Email #318: “Call to Action”?

When Republican Senator Corker announced his retirement last month, he said:

“As a member of the governing wing of the Republican Party, I’ve worked to instill stability, certainty and predictability in Washington. I’ve fought to fulfill the basic functions of government, like keeping the lights on and preventing default. Regrettably, that has not been easy given the disruptive outside influences that profit from increased polarization and ideological rigidity that leads to dysfunction, disorder and chaos.”

President Bush echoed these themes in a speech this week in which he identified a need for “self-correction” and expressed a “Call to Action” for leaders “to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust”:

“when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy… Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication… We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism… To renew our country, we only need to remember our values… bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed… our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

Why do you think President Bush referred to bigotry three times and cruelty twice in a single speech? What conspiracy theories and fabrications do you think he means? What bullying?

Since President Bush is long out of office, and Senator Corker will be joining him soon, these problems are yours to solve. Are you responding “urgently” to them? Are you combating “dysfunction, disorder and chaos” in our political system? Are you working to reverse “increased polarization”?

Are you and others “charged with preserving and protecting democracy” putting that charge ahead of your personal political agendas? Or are you not prioritizing these concerns? Or are you discounting them entirely? Or, worse still, are you profiting from them?

Why do only retired or retiring Republicans express concerns for the most basic needs of our democratic system? What are you and the other members “of the governing wing of the Republican Party” finding so much more important than our values and ideals?

When you leave office, will you too transform your rhetoric and warn your former colleagues to address these same issues?

Will you look back and say that democracy failed, or that you failed democracy?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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