Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

The Belmont Club makes the case that the Democratic Party is sailing under a false flag:

John Kerry's troubles have largely been forced on him by the Democratic Party platform. He has been given the unenviable task of presenting it as the War Party when in fact it is not, nor does it want to be. The Democrats could have chosen to become a real anti-war party, in which case it would have nominated Howard Dean or it could have elected to become a genuine war party and chosen Joseph Lieberman. Instead it chose to become the worst of all combinations, an anti-war party masquerading as the war party.

...If any proof were needed that the Sixties were dead, the subterfuge of the Democratic Party would be Exhibit A. Instead of running under their own colors, or barring that, changing them, they have decided to sail beneath a false flag, as if under a cloud of shame. That in itself is tacit admission that they can no longer walk in their own guise; and what is worse that they cannot look themselves in the face, nor go into battle daring to win nor willing to lose in their own name, as is the mark of men.
It is true that the Democratic Party has lost its political and moral bearings. However, a broader argument can be made about the American political system as a whole. This country has a president who wages war without asking citizens to sacrifice, save those in the military. Americans are asked to simply stay calm yet alert and continue shopping and driving gas gormandizing vehicles that are on average, the largest in history. We are entitled to tax cuts while we play musical military bases to fill the vacuums created on a changing international chess board. Either the Bush Administration or our entire socioeconomic system disallows total war---the complete mobilization of society, not just its military---to achieve victory.

If the Sixties are dead, then surely the Eighties are not far behind in the funerary procession. The Reagan years ensconced in the American psyche the notion that we can be strong on defense while frolicking on the beach at home. In Reagan’s time, this was a reasonable expectation with the Cold War as a backdrop. As a society, we were partially mobilized to fight the Soviets; our military was largely transparent. It was the era of parity with our enemy, brought about by mutual nuclear blackmail---Pax Nuclea. And so the 1980s supposition that America can be militarized without being mobilized has added to our false sense of security in dealing with today’s dark threats.

By this measure, the Republicans also sail beneath a false flag. Their tacit admission is that we are in the fight of our lives against our mortal nemesis; but we must play patsy to our puppets in Iraq and evade golden mosques brimming with the enemies of our very soul. Republicans are comfortable with defense, but much less comfortable with offense and the waging of a crusade—yes, a crusade---of democratic ideals against a dark, dark foe. The Republican soul looks inward and feels like a verdant farm protected by good fences. The Democratic soul used to feel like a lighthouse---a beacon cutting through the fog, looking outward by pushing the envelope of ideals---but that flame has been snuffed out by 30-plus years of radical leftist realignment.

This war, to date, is Sitzkrieg. The real battle has yet to be joined. Both parties of our political system equally tow the line that we can go on living exactly as we are accustomed to. And yet the briefest study of past wars always reveals huge sociopolitical and cultural transformations that equally overtake opposing sides regardless of who the victor and vanquished are. We have yet to admit that we are on the threshold to an unknown destiny. We live as though it were the 20th Century, because we still can, not because it is.

Turning and turning
Within the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart
The center cannot hold
And a blood dimmed tide
Is loosed upon the world

Nothing is sacred
The ceremony sinks
Innocence is drowned
In anarchy
The best lack conviction
Given some time to think
And the worst are full of passion
Without mercy

Surely some revelation is at hand
Surely it's the second coming
And the wrath has finally taken form
For what is this rough beast
Its hour come at last
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born

---Joni Mitchell and W. B. Yeats