honorary Hose Monster:
Over the weekend I read a post written by the ever eclectic Evan Ames in which he stated that he hates this country. I left a comment in which I more or less said that I have a real hard time with people who say they hate this country and asking Mr. Ames if he truly feels this way. He soon after emailed me to explain what he really meant to say, which he also details here, that he does not hate this country, but hates the vast majority of the people living within this country.
Fair enough. I have my misanthropic moments, like any other reasonably intelligent person. Certainly misanthropy is one of the pratfalls learning. Ignorance is bliss not because you do not have responsibilities or opinions but because you are too detached to realize how many things can get under your skin and upset you.
Saying that I HATE all sorts of people is a little farther than I would probably let myself go. Maybe I'd try and stay closer to something like "I have a healthy amount of disdain for many different types of people."
All the various things spinning around regarding military action in Iraq have reawakened this disdain in me lately, especially in light of all the political happenings (sorry for linking to Drudge; I hate him too, but it was fast) that happened at the Grammys last night. Before I take off on a little rant, let me first state that I have stepped back from an earlier position that I thought we needed to go into Iraq. I am now officially without opinion. I just don't know what I think is right. Evan Ames' post today officially pushed me back onto the fence.
One of the truly interesting things I've noticed from the now year-long debate on what to do about Iraq is the shift in political opinion on what the proper use of the American military is. Let's rewind to the early and middle periods of the Clinton Administration. Do you remember Somalia? What about Bosnia? Haiti? Blanket statement here, but if you had to draw two circles in the sand and divide the parties into supporters and detractors from those actions, I would say that you would find a healthy amount of people who would find themselves in a different field than the one they have taken on Iraq. Certainly the two major political parties have switched dancing partners.
As I recall, the major debates of the 90s asked whether it was the role of the United States as the only post-Cold War superpower to act as the world's policeman. With people starving in Somalia without access to food because of warring factions attempting to exert control over the geography and social climate of the country, we sent troops into an area many argued we had no business going. Jerry Bruckheimer's Black Hawk Down (quite a good movie, especially since it's a Bruckheimer) reveals this side of the argument, that our military had no business going into a situation we could not resolve. The larger political debate, not at all considering the prospects of American military success, concerned whether we had any business meddling in a situation not of our creation and not concerning any real economic interest. Ultimately, one of the major justifications for sending American troops was that, as the world's major have, we had a responsibility to protect the rights of the many have-nots, in this case, the starving Somali people. Somalia provided the testing grounds for the modern human rights argument and served to initially break the political currents in this country into two camps: "not our business" and "moral duty to act." In simple terms, Clinton and his Democratic allies found the necessary support to deploy troops while Republicans on the Hill cried out that with the end of the Cold War, the responsibility of the President and the Congress lay at home, not abroad.
Fast forward from 1993 to 1994-96, when Slobodan Milosevic was to Bill Clinton what Saddam Hussein is to George W. Bush. Clinton drew the argument much more clearly in this situation: Milosevic and his cronies were responsible for the deaths of thousands and even millions through his practice of ethnic cleansing in the war torn Balkan area of the former Yugoslavia. With the recurrence of genocide and a modern day baby Hitler on his hands, Clinton put together what, to me, was an extremely articulate and convincing human rights argument. So convincing in fact that he assembled a more than normally effective coalition of NATO nations, even incorporating the cooperation of the Russian Federation to an extent, a US-led coalition that nonetheless gave extensive responsibility to the coalition nations. This international assembly seems to me particularly convincing of the strength of Clinton's human rights argument. Yet nonetheless a rather vociferous opposition ran through Congress, led prominently by congressional Republicans who claimed that again, we had no business meddling in affairs not our own, that we risked raising tensions by flexing our muscles internationally, and that the problems in the Balkans, though tragic, were not our problems and hence not our responsibility. Bosnia even managed to provoke Hollywood into tacitly supporting military action. Given many celebrities' talent to command political attention through their publicity, it seems telling to me that I cannot recall any major celebs speaking out and saying that we had no business protecting the human rights of people who couldn't give a damn what we did so long as they had safe homes.
Not to rehash, but Haiti had much the same debate attached to it. Violence and revolution producing a danger to the people required our presence to ensure the safety of a very poor people. When two US soldiers died in a riot, the media headlines across the country ran stories of conservatives claiming that for exactly that reason the US had no business going into Haiti to protect the people of a very poor country.
Quick, VERY general recap: Democrats and generally more left-leaning groups (see: Hollywood): we have a responsibility to protect the human rights of the oppressed and endangered people of the world. Republicans and more conservative groups: in the post Cold War world, we need to focus on domestic problems. The problems of small nations around the world are tragic but not our business.
September 11 has given both political groups a fool-proof excuse to hypocrisy allegations for switching sides. Suddenly, as terrorism is the major threat to the world, the United States military has the responsibility to ensure international safety. The justification for this, in large part, is that every rogue state poses a threat to world safety and stability and thus a preemption of that rogue nation's capabilities is a justifiable use of US military might.
The Republicans and conservatives have all fallen in line with George Bush and his chief rhetorical tool Ari Fleischer. Suddenly the United States has a clear moral responsibility to deploy the military and attempt to create domestic and international safety. (And hey, does anyone else think the Bushies have made a tremendous mistake by not trying to more strongly articulate a human rights argument for going to Iraq? For all the issues under open debate with Iraq, one of the few settled items is the fact that the Iraqi people are starving, sick and unable to achieve any recourse because their ability to oppose their despotic leaders no longer exists. Regardless of your opinion, I cannot honestly think you or anyone else disagrees with the idea that something needs to happen to improve the lives of the poor people of Iraq. Major oversight on the Republicans.)
And who's arguing the other side? The ineffective leadership of the Democratic party (and just for the record, if we had national elections tomorrow, the Democrats would get absolutely pasted because they have no direction whatsoever), and much more vociferously (and effectively), the A-listers of Hollywood and other entertainment celebrities.
The irony of this abrupt shift does not evade me. For nine years, the right-leaning member of our nation asked questions as to whether we had a greater responsibility to our own citizens or those of tiny nation-states around the world. Today they appropriate the bully pulpit and claim that the United States has a duty to create international safety, completely brushing aside any and all evidence that does not comport with their opinions. For nine years, the Clintonites of the country extolled that the US had a global responsibility as the only superpower to fight the good fight and use our powers for good. Today they wear ribbons claiming they are for world peace (and honestly, Hollywood, what a stupid way to rally yourselves. Go out and try to find yourself someone who says they're against world peace. Nobody really likes war and thinks a constant state of martial action should be the state of the world. Find a better way of organizing yourselves. Argue that this is not a situation where violence need play out. But don't try and postulate your moral superiority by trying to cast those who disagree with you as opponents of world peace. Honestly, that's just pathetic) and flaming George W. Bush and his motives daily in the national media.
I have no problem with changing your position on things like the proper use of the US military. But I feel like shifting a position and claiming moral superiority or moral responsibility, depending on what camp you fall into, without recognizing the about face and wearing your opinion shift on your sleeve, makes you look like a genuine asshole who does not understand that when you take an opinion and start shouting it at whoever will listen, you accept the responsibility of maintaning some truthfulness with yourself.
So Evan, and everyone else who has made it this far with me, now maybe you understand why I so easily begin to disdain, and maybe even claim to hate in heated moments, large groups of people in this country. Having an opinion and expressing that opinion is okay. Even trying to convice me of the moral haughtiness of your opinion is acceptable, though somewhat annoying. I'm an intelligent person and capable of forming my own opinions on important issues without your shouting. But I really cannot stand those people who shout and shout and posture and claim their opinion is correct or build up a case and ignore all evidence to the contrary when it seems to me that these screaming meanies have not thought about the implications of their opinions, now and those they formed ten years ago.
Honestly, change your opinion whenever you want. It's your right. But when you so strongly take a position, I feel like you have a responsibility to yourself to acknowledge that the arguments you used to justify one approach are no longer valid, and you certainly have a responsibility to those whose opinions you seek to influence to recognize and accept your shift.
Anything less than that strikes me as hypocritical. And that hypocrisy not only draws my disdain and Evan's hatred, but also deserves it.