Friday, October 27, 2006

Why this is not a political blog

Originally posted November 2004:

I'm listening to my son and his two best friends play. It strikes me as fascinating that even though they are no where near a computer, the language of computer games structures their play. "How 'bout if you can die three times before you're really dead? How 'bout if you advance to the next level if you make it up the stairs without dying?"

Their cavalier attitude toward death reminds me of some politicians. I've studiously avoided political commentary in this blog, because it seems to me that Americans have allowed themselves to be thoroughly polarized in their political opinions by forces that are funded by multi-billion dollar enterprises-- if you stay away from the hot-button issues that fund radio talk shows, PAC donations, and extremist fundraising, most Americans are probably within about 20% of each other on nearly all issues. We all agree that political oppression is an awful thing. We all agree that terrorism is horrifying. Nobody really knows what to do about it, nobody really knows what will work to end political oppression or the conditions that give rise to terrorism. But in an effort to polarize their voters and galvanize their donors, each side has taken up a religious tone claiming that they and they alone have the solution, the moral absolute, the ultimate answer that will solve the problem. And in a way, you can understand: who is going to give money to an organization that says they think they might know the answer?

Unfortunately, this process has made the two differing views into polar opposites (we must show military might, terrorists will only pay attention to an overt display of power vs. we must work to change economic conditions/educate people so that they are ready for the democratic process, etc so that they have no reason to become terrorists in the first place). But is there any reason to be so sure? And more interesting to me: are the positions really mutually exclusive?

It seems to me that the truth is that no one knows what will really work, and unfortunately the inevitable side effect of this strident, absolutist vote-mongering is that intelligent discussion is impossible, virtually guaranteeing that if there were a workable middle ground, it won't be found.

Having said that, though, I'm still going to comment on the double talk before us. The current administration has no problem, no matter what the circumstances, condemning a woman who would end the existence of her unborn child. But they also have no problem bombing an Iraqi city where innocent children will be (and have been) killed. They have all sorts of high-sounding moral absolutes that they deliver to explain this contradiction (it's called "spin"), and apparently a lot of people believe them. But the paradox remains, no matter how fast they talk. If they would acknowledge the moral ambiguity here, it might make their position bearable. But that they continue to claim the moral high ground in the face of it is almost unspeakably offensive to me.

And there you have it. Me up on my self-righteous soapbox denouncing them up on their self-righteous soapbox. In a nutshell, that's why I don't write these posts much.

I said my peace (pun intended, of course).

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