Saturday, March 11, 2006

Tom Fox...

I don't have any respect for Rush Limbaugh as a commentator, and there's a reason for that. He's an entertainer. He's a bullshit artist who found ways to use his bullshit to fertilize hatred until it grows him a lot of green.

It's the most important thing about him to keep in mind. He is not trying to tell the truth; he is not trying to guide people. He is trying to say what he thinks will draw in a big audience. He is playing a game. It's a nasty, and very damaging game, but to him, it's a game. You can't shame him into backing off, because he doesn't mean anything he says.

So, I try to ignore him, but recently,I heard something he said that pissed me off. There were four Christian peace activists who had been kidnapped in Iraq. He said that part of him, just a part, was glad that these crazy liberal peace-lovers were learning what the enemy was like.

Now, I understand where he's coming from. He's like, "you keep claiming that if we're just helpful and understanding, we'll prevent criminals... and you just got mugged. Did you try to be helpful and understanding to your mugger? Didn't help you much, did it?"

I understand that nasty little urge, and I'm not pissed off about that. I'm pissed off by the automatic assumption that Tom Fox, and his three collegues, Harmeet Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember, thought that they were not putting themselves in danger.

Jesus told his followers that this life was not the important one; he told his followers that they should use this life to build their treasure in the next. They should help the poor, the sick, and the oppressed in this life, and not be afraid, because doing what's right is more important than whatever can happen to you in this world.

He challenged his followers to love the world as much as he did... and Jesus was willing to be tortured and crucified for the sake of the world.

Do I think Tom Fox was surprised to find out that going to Iraq was dangerous? No. Not a bit.

If you haven't heard the news, his body has been found; he was tortured, and shot. He knew that this was one of the risks he was taking; he felt his service to humanity was more important than this risk. He gave his life to follow his beliefs.

Rush Limbaugh is a bullshit artist; he's not worthy of contempt. But he comes awfully close when he denigrates courage and love, and confuses them with foolishness naivete.

Rest well, Tom... and know that there are many of us who understand, and will do our best to carry on.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

How to help...

I'm about to illustrate a point with humor. I don't generally like doing this, but, well, follow along, keeping in mind that I've given you fair warning, okay?

I have this new idea for treating alcoholics.

First, everyone who has a problem with alcoholism should be monitored by the government. Then, if they're caught drinking, or, and this is important, not proving that they're not drinking, we send a guy over to beat the hell out of them.

Or a woman. I mean, no need to be sexist; a woman can kick a person's ass just as well as a guy can.

Now, before some whiny liberal starts throwing a fit, let me emphasize that I'm not talking about broken bones or anything like that. Nothing worse than bruises. Sure, maybe a bloody nose or a split lip, but don't worry, the government agents will wear protective clothing to avoid bloodborne pathogens.

I know this sounds pretty extreme, but you need to understand that alcoholism is damaging to a person, and to society as a whole. By ending alcoholism in this manner, we'll be reaping the benefits of this for generations to come.

I'm sure some people will say that this is too expensive, or even that it's immoral. Some whiny people might even say that, no matter how painful it is to see an alcoholic suffering, you should just offer help, and then grit your teeth and wait until the alcoholic asks for help. Some might even say that, no matter how much good can be accomplished, the end can't justify the means. All I can say is that they clearly don't understand how devastating alcoholism is to the alcoholic and to society. The best part is, once the drunks are all sobered up, the other drug addicts might start cleaning up their acts, out of fear that they might be next.

I expect the full support of all who supported the invasion of Iraq... because, after all, there's no real difference.

In both cases, an outsider decides what is best for another... and imoses a solution by force.

Oh, there are some differences. Beating up an alcoholic is a bit more precise than a military strike. You're less likely to accidentally hurt or kill innocent people. You can test whether a person is still drinking, so you have a better idea of how well your program is working.

Oh, yeah... and people understand the idea of beating up an alcoholic. They can imagine being beaten up themselves. It's not like a bunch of news reports from a far away land, where they can say "but the media isn't reporting the good news!"

So, what do you think? Does it make the point? Or is it horribly unfair because invading Iraq, and hurting a lot of innocent people in hopes of bringing about a democracy is very different from beating up a bunch of drunks in hope of bringing about sobriety?

Maybe it is different. The principle still remains. War is a terrible evil, whose only redeeming quality is that it is sometimes better than what will happen if you don't fight. Too many people have blanked out the horrors of war because of an extremely well-put together sales campaign by the Bush administration.

Those of us who opposed the war, it wasn't about hating Bush, loving Saddam, or about thinking that the Iraqis didn't deserve a democratically elected government. It was a matter of looking at the means, and saying that even the noblest of ends does not justify those means. You don't invade a nation, and cause suffering, for that nation's "own good".

Yes, it's horrible to imagine Iraq still being under Saddam Hussein's control... but I've seen people slip slowly into a death spiral as a result of alcoholism or drug abuse, and trust me, that's a horrible thing to watch as well.

Sometimes, no matter how painful it is, you have to watch, and wait, until you have an opportunity to help. As much as you might be tempted to force a person, or a nation, to accept your help, it's simply not right. It's not right, and it might substitute one set of problems for another that's equally bad.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Cutting through some confusion

William F. Buckley seems confused. Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.

I have another suggestion. It's a crazy idea, okay, but let's just take a look at it.

Maybe, just maybe, the problem is that war is really, really nasty.

Yes, I know... bombs and bullets are nasty, the very idea screams "bleeding heart liberal", doesn't it? But bear with me.

Do you remember the attacks on September 11th, 2001? Do you remember how our nation reeled from those attacks, what a terrible impact they had on us? Three thousand people, gone in an act of hatred.

Well, that should give you some perspective. The war in Iraq has cost ten times as many people - thirty thousand civilians are believed to have died because of it. Iraq's population is about one tenth of the United States' population. So, in the number of people killed, the effects could reasonably be expected to be one hundred times worse. Do you know someone who died in the 9/11 attacks? Or do you only know someone, who knew someone? Or is the distance even greater than that?

You can still grieve, even if you didn't know someone, but grieving hits a bit closer to home, the closer the death was to you. In Iraq, the deaths are much, much closer.

Maybe they're not really happy with that? I'm just saying; I know it's a silly thing to talk about, but killing their family members, friends, and neighbors, maybe that really pisses them off?

Then there's the continuing occupation, the continuing fighting, and the continuing danger. There's the troubles that keep oil production and electricity generation worse than they were pre-invasion. (Yes, that's right... close to three years after the invasion, they're pumping less oil and generating less electricity than they were before the invasion.)

Maybe, after all those people have died (and remember, that's just the civilians; we're not counting the Iraqi soldiers who were defending their home), and things don't really seem all that much better, maybe that makes them even more upset?

Maybe the problem isn't that we had this love of democracy, and maybe the problem wasn't that we wanted to spread the blessings of liberty... but maybe the problem was that we chose one incredibly stupid and incredibly dangerous way to try to spread these things. Does anyone in Buckley's camp want to think about that? That maybe bombing the holy hell out of a nation, maybe killing tens of thousands of its citizens, maybe conquering that nation and ruling it in an inept manner for over a year, maybe all of those things add up, and make them upset with us?

Like I said, it's a crazy idea: hurting people is bad, and it might upset them, even if you claim you're doing it for their own good. But maybe it's just crazy enough to be sensible, if you look at it right.

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