they're not as exciting as the walls in HBO's "If These
Walls Could Talk," but I've got some talking walls of my
own. While fixing a hole where the rain got in --- and then the
ants and small mammals --- we gutted the back of our house and
decided to bump out the kitchen. During the demolition, I was
surprised to see writing --- construction numbers and instructions
from the original homebuilders --- on the plywood and beams.
Then our workers added their own calculations and words to
the walls. In pencil they wrote: "garage switch" and "pipe" and
lists and fractions. In red capital letters someone wrote: "LIVE" near
some dangling wires. At first I took it as a command --- Buddhist
wall wisdom insisting that I live in the moment --- until I
realized it meant that the wires, destined to become an outlet,
That small amount of text transformed the space for me. Two
generations of workers were communicating across time through
the walls of my house. The construction stopped feeling like
an invasion of wood and tools and started to come alive with
I couldn't resist putting my own two cents in. I got a fistful
of Sharpies and wrote quotes and lyrics on the plywood and
beams. It wasn't long before my kids joined in, making up stuff
and quoting Poe and the Beatles.
Of course, all this writing was soon covered up by insulation
and drywall. But that doesn't matter to me. I like knowing
that layers of text lie hidden beneath the paint and cabinets.
The construction is complete, and I feel as if the walls really
are talking to me. When I stand near the kitchen island I can
hear my 12-year-old's John Donne quote about how no man is
an island, we're all connected, so do not ask for whom the
bell tolls. Near the door to the garage, I can hear "Baby,
you can drive my car," written in my younger son's hand.
Though it's oddly comforting to me to have buried text murmuring
beneath the surface, most hidden meanings are not so reassuring.
Few news items in the past year could be taken at face value,
for example. Stories about the Bush administration's handling
of Iraq, congressional misdeeds, and revelations about extraordinary
rendition, to name a few, made Americans --- already a pretty
jaded lot --- distrust pols and the media even more than they
did before, if that's possible.
We've always been skeptical consumers of politics and political
news, since back when we threw off the power-hungry Brits.
Founded on a love of freedom and a wariness of governmental
abuses, America was so determined to do it right that we put
our plan in writing.
But fat lot of good the Constitution has done us lately. All
levels of government, like the walls of my house, are concealing
messages. But these aren't fun messages; they are betrayals
of the public trust, falsehoods and cover-ups. No sooner is
one layer of lies revealed than another is discovered.
Months ago, the feds had to fess up to funding Righty pundits
who, while hawking the administration's agenda on news programs,
forgot to reveal that they were on the payroll. But that didn't
stop the administration from doing the same thing in Iraq.
Rub the ink off any of dozens of cheerful articles in Iraqi
newspapers and you'll find Iraqi "journalists," receiving
up to $1,000 for their "news."
It was just a byte or two of data that uncovered the farce
that was President Bush's Plan for Victory in Iraq. Called
the unclassified version of the actual plan for victory, the
35-page PDF file (on the White House site) contained embedded
data revealing that the author was not, as you might assume,
a specialist in achieving victory in Iraq. His field is presidential
marketing and PR.
Investigators, looking under piles of skewed financial statements
and misleading political donations, uncovered the truth about
Rep. Tom DeLay and indicted him for conspiracy in a campaign
finance scheme. But that's nothing compared to what's going
to happen when prosecutors dig beneath the filth and grime
coating his good buddy, superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. Roughly
two dozen politicians are under investigation in a mess that
the chattering classes predict could be bigger than the Savings
and Loan scandal.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the Republicans have built
their house on lies. They're in trouble now. The foundations
are crumbling as approval ratings plateau at low levels. At
the upper echelons of government, rumors swirl and indictments
threaten. It's safe to say the roof, the roof, the roof is
on fire. I don't think I'm alone in offering this suggestion:
we don't need no water, let the motherfucker burn.
If all these layers of incendiary falsehoods and lies, evasions
and denials don't bring the Republican clubhouse crashing down,
then perhaps the NSA spying case will. Specifically, President
Bush's defense, when confronted with allegations of illegal
surveillance in mid-December.
Citing the Constitution, Bush said he has a responsibility
to protect our country at his discretion and sidestepped questions
about constitutionally required checks and balances. He disparaged
FISA for being outdated and --- ignoring the fact that FISA
was initiated precisely to control NSA's nasty tactics ---
again claimed his constitutional right to use whatever means
he deems necessary to break down the walls of democracy.
Luckily, the framers of the Constitution foresaw guys like
Bush and his power-drunk cronies, and they built a strong foundation
for this country. This is a particularly bad time in America,
though. It's not clear when the layers of treachery will be
scraped away and the walls renovated. It's been five years;
are we in for three more? If the walls could talk in the White
House and Congress, they'd probably cry.