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January 31-February 7, 2007

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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs


Nūz can't help but being reminded, this month, of how Hungarian-born movie director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, White Christmas), known for his mangled English, once attempted to get riderless steeds to enter a dramatic scene by yelling "Bring on the empty horses!"

That's eerily parallel to the order we seem to keep hearing now, from some invisible director, to "Bring on the hollow resolutions!"

Are we talking about the city of Point Arena's resolution stating that "corporate personhood" is an erroneous idea, and informing the U.S. Supreme Court that the notes in its SANTA CLARA COUNTY V. SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD ruling--decided back in 1886--were out of line? Or about the city of Berkeley's resolving that its Chinese sister city should exact answers from its national government about mistreatment of the meditators of Falun Gong--an "action" stretching the usual "We resolve that you should do this" into "We request that you resolve that they stop doing that"?

Or even about the recent Santa Cruz City Council resolution stating support for women's right to choose--which at least required the resolvers themselves to do something (specifically, join the national Pro-Choice City Campaign)?

Well, yes. Kind of.

But primarily, we're talking about the hollow resolutions titled Senate Bipartisan Resolution on Iraq, one of which has been introduced by Sen. Joseph Biden, and another by Sen. John Warner, both of which statements are right now snaking their ways through various committees in Washington, D.C. Here's what these resolutions do:



That's right. Nothing.

First, they do nothing because they're nonbinding. Not one single actor--of all those resolving and all those receiving--is required to commit, or refrain from committing, one single act.

Second, they do nothing because they don't outline even the sketchiest path of action. "It is the sense of Congress," says the Biden version, as reported in The New York Times, that Bush and his war promoters "should transition" to securing Iraq overall, "should transfer" more responsibility to Iraqi troops, and "should engage nations in the Middle East" in the process. How? When? With what consequence if not followed? Silence.

Warner's resolution is even more bloodless--its text recommends, according to CNN, "encouraging the president to consider" other options. In other words, "we think that the president should think." Big fracken whoop.

Even more troubling is that sponsors are being absolutely clear that these declarations achieve nothing, Mr. Biden has comfortingly assured us--through The New York Times--that "this is not designed to say, 'Mr. President, ah-ha, you're wrong.' God, no. That would be rude. Rather, "this is designed to say, 'Mr. President, please don't go do this.' "

As though the entire world had not been saying "please" for more than four years, and the White House hadn't derided, dismissed and spit at the supplicants every single time.

And as though Iraq 'Special Project' CEO Dick Cheney weren't already dismissing the resolutions, stating to each news medium that these statements of the "sense" of Congress "won't stop us."

Now, to give fair consideration to our senators, isn't there perhaps just a bit of courage in standing up to a warmongering president?

Well, sure. Maybe even two bits. Or three. If one is looking from the vantage point of a hypothetical world floating somewhere far, far away.

But on the soil of this world--soil which absorbs the red-brown blood of around 125 newly slaughtered human beings in Iraq each day--no. No courage is involved at all.

Why? Because the people of the two nations involved--the United States and Iraq--have both already made it exceedingly clear--one through votes and the other through surveys--that they're far past ready for this fraudulent war to end. So there's no resistant public to fear.

In fact, Iraqis alone have told polling outfits for several years now, at levels exceeding 85 percent, that they're done. Finished. That's it. And Americans have followed close behind. There is, in short, no popular downside, for the Senate, in being firm.

Nor is there one involving the elite. Nearly every military expert, seasoned diplomat and head of national government has given the go-ahead to end to this purposeless slaughter, now approaching 100,000 dead and wounded, if not more. So not only do our senators face no popular downside, they face no institutional one, either.

So what can explain this disconnect between a clear global mandate and the submissive paralysis of Congress? An insistence on continuing to plead, when the pleadees have consistently proven themselves unswerved?

It would be easy to answer that question by aiming charges of collective character defect against the senators, and some are doing just that. Given, however, that character is primarily socially formed, that doesn't seem accurate. Something else that's defective is at work.

And what's at work, Nūz suspects, is that the Senate is attempting to address a perfect militarist storm by using a highly imperfect vessel. Namely, that odd, ineffective class of pseudo-communicative bloviating known as the "resolution."

After all, what does the common, normative resolution actually say? It says: "WE resolve that YOU should do THIS." We in Berkeley resolve that you in Pennsylvania should be nicer to certain African-Americans. We in Los Angeles resolve that you in Tehachapi should plant trees to conserve energy. We in Sonoma, having zoned out people of color decades ago, resolve that you other levels of government should guarantee equal protection to all. Yep, Sonoma--one of the least diverse counties in the state--actually did that. And the audience applauded righteously.

Let's go deeper and examine the structural form of resolutions, using some parallels. Just as mass production separates work and final product and--as Marx noted--produces the "alienation of labor," and just as video games separate shooter and object shot and cause--as educators note--growing indifference to violence, resolutions separate the party speaking and the party spoken to, and often do so to the point where no interaction ever takes place.

This disconnect between addressor and addressee, this alienation between initiator and recipient, allows anything at all to be "resolved," and any alleged "demand" to be made, with neither resolver nor resolvee ever needing to meet or tolerate a potentially tense interaction. Resolvers don't, in many cases, even schedule time to consider responses, because they don't expect any. Which means that resolutions are not really communications, they are emissions. Emissions without involvement. The ultimate zipless cluck.

We see this eminently clearly in the Senate resolutions, which are virtually devoid of definable meaning, demand no action, require no response, carry no consequence and betray even their own titles as "resolutions," since they house not even a hint of resoluteness nor an iota of resolve.

And even in better cases, where more conscious resolvers demand some action of themselves--such as in the case of the aforementioned Santa Cruz resolution vowing to join a national pro-choice group to help protect, according to a Sentinel report, "public health and safety"--disconnects and disembodiments occur.

Just look at the headlines. Two o'clock in the morning, the day of the debate, two women are attacked in dark city neighborhoods. Two in the afternoon, the council discusses a resolution to protect women's rights. Since early December, would-be rapists, assailants and murderers had attacked four more women. See early December's headlines: another resolution, this time one supporting nonviolence. For months now, in short, resolutions about women's rights and violence keep appearing on agendas. Strategy sessions on protecting local women's right to be free from violence don't. This is ultimately what resolutions do. They supplant hard reality with spongy sophistry, action with exhortation, frank assessment with fancy phraseology.

Once again, the difficulty does not lie in the character of the officeholders involved, who work long hours to serve the community.

The difficulty, rather, is that it's easy for any of us--voters or voted-in--to develop a craving for the artificially sweet taste of that puffed-up cotton candy concoction known as the "resolution," and with each new lick it becomes easier to forget that they contain no measurable nutritive value, that their sweetness comes primarily from rose-colored sugar and saccharin, and that despite their apparent size, they're actually over 98 percent hot air.

Still, despite how hard it is, it's time we try.

Enough with the empty horses, and enough with the hollow resolutions. It's time for us, as a nation and as a community, to set some tough goals, carve out a plan of action, climb back up, get in the saddle and ride.

Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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