Friday, April 01, 2005
How the Other Half Lives
"I hope you and all your communist friends are proud of yourselves!" The voice of my friend (conservative with patches of wingnutry) was so choked with bitterness, frustration and rage that it took me a second to identify him and put the pieces together.
"I take it she's dead?"
"And I'm sure you're thrilled to hear it!"
"Actually yes. I've been concerned about a suicide bombing, a kidnapping or some act of coup d'etat, and this reduces the probability of it. She died in 1990, my man-- get over it."
"You and your friends killed that poor woman! Her blood is on your hands. I don't know how you can live with yourselves!"
"I'm remembering exactly what you told me, dude. There's a higher principle at stake here, and that takes priority over the smaller human tragedies. And I'll bet hearing that really stings like a bitch, huh?"
"You fucking sunovabitch--"
"Well, fuck you too, you wingnut hypocrite! Fuck you and all your Abu Ghraib loving friends! Now you know what I felt like last May! Bite the pillow and deal with it!"
In the 48 to 72 hours. the usual suspects-- that unholy coalition of talking heads, wingnuts and Whiptioncrats-- will gear up the Mighty Wurlitzer to focus our attention on the "crisis that threatens to tear the moral and political fabric of America apart." And I absolutely do not want to hear a word about it-- particularly the need for us to work together to heal the wounds.
I know exactly how the religious right feels. I felt the same way when I saw my country wage a preemptive war against Iraq-- and again when I learned that we'd tortured people to death and weren't going to do anything about it.
It makes you sick and angry to realize that your fellow citizens can support actions that you find morally repugnant-- that offend you to the core of your being. It feels like a vitally-important part of what your country stands is gone-- that something you believed fervently in has been thrown away, and that you will never, ever get it back.
But I don't remember WIlliam Bennett, Madame Nhu-nan or Holy Joe Lieberman being worried about how I felt. I don't remember hearing them say it was important for the wingunuts to reach out to me. I can't recall any expressions of sympathy for my deep beliefs, or acknowledgement of my principles.
What I did encounter was a great deal of concern about how my beliefs could damage the foundation that our government was built on. The best I got told was that the events were regrettable, but there were issues far more important than my personal feelings--and that I couldn't allow my anger to destroy our country's ability to function.
And since my feelings about preemptive war and torture are based on considerably higher moral ground than the Ellen Jamesians, I see even less need to extend an emotional tampon to the other side.
Terri Schiavo had fifteen years of legal proceedings-- thousands of hours of experts doing their best to identify (a) the facts of the situation, (b) the motivations and morality of the perticipants and (c) the most equitable solution, given the circumstances.
One may question the motives of Judge Greer, Dr. Cranford and Michael Schiavo (though you must make scads of unsupportable assumptions to do that). But there's absolutely no doubt that they showed more deliberation and thoughtfulness-- with far greater consideration for human life-- than Lynndie England, Janis Karpinski, Albert Gonzales or Donald Rumsfeld.
And the stakes are higher here. It will be impossible to regain what Dwight Eisenhower once called "the standing of the United States as the most powerful of the anticolonial powers"-- people will always remember that we went crazy at the beginning of the 21st century and didn't correct our excesses when we had the chance. They'll never trust us completely again, because they'll always be on guard for a repeat performance. But we can at least make sure that it doesn't happen again.
But if we cannibalize our system of laws-- if we destroy one of the three branches of government-- we'll never get our country back. We'll be condemned to live as a fundamentalist republic.
So I don't want to hear any Dr. Phil horseshit from the Peter Beinarts and Harold Fords of the world. I expect David Broder and Joe Biden to condemn the fundamentalists and the wingnuts as starchily as they did with the human rights movement. If I remember my Andrew Sullivan right, it's outrageous to show any sympathy to or try to draw any moral equivalency with people who constitute a fifth column
It sucks to read the polls and discover that your moral beliefs are at odds with a large majority of your fellow citizens. But, in the immortal words of Hind Tit, these people aren't just misguided or misinformed-- they're on the other side. So they-- not we-- need to get with the program.