Consider: "Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."
"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."
- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)
- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"
"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."
I've been thinking this morning about a moment in 2000 that helped move me from simply not voting for Bush to actually fearing he might win. During a debate, Al Gore raised the issue of hate crimes legislation, and spoke about the death of James Byrd, who was chained to a truck and dragged to his death. There are reasonable objections to hate crimes legislation. I have some concerns about them myself. But Bush's objections were far from reasonable:Well Joan, "simple" works for most folks these days.
"The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what's going to happen to them?" Bush said, smiling. "They'll be put to death. A jury found them guilty. It will be hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death."
... no matter how much benefit of the doubt I tried to give Bush, I ended up seeing a man grinning at the thought of execution, smug in what seemed to me the bizarre belief that justice is all about catching bad people and killing them. I'll try to give Bush the benefit of the doubt once more and assume it was not bloodlust that provoked that smile, but reveling in his own sense of righteousness. But it was repulsive either way.
That revelation of character and beliefs has come to be far more important than I imagined. So much of what has gone wrong with this country since Bush became president stems from a belief in simple justice, a belief that if we just eliminate all the bad guys, good will triumph.
Saddam Hussein's capture this morning triggered this old memory. I'm happy that one of the most brutal tyrants on earth was captured, not killed. Good. Maybe we will get some answers. Certainly there will be a trial.
I admit to a somewhat less civilized pleasure over the fact that he was caught in a hole in the ground, imprisoned by himself, buried. Is anyone so noble that he doesn't delight in that? Would God herself expect us to rise above such pleasure? (On the other hand, I will never get used to the sound of joy and gloating at misery. It is simply beyond my understanding, and there is always something that startles and scares me about that noise.) "Enchanting" is a horrible word choice to describe it, but it is certainly a fitting end for a man who imprisoned and buried so many innocent people.
But there was something very disturbing in the reports of Saddam's own response to his capture:
"He was unrepentant and defiant," said Adel Abdel-Mahdi, a senior official of a Shiite Muslim political party who, along with other Iraqi leaders, visited Saddam in captivity.
"When we told him, 'If you go to the streets now, you will see the people celebrating,'" Abdel-Mahdi said. "He answered, 'Those are mobs.' When we told him about the mass graves, he replied, 'Those are thieves.'"
Justice is simple. If you capture and kill all the bad people, all the people who oppose you, good will triumph.
On "Fox News Sunday," the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam, elaborated: "Diplomacy is critical. You need to reach out here and bring other countries to the table. It's the lack of the United States' willingness to share the authority and responsibility that is keeping other countries from being involved."Indeed, it is.
Kerry has a rather blinkered view of diplomacy; he seems to equate it to "making nice with your adversaries."
Sometimes, of course, that's a wise thing to do, but this isn't one of them. This is a time for recrimination and finger-pointing! The French and others actively worked to obstruct the liberation of Iraq and keep this vicious tyrant in power. We didn't need their help, we did it without them, and rewarding them now would send precisely the wrong message to all the nations of the world. They must pay for their perfidy so that everyone else will know such betrayal has a price. That's diplomacy too.
Oh, and isn't it a sweet coincidence that Saddam's capture occurred on the third anniversary of Gore's concession?Really? Today? Interesting.