Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A nosebleed seat to the Apocalypse?

We all really need to start getting along.

Since moving to Idaho, I’ve had to put my politics on the back burner. Too many consequences to shooting off my mouth. Fuck it. Too many consequences, balanced against zero actual ability to effect change in any of the areas I’m bitching about. It took me three years to figure out I was pursuing a lose/lose strategy, but as Sarah Connor intones early in Terminator 2, “I’m feeling much better now.”

Because the consequences of ditching that strategy have been deeply rewarding. As a non-partisan fellow now, a man without a country, as it were… without an opinion I’ve been inclined to share… it’s opened up lines of actual dialogue, specifically with the people whose belief systems have historically clashed with mine. And it made me even more bored with the clever rhetoric of the Left. I read old blog entries and I’m among the worst transgressors. I would go back and eliminate (or redact) a lot of stuff I’ve written, except I’ve seen the way attempting to rewrite history turns out in 1984.

I can’t even watch the news anymore, and not just to protect my 9-year-old. It plays like Michael Bay and David Lynch put their heads together to co-produce the Apocalypse.

Commercial airliners being blown out of the sky by unrepentant thugs. Other ginormous planes going mysteriously missing—poof! The violent religious extremists in the Middle East finally becoming our actual worst nightmare by organizing and getting their command and control shit together. Worse, acquiring the wealth and weaponry left behind by a recently conquering army. And when I say wealth, I mean “wealth” with a “b” as in billions. People argue over how many billions, but let me ask you this. How many billions of dollars did Osama bin Laden’s signature terrorist attack cost? Zero. Now add billions of dollars to that capacity for evil. That’s how much more dangerous the international terrorist situation has become.

Here’s my beef. I get that it feels like the new daily horrors we’re living through look and feel and quack like the foreplay to the End Times. What I don’t get is why that fact hasn’t begun to coalesce us as a people yet.

I’m looking at us, America! Not because we’re necessarily the worst offenders, but because I’ve got a dog in this hunt.

Look. I get that it’s easy to point fingers. It’s Obama’s fault because he’s feckless and has neither a strategy nor even a consistent talking point about the Middle East or Ukraine or anything else; it’s W’s fault because he unseated Saddam Hussein on evidence that was later proven inaccurate, and created the power vacuum in the region that the terrorists are currently exploiting; it’s Bush Sr.’s fault for not taking out Saddam when the rest of the world actually seemed on board with the idea; it’s Bill Clinton’s fault for his lack of a vigorous military response when the USS Cole was attacked on his watch; it’s the British Empire’s fault for partitioning up the old Ottoman empire and cutting it up into the merry patchwork of murderous country-states they are now, which error IS* in its questionable wisdom is trying to undo; it’s the inhabitants of the region’s fault for waging this war on themselves for thousands of years before the foreign Imperialists ever got involved… As far as Wikipedia and I know, these are all true facts. This is shit that can be generally agreed upon, one fact at a time, by reasonable people.

[*While our media sources dither between ISIS and ISIL, they refer to themselves simply as the Islamic State. Not “…Of Syria” and not “…Of The Levant.” They really do want to put the old land back together.]

So it’s everybody’s fault. It’s everybody’s fault, and we all stand to get taken to task for it. Especially now that IS is as well-armed and wealthier than the majority of its neighbors most immediately in jeopardy of being engulfed by them, with plenty of money and munitions left over for foreign mischief.

If it’s everybody’s fault, then isn’t it also everybody’s responsibility?

If we’re going to be responsible about this, we have to start listening to our fellow Americans instead of yelling at them. Only by listening can new, different ideas enter our brains. They may be really stupid ideas borne of a philosophy and outlook that is completely at odds with our own, but they may also—in their vast ignorance—spark a New Idea in somebody’s head. An idea that wasn’t put there by a news channel or a blogger or wherever the hell kids get their news these days.

An idea that might start a conversation that might begin to produce a change.

The longer we stand on opposite sides of the ideological chasm and hurl biting witticisms at each other, the longer the enemy has to further get their shit together. I guarantee you, by now they have broken off a little group and granted them unlimited funds with which to plan foreign affairs. IS have started doing lots of other stuff governments do, and these guys’ number one priority is killing. That’s definitely something governments do, and IS really likes killing us. That’s math even I can do.

And still we bicker amongst ourselves! Over on Facebook, left-wingers are politicizing the outlandishly horrific murder of another American journalist, and so are right-wingers. They still can’t agree on anything, except that this butchery is an excellent opportunity to drive their partisan hackery home. It’s unseemly, and worse, it’s counter-productive.

I had a friend on Christmas Island—you know, where we’re from—with whom I used to enjoy party-line give-and-take. He was always more adherent to his party line than I was to mine, though. I used to try to reason him into a corner just for sport, but he’s a wicked smart guy, and except for The Missus, nobody can marshal facts and figures like he can to support any given argument. He really gave me a good rhetorical workout, and in my own defense, I was frequently very clever. I found lots and lots of ways to passively disparage the GOP president at the time. [sigh]

Well, after moving to Idaho and trying to adjust to the very politically conservative climate here, his broadsides were no longer as entertaining. They had gone from a diverting pastime for me to just another reminder that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Eventually, one issue struck really close to home. I knew The Missus would take to social media about it, and I begged him to resist the temptation to respond. I was, like, super clear. And I contacted him before she unleashed her wrath.

But just like America, he couldn’t resist. And just like I’d guessed, it didn’t help a bit. It was especially unhelpful, actually.

And that, in a nutshell, is America today. We just can’t resist our unreasoning hatred of the other side of the partisan divide. And what I’ve learned is, most of that hate and mistrust of each other is the result of us being expected by our peers to hate and mistrust ‘the other side.’ We do it because it’s what we know. It’s what we’re used to. We just can’t resist.

The only thing we can’t resist even more is drama, which is what our bickering is inevitably buying us. We are working so diligently on not working together that we are certain to be caught unaware—again—the next time there is a catastrophic domestic attack. And even then, I suspect finger-pointing will prevail over problem-solving in the aftermath.

All of a sudden, having relocated to the Hinterlands doesn’t look like such a bad idea at all.


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