Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Plus Ça Change

If I came back in 1,000 years, I'll find the same people, espousing the same positions, glumly tossing the same evidence at one another. No, I'm not talking about the Bush-Kerry election. I'm talking about the American Civil War. Every now and then I check back in on my friends in that community, and I find them as immortal and immovable as the poker-playing dogs in those cheap prints, or the Seven Sleepers in the New Testament, waiting it out till the end of the world.

The anti-Confederates mine the history books for quotes from the leading (or not so leading) figures of the South, and crow when they find one who says he understood the war was "all about slavery."

Yet what any one person in a movement gives as his reasons, if he speaks candidly, can only be his own reasons, unless there is some transcendant uniformity of thought or mind-control in effect. Even a quick survey of the old South turns up such a cacophany of rivalries, quarrels, and feuds it would be nothing short of miraculous if, though they all took the same step, they did it for precisely the same reasons.

Just look at current events. America is at war again today. What are the "reasons" we attacked Iraq? Revenge for Saddam's insults to Bush I? Unfinished business from the first Gulf War? Blood for oil? The risk of a rich despot with a determination to get WMD in a post 9-11 world? Freedom for Iraqi people? Planting democracy in the Mideast? Enforcing U.N. resolutions? Intimidating other rogue states?

If you argue that it is ONLY, EXCLUSIVELY about one of those things, you're nuts. The voices on one side are as diverse as Christopher Hitchens and Pat Robertson and Jose Ramos-Horta and Tony Blair and Dick Cheney. Can you really devise a one-sentence reason that covers all those minds (and me, too).

I should add, to the anti-anti-war list, the delightful "Muslim refusenik" Canadian feminist lesbian Irshad Manji.

Here's how she dismantles one detractor on her Web site:

“You remind me of Afro-Americans like [Supreme Court justice] Clarence Thomas, [national security advisor] Condaleezza Rice, [Congressman] J.C. Watt and [Secretary of State] Colin Powell, who sold out their Afro-American credentials to the Republican Party to gain affirmative action appointments.” - Tanzila

Irshad replies: Afro-American "credentials”? Honey, that’s so 1980s. Please join the 21st century and think about this: Why should skin color dictate thought pattern? Isn’t it racist to assume it should? And why do you automatically reduce these individuals to ‘affirmative action appointments,’ neglecting that Watts fought and won an election or that Rice was provost at Stanford? I’ll need some thoughtful answers before I can be shamed into believing that I’ve ‘sold out’ my Muslim credentials. Meanwhile, don’t forget to forward your ideological clock to 2004.