Tuesday, July 12, 2005


This post is debuting on the new blog, Donklephant.

I am writing this on July 7th, 2005. The bombings today in London have colored what I wanted to say here at Donklephant, in my debut essay, which is about reclaiming 'the Center' in politics.

There is, in my opinion, a struggle to find the Center in cultures across the world. We can see this struggle within Islam, within Christianity, within the West, within China, within Europe and America. And within ourselves.

The first thing I saw online this morning was an email from a friend that said, 'London Bombed.' I knew that the G-8 conference was starting today in Scotland. For a few moments, before gathering data on the London events, I couldn't help but wonder if the blasts were possibly the work of disgruntled anti-globalists, making a perverse statement of hatred to the G-8 leaders assembled in Gleneagle. My fear was reasonable, given the levels of hatred and frustration coming from some in the anti-globalist camp.

My distress that the attacks weren't necessarily the handiwork of al Qaeda, but instead came from within Western society reveals how tenuous the Middle's hold has become. Both extreme Right and Left, if given the opportunity, show the same lack of restraint and balance that Islamic fascists exhibit. The Center is in flux.

A robust center is what makes our culture strong. It's the vast meeting ground of ideas. It's where debate takes place, because in the radical fringes, debate has been withdrawn. And so if the Center is in flux, then so too is our whole culture, which threatens to cleave. Some westerners see their culture's values as the world's greatest hope; others see the West as the crux of the world's problems, fit for destruction. Each side's willingness to accommodate the other's views appears to be thinning.

The bombings in London should close the political gap, but in all likelihood, they will drive the divisive wedge even deeper. The bombers know that their random disruption and death will drive us further into polarized left and right camps.The further out to the left or right we go, the better, from a terrorist's viewpoint -- at the radical fringes, we will only trade fire, not ideas. In the process of terror-induced political polarity, the Center depopulates, sags, and withers. Then, when we've all become radicals out of sheer terrorized fear, the West will cease to function. The Enlightenment will be dead. Terror will be the only legitimate political expression for a world solely composed of crisscrossing radical fringes.

There is, however, another phenomenon at play at this point of history that might reclaim the Center. It is the Blogosphere. As I write this, the London bombings are only a few hours old, and already there are eyewitness accounts and photos of these fresh attacks abounding the Web, rich with commentary, but without the acquiescence of corporate and government sponsors. Some of the victims and bystanders have become the reporters of this event, bypassing the mainstream media. Their audiences are involved, not just passively watching. The level of fact-finding, input and idea-building discourse taking place by regular citizens defies the notion that they -- we -- are an inert audience. All of us, as participants, actively have a hand in crafting how events are understood. Joe and Jane Citizen have increasing control over the narrative of history, perhaps for the first time.

If we participate in history, we help write it, and understand it. It is my hope that in so doing, we all become the bits and bytes that compose the solutions the world will need to get past the impasse of terror. And not only terror: the environment, disease, hunger and injustice will be readdressed in a world chocked full of involved analysts and problem solvers. If there is no audience, our political process will change as a result. Throughout this change, I hope that the Center will be revitalized -- not radicals who seek to create our cultural implosion with a few well-placed explosions.

It's too early to say what the long term results will be from the Blogosphere. So much of that depends on you and I. But if we're lucky, there's a chance that a new political awakening will take place on this new medium; one that is broad, sober, fair, and enlightened. John Kennedy's appeal that free people needed to be involved in solving the world's problems might find fertile ground here, in this medium.

My contribution to Donklephant will be along the lines of exploring both sides of the issues without succumbing to relativism. There is a need for understanding, but there is also a need to take a stand. I stand for individual freedom. I have little sympathy for either leftist nihilists or right wing religious activists who seek to control my freedom through collectivist imposition. They want to tell me who I should be.

I am often told that I am conservative by liberals; and a lot of conservatives tell me I'm liberal. The truth is, I keep company on both sides of the political divide. It's not always a comfortable place to be. And sometimes I go blue, sometimes red. Be that as it may, I have a habit of listening. I think all the rules changed on 9/11, for better and for worse. We have to engage the world on its terms, not on dated political ideologies.

I hope that this blog and your comments can help strengthen the Center. And I hope the discussions that ensue will spark new ideas, new solutions, and make the world a safer and happier place. I blog to learn -- it has served me well on Winds of Change. I hope to learn from you, here, in a respectful, idea-charged environment. This medium is two way, and we all have something positive to offer.

In this age, we all are behind history's wheel. It's time we learned to drive.

Thanks to Michael Totten for getting me on Donklephant.

This post is also on Donklephant, here.

Monday, July 11, 2005


We have two lovely neighbors in their early 30s, both archeologists. The brother of one of them was wounded in Iraq today, somewhere north of Baghdad. He is a lieutenant in the infantry, and was wounded between his shoulder and neck. Apparently he will recover. The call came in from Iraq today to his sister, who soon after sat on our sofa looking bewildered, just home from work.

Our young neighbors were shaken at this distressing news, a hair's breath from tragic. I uncorked a bottle of champagne. We shared a toast to her brother, the lieutenant who now wears a purple heart somewhere in an Army hospital in Iraq. She recounted her years growing up with him, and a few humorous anecdotes. She then drove off to be with her parents, who were waiting for her on the other side of town.

Sometimes I forget that we're in a real war. I know it, but rarely does it come to my home, as a grim expression on my neighbor's face. Too much blogging and reading can make this conflict abstract; it promotes an academic view of war, of life, and of this struggle. But the abstraction is a lie. It's a way to push reality back to a tolerable corner, to a space where it can be observed and analyzed, but hardly felt -- no, not really felt at all. Perhaps this is how we cope. It's how I cope.

I hope my neighbor's brother will be alright. I hope he is well equipped -- both in terms of hardware, morale and leadership. I still believe that this war is pivotal for the future of freedom and democracy, the West, the Arab world, and much more. It's a very confusing, tumultuous time. I keep hoping to find unanimity on the front pages. But instead, I find more abstraction.

I have so much to be grateful for. I have a beautiful fifteen month old daughter who runs around in the summer heat barefoot, in a yellow dress. I have my health, and don't devote much of my time considering sniper's bullets and IEDs.

Abstraction was my form of self defense, until a few degrees of separation connected me to this war, on a hot summer evening.