monumental victory, it was also easy to envision his nomination turning into a Democratic Leadership Council-led snipefest leading to a Bush victory. Regardless, the sniping was already taking place, and January and February saw Dean taken down with a rebel yell. And from there things went downhill fast. The anti-war movement was torn between a man called Howard Dean, a man called Dennis Kucinich, a man called Al Sharpton, a man called Ralph Nader, a man called Peter Camejo, a woman called Carol Mosely Braun, some lesser-knowns, and for some senseless reason, a man called Wesley Clark. The anti-war movement, in a defeatist and reactionary blindness, allowed personality politics to take center stage. Built on grassroots muscle, this people's movement got bogged down in a tangled web of authoritarian politics. As spring became summer, and the anointment of Prince Kerry grew certain, the peace movement within the United States, and largely without, decided to pin its hopes on this hawkish aristocrat and self-censor itself in one of the most important elections in all of history.

While my greatest fear was a silent and timid opposition leading to all candidates left-of-Bush without enough combined votes to gain even a plurality of the vote, I never imagined that the way in which this would happen would leave such tremendous doubt over whether or not they did it "legitimately." Yet as the concerns over vote fraud, suppression, and disenfranchisement grow, the American public is gearing up for a kick-ass consumer holiday, their opiate being the whiff of that crisp new Twenty or the awesome design of their new transparent plastic American Express card. It is business as usual in these United States -- forget about the red and blue divides. What brings us together is infinitely more powerful than what keeps us apart. Whether we shop at Wal*Mart or Target, whether we spend our dough at baseball games or NASCAR races, we can all take solace in our common sources of comfort and information, all of them a more lethal narcotic than anything the Office of National Drug Control Policy would dare to add to their lists.

Rodin said nothing's wasted if you use the experience wisely. I suppose history will record whether or not 2004 was the waste that it now appears to be. Some improbable opportunities have opened up, as Kerry's quick concession has left Ohio open to grassroots challenges to the legitimacy and legality of the election. Led by David Cobb of the Green Party, Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party, John Bonifaz of the National Voting Rights Institute, Susan Truitt of the Citizens' Alliance for Secure Elections, Cliff Arnebeck of The Alliance for Democracy, Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and thousands of concerned Ohioans and thousands of people across the country, the election results and the election itself in Ohio are being contested. Rallies are being planned at numerous state capitals as part of the 51 Capital March, and countless other events are being held to show that the legitimacy of the vote is important even beyond the borders of Ukraine.

As 2005 nears and the inauguration of George W. Bush is imminent, the citizens of the world are given a new opportunity -- to learn from the waste of 2004, to learn from the many missteps and the occasional successes, and turn the embittering lemon of 2004 into exquisite lemonade.

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"
—Wendell Phillips, Abolitionist

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2004 U.S. Election Controversies and Irregularities
Ohio Recount News

America the 'beautiful' on Swans

Greens on Swans

US Elections & Democracy on Swans


Eli Beckerman is a Green Party activist.

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This Week's Internal Links

2004: A Case Study In Forensic Irony - by Phil Rockstroh

2004: Diary Of A Man In Despair - by Michael Doliner

Empire Of Amnesia, 2004 - by John Steppling

2004: Reality in Perspective - by Jan Baughman

2004: Another Best and Worst Year - by Joe Davison

2004: Perspectives And Opportunities - by Louis Proyect

2004: The Insurgent Word - by Gerard Donnelly Smith

Retrospective On 2004, Or Why I Need More Sleep - by Joel Wendland

Beyond The Beyond: Reflections on a November Visited Upon us . . . Again - by Milo Clark

2004: We Could Use Some People Power In The U.S. - by Frank Wycoff

2004: The Superpower Kept Sinking - by Philip Greenspan

The Message Of 2004 - by Charles Marowitz

2004: A Year Of Frightening Regression - by Edward S. Herman

2004: The Year Of Disillusion - by Manuel García, Jr.

Death Genes: The Second Coming - Book Excerpt by Walker Percy

Libertad Bajo Palabra - Poem by Octavio Paz (also in French and in English)

Plantation Politics? Mimes, Minstrels And Miscalculation - by S. Jeffrey Jones

Blips #8 - From the Editor's desk

Letters to the Editor


Published December 13, 2004
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