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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

When You Look Into The Abyss, The Abyss Also Looks Into You

It is no longer much use to spend time trying to foster dialog. The time for dialog has passed. I just woke up and found myself in the middle of an essay about the possibility of domestic political violence in this country. It is an essay I do not want to write, I will not write it, and I have stopped writing it. But I will set down the following piece of it:

Part of that evidence is the real meaning of the “I love Gitmo” t-shirt, that I talked about below. To understand the evidence, all you have to do is articulate a direct question to the people who boost, will buy, and will wear that t-shirt. If you love Gitmo so much, would you like some more of them? In your city? In your state? In your country?

I don’t think I would get a real and direct answer to these questions. When you pose questions to them about the serious issues of Gitmo, all you get is a torrent of abuse—abuse about how you are anti-patriotic and treasonous, abuse about how chaining people up in the fetal position and letting them sit in their own shit is not really “torture”, abuse about how the Pentagon’s admission of the death by violence of a mere 108 men who were beaten up in captivity is no big deal. After all, other countries have killed millions.

Presumably, killing millions leaves the victims much more dead.

But, I am perfectly convinced that the real, if unacknowledged, answer to my questions is, “Yes, I would like to have more Gitmos to love.” It would be so convenient. It would be an end to the “culture wars”, with one side cowed from political participation and driven to keep silent, since it is not practical to drive them from the country completely. Though it would be nice.

Do I really believe this about at least one-third to two-fifths of the people in my country are like this. After serious thinking I have to admit to myself and to you that I do. And I believe it about some people who are otherwise very nice people. That is the tragedy of it, that is what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil. It is not necessary for those who commit unspeakable evil to be monsters or devils. They can be your own perfectly ordinary neighbors. All it takes is sufficent self-deception about their true motives and their true involvement.

I have also written the following, twice now, in the articles below:

You wouldn't have had to do this. You could have insisted that the "tax relief" that the President distributed with such grand largesse, was a bad idea in a time of serious war. After all, after 9/11 "everything changed", right? Just like after Pearl Harbor everything changed, right? Well, surprise. As far as your civilian sacrifice, my civilian sacrifice, and everybody else's civilian sacrifice, nothing changed in the least. Did you object to this?

Did any of the War Cheerleaders, on blogs, on Fox News, on the Clear Channel Network, in the National Review, in the Weekly Standard, in the New York Post, in the Washington Times, or on Town Hall object to it? Not that I have heard. I invite you to correct me, if you have heard differently.

The War Cheerleaders, to the last pom-pom, are still telling us the nobility of our cause will win us through to the end, we should only pay attention to the news that says we are doing well in our noble cause, and that what happened before now still doesn't matter. So we should let the evidence of the lies just fade away.

What they are saying, whether they will admit it or not, is that, from Sea to Shining Sea, we have a noble war, with positive consequences, which will change the world--as long as somebody else fights it and somebody else pays for it.

Do I really believe that one-third to two-fifths of the people in my country are such canting hypocrites? Upon mature and careful reflection, I must say that I do. And I believe it about people who are otherwise very nice people. But that's the point of cant and hypocracy, isn't it?

These righteous and tormented American Martyrs regularly and inevitably return to a good healthy dinner in a nice private home where no one fears a knock on the door in the night, an apprehension by armed men, and a bloody, tormented death, testing faith to the uttermost extremity.

So what would relieve them of their persecution and martyrdom, allowing them to re-emerge into the light of day from the metaphorical Christian catacombs to which they have been driven, communing with their dead and carving rough fishes into the limestone walls?

The American Martyrs must not only be free to worship, they must be given perpetual rule and domination over all the rest of us. That is what the matter is about. It is not about any particular issue, not about abortion, not about gay marriage, not about "intelligent design", not about judges, not about boulders in the courthouse, and most emphaticly not about religious freedom. If it were about any of these, liberty, compromise, truth, and limited and balanced government, with true separation of powers, would be sufficient to adjudicate them.

Do I really believe that one-third to two-fifths of the people in my country, who are otherwise very nice people, are such plain and paranoid fools to think that they are somehow being persecuted by people who merely disagree with them? After extended examination of the evidence, I must admit reluctantly that I do.

What dialog is there to sustain with people who are insensible to evil if it is wrapped in an American flag, who mouth the cant of "democracy" without being willing to truly sacrifice anything for it themselves, and who are so plainly in the grip of paranoid vapors perpetuated by groupthink in the name of religion?

Really.

There is a fork in the road in our future and there are pioneers who have already gone down that fork in the road to darkness and destruction: Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, the Beltway snipers John Muhammad and Lee Malvo, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the killers of Columbine High School, the nameless and faceless mailer of anthrax in 2001, whom we have yet to apprehend or even identify, and, most vividly of all, Eric Rudolph, the bomber of abortion clinics and gay bars. I have written about him before:

Eric Rudolph sees himself, perhaps, as being as significant a figure in American history as abolitionist John Brown. I hope, if he does, he isn't right. For he is definitely quite intelligent and he might well be right. As Cohen points out, the government's plea bargain which spared his life is, abstractly, quite puzzling. It is particularly so since our current President has probably allowed more people to go to the death chamber than any American alive and has openly defended his support of the death penalty as a response to "evil".

If there ever are any more Gitmos to love in this country, there will be “good reasons” for them. There always are “good reasons” for them. They will be established and run as a response to "evil". We are currently manufacturing the “good reasons” for them in the domestic headlines every day. And maybe, too, we are manufacturing the people to be put in them from our very own citizenry.

We are on a political collision course in a country with more guns than sense. Our institutions, and the shock absorbing built into them may endure it. They have endured before. But from this point forward, I think, they will have to endure without genuine political compromise or dialog.

It scares me. It scares me a lot. But dialog is dead and cannot be revived. We no longer have anything to compromise over or dialog about. If you doubt me, try to think of something yourself.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Shawn said...

Hmmm, I've spent the better part of the morning trying to come up with a rebuttal. I can't think of one, but I do have to ask this: if you think dialogue is dead, are you sure that you're talking to a receptive audience?

2:03 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

I have generally let the audience take care of itself, except, as you see below, to count it.

The best hope for a renewal of dialog, I think, is a significant and unequivocal disaster which everybody in the United States simply cannot ignore or explain away. Until then we will be trapped in our parallel universes,reading only the things that curry our own prejudices, and avoiding such facts as undermine our own self-esteem.

The only good thing is that the boundary between those universes is transparent, and it is still possible for the intelligent to see through the self-deception and refusal to think and to look that creates the boundary.

I live on the edge, so any real disaster for the country has a fair chance of being fatal for me personally. But I think one will come, and that is why I prepare so consistently for death.

I no more seek death than anyone. But if my death must come, I personally hope it comes before I see too many of the other deaths that will come if this country takes the wrong fork in the road ahead.

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