The Alan Grayson Page

The Anthony Weiner Page

Guest Contributors


  • BN-Politics' administrators respect, but do not necessarily endorse, views expressed by our contributors. Our goal is to get the ideas out there. After that, they're on their own.
Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 05/2007

Blog Catalog

  • Liberalism Political Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory



« The Ordeal of Sarah Taylor. | Main | Britain pulls away; Bush presses forward---Democrats push back. Should Democrats Give War a Chance? (UPDATED) »

July 13, 2007



Pity Nicholas couldn't be around to engage in the exchange over there.


I apologize up front for reading Nicholas without the context and thinking he was an American who had lived in Britain, rather than a Briton (that awful word). Based on your description of him, perhaps he won't take that as the insult many of his compatriots would.

I also will excuse myself, if I in fact misread him, by pointing out he referenced certain strains of thought on the "right" but didn't give specific links. So I didn't have the opportunity to read the pieces that shaped his thought. He mentioned Drudge, who is not so much a political man as a sensationalist and scoop-monger, and Michelle Malkin, who is certainly on the right, but motivated by a peculiar mix of agendas and often seems to me to write in defensive anticipation of the crude and vituperous response she knows will greet everything from her pen.

Which is the trap I fell into in identifying your man as "left," by the way. Britain has a left and America has a left, but the two do not overlap, and they contain different histories and permutations.

His argument set me off at the point where it seems to me he essentially said, "terrorists kill some people. Peanuts kill some people. Why be more worried about terrorists than you are about peanuts?"

Which actually was the larger chunk of his post, as I recall. Here in the States, and in the heads of many Europeans I've debated, this fallacy (which ignores the notion of "intent") is part of a drearily common stream of bad argument that starts with "we over-react to terrorists" and proceeds through "when we fight back, we only create more terrorists" and on to "the real problem in the world today is America and Americans."

And I'll push back on that any time I meet it.

I'm tempted to see something essentially different in European and American collective characters at moments like this. But a comment isn't the place to open that can. I do often recommend to European friends who are perplexed by American attitudes and behaviors that they see the 1970s Western flick "The Outlaw Josie Wales," which seems to me (for all its flaws as a movie) to just distill all those perplexing qualities, good, bad, and ugly, into a handful of characters and scenes that are as pure American as anything you can find.

I suspect it only further confuses my European friends, however. But that's fun, too.

In one scene, near the climactic struggle, the main character says, "Now remember, things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is."

Which is how the world looked to a lot of us after a certain September morning, and still looks, though we are in constant danger of forgetting. The two rocks to navigate between are "losing your head" and "giving up." Staying mean goes without saying.



The Crux and I were so pleased that his post got a response, any response.... We are in favor of vigorous debate in the political realm.

As you perceive, it was being called a "lefty" that he didn't care for...though he concedes that a standard Brit Conservative is probably a liberal in America.

My own opinion---Nicholas can address this later if he wishes-- is that fear of terrorism now looms so large in the mind of certain Americans that they are not able to react at all....I think most Americans are in denial about the risk and prefer to leave it to the government to cope. This passivity leaves people in a state of fear and learned helplessness and encourages them to hand more power to the government to protect them. If this goes too far, the government becomes one of the things you need protection from.

I'm not SURE it isn't true that our reaction helped to spawn more jihadists, though I'm not sure it IS true either... I do know that I am right where I was in 2001 in terms of knowing what I, a citizen, can and should do on the domestic front to make America safer. Where is the civil defense training, the National Guard, the teaching about domestic security? I wish there had been more focus on preparing the citizenry to respond (e.g., on an airplane or whatever) or if people are injured in an attack rather than this notion that sitting back passively and hoping the government can protect us. But to confront a risk, you have to accept that it IS a risk.

I remember this sense of helplessness from the Sixties, when we used to have "bomb drills" at school in my community in case of an atom bomb attack...and were told to get under our desks...which even as a small child I knew wouldn't do any good. And I felt the same way during Katrina, watching helplessly without any ability to help...


Paradoxically, Michelle Malkin, one of the names cited disapprovingly in the original post, is one who as advocated vigorous and specific domestic measures, and has been slammed for it as a "racist" since they necessarily involve greater scrutiny of certain ethnic and religious minorities.

I remember the '60s, too -- and certain years of the '80s that actually were more terrifying. The bomb was going to get everyone, no matter who you were or what you did. This feels difference.

Certainly a country that reponds aggressively to terrorism is bound to stir up resentment against itself. That's only a bad thing when you don't consider the alternative. Probably most Japanese didn't have a murderous hatred against Americans at the time of Pearl Harbor. After a few bombing raids and the Guadalcanal campaign, probably a great many more did. The goal isn't always to avoid being hated, it's more often to make those who hate you impotent to act on it.

I think where many Americans are stuck now is a frustration over the certainty that something had to be done and the frustration that the something that was done hasn't yielded any clear results -- except, perhaps, the fact that we haven't been attacked again, yet. None of it fits together and we're left in the middle of what may be a long war, arguing about calendar dates and definitions of words and nobody has any idea who the enemy is today or what he is up to.

The comments to this entry are closed.