Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Drawing Lines and Taking Sides

posted by Jazz at 10/21/2004 08:55:00 AM


Dean Esmay has an intriguing editorial this morning called Ramifications and Recalculations over at Dean's World. To his credit, I feel that he tries to present a balanced look at "the big picture" from his perspective. The larger issues he raises concern what will happen in the event of either Kerry or Bush winning the election, the future of Iraq and America's foreign policy, along with the division between liberals and Dean's vision of conservatism in our country.

One quote from early in the article just jumped off that page at me.

"[I]f Kerry is victorious 12 days from now (something I begin to see as increasingly likely), I will of course support him and do my best to be better toward him than the most vicious critics have been toward Bush."

On the surface, this looks like a unifying spirit who is willing to give a lot more to the opponent than I can muster. I freely admit that from the moment the first cruise missiles slammed into Baghdad, Bush lost any chance of my ever supporting him or recognizing him as the legitimate leader of this country. His other shortcomings have been beaten to death over the last couple of years on this blog, but in all of them I was willing to recognize that there were two sides to each controversial choice he has made on domestic issues. I simply fell on the losing side of many of those choices. Those incidents did not, however, eliminate my overall support for the system or my tacit respect for Bush as the man currently holding the reigns of power. The invasion of Iraq changed that. The Bush doctrine of preemptive war was, as they say, the straw that broke the camel's back.

On that same subject, Dean continues in support of the hawks' point of view:

If Kerry wins, the American people will have spoken definitively, and for all time so far as I am concerned. They will have, in effect, said, "We will not support pre-emptive wars or large-scale efforts to democratize other nations any longer. We simply haven't got the stomach for what's required."

I'm willing to go so far as to say that I can respect the opinions of those who feel that way - but only in theory. Down a bit in my right hand column, you can read my "mantra" which has resided there since day one of this blog. It begins with the phrase, "War is, and must always remain, the course of last resort." It is one of the guiding policies which I think civilized man must always aspire to. Nothing is going to change that for me.

But notice how Dean feels compelled to use the phrase, "... haven't got the stomach for what's required." This is the all too typical complaint of the hawks and neocons. They start from a false premise that preemptive war is a given which needs to be accepted by all, and that anyone who doesn't support it is somehow morally weak in the knees. Just prior to that, Dean takes up the old Cheney chant about how people should not be criticizing the president's invasion of Iraq.

"The lack of patriotism such behavior betrays is simply sickening."

Speaking of making somebody ill... this is a common theme among the right wing, and it's one of the saddest marks in the current war between ideologies. Rather then recognizing the right of people to informed dissent against their government when it errs, Dean takes sides with the position that any dissenters are not only spineless, but they are unpatriotic and quite possibly even traitors. This is not shrill commentary - it's a frightening peek inside the groupthink of those who will tolerate no criticism of Bush as long as he remains "steady"... even if he is heading steadily towards the edge of a cliff.

Earlier in the piece, Dean lays out a graffe that highlights the deep, visceral divide between liberals and neocons in our country today.

"Either way, though, I'll feel permanently alienated from much of the Left. Then again, that's pretty much just a given: I'm genuinely ashamed to live in a country where Michael Moore and his apologists are not treated with contempt by most of the citizenry. I'll still love my country, but will always view with deep contempt and loathing some of my countrymen, something I hoped would never be the case again after 9/11 (but which was probably a naive wish anyway)."

Again, this is a frightening statement from an otherwise reasonable, intelligent, well written person. We aren't seeing the opinion of a man who disagrees with Michael Moore. (And for the record, I think Moore is as much of a loon as Al Franken and Rush Limbaugh and Anne "the toxic twig" Coulter.) We are seeing the opinion of somebody who is outraged that all of America isn't screaming for the head of a person who disagrees with Bush on a silver platter. He doesn't want Moore to be proven wrong in public debate... he wants Moore to be silenced.

Take a good look at Dean's essay and decide for yourself. This is, in my opinion, characteristic of the deep cultural divide our country is suffering from. It's producing a lot of ugliness which seeps into the public discourse. This is running so deep that Dean himself displays some of it in the same piece where he complains about it. If nothing else, this speaks volumes in favor of a move towards moderation in our government, and a rejection of radicalism, both of the liberal and neocon flavors.

EDIT: I misquoted Dean in a couple of places and have printed a response, correction, and subsequent answer here.