I Need a New DVD Player
I know, pretty crass and bourgeoise. It's just that I'm sitting here on the futon, bereft of wife (she's got a reunion/networking thing this weekend), sweltering (admittedly not like the folks in Baghdad), and watching Amistad on ABC (where the commercials interrupt the momentum horridly). My good old Toshiba SD-2109 (circa 1998) finally gave up the ghost a couple weeks ago, and most of my movies (including Amistad) are on disc now. This could threaten my marriage, since Stef hasn't quite finished the latest Sex and the City series of discs yet. [ed. note, 6/22: Stef informs me that, in fact, our marriage is in jeopardy because I forgot to get her the latest X-Files set in May]
And woe to all of you, as my sleep schedule is all messed up, and I have nothing to distract me...
Levity aside, lemme address the Amistad deal for a minute. I've been reading Joseph Ellis' "Founding Brothers", and the whole Constitutional compromise wrt slavery along with Thos. Jefferson's (one of my heros) inherent contradictions has been in my mind of late. Now, Spielberg is at his manipulative best with this flick, and of course there's lots of the usual factual errors, composite characters, reordered chronology, etc. But man it is good. Moving and disturbing.
There's been a really interesting, involved discussion over at Eschaton
about fascism and extremism. The thread has taken many a turn, and I find myself arguing many sides of the issues at hand. My biggest challenge has been to argue against extremism on either side of the political spectrum (kinda the "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" deal). Well, I wonder if compromising on moral issues is okay, or if that still falls in the "ends justify the means" category.
Looking at slavery, I can see that to form the Union, the question of slavery needed to be deferred. Did that deferral come at too high a moral cost, or did keeping the southern States in the family, as it were, give us the moral leverage to more quickly rid ourselves of that peculiar institution? We can be suitably ashamed of slavery, and the Civil War that ultimately ended the debate, but I wonder if in delaying our political struggle in the 18th century, we accelerated the resolution of the struggle in the 19th. Or was that delay just simply wrong? Was manumission inevitable, like Marx's rise of the proletariat? Or should the Founders have gotten their acts together and worked to fully realize the ideals of the nation they proposed in the Declaration?
Today, this debate hits me wrt to supporting our troops. I've seen people contend that if you don't agree with the war, it's impossible to support the troops--see, their jobs make up who they are, so disagreeing with the war is disagreeing with their whole being. And I've seen people say the soldiers in the Baghdad should stop their whining about the situation--see, they knew how dangerous/hot/sandy/lonely/whatever their jobs were when they joined up. And I've seen people posit that we shouldn't let the soldiers off the hook morally--see, they need to make a moral choice and refuse to serve. I don't know that I agree with any of those thoughts. They strike me too much as "you're with us or against us". Binary.
Can I, as a believer in non-violence, hold a soldier to my standards of morality? Can I, as someone sitting in safety, hold a soldier to my standards of honor? Or can I simply state my case, recognize each soldier has a moral compass, and respect the choice of their conscience while I fight to prevent their deployment (or work to bring them home)?
Questions, questions, questions! Sorry, no answers today. Even though I'm convinced that I am right, and our actions in Iraq are wrong, I have a lot of uncomfortable questions to answer. Saddam was bad. He killed people. I'm against killing people. That would make me objectively anti-Saddam. Yet I opposed the war which deposed him. I don't think that makes me objectively pro-Saddam or pro-killing, but that is imposed upon me by those on the right. I don't think there is a moral calculus that allows me to exchange the lives of a couple hundred "coalition" soldiers, and several thousand Iraqi civilians and conscripts, for the hundreds of thousands that Saddam is thought to have killed, but that is what I'm forced to do by those on the right. An evil bargain at best. Is there room for compromise even here?
Despite what PNAC and BushCo might've believed, there is no magic wand we can wave to bring forth democracy ex nihilo
. How long did it take our nation to realize the true ideals of the Revolution? The Union was a fragile thing for so long, and was almost torn asunder less than a century after its birth, all due to different beliefs about human worth and slavery. We expected Kurd, Sunni, and Shiite to sing kumbaya and form a democracy immediately after we smashed a tinpot dictator's dusty army? Reverse domino theory, indeed. And rightwingers call us naive.
So no, I can't adequately answer some of the right's posers. How could we have dealt with Saddam non-violently? Not sure, though there are some things we could've tried
. Are the Iraqis better off now that he's gone? Long-term I figure everybody is, but right now I honestly don't know. Was Iraq an immediate threat? I'm not convinced and there's a lot of evidence that he was not, but again I don't know. Tell ya what: when we invade Congo and stop their brutal civil war, and invade Burma to save Aung San Suu Kyi, and find WMD, Saddam, and Osama in Iraq, I'll provide answers to all questions.