Tuesday, October 19, 2004

heroes and villains

how it looks, how it is

it's endorsement time, kids: the new york times weighs in for kerry; the chicago tribune for bush. which way will the l.a. times go -- or will it go any way?

well, i want a piece of the action, too. so, without further ado, here is hipspinster's endorsement for the highest office in the land:

senator john f. kerry -- an imperfect choice for these imperfect times.

i am not the best informed person in the world when it comes to politics, but i try to keep up. i mostly read about things and don't watch tv to get my news. (i do watch jon stewart, but, as he's so stridently and repeatedly pointed out lately, that's not news ... it's comic relief from the news. or, as we've recently seen, dead-on media criticism disguised as comic relief from the news. either way, not news.) i prefer to get more out of a story than sound bites and scare tactics. so, although i was hardly among the hotly sought-after "undecided voters," i was eager to watch the debates. although i'd read many of their words and many words about them, i hadn't witnessed the candidates in action very much. i wanted to see what most of the rest of the country might see.

seeing is believing, but, it turned out, not exactly for the reasons i thought. it's been said that there's not much difference between the candidates, or between the two major u.s. political parties, these days. i see why it is said, although i don't really believe that. but maybe after this election campaign, i believe it more than i used to. after three presidential debates, it struck me coldly that kerry embraces the doctrine of preemptive war just like bush. that we, the u.s. of a., actually have the right -- indeed, the moral imperative -- to go and attack another country that hasn't done anything to us ... (a) in order to "protect" ourselves and (b) because we can.

i am sure i'm guilty of pre-9/11-style thinking, but this is fucked up. and not b/c i'm some idealist, thinking the u.s. never meddles, interferes, or simply takes over when it comes to situations in other countries that aren't going to our perceived advantage. nor do i think that, if we know someone is actually going to attack us, we shouldn't stop them if we can. i just think that we ought to be certain there's a real danger. there wasn't one in iraq. (ironically, now there is.) saddam was surely a danger to his own people -- no duh. but we often stand by and do nothing when tyrants rule with torment. only a naive (and perhaps dangerous) person would believe we started this war to bring freedom to the iraqi people.

furthermore, why should we have to wage an all-out war to shift fortune to our advantage? if we're so smart, building our new empire and all, we ought to be able to be more subtle. (what's that eddie izzard riff about how the brits conquered the world b/c they had a flag?) taking out the perceived/current bad guys should be more delicate work, perhaps involving covert ops and strategic maneuvering rather than galumphing into a sovereign nation full-deadly-force, wreaking destruction on an already oppressed populace and creating a lot of global bad will (the consequences of which, contrary to dubya's claims, go far deeper than just us losing some planet-wide popularity contest). i know the CIA is laughably incompetent at this, but i can't help feeling we could've spent a fraction of the money wasted in iraq on improving the CIA's ability to actually be effective, and still be ahead of the game. no, i don't have any ideas about how to do that. but then, that's not my job, is it?

sacrificial lambs

iraq wasn't worth it, on so many levels. yeah, we're there now, and we have to try to help these people while exiting with some sort of dignity. we at least need to not fuck it up any further. the reality of the situation is what it is. i get that. but ... there's a lot of blamestorming going on b/w kerry and bush -- who isn't supporting the war, who isn't giving the troops what they need, who won't keep us safer, who can't make our alliances strong -- yet the false pretenses or faulty information (take your pick) that got us into this are rarely discussed. the notion that we never should have gone into this war to begin with is reduced to a kerry sound bite that is in turn mocked by bush. the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. yeah, that's nice and emphatic and even a bit poetic -- who knows, maybe three wrongs make a right. more to the far-future point, kerry has outright said, as his little ditty implies, that there could be a right time to wage war against another nation. do we all believe that now?

after three debates, i marveled at how "foreign policy" basically means iraq, the war on terror, and a dash of afghanistan. this also bugged me. b/c i am not too educated in these things, i tend to get these half-formed notions that something is wrong with this picture. bits of data start to swirl in my head but don't always come together. then i will read something, like this week's issue of the nation, which will sort of clarify the problem. "the foreign policy debate we should be having" is the cover article by sherle r. schwenninger. it gave shape to some of my other misgivings while watching the debates -- the sense that, to use a sports metaphor (horrors), when it comes to foreign-policy (or domestic policy, for that matter), neither candidate's rhetorical bench is too deep. sure, there's a lot to know. it's a whole big world out there ... and we are startlingly unengaged with it. or we simply define it on our own terms, as it suits us, and act accordingly. and paint those who would dare urge us to consider our standing in the world, our relationship to our neighbors, as foreigner-pleasing toadies who simply want to win the popularity contest.

hmmm ... which brings me back to the troubling concept of embracing/accepting preemptive war. although i have gotten used to seeing the democrats (and, btw, i am not a democrat -- i am registered to vote with no party affiliation) sell off pieces of their souls in desperate service to holding the sacred middle ground, i am beginning to believe that a lot of them don't even care about the game of inches or maintaining whatever line they think they're drawing (lines that veer to starboard ever more). they don't sacrifice a principle in order to save a greater cause (a slippery slope in any event). they just want to get along. sure, i know -- "compromise" is part of politics. but there's a fine line b/w compromising and selling out. the divide gets wider, the gap gets bigger, and when it comes right down to it, too many alleged representatives of the people don't want to be the people. they wanna be on the "right" side of the electrified security fence that keeps out the great unwashed. and so the entire system seems increasingly a sham, with both sides against we the people, who supposedly are the government.

excitable boy

i wrote most of the above on sunday night, before i knew about the whole thing on friday with jon stewart and "crossfire." it strikes me now (on monday night), reading over that last paragraph, that the point stewart was trying to make to the deliberately obtuse tucker carlson is a kindred notion, although stewart was criticizing the news media, and i am ranting about politicians. the sense of frustration with their abdication, their not wanting to challenge the status quo, is the common thread. can confronting them with their failures prompt them to change, or at least make them feel uncomfortable? maybe only for a moment -- like the squirming of "crossfire" cohost paul begala. on one hand, for a bunch of politicians to be calling each other liars is fairly par for the course. but for one member of the entertainment industrial complex to insistently yank back the curtain on another ... now, that's interesting.

again with the seeing/believing thing: i first read about stewart's "crossfire" appearance in the paper. then i saw a clip online. the newspaper account doesn't convey that, in a way, at least for parts of it (like near the beginning of his harangue), stewart is doing shtick ... but his message is serious. it's brilliant. he may be for kerry, and he may love to rip on bush and co., but his show also reveals the deficiencies in kerry/edwards ... which are just as much fun to laugh at, and maybe an important reminder of how much better we could do. someday.

because, despite my vague misgivings and outright suspicions about the election process, i want to participate. i want at least a chance of my voice being heard or my choice mattering. that's the future-looking view ... i choose now what i hope will eventually help usher in better things. right now, what is the choice? bush is not an option. look at the horrors rained down upon us -- from the literal death and destruction to the ruined incomes and futures to the savaging of civil rights, liberties, and libertines -- in less than four years. not to mention the thunderstorm of horrors to come. yet on the other side, kerry feels like a compromise. i sometimes think howard dean would have been better. maybe he would have done a better job of defining himself and the issues that matter to him on his own terms (and helping the dems do the same), rather than always reacting to the agenda set by bush & co. maybe that's why dean was so mercilessly pounded on ... he could really have made a mark. (i'd love to see him debate bush!) but, eh, it doesn't matter anymore. instead, we have kerry, who i do like in a lot of ways. seeing him on the debates made me feel like he's smart and sort of actually cares. i no longer feel i am merely, desperately, voting "against bush." but, stone realistic, it really doesn't even matter if i ended up liking kerry. obviously, i am a liberal, and even -- dirtiest of dirty words -- a feminist. because of those things, i have about as much choice when it comes to the race for the presidency as your typical born-again christian. they gotta vote for bush; i gotta vote for kerry.

time has come today

in the last entry, i wrote about a wedding; the couple was among that youthful pack we call the k-town kidz. amid their friends hanging around at the reception was a young man in a dark suit who looked a bit like a grown-up harry potter, with round, black-rimmed spectacles and neatly shaggy brown hair. he wore a tie bearing a print of tiny american flags. like something a congressional page would have on. i heard him mildly explaining to the gang that he was a liberal who wanted to take back the flag ... something like this. he was a liberal and a patriot, he said.

right on, harry.

i could not help thinking about how "liberal" has joined "feminist" on the list of feathers you least want to be tarred with -- from a conservative POV, at least. and, actually -- apparently -- from a liberal POV, too. i liked that kerry challenged bush on this notion during one debate, but i didn't like that he did so by dismissing the whole concept of "labels," rather than just saying, "yeah, i'm a liberal, motherfucker! so what?" (ok, fine. he didn't have to say "motherfucker.") i just wish kerry defined himself more on his own terms, rather than through the filter of the bush agenda. am i asking too much? well, if jon stewart is right, and the people want more substantive debate/discussion/discourse than they're getting, then i say no. i'm not asking too much.

anyway. john kerry. he's not the lesser of two evils; he's our only chance for good. so vote for him. i'm going to.

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