On my way to vote at my local polling station, I noticed several crows overhead. Normally, this wouldn’t have struck me as strange. However, no crow had made an appearance in my neighborhood since late summer. At that time, West Nile virus had been reported throughout the county. Beyond those humans who had contracted the virus and raised alarms by their deaths, I had read that the virus also had a devastating impact on other species, especially crows. Hence, their disappearance.
Now, I must admit that I’ve always found crows interesting. They made a habit of congregating in numerous trees around where I live. Their calls intrigued me and I often sensed they were communicating something beyond my inadequate grasp of avian articulation. So, when the crows vanished literally into thin air, I sensed an awful tragedy in the making. Hence, their return immediately produced a momentary elation that they had weathered an awful scourge.
Of course, only later, after the news of Republican triumphs nationally did I recognize the dialectic of the crows’s return at work. Perhaps in an overdetermined way, the circling and cawing crows were a symbol of the augury of decay and death that the nation would witness. As a consequence of the failures of the Democrats and the victories of the Republicans, the future political scene seemed fraught with frightening possibilities from more right-wing judges (hanging judges surrounded by vultures of death) and unending wars (with carrion galore).
My somber mood actually preceded the election with the announcement of the death of Paul Wellstone. I couldn’t get it out of my head that his death came at a most convenient time for his Republican opponent who was behind the polls. In addition, Wellstone seemed to be part of a recent string of deaths and death threats against prominent Democrats, starting with Mel Carnahan in the 2000 election to the anthrax letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy. All a coincidence, or all part of a vast right-wing conspiracy? Maybe the crows were communicating something about this that I still couldn’t comprehend.
On the other hand, given the way that the Democratic Party has mismanaged its “opposition” to the Bush Administration, from capitulating almost entirely on the USA Patriot Act to limited and select criticism of the war on Afghanistan and the coming war on Iraq to tepid arguments about the state of the economy, one would hardly need an executioner to produce the death-throes of the Democrats. Poor voter turnout for the Democrats and a charged up Republican base, with a dash of election irregularities thrown in from state to state, just put the nail in the coffin for the hopes of Democratic control of the Senate and the pick-up of seats in the House.
So, the prognosis for future policing-making from Washington, DC is not a pretty picture for progressives, let alone the lonely and limp liberalism of the Democrats. Is there anything that will stop the ideological messianism of the Bush Administration in its power-hungry, oil-satiated war drives against Iraq? How many more “civilizing missions” will this government undertake before it reaches the cliched “imperial overreach?”
Let’s be clear about one thing. This Administration is hell-bent on spreading death throughout the world, whether by its calculated commission of “full-spectrum dominance” or its cowardly omission of commitments to helping eradicate AIDS and preventing more water-borne and air-borne diseases from taking their toll on the young and innocent in the third world. So much death will follow in the wake of US policy that the eagle should be replaced by the crow, or, more specifically, by the vulture.
For so much of the world, the US is a vulture eating out the entrails of the livelihood of others. With only 6% of the world’s population, the US continues to consume over 40% of the world’s resources. And how those resources are squandered from SUV’s to B2 bombers is outrageous, an affront to the common decency of our species and our planet.
I suppose a glimmer of hope is the fact that if Gaia may have salvaged the local crows, she might also help to salvage our species and our planet. Of course, we can’t rely on the automatic and mystical workings of some planetary force for good. If, as Dr. King used to say, the “arc of the universe bends toward justice,” we have to continue bending our will and the will of the nation towards massive social and political change. Although surrounded by death, we can’t surrender to Thanatos and Republican triumphalism. No more mourning; it’s time to organize.
FRAN SHOR teaches at Wayne State University. He is an anti-war activist and member of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org