Friday, July 08, 2005

No, YOU Are!

London threw many of us for a loop, especially those of us who have friends and family there. Everybody has their own way of handling tragedy. Here on the political blogging scene, too often we fall into polarizing camps that parrot certain ideas long since morphed into ossified talking points, and it substitutes for listening to the small voice inside and thinking about those things from an independent point of view.

01 I think of myself as an pretty hard-core lefty, but there are times when the arguments I read coming from those I think of as decent and thoughtful seem simply appalling. Maybe it's that when we get used to talking only to others who think like us, it's easy to fall into more and more radical rhetoric, getting more outrageous and hyperbolic for sheer drama's sake. Before we know it we find the most bizarre postulations coming out of our mouths, like re-positioning the deaths of innocents in terror attacks as "getting what we deserve". Before we know it, sentiments like this enter the discourse:
"As for those in the World Trade Center, well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire, the "mighty engine of profit" to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved and they did so both willingly and knowingly.
.. too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it."
And suddenly the complexity of the actual human beings who were swept away on that horrific day is reduced to a cartoon, a caricature drawn with deliberately obtuse cynicism in order to make an intellectual point, placing all the moral points on one side of the board and removing them completely from the other. ALL those representing the 9/11 attackers are starved and rotting infants, unstained by sin. ALL of the victims, and by extension, the cultures in which they lived, are filthy with guilt and responsibility. Never mind that one of the dead may have mentored illiterate adults or was a child too young to have committed a crime more fiendish than screaming "no!" at Mom from the high chair. Never mind that the casualties include people of all colors, classes, creeds and ancestries. Accidents of birth are no excuse! The wearing of Nikes or holding a job with a bank becomes sufficent evidence of culpability to establish the guilt of the whole Western world, and they must pay.

The policies and paths of governments over long periods of time that result in equally-long periods of pain and suffering for the powerless usually end in rebellion or revolution and the shedding of more blood. Historically, empathically, innately we know this, just as we know that if reparations and/or corrections are not made on the part of the oppressing nations, strife will keep erupting ad nauseum, resulting in an endless spiral of violence and retribution with the injured parties on both sides clinging barnacle-like to the moral high ground as an excuse to keep killing. This is not a game of equivalencies, wherein the worth of the individual pain and deaths of one side are measured against the other, but we continue to make it so. If my son or daughter dies at the hands of the "other", I am not likely to consider the ramifications of my country's foreign policy in contributing to the circumstances leading to that dying. I probably won't much care, and will most likely want revenge. If someone, however well-intentioned, insists on making me put that death into a context of geopolitics, I will probably tell him to go fuck himself. Periods of shock and mourning do not lend themselves to keen introspection and objective consideration of the fate of land masses and their inhabitants, and it's one of the chief blind spots of many liberals that they pick such sensitive times to expect the injured to shoulder some kind of amorphous guilt.

People. Please.

On Corrente I wrote about this:
"It chills me when people say the targets of a terrorist attack deserve what they get. The truth is that violence in response to injustice always creates a spiral of endless retaliation that lives on through generations and, even when it appears to have been put to rest, has a tendency to re-surface much later (see Yugoslavia). Nothing feels quite as good as a good grudge.

No matter what the history, no matter how understandable, no matter whose ancestors and predecessors did however much dirt, there can never, never, never be a reason to kill people one doesn't know for a principle one may think is sacrosanct.

And I don't want to hear that old serenade about how there are no "innocents" and how so-and-so have blood on their hands and sins of the fathers, blah, blah, blah. People have been justifying their most ghastly crimes throughout the millenia using one high-talk bullshit principle or other, whether it was based on theology, philosophy, or political theory. None of it matters. Living things matter. And until we start placing living things above intellectual masturbation, we'll keep picking these old scabs, re-opening these old wounds, and bleeding all over each other like mutual Aztec sacrifices. And not one goddamned thing will ever change."
I've read Howard Zinn, and I've lived on the wrong side of the tracks, and I've been assaulted by the powerful and lived to talk about it. But it isn't enough just to be able to sympathize with the battered and downtrodden. Humankind wears many faces, and all of them are me. I believe in a liberality that includes everyone, has room for forgiveness, that is more interested in educating and assimilating than in retribution and shaming. And yes, in spite of my own drama and hyperbole (so evident at times here on IMCT), I try to think for myself about these things, and not get carried away by the groupthink that sometimes infects even the best blogs.

You have to turn off the noise and close your eyes. You have to remember what you really believe in, and why.

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