|Tuesday, February 1, 2005
21:21 - Implied, Lisa... or implode?
I guess they're finally starting to say it.
I naïvely expected to hear words like this during the UN hearings on the foundation for the war, in which Powell's evidence (which turned out to be pretty flimsy, if not so transparent as to be disastrous in retrospect to his credibilty) seemed a lot more convincing at the time. But barring that, as grounds for such repudiations dissolved shortly afterwards, I expected to hear these words in the wake of the growing body of testimonials from Iraqis pining for freedom and taking peace activists to task for their "simplistic Nickelodeon diplomacy", and recantations of the Human Shields who cried, "Oh God, what have we done?" But it wasn't to be. Nor was it to be upon hearing freed Iraqis jubilantly call out for "Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy" as they dragged the Saddam statue to its knees. Nor did the Transfer of Sovereignty date evoke so much as a sniff of introspection on the part of those who insisted, not that we were in Iraq to steal the oil and kill brown people for the fun of it at the command of our Zionist masters, but that democracy was something Iraqis just weren't suited for, the poor dear darkies.
In fact, I'd begun to despair of ever hearing anything like this:
By now, you might have even voted against George Bush -- a second time -- to register your disapproval.
But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?
It's hard to swallow, isn't it?
. . .
Obviously, I'm still curious to see if Bush is willing to allow the Iraqis to install a government that is free to kick us out or to oppose our other foreign policy efforts in the region.
So is the rest of the world.
For now, though, I think we have to cut the president some slack about a timetable for his exit strategy.
If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.
Maybe I'd have to vote Republican in 2008.
Whoa, now, let's not do anything rash.
I'd be happier to see the Democrats remember what the name of their bloody party is, and put a few chips on the idea that maybe democracy is a good thing after all—not just for white people, but for anybody in the world. That's all I would ask.
I saw (rather, heard) the first part of the Daily Show last night, too, before I tore myself away from what I was working on and changed the channel. It seemed Jon Stewart and friends were having a hard time figuring out how to spin jokes from a bunch of images of Iraqis gleefully holding up ink-stained fingers and dancing in banner-waving street mobs. "It was in fact a good day," said Stephen Colbert, "And that makes... what, three they've had. Three good days... the day the statue came down, the day we captured Saddam, and now this. So in the Iraqi Week of Good Days, we're up to... Wednesday! It's Hump Day!"
The nervousness of the audience's laughter was palpable. I kinda wish I'd stuck with it until the end, though—it must have been downright tomblike in there when Stewart said this:
Jon Stewart, late in the Daily Show last night to Newsweek pundit Fareed Zakaria: "I’ve watched this thing unfold from the start and here’s the great fear that I have: What if Bush, the president, ours, has been right about this all along? I feel like my world view will not sustain itself and I may, and again I don’t know if I can physically do this, implode. (Hat tip: David Frum).
That would be awful, I know. But see, democracy is bigger than the details needed to bring it to life. Once you've accepted that the people who say they want it actually represent a popular movement, and are not just a bunch of paid flunkies preening for Western cameras and bags of illicit M&Ms, there is no more arguing against democracy. To argue against democracy is to argue against a country's people, and nobody wants the terminology to get that far, lest it reveal where one's priorities really lie.
Believing the worst about the war all this time, whether or not one agrees with Brown in that "going to war still sent so many terrible messages to the world" (a statement which sends a quite reassuring message to would-be Hitlers), means believing that the Idiot Supergenius Bush deluded America into fighting for the spread and germination of democracy, a concept he was himself patently opposed to, and in whose service he was willing to construct the most elaborate, audacious, and shameless lie in American history. It takes believing that Bush says he likes freedom, but is lying and secretly hates freedom—but he's willing to subvert our entire governmental system to create freedom anyway, because it serves his nefarious goals.
But there's another explanation, one that requires much fewer mental gymnastics.
Being on the side of the war means simply believing Bush meant what he said and said what he meant. That he believed the things he said, that he acted in good faith, that he never knowingly lied, and that the end result—democracy in Iraq—depends not on subterfuge but on honesty. Hard as it might be, one only has to believe that Bush and the pro-war faction of American politics has simply been sincere all along for the sight of grinning, finger-waving Iraqi voters to make sense.
Otherwise one has to layer the assumption of one lie on top of the assumption of another, deception upon conspiracy upon betrayal upon belief in the worst impulses of humanity manifesting themselves constantly in every level from Republican voters and Iraqi citizens up through the President and his cabinet. The only way to explain away positive developments in the face of such expressed evil would be to add yet more presumptions of ill intent on top. Eventually you end up with an edifice so hideously elaborate that it necessarily crashes in under its own weight.
The theorists would call it "elegant" to believe that simply putting our faith in the higher ideals of freedom and democracy, ignoring the popular disdain for such concepts as have been made current by the nightly comedy lineup, and in our elected officials to act according to their own publicly expressed beliefs about the world instead of in direct contradiction to them, is enough to bring about positive change in the world. It requires no cynicism and no resentment. It requires no second-guessing, no overanalysis, no reliance on data that's guaranteed to be faultier than what the administration might be working with. It requires no spiderweb of half-baked beliefs all bolstered by nothing but prejudice and detestation and peer pressure. All it takes is a little bit of trust, the fundamental building block of any modern free society.
The trouble is, when you trust in trust, there's not much comedy to be made from it. When one's mind is at ease, and not tugged in a million directions by a roil of contradicting, incompatible presumptions, there's not a lot left to say.
And we're just not a people accustomed to silence. Because, after all, we're free.
UPDATE: Tim Blair has more sightings of people starting to exit the "reality-based community" and re-enter actual reality.