The groundhog and the spate
of the union
It is official: there will be six more weeks
of winter and four more years of George Walker Bush
February 7, 2005
February 2 in North America brings the most-watched
weather forecast of the year. Led by a rodent, Groundhog Day in
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, annually attracts thousands of visitors,
who eagerly await the appearance of Phil the groundhog, and his
foretelling abilities; by the way, the groundhog, come oracle,
is always male. Legend has it that on this morning, if a groundhog
can see its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If
it cannot see its shadow, spring is just around the corner.
so, the groundhog ceremony in Pennsylvania was held in secret
until 1966, and only the
groundhog's prediction was revealed to the public. However, since 1966,
we have seen the democratization of the forecasts, with the audience actively
witnessing and participating in the groundhog's predictions. This national
media event in the United States was coupled this year with the re-emergence
of another rodent's divinations, and an arrogant pageantry and pomposity
pales in comparison to any groundhog ceremony.
George Walker Bush's first State of the Union
address, since his inauguration, was replete with the expected
rhetoric of an administration that sees itself as a benevolent
proselytizer. Written by former editorial writer for the Wall
Street Journal, William McGurn, Bush's speech began with a congratulatory
rumination on the democracies that America is helping to build
in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Ukraine, and moved into the
invoking of a millenarian
language that issued a decree stating "the end of tyranny in the world."
congratulating the people of Iraq for holding elections, numerous members of
Congress held up their self-inflicted ink stained fingers, as not only a sign
of solidarity with Iraqi voters, but as a way of vindicating this administration,
and the bedlam that has become Iraq.
Let's face it, George
Bush's speech is not just about the state of the union in America, it is
mapping out how America's state will inevitably end up effecting the state
the world, and judging from Bush's proscriptions and prescriptions, the
of the administration has shifted to the state of Iran.
Bush's imaginatively geographical "axis of evil" two
once again Iran took centre stage, and was referred to as "the primary
sponsor of terror in the world." Although this assertion is highly debateable,
we cannot negate the fact that the theocratic regime in Iran has often used terror
as a tool of foreign and domestic policy.
In fact, Bush spoke directly to Iranians
in his speech by stating: "to the people of Iran, I say, as you stand for
your own liberty, America stands with you", there is no doubt that many
Iranians, both inside and outside of the country, welcomed the gesture. There
is also no doubt that Washington would like to see regime change in Iran,
and guess what, so would a vast majority of Iranians.
However, military aggression
and the promulgation of US hegemony is not the answer; as my own oracle recently
told me: no bully ever made the playground safer. The question remains, what
will the rhetoric against the Islamic Republic of Iran
in Bush's speech translate into?
Although the administration has categorically denied any intentions
to attack Iran militarily, for those Iranians who remember Condoleeza
Rice's assertion's in October of 2002 regarding Iraq,
mainly that "we're going to seek a peaceful
solution to this", provides little comfort, and although noted linguist,
and what some would call an oracle in his own right, Noam Chomsky, recently wrote
that he "highly doubts" that America would attack Iran, the behaviour
and language of the administration eerily resembles that of a pre-war Iraq. In
fact, Iran was the top issue on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's agenda
on her European tour this week, and although Iranians love rice, this present
manifestation of it is leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
However, because of the administrations debacle of Iraq, and
the false pretenses under which America launched its military aggression,
a U.S. Senate
committee is currently reviewing the CIA's analysis of Iran, an event that
did not take place prior to the attack on Iraq. Intelligence Committee chairman
Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, recently told the Los Angeles
Times that he sought the review because lawmakers were wary of the CIA's
about Iran's weapons capabilities.
"We have to be more pre- emptive on this
committee to try to look ahead and determine our capabilities so that you don't
get stuck with a situation like you did with Iraq," Roberts said. This
significant change in policy should not be overlooked, and can be utilized
by those of us
who are intent on avoiding a war on Iran at all costs.
Every state of the union address there are guests in the audience
who are signifiers of the good intentions of the administration;
living signs of
America's altruism. This year, seated above the proscenium arch of the
stage, were the special guests of the First Lady, Laura Bush. Introduced by George
Bush were, Safia, an Iraqi woman, and Janet and Bill Norwood, the parents of
an American soldier who died while serving in Iraq.
What followed these introductions
was a theatre in the round that would have made both Shakespeare and Pirandello
proud: the Iraqi woman, with fresh ink stained finger, turns and embraces the
mother of the dead Iraqi soldier, and both women begin to weep, as the members
of the chorus explode in applause.
As the two women begin to release their embrace,
Safia's cufflink becomes entangled in the dog tags
of Janet's dead son, which she is wearing around her neck, and as the women
awkwardly attempted to free each other from the other, this entanglement of
the two women provided yet another opportunity for members of congress
with purple index fingers raised, and salute their president.
In fact, there
were sixty-eight applause breaks in George Bush's fifty-three minute speech,
and although there was some jeering by some members of congress, upon Bush
voicing his intentions to privatize social security in the country,
most members relished
playing the role of an uninspired and mediocre orchestra that only reverberates
It is important for Iranians not to fall into the pit of this
orchestra. It is time for us to carve out a space where we are
able to at once, vocalize our collective abhorrence of the incessant
grievous human rights violations of the Iranian government, while
denouncing and protesting against the militaristic rhetoric of
the Bush administration. This is not a Panglossian exercise, and
can be done without espousing the doom and gloom oratory of the
Any novice of the political situation in Iran
knows that the Islamic Republic is in a dead lock, and that in
its present form, it cannot represent the wishes and aspirations
of an entire generation that played no role in its coming to
fruition, and although the residents of the Pennsylvania town,
after year holds its Groundhog Day ceremony, contend that the
groundhog has never been wrong, we cannot say the same for George
the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Samira Mohyeddin is an Iranian / Canadian and has a degree
in Religion and MIddle Eastern Studies from the Uni'ersity of Toronto,
and is currently pursuing graduate studies in Women's Studies and
Middle Eastern Studies there. See her weblog: SmiraMohyeddin.blogspot.com