A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Famous Explosive Raincoat

Let's start by looking at the human possibility of putting on a raincoat with a lining of plastic explosives, and a detonator, which gives you twenty seconds to compose your mind before you die. You don't wear such a raincoat for protection from the weather, you wear it to find as many of the people you hate as you can, collected in one place, and to kill them all.

We know people actually do this. Real men and women actually do this. We see the effects on the television news all the time. We hate them for doing it. We hate them for planning it. And our leaders will stop at nothing to stop them. And that's a good thing, isn't it?

Well, maybe.

Since our leaders are so committed to having them out, root and branch, that they are even willing to lie to us about why, in order to be able do so, we do have the leisure to take a little break from being completely identified with our hate, and to examine the matter in human terms.

Don't worry. The phones will still be tapped, the e-mail monitored, the spy satellites will still be searching, the bureaucrats will still be briefing the press about the success of the operation, and the Delta Force or the IDF will be ready to blow away the ________ when we find them, or at least destroy their leaders, and their extended families afterwards. So let's put away the hate for a moment and do a little quiet thinking.

Suicide is not fun. Wearing that explosive raincoat can't be all that pleasant. I know personally that, well fed and free as I am, I would be too frightened to do it. What makes a human being do this? We have all sorts of labels for the reasons, but most of these merely evade the question and reinforce our own hate, giving us the will to pull the trigger when, by luck or work, the label finally pops up in front of our gunsights. If we step back and look at own our evasion of the question, however, we have half the answer. What we share with the suicide bomber is hate.

So let's really taste our hate and put a face to the hated one so that when we feel the weight of the gun in our hands, leveling the front sight to the back sight on the face in front of us, we can know the humanness of our own feelings.

What face shall we use for our little fantasy exercise? Let's not use the obvious target--Osama Bin Laden--he is too easy, too conventional a target, to mimic the hate of the suicide bomber. We need targets more anonymous and real, like the patrons of a café where the bomb finally detonates.

Who then? The silly boy who joined the Taliban? The CIA agent and wife of the former ambassador, who criticized the President? Dan Rather? Eason Jordan? Any ordinary Muslim woman walking the street, or shopping at Wal-Mart, with her head covered? The man down the street, with the heavy accent, who owns the convenience store?

With the labels in place (no, I'm not going to state the labels explicitly, that merely keeps us from really feeling our own hate properly) any or all of these faces will do. All by preference, since the suicide bomber needs numbers to make the effort worthwhile.

But something is missing. We don't quite have the suicide bomber, yet. What is it?

When I really probe my own mind for the answer, the only clue I can find is in the few videotapes we have seen of Osama chatting with his entourage, and in the few narratives we know, of those who have spoken with him personally. All show the overwhelming calmness with which the fool's errand (in any rational view) of trying to destroy a country of the size and wealth and power of the United States has been undertaken.

The key, I think, is here--Osama is determined to act despite an utter absence of hope. We have hate, but we still have hope, so we cannot complete the other side of the parenthesis which lets you wear the explosive raincoat. So if you really want to understand the proactive violence of our world, seek the causes in the reasons why the violent have no hope, and not just in their hate. The reactive violence of our leaders, the Delta Force, or the IDF, we already understand well enough.

Why do we want to understand it? I doubt we will defeat the men and women with the raincoats unless we do. Know your enemy, and all that. Know your enemies' human weaknesses, particularly.

Will we keep our hope? If we consider the possibility that in order to win the "War On Terror" the United States may have to monitor absolutely every phone call and every e-mail, videotape every street corner of every city, have the content of every bank balance and every credit record available on demand to every policeman or airline ticket agent, and know exactly where all 290 million of us are at any given moment, completely despoiling us of personal privacy and partially despoiling us of freedom, the outlook isn't too good.

Then, of course, there is the fact, though we haven't been paying any attention to it, that our leaders are rapidly making it impossible for America ever to be the "land of opportunity" again, in the way it was in the past.

I really don't think, in the long term, we will keep that hope.

But, then, there's always a London Fog outlet near you for whenever the skies threaten rain.


Blogger The probligo said...

Rather than look to bin Laden, or even to the battle between good and evil as defined by President Bush, there is a far more appropriate example that can be used.

Your statement "The key, I think, is here--Osama is determined to act despite an utter absence of hope. We have hate, but we still have hope..." gets very close to the answer but it is not the ideal that I have in mind.

Who, in this world, would be the people with the least hope?

The first that come to my mind are the Palestinians -

They are evicted from their own homes by force of arms.

They are without true government - any possibility of that stripped from them by their own leaders.

They are without any protection - any legitimate protection forces, army or police, forcibly disarmed and dispersed by the Israelis with the tacit approval of the US.

They are without legal protection as neither of the major antagonists, Israel and US, recognise international law.

So, who would I suggest as the target?

How about the 16 y-o girl who has seen her father and three brothers murdered by Israeli soldiers for throwing stones.

How about the 22 y-o man who has no life ahead of him. He is illiterate except for the teaching of the Koran. He is innumerate because he has never had any true schooling. He is cut off from all reality except that of the war that has killed the rest of his family.

Why not the 50y-o grandfather who watched his family being driven out of the home and separated from the fields that have been his family's for generations; and who has seen expensive apartments being built on the land for the free use of "retired" members of the Israeli army.

There is a whole world that you could choose... any would be appropriate.

11:35 PM  

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