Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Political Rant

"I think it has educated me to always go as far as I can go in a thought or in a sentence and then go around the corner to try to find some pocket of it that hasn't been apparent yet, in the faith that there is going to be one there. That's what the Greek experience gives-- the faith that there's always another corner in a word or in a thought that you haven't gotten to yet. It doesn't close off."

- Anne Carson
How many thoughts do people not turn the corner on. How many people hear one answer and it resonates truth and that is what they run with.

I had a boss once whose brain seemed to hard-wire the first information she got on a subject. Even if it was later disproved, there was no room to encode the correction. (How many people read retractions of stories in the papers. Do they even print them anymore?)

A lot of people, I think, are like this.

It's why we have the following appalling statistics taken from a poll done by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) in September 2004. ( PIPA is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes (COPA) and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland.

75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda,
63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found.
60% percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts,
55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission.

Why do so many people believe that Iraq carried out the attack on America on September 11.

Why do people who in their rational lives might be intelligent, cling to the idea that we had to respond with force because they attacked us.

"The roots of the Bush supporters' resistance to information," according to Steven Kull, "very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11 and equally in the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake. This appears to have created a powerful bond between Bush and his supporters--and an idealized image of the President that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have made incorrect judgments before the war, that world public opinion could be critical of his policies or that the President could hold foreign policy positions that are at odds with his supporters." (from PIPA article)

I think in part it's because as a national identity we have to be the Good Guys. Good Guys are allowed to do violence, but only as a response to violence or injustice. Good Guys would definitely not just decide to attack someone because someday they might do something bad to us. Good Guys would not claim war as a last resort and go crashing in before exhausting all other possibilities. Good Guys would have more respect for the men and women in uniform, and more care for the international community and the lives of fellow human beings.

But in addition to the Good Guys we have the Cowboys and Northrup Frye's "bad men-- the outlaws of the west." And that too is part of our national identity. We like to be the rebels. We like to buck the system. No one can tell us what to do. You aren't the boss of me. How adolescent. I know we're a young country, but do we have to be so blatantly and stereotypically going through this teenage angst crap at the expense of ourselves and the world community?

And of course the Teenager in Chief, the Cowboy of the Whitehouse leading the charge. And proudly declaring that he is incapable of changing his mind on any subject. Inflexibility as a virtue.

I can't remember where I came across this idea but it rang true to me. Terrorism doesn't just harm the victims. It robs a cause of a rational voice.

Once something has blown something up in your name, you cannot get anyone to listen to your cries for peaceful discourse. No matter that you have no affiliation with the terrorists beyond nationality or skin color or religion.

All planes are weapons.

All Muslims are extremists.

All Americans condone "pre-emptive war."

Outsiders like Margaret Atwood heaps scorn upon America and Americans and is a very very angry person. I'm angry too, but I'm angry from inside this nation and I am inseparable from the institution that angers me. She has a voice to speak. I am part of the amorphous all-devouring popular culture machine that is these United States.

I have no voice. People are being killed in my name. I cannot love America without becoming a cowboy. I have no place here if I can't rejoice in the mess we've made of Iraq. What body in the international community will hear my voice?

Majority rules.