March 09, 2003
Reason to Believe

When the lights go out in the rest of the world
What do our cousins say?
They're playing in the sun and having fun, fun, fun
Till Daddy takes the gun away.

Good to see this article in the NYT Magazine about some of the organizers of the peace movement. Bad to see this quote from one of the organizers, which bothered me because while it reflects, to a degree, what I feel, it comes off as a bit vacuous:

The protesters saw themselves as defending Iraqis from the terrible fate that the U.S. was preparing to inflict on them. This assumption is based on moral innocence -- on an inability to imagine the horror in which Iraqis live, and a desire for all good things to go together. War is evil, therefore prevention of war must be good. The wars fought for human rights in our own time -- in Bosnia and Kosovo -- have not registered with Pariser's generation. When I asked Pariser whether the views of Iraqis themselves should be taken into account, he said, ''I don't think that first and foremost this is about them as much as it's about us and how we act in the world.''

Sigh. While I think he's right, the broader subtext lacks real moral authority. There's just no there there, as Gertrude Stein said. It sounds silly and a bit fatuous, and more than a bit self-absorbed.

Maybe he said more, or maybe it was taken out of context by the reporter.

And yet it's pretty much what I tell myself every time someone brings up the suffering people of Iraq.

I don't know what the answer is. As a liberal, I wish we could come up with better alternatives, and a raison d'etre for all of this activism that was a little more proactive and a little less reactive.

In short, I wish there was more of a vision. What happens after the war, if there is one? Where does the liberal ideology take us? And what if war is averted--do we just return to the status quo?

On the other hand, maybe things aren't as bad as they seem. I find myself thinking that for years, Americans have been accused of enjoying the good life on the backs of people in the Third World, and enjoying peace at the price of war in other countries (see Billy Bragg lyric above). So, as Pariser says, when people finally stand up and say no to something their country is doing, is that a bad thing? Or is it finally accepting responsibility, acknowledging that we are citizens of the world, not just of America?

And if the answer is yes, then what?

Stay tuned.

All this political ruminating is getting me down. I promise to return next week to frivolity and lightheartedness. We'll party like it was 1998, I promise.

Posted at March 09, 2003 05:32 PM

Listening to the drums of war beating is getting us all down, and maybe that's part of the strategy. Good question: then what? Whether there's a war or not, we liberals need to start working toward regime change here -- back to the ideals of liberty and democracy. That means getting people out to vote for liberal candidates (that's if we have any country left to elect officials for).

Posted by: Elaine of Kalilily on March 9, 2003 05:54 PM

You have some interesting points in your article, and it seems like you are at least open to disccusion. To tell the truth I'm not sure what should be done, I can see both sides of the argument. However I get upset when I visit some blogs that are so for or so against something without being willing to back up their ideas.

Posted by: Blaine on March 9, 2003 05:55 PM

Thanks! I had one of those sinking feelings after writing this, like "I wondered why somebody didn't do something, then I realized I was somebody." Still have to go to the job, feed the kitties, and have a life, though...

Posted by: Anne on March 10, 2003 05:05 PM

One does hear questions along these lines: "Why do liberals talk about Bush all the time and not the crimes of Saddam Hussein?"

Though it may be that some protesters are superficial and reactive, I think part of a legitimate answer to such a question is this:

Bush is the one running our country, not Saddam Hussein, and, as a citizen of the United States, I have more of a voice in what Bush does than in what Saddam does, and furthermore what Bush does affects me more directly than what Saddam does. I complain more about Bush because he's hurting me (and all Americans) more than Saddam is.

The question about what Saddam is doing is another and different question. Not that liberals (or whomever) can't have something to say on that tack either. There is and always has been at least one alternative to war, as this article from before the war points out:

There's also a letter you can send to Colin Powell, if you so desire...

At any rate, I'm not sure the poor protester quoted above was saying anything more than what I said. At least, it's a possibility. The quote is surrounded by a lot of spin.

PS It's not necessarily the case that being against the war is being against helping the Iraquis, because there is a legitimate question as to whether our attack is aimed at helping them (regardless what humanitarian claims the administration professes to have). There is a very real possibility that Saddam will be replaced by another dictator who also tortures and murders his people, given that we already did it once (Saddam Hussein). Of course, it could be that the Iraquis will be helped (to freedom) by this attack, and if so, then good. But it is hard to believe that this Commander in Chief actually has any love for democracy (given that he is doing his best to reduce it wherever he can back home, where it's SUPPOSED to be democracy).

O.K., I'm shutting up now.

Posted by: Ed on April 9, 2003 10:06 AM
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