Woke this morning to a small plaintive voice: Daddy, my tummy hurts. Such a sad little word, tummy. She turned down breakfast and sat curled on the sofa for most of the morning, but by noon she had all her appetite back, and ate an entire box of Annie’s Tendentiously Correct Mac and Cheese. Right now she’s running around the backyard in the dusk, getting the yard ready for the fireworks. There’s a stone in the ground in the middle of the yard – I’ve no idea if it’s part of some giant underground boulder, which would be cool – or if it’s just a rock someone put in 40 years ago for reasons unknown. In any case, it makes an excellent Level Surface, and tomorrow many firecrackers and cheap paper incendiary devices will know what it was like to be roasted in the depths of Slor that day, I can tell you. I expect criticism from the kids, frankly; they’re a tough audience. Well, a few flaming Roman Candle bombs past their ears should get their attention.
Speaking of which: here’s yesterday’s Buzz.mn video, which you missed if you don’t hit buzz every hour or so. Don’t not do that!
I expect a good Fourth, even though we’ve been warned of a “Spectacular” terrorist attack sometime this summer. It seems an odd choice of words, as though laser-light shows and men with trained white tigers will be part of it all. Most people shrug when they hear the warning – or rather the warning implicit in the leaked report. This doesn’t mean people aren’t concerned or worried or watchful, but six years in, what are you going to do? The days of breathing a sigh of relief after a holiday goes off without event are gone and forgotten. Remember the first Fourth after 9/11? We were all relieved when nothing happened. Well, except for the isolated incident of a man shooting up the El Al counter at LAX, but there was no indication of any terrorism connection. (Unless the fellow has an Al Qaeda employee benefits pamphlet in his back pocket, it doesn’t count.) No, nothing happens. Here. It happens elsewhere, but it can always be explained away, run through that perversely creative Justify-O-Matic that blames radical murderous doctors on the overthrow of Saddam – as if a terror campaign waged by Iran would make doctors at the Mayo Clinic lay down their scalpels and set off nailbombs in an Iranian community in LA.
I’ve gotten to the point where I imagine, almost simultaneous with the event, what the reaction will be among those who find evidence of terrorism both maddeningly inconvenient and perversely heartening – they must downplay the event lest the dark gang of warmongers use the crime to terrify the bedwetters – you know, all those people who believe in the bogeyman of global jihad - but at the same time, the attacks prove that we’ve not only failed to stop “terrorism,” we have made it worse by, well, trying to stop terrorism. Oh, it can be stopped, if the proper postures are assumed, but on we go with our chests out and our manhood in our hand, looking for fights. As Hitchens put it in this recent piece, there are many who can’t quite get on board with the whole anti-caliphate gig, since the people running the show are probably motivated by racism. Even if it’s true, it’s like saying the people who wanted to fight Hitler did so because they couldn’t stand German opera.
I saw a bumpersticker today: “I’m already against the next war.” No doubt. That really says everything. It’s not the cause; it’s not the stakes; it’s not the world the foe wants to impose. It’s the means. War bad. If Iran nukes Israel, it’ll prove their point. The fact that it might have been preventable by lesser war? For some, the position is perfect and hermetically sealed, and can be pointed in any direction. The war that might have prevented a larger war is bad, because it is war. The war that resulted from the lack of a smaller war is bad, because it is war. War is war and bad is bad, and when you’re that far up in the clouds the details don’t really matter. A puff of smoke here, and puff of smoke there: do we need to know the name of the place to know it’s wrong?
Well, yes, it does help. I was reading today about a Zimbabwe archbishop pleading for someone to invade and take out Mugabe. He asked if the entire country had to collapse on itself and descent into anarchy, and the answer, of course, is yes; it does. When Zimbabwe gets a seat on the UN’s Sustainable Development Commission, and is not there to present instructive arguments against sustainable development, you get a sense of the strength of the fictions that bind the high-minded. It’s one thing to want a better world; it’s another to hope to will it into being by believing in docile sugared fictions about the nature of man and the equality of cultures. (Note: not the equality of humans, but the equality of human cultures. Oddly enough, you’ll often find that the people who cling fiercely to the notion that any attempt to judge a culture is a sign of Western Perfidy are the most likely to believe in, well, Western Perfidy.)
And so we have Howard Zinn cautioning us against putting up flags on the Fourth, because we are an imperial power. Not to put words in his follower's mouths, but the less sophisticated might note that Nazis put up flags, too. (I’m almost to the point of proposing some sort of anti-Godwin law, because the introduction of Nazis into any contemporary argument is almost the point at which the thread begins, since the comparisons are so instructive – particularly when the West is cracking its collective spine bending over backwards to accommodate the wishes of backward men, and the other side seeks an exclusionary collective driven by a self-appointed oligarchy. The difference between the Nazis and the Islamists are many, starting with the fact that the former was quasi-mystical and the latter is full-strength mystical, and yes, there are differences enough to render the comparisons useless – but in the end it’s still the boot and the gun and the same poisonous death-fellating impulse to build a new order, and hang the cost.) (Hey, I've just made a point based on something a Zinn supporter might say! I control straw men like the Wicked Witch ran the flying-monkey guild.) Mr. Zinn would rather we pledge allegiance to the human race, rather than the petty temporary arrangements we call nations. People do bad things on behalf of nations. I suspect he applauds the sublimation of national identity into the European Union, even though it’s centered in Belgium, and the Sprouts had a beastly record in Africa, because that’s all in the past, and if you're on the right side of history now the past is oddly irrelevant. The past is useful only to vomit up the tally of sins committed by nations insufficiently committed to an identiy that transcends nationality, and any noteworthy acts worth applauding can be ascribed to Humanity, not a nation.
Certainly not a culture.
Even though the nation reflects the Culture.
Then again, all cultures are equal, right? So what’s at the bottom of much criticism of Zimbabwe from the industrialized West? Racism, and a refusal to confront the legacy of imperialism. It’s all so simple, and it must drive people mad when these blindingly obvious facts aren’t universally understood, and acted upon.
Did you know that households in Zimbabwe have only four hours of electricity a day? And those of us in the West burn the juice 24/7. Disparity breeds desperation, you know. You could hardly blame them if they started blowing up our power plants. Yet they probably won’t. Bizarre. There’s probably a statue of Cecil Rhodes somewhere. Who knows what instructive lessons could be imparted if they blew it up with a few hundred complicit Londoners, of course, just to put a period on the point. Surely they know there are a few score scribes in the West itching to pound out a bitter screed about Legacies Coming Home, and the fact that we bloody well had it coming. To paraphrase Heinlein, there ain't no such thing as a free will. Everything is a reaction to the actions of the West. You can no more blame terrorism on terrorists than you can blame a dead frog in the dissetion tray for the fact that his leg twitches when you jab the muscle.
And so another Fourth comes. The vast majority of Americans of all political stripes will greet the day with pride – the reasons will vary, but the core ideas are still shared. The future, however, contain a very big question, and it’s not one we haven’t faced before: together, or apart? Except now the terms have been redefined: “together” implies that we must throw our weight in with a portion of the world that seems intellectually incapable of apprehending the concept of a greater foe, and takes refuge in the dream of “disaffected” or “disenfranchised” physicians disconnected from a greater meme. “Apart” has come to mean we define our culture in opposition to another, and confront it with values we truly believe to be superior, and do so with full knowledge of our own flaws. Yesterday was the anniversary of Gettysburg, a day in which the divisions were horrible and bloody, and had to be hammered out to make the great experiment whole again. Rent apart, we had to work our way back to the whole. This is different. We have to come together, in order that we may stand apart, and defend the things in which we believe.
Sounds like batshite jingo drivel, eh? Defend the things we believe! You sound like there’s some sort of war on. Empty words to justify overtime at the cruise-missile factory, man.
It’s not a matter of race or religion; the logical extension of the ideas of the West transcends those things. I see those ideas in the flag, which is why I put it up. People claw their way to live in a place where it flies. It’s an idea that happens to be contained within a nation. Today we celebrate both. Together.