This is a very long post. You have been warned.
Graumagus, this is an attempt to respond to your political ideas publicly, and an attempt to salvage our longstanding friendship. I don't condemn you or respect you more for posting in public, but it does oblige me to bring the conversation out in public as well.
For those just tuning in, I'd like to repost Grau's response to a previous post here in its entirety so you don't have to dig into the comments to see what I'm responding to. I will respond point-by-point as I would if this were a personal Email.
Right off the bat I'd like to say that this response has far more to do with previous discussions and debates I've had with Daniel than with the content of this post or Daniel's reasons for endorsing John Kerry for president. I mention several things here that were in e-mails and discussions Daniel and I have had, and several of my references will be lost on anyone but Daniel. I apologize for that. I also decided to post this here instead of in an e-mail because I feel it's something I need to say publicly.
Respect or condemn me for that as you will.
In our e-mail discussion of that Harper's Article, you mentioned that I should know how painful direct conflict can be, seeing as how often in the past I had used deception (lies) to avoid such.
You were only half-right. I also have learned through hard lessons how such actions never end up making a situation better in the long run, and usually end up causing several times more harm than a direct conflict would. As such, I decided to stop pretending things didn't bother me on a fundamental level and just air this in the open.
I like it. I really am impressed by your intention to face conflicts instead of being deceptive or just talking shit. Not so crazy about the "we can't be friends anymore" conclusion though. As a result I will attempt to defend both my viewpoints, dispel meaningless misunderstanding, and defend our friendship.
I stand for everything you despise.
When you first began Frizzen Sparks I was truly shocked and dismayed by its political tone. It took awhile before I really got where you were coming from, and what was behind all that vitriol. At the same time, I respected your online voice, and was glad to see that you had found it, and that you had readership, and a public way to air your ideas.
Since then our political discussion has greatly enriched my understanding of the state of the world, and what people outside of the bounds of my little liberal slice of the world were thinking. In addition, it made my own liberal thinking a lot less lazy.
You have assumed a great many things about my beliefs and lumped me in with all of the naive and under informed liberals of the world, and often assumed my ideas were in line with them. I haven't always had the energy or the time to refute each of your ideas, or was searching for some words that were not purely inflammatory to try and speak to you about my viewpoint in language that would not just push your buttons. It was not always an easy task.
I always assumed that we would eventually enter into a political discussion of enough depth to really explore it, and in fact we had just barely begun such a discussion via Email. I regret that I did not find the time to more actively explain my ideas previously.
I'm one of those people you sneeringly refer to as a 'common sense type' (your using 'common sense' as an attribute worthy of derision speaks volumes).
Common sense itself is not something I am opposed to. But the use of the term "common sense" to defend small minded or traditional ideas is very frustrating to me. I thought that you understood on some level my jibes, and I don't think it's reasonable to think that I take some sort of stand against sensible thought that cuts through popular or fashionable ideas, which is what I think of true common sense as.
Too many times, however, I have heard "common sense" attributed to blatantly racist, unthinkingly moralistic, or just truly simpleminded ideas. Something is not common sense simply because a lot of people in your community think the same thing.
Affirmative action is an example. The debate about affirmative action has raged for many decades, and many great thinkers have looked at it from many angles. I myself do not have a concrete opinion on affirmative action, but to dismiss it out of hand, to say that all of the discussion about it that has occurred has been nothing but liberal folly, and that someone knows this because they have "common sense" is beyond me.
There are many other examples, but suffice it to say that common sense itself is certainly not troubling to me, or worthy of derision.
I'm an agnostic, but lean pro-Christian, and while I'm not rabid about it I tend to support the pro-life viewpoint.
I do not despise this. I have a relationship with the Christ of the bible (if in no other way than appreciating his words, although it is more than this). As for the pro-life movement: My faith also believes that to have an abortion is to take a life and has dire consequence. At the same time I lean away from legislation that enforces this. This is a difference between us, but I do not despise your position.
I oppose activist judges making sweeping societal changes independent from an elected legislature, be it regarding gay marriage or any other issue.
This is SO your pet peeve, man. I'm not going to touch this with a ten-foot pole. Please keep in mind that conservative judges as well use the bench to influence political reality. I understand that subverting the mechanisms of lawmakers is really a hot topic, but I think you're being a little nearsighted about this single issue. In any case your view does not represent something I despise.
I respect my country, and it's symbols. I believe that posting a link to the full 'Star Spangled Banner', including the less known '4th stanza' on my website is not 'jingoistic', or worthy of derision.
Forgive me please for a bit of passive aggressive ribbing in this case. I will talk more about this country and its symbols more when I talk about your difficulties with my views.
I am a staunch defender of the 2nd amendment.
I know you are, man. I know that you have a very informed and well-constructed argument about 2nd amendment rights. I have a different view from you, but man, chill, I am not Michael Moore. You don't know what my views are and you've never bothered to ask me. You don't seem too open-minded about discussion about it in any case, and it's certainly not the most important political issue in the world to me. I respect your well-constructed view and am happy to agree to disagree on this issue. Maybe at some time in the future it can be approached.
I don't believe that kids are starving in Somalia because I'm eating a Big Mac here.
As you know, I have a different view about how American consumption patterns affect the rest of the world. If you ever want to discuss this sometime, I think I could make a fairly good argument. Although I think your view represents a bit of misinformed callousness, I don't despise it.
I believe that personal responsibility is the main factor in people's health choices, and I do not blame the food industry one bit for my being a fat ass.
I don't despise this either, and I'm glad to see you taking full responsibility. I know that you know I think that there is some shared responsibility, but I've made my case in this respect, and it's okay if you don't agree.
I believe the UN is a parasitical organization that has far outlived its usefulness, and is corrupt to its core. Our politicians are rife with corruption, but at least we can vote the bastards out.
Once again, no despise. In fact, you have brought some of the potentially corrupt behavior to my attention. I will discuss this more later.
I support a strong military, and while I don't think all the world's problems can be solved by letting the army go in and 'Kick ass old school ' like you seem to believe I do, I know from history that when a ruthless dictator who murders and rapes people for sport ignores dozens of un-enforced resolutions from UN diplomats, they won't ignore dozens of cruise missiles.
Well, you did say publicly that you thought the solution to the Iraqi conflict was to "Take the damn leash off the dogs of war and let them finish the job." I don't see your views as despicable, but certainly foolish, short-sighted, and blind to history. It makes me sad, but I don't see it as something despicable.
I believe that there are Fundamentalist Islamic religious leaders who have huge amounts of people willing to die as long as they take a westerner with them. Not because of Bush. Not because of anything we've done, but because of the fact that we're not converts to Fundamentalist Islam. These murderers are even butchering other Muslims who don't adhere to their strict interpretation of their faith.
I think these people need to be killed.
Yes Grau, I know that there are actually people in the world that wish Americans harm. I disagree with your rationale for how the war could have been prevented, however. You say it's because we were too weak. Because "Clinton presented our underbelly to the assholes for eight years".
You're saying we should have cracked down on the assholes earlier. And if they still fought, then cracked down harder, and harder, until they give up or until there isn't a single one left. You know, you decry Saddam Hussein, but he had precisely this mindset. He totally did not fuck around, and if those pesky Kurds wouldn't chill out, then he'd just have to crack down so hard that he was fully willing to kill them all.
Hussein was a brutal tribal-thinking motherfucker. In his methods he did perhaps go a hair further than the U.S. has been caught doing (yet). Granted, he was a megalomaniac dictator and he ruled his brutal corner of the world with exactly as much force as he found appropriate to ensure his power. I know I'm going a bit far, but I think it's fair to take your line of thinking out to its conclusion.
I think that perhaps, in contrast to the "we should have cracked down and showed the world we're not a nation to be fucked with" theory, I think that the terrorist attack was partially the result of our unethical behavior in that region. I am not trying to say that George Bush Sr. or Clinton or anyone else blew up the towers instead of the "Islamo-Fascist Assholes". They did it, and it was really fucked up. But I think that we as a nation were culpable, and that not many people realized how much weight we were throwing around in the region.
But this is not where my biggest problem lies. My biggest problem is the inexplicable expansion of vast military action to a completely unrelated military power with, frankly, an inexcusable lack of conscionable reason.
So since we're about there, why did Saddam Hussein have anything to do with our military response to a single terrorist attack by a specific Islamic Fundamentalist group? We bombed Afghanistan; we tightened airport security; we (supposedly) rigorously went after the leaders of this organization and did our best to marginalize or dispose of them. I agree that in the light of the seriousness of the attack that this could be argued to be an appropriate response, and I recognize it potentially as a part of a responsible action plan to dismantle our actual real attackers who fucked up 3,000 real people with real planes. It was a truly fucked up thing to do, and I can understand that it required a confident response.
But even at that time, Bush presented his military agenda in the light that we were liberating the Afghani people from their horrid Taliban oppressors. All the horrible Burkha-isms of fundamentalist Islam were trotted out on parade to horrify the people of America.
Is this touching, Bush's extreme concern for the downtrodden of the world, and for the oppressed? How many other ways could Bush have supported the cessation of human rights violations than bombing Afghanistan (and then Iraq)? Think of all the political pressure he could have put on China, and other serious human rights violators if he would have been willing to temporarily sacrifice some business interests. Why didn't he sell these humanitarian ideas? It was not politically expedient for him to do so.
There were many other ways he could have been of far more benefit to the downtrodden people of the world OTHER than attacking Iraq. I know you must have a million refutations, but I wish in this case you could see that his case for attacking Iraq must have been based almost solely on his own personal interests, to which we are not directly privy. The math just doesn't add up.
Even if he felt that military pressure had to be put on Hussein, why right then? When we were still in the middle of an expensive military and reconstruction effort with Afghanistan. This dance with the UN had been going on forever. Surely the president couldn't have thought that a military strike was imminent. Can you fucking believe that, Grau? When I realize you probably do, this is when I truly despair and doubt your judgment about Bush's sales tactics.
Perhaps the most deceptive is his characterization of Hussein as a Bin Laden supporter in order to sell the war. No one can come up with any proof that either party significantly aided the other one. However, there is plenty of proof that the US government significantly aided both of them. Perhaps we should crack down on ourselves?
So why do I care so much? Bush's decision has resulted in the deaths of many Iraqi people. Estimates range from 7,000 to 14,000 civilians. This is my source: http://www.iraqbodycount.net/bodycount.htm
I know that you do not like the political slant of this site, but I think the methodology is reasonable. In any case, it's a lot. Was there no other way to care for the world's oppressed people than to enter into this military action so soon after another major military action?
I know that you stand ready to refute many of these points, but I just thought it was important for me to state my basic viewpoint in this case. I think that Bush went to war for reasons other than he used to sell it. I think it was ill conceived, ill timed, and resulted in many unnecessary deaths. I think it was a horrific action and Bush's defenses don't even begin to approach the justification that would have been required.
You stand for everything I despise.
Jesus, Grau! I stand for everything you despise? What on earth are you talking about?!?!? I appreciate you standing up for your political views, but I think this is truly foolhardy. This is about political views? Well then let me start by making an attempt to explain:
You dismiss the Constitution and the Grau of Rights as being written to benefit rich, white, slaveholders.
I don't think this is fair. Perhaps you can repeat something I've said, even paraphrase and allow me to defend this properly? It is true that the framers of the constitution only had WHITE MALE LANDOWNERS in mind; in fact, explicitly in it's language. The world and the constitution have both changed to reflect the changing views of the world, and I hope it slowly, gradually continues to do so. In any case, it is an admirable and well-thought out document, but it was written by people who assumed things that modern people no longer assume.
I do not dismiss the constitution and do not wish it to be abandoned.
Why do you focus so deeply on the 2nd amendment? Why focus so deeply on the right to wield the instruments of war as the most important of all rights? Does not the US PATRIOT act bother you with it's serious attacks on the freedom from search and seizure? Why is the most physically violent of rights always considered to be the most important?
I don't think our views of the constitution are so different, but we definitely have a different focus. For this, my view is despicable?
You see America as being the main source of the world's ills, and hope (as evidenced by this post) we become weak so we can't harm the rest of the planet anymore.
You see no harm in burning a US flag on a lark.
Okay, let me do my best to explain my views here.
I consider myself loyal to all beings of the world equally. I do not want any of them to suffer. Not Americans, not Iraqis, not even Islamo-Fascists. No one. I always in my political decisions want to benefit people in the most widespread and effective way. I do not think that Americans have more innate right to happiness, to the resources of the world, or to the freedom from being bombed and terrorized any more than any other people in the world.
To me, being a citizen of America is a responsibility only, and not a right. It does not make me better, or my life worth more than an Iraqi. If 3,000 Americans being murdered causes me horror, then 7,000 Iraqi Civilians being murdered causes me twice as much horror.
The tone of I hear from Bush, the Fox news network, and to some extent your weblog seems to be that those lives are worth less than American lives. They are like primitive dogs, which hate us because we have "freedom". They hate freedom. Because they hate freedom they hate us, because they hate us they are plotting nothing but our destruction. It has nothing to do without our geo-political actions; it is only our love of freedom that makes them hate us. Because they are intent on destroying us and there is nothing to do about it besides hating freedom and we are not willing to do that. Therefore we must destroy them.
I think this is a fable. And even though it's a fable I just wrote, I don't think it's too far off the rhetoric I have heard in Bush's public speeches.
In addition to caring for the people of the world, I care for the people of America. I feel an increased sense of responsibility towards them because I am a part of their shared destiny. But I am not willing to support unnecessary murder just for the sake of soldiers who, in perhaps their best intentions, are willing to kill and die for me. Everyone is responsible for the people they kill, and people who command others to kill are doubly responsible. Mass killing done for profit, or frivolous, or ill-considered reasons is truly horrific, is truly terrorism. This is being done in my name, with my money.
I know that this is a hard world where there are many cunning, violent, and hateful people with really awesome tools of killing. I am not trying to present a completely naive view that we could simply say, "hey sorry we were so mean to you, just tell us what to stop doing so you won't be mad at us anymore and we'll stop and put down all our guns."
I think that all the nations of the world are interdependent. I think that a being that was truly concerned not just for the welfare of the people he led, and the welfare of all people in the world, a worthy leader, a just leader, a leader willing to sacrifice his personal interests for the good of his nation and all beings would act much differently than George W. Bush.
Bush and his administration have proven themselves to be incredibly persuasive to the American community. If they would have considered the world as well as their own interests, I'll bet they could have accomplished a lot through influencing the public opinion of Europe, and even the Islamic world. There is no excuse for this destructive behavior.
Joe said something about really being glad we have a president that is willing to stand up for American interests. I personally think that he is most willing to stand up for his own interests, and very willing and able to sell the overlap of the nations interests with his own. In this way he uses the word "patriotism" to justify his actions and sell them to the American public. I have an argument, but of course I can not prove this. Ultimately we cannot see his motives.
Even if he were truly concerned just with America and his people, I think he has done a bad job. I'd be curious to see a refutation of this, but look at the financial statistics. Bush is "optimistic" but I don't think his optimism holds against the numbers:
Note the part in that last article about "Unprecedented Use of Gimmicks".
You know, I could conceivably get behind a conservative leader, but I don't consider to Bush to be conservative. I think he is purely serving his rich constituency, and is very good at disguising it behind libertarian language.
So I know that you can probably debate all of this. That's cool. I welcome debate. We have a differing opinion. You think I'm naive and I think you're a mark for an opportunistic president who knows how to speak your language. It's okay, and I don't consider it an unbreachable obstacle to our friendship.
You despise that because I burned a flag and photo recorded it in a blase way? I can see that this was a foolish act and a mistake. It was done between me any my friend as a joke that it was a transparent plastic flag made in China. I publicly apologize for doing something that would be so hurtful to our friendship, and to your opinion of me without full command of the consequences. Out of respect for you, I will not do so in a careless way again.
You think America is an imperialistic force, but not (in your own words as we sat on mom's deck several weeks back) 'the old definition of imperialism' which consists of annexing territory and exacting tribute from it. I'm not exactly sure what the 'new' definition is, but judging by how much people on the left bandy that word about it seems to mean 'anything done overseas by a conservative administration'.
The definitions I find of imperialism:
- The policy of extending a nation's authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations.
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
- a policy of extending your rule over foreign countries
- a political orientation that advocates imperial interests
- any instance of aggressive extension of authority
- Princeton University's WordNet
Anyway, you despise this?
You believe Bush is a complete idiot, yet at the same time a mastermind capable of hatching dark conspiracies to deceive the American public. You didn't come right out and say it, but from things you've sent me you seem to say you believe that Bush & Halliburton had something to do with 9/11 (apologies if I'm wrong on that point).
I think Lloyd Dangle handled this pretty well:
I think he's cunning like a dog. He has a talent for serving his interests more baldly than any other president ever, and having the amazing ability to couch things in language that is extremely misleading. Keep in mind that he has incredibly intelligent staff and constituency and a lot of powerful support. It's not so much his stupidity as his arrogance and doubletalk that bother me.
And as for thinking Halliburton had something to do with 9/11, I definitely am not in that camp. I definitely agree that that is fully moonbat material. I do, however thing that Halliburton and the Carlyle group are but some of the incredibly huge businesses who benefit immensely from this ongoing war, and I think that they and other financial interests are the primary reason for the armed conflict in Iraq.
Once again, by all means, debate this with me. But you despise that I think this?
You dismiss personal responsibility as the main factor in people's poor health decisions, and choose to blame big business instead.
I was trying to present a case of shared responsibility. I thought I raised some worthwhile questions and I'm saddened to see them reduced to this.
You believe that the UN is an altruistic organization that does more good than harm.
The jury is still out. I was very interested by the Oil for Food information you pointed me at, and definitely helped me to see the situation in a more multi-faceted light. I never actually knew that there was so much anger about this in the conservative political world.
Perhaps the UN is no longer a good vehicle for having a way for the interests of the world as a whole to be considered and served, with some sense of consensus and fair deliberation. And restraint against any one nation just doing what they pleased that involved the deaths of thousands of people.
You made your point, I conceded that I obviously had a lot to learn about this'.why is this still one of your "points of despicableness"?
You endorse a man for president who was directly responsible for thousands of our troops being spit upon and insulted when returning from Viet Nam, because he (with a whole four months in country, two of those on ship) had enough experience to label every man and woman in uniform as a 'murdering war criminal' in front of congress to further his political career.
Well, shit man, send me the article, cause I didn't read it. We can address it again after I can see what you're talking about.
However, I talked to you and you admitted to Bush's corruption in many ways, so we are both choosing to endorse someone imperfect. I have my reasons, and I have done my best to enumerate them. I respect James for voting independent, but in this particular election, I still think that the best choice for America and for the world is Kerry over Bush. This you despise?
And let me respond to Jason, who said that he thought he should "play it safe" and vote for Bush. Do you really think murderous Islamo-Fascists are going to come streaming through the border the moment Kerry is sworn into office? I personally don't think, for all his blustering talk and willingness to initiate military action that Bush has really done so much good. I know it's debatable, but I don't think that Bush's perspective is unimpeachably brilliant or useful. There would be incredible political pressure for any president to take steps to prevent terrorist attacks. I don't think that the "crack down forever" method is the most effective.
You believe that the reason Islamic terrorists attack us is because of the policies of conservatives in our government, and by appeasing them the attacks will stop.
There is some room between appeasement and unfocused, ineffective military action done for political benefit. I do think that there are ways to engage the world community and at least display a willingness to consider the experience and lessons of history, and of other nations. I want America to be as strong as it can be without being exploitive. Ultimately I'm not willing to sacrifice the good of the world as a whole for a symbol.
I've sat in the last month on and off looking at the e-mail debate we've been having, trying to get my points across. I had reams of evidence, points I wanted to make, etc.
All pointless. Neither of us is going to budge. The fact that you can take my statement that I think everyone in the UN building should be shot as serious when you know me so well punctuates that point (granted it's kind of hard to relay snarkiness in an e-mail, but you should have known better. To then ask me if I thought a little ethnic cleansing was next was over the top).
I've given up trying to reconcile our differing beliefs. Call me a cop out and claim 'victory' as you will, I no longer care. I read your viewpoints on certain things and they blast through my hardened layers of detachment and actually make me physically ill. I've sat in the last month on and off looking at the e-mail debate we've been having, trying to get my points across. I had reams of evidence, points I wanted to make, etc.
I thought we were debating. It's a process. I truly would not have considered it safe to engage you on this level if I thought this would be the result.
I value our friendship a great deal, even beyond the political sphere. You were a support to me during some very emotionally difficult times. Although I've been pretty dismayed at Frizzen Sparks, I did like your writing and was glad you had the blog. I feel a very deep loyalty to you, and all the rest of the guys. I always liked your inventiveness and your amazing ability to talk shit and make plans to blow things up. You always had a way of putting people at ease. You and me and my mom are friends, if it weren't for my Mom you never would have met your wife (I hope that's on the whole a good thing!). Our histories are intertwined.
Why push me away and invalidate anything I have to say, despising everything I stand for? We have plenty of time to argue and disagree, and when I see you in person I will be respectful to you and consider you my friend just as I always have. Are you really willing to give this up over a conversation-in-progress over which you have jumped to many conclusions?
As for your points, some were made. It's truly unlikely that I will ever endorse Bush, just as it's truly unlikely that you will ever endorse Kerry. However, I felt that I could bring some new perspective into your political thought. You obviously hold court over there in Rockford and you obviously have a lot of political influence. I just wanted to introduce the idea that it's possible that there's some problems with modern conservative thought, and that there are many thinking people who have liberal views and they can't all be 100% moonbats. There must be some intelligence at work there. The world has had a long and tumultuous history and many people in America have intensely different values. I just want to raise some questions about your worldview. Has nothing I've said made you think twice about anything? That certainly isn't the case for me.
I've tried to do everything in my power to make sure my children do not end up living in the neutered country you endorse. I've never felt this strongly about anything in my life. I've seen the historical consequences of the path of appeasement you endorse, and (unlike most people on the left) choose to learn from those lessons. For me this upcoming election has far more to do with two differing philosophies on how our government should be structured down to it's core than it does about which career politician happens to be sitting in the oval office.
Once again. I think you have mischaracterized my opinion. I only have one vote, man, and I'm gonna make it whether you're my friend or not.
It's not such a simple position as "crack down" vs. "appeasement". I think that is an oversimplification, and that by my condemning Bush's course of action you assumed I had some 180 degree position, or whatever position you most despised. Why put all this anger on me?
You often refer to me as a childhood friend, and you're right. Even though I was older than you, I was still a child. We're both grown up now, and we've chosen our paths. I wish I could let things slide off me without caring like I could when I was a child, but I find that I no longer can.
It's kind of poetic that I spent most of the early hours of 9/11 agonizing over this.
Now I have two things to mourn on that date. One a national tragedy and the other the day when I realized I couldn't, in my heart, consider someone who is so deeply opposed to everything I believe in, on so many levels, to be a friend.
It fucking hurts.
I bear you no ill will. I hope you lead a long and fruitful (but politically frustrated) life.
I fear your blessing and curse is likely to come true.
I'm through with you.
Once again Grau: I seriously ask you to reconsider. Continue this conversation. Or drop it. But don't assume I despise what you stand for and that I stand for all you find despicable.
Let me have my opinions...educate me about specific things you think are foolish, and allow me to clarify my point of view. Let's face it, Kerry doesn't have a chance in hell of winning this election. I personally am quite sure that Bush will win the November election by a handy margin, without any jerryrigging. Then that will put silent all those voices who said that he didn't really get elected. You'll have a lot to gloat about. We can see how it all looks in 4 years.
Either way, the world will go on as it goes, with only our tiny influence. You feel free to spout yours. Give me the freedom to spout mine, but please consider our personal history and interdependance. Consider our shared friends...is this really worth dividing us all? And also my chili!