|Tuesday, April 13, 2004
13:16 - There goes another career
It's rare enough that a prominent actor or entertainer stands up in favor of Bush and/or the war that such an occasion is linkworthy in and of itself. It's just a bonus, then, when-- as in the cases of John Rhys-Davies, and now, Larry Miller-- they say extremely valuable and insightful things that we just don't hear from other quarters, including political spokespeople.
But when I saw that banner saying "Mission Accomplished," I thought, no, no, it isn't accomplished at all, it's barely begun, and if we're going to do this thing, accept this challenge, fully absorb the import of this moment, it's going to wind up making the Hundred Years War look like a performance of Nicholas Nickleby.
And please don't hand me that "Well, he just meant the major operations, and the rest of the message was more nuanced, and if you read the text . . ."
Baloney. I support the president in all of this, but what he should have done then, in my opinion, is what he can still do now. What I've been waiting for. What the whole country needs, for, against, and in between.
A speech. A big one. A grave one. Say that the world is a very bad place and has been for a long time, and that we're going to stop it in its tracks and make it better because we have to, and because, as Tony Blair said when he spoke to Congress, "It's your destiny."
Stand next to a map of Iraq, and another one of the world, and point out what's good and what's bad, what's been done and what's left. Say, "You may disagree, but here's where we are, and here's where we're going."
Yup. Be a communicator, dammit. We're losing whatever momentum we had, because you're not telling the American people what's next. We all know-- or rather, knew, on 9/12-- that this wouldn't end with Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan was the immediate boiling concern, Iraq was the big wild card. Okay, now those are both known quantities rather than big question marks. But what's next? Secrecy was important when we didn't have our foot in the door; but now we do, and we the people need to be told of the real scope of the war, the real direction this all is going, before we all lose interest and faith that it's being handled in the way we'd all do if we were sitting in the big chair in the Oval Office or reading a storybook with schoolkids the day the planes crashed into the towers.
Message to the administration: No one in Europe or on the left is ever, ever, ever going to like you from seeing a photograph of a marine handing a bag of groceries to a woman in a burkha. Jacques Chirac is never going to say, "Well, they have built a lot of community centers. Maybe Bush was right."
Win. Stopping building schools. Win. There's plenty of time and need for hospitals, but first . . . Win. Yes, yes, Iraqi girls can be very empowered by seeing a female colonel running an outreach program, and we can all chip in for the posters that say "Take Your Daughters To Mosque Day," but in the meantime, would you please win.
If I have to listen to one more administration spokesperson say, "The overwhelming number of Iraqis is with us, it's just a small percentage of cranks causing all the trouble," I'll be tempted to say something I swore I never would: "Du-uuh."
A small percentage, huh? About the same size as the few thousand Bolsheviks who took over the 100 million Russians in 1917? More? Less?
In service of this goal, I would like to propose a new slogan. It's based on the old anti-war chant from the sixties, "Peace Now!" You must've heard that one. Demonstrators have been shouting it for the last 40 years. "Peace Now, Peace Now, Peace Now." Hell, I think I probably shouted it, myself, somewhere around '73. (This would have been shortly before the drinking age in Massachusetts went down to 18, after which my friends and I took to shouting far more sensible things, like, "You can't cut us off, it's only 11:00. Hey, let go of me.")
Here's the new slogan: Win now.
Yeah. Don't worry about being liked; we're already despised. It may be more out in the open now, but it's the same ol' same ol'. Trying to build an "international consensus" for radically reengineering the Islamic world would be like arguing at the retirement home for reduced Medicare benefits; it's just not gonna happen. Time is of the essence here; we don't have it to spare for futile gestures.
But it's that insight about the Bolsheviks that really got me about this piece, incidentally.
Leave it to a comedian to remind us, in the age where the word "minority" has taken on an almost reverential tone no matter who or what it refers to, of the catastrophes that have been perpetrated throughout history by tiny minorities of people.
Democracy is, once again, every bit as much about preventing the tyranny of the minority as it is about preventing the tyranny of the majority; the American system presumes the latter risk, the risk of the pure democracy, and engineers checks and balances to counter it with the former risk, in the architecture of a representative republic. To fall too far in one direction or the other is to invite catastrophe. On one side lies fascistic persecution of those different from the mainstream, and on the other side lies elitist authoritarianism. Tyranny of the minority.
We must not allow ourselves to romanticize the notion of the "minority" as a harmless and helpless offshoot of society, there just to provide the necessary spice of life. It's not always so innocuous. Just as we wouldn't want to romanticize a homogeneous, conformist cultural wasteland where minorities are hidden away in the walls, we can't fool ourselves into thinking that just because something is a "minority", it must be good.
It's from such thinking that dictatorships are born.