“Should the Smug Ever Sour”….

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Dang It! I was only going to post old car commercials and only old car commercials this week. I knew I could keep this promise to myself! I find stupid  politics and journalism too damned tasty to ignore!

Andrew Sullivan posted a commentary by New Yorker columnist George Packer titled “Should the Dream Ever Sour“. Right off the bat, he reads like a petulant self serving snobbish journalist that has become the stereotype of the liberal journalist. This open just screams “SMUG!”. It opens thusly:

Nine years later, the main fact of our lives is the overwhelming force of unreason. Evidence, knowledge, argument, proportionality, nuance, complexity, and the other indispensable tools of the liberal mind…

Oh barf!

You know, Sting had it right when he wrote: “There is no monopoly of common sense, on either side of the political fence”. I get so sick of this smug attitude of both sides absolutely knowing they are right, simply because they are arguing for one side or the other. Liberal writers are especially prone to be inflated with this attitude.

Nine years later, the main fact of our lives is the overwhelming force of unreason. Evidence, knowledge, argument, proportionality, nuance, complexity, and the other indispensable tools of the liberal mind don’t stand a chance these days against the actual image of a mob burning an effigy, or the imagined image of a man burning a mound of books…

Oh, PLEASE! Reason left the newsroom a long long time ago, long before 9/11. Anyone remember the OJ car chase coverage that waisted an hour of our day? Or all the various little girls who fell down the well episodes that the media gleefully covered 24 / 7? Please don’t try to argue that there is much “evidence, knowledge, argument, proportionality, nuance, complexity…” contained in much to the reporting on anything having to do with global warming.

A Florida preacher with a congregation barely twice the number of the September 11th hijackers can rivet the world—will he do it, or won’t he? Where will the first post-Koran-burning terror attack happen, and how many people will die? The media senses a big story and makes him an international figure, with the tautological self-defense that he had become a big story. Halfway around the globe, in Jalalabad, Afghans riot, someone is killed, and Obama is burned in effigy—Obama, whom twenty per cent of Americans believe to be a Muslim, who has used whatever moral authority he has to stop the Florida nut from doing it.

Oh No! Burning an effigy of Obama! I wonder, exactly what “moral authority” does Obama have in the eyes of the Afghans, when we are conducting a war against many of them? Somehow, I don’t think “nuance” counts for much here. Afghanistan is his war after all, it’s the one he held up as right, and just. I also wonder, were you complaining about Bush being burned in effigy?

Nine years later, it’s so easy to get people to go crazy. If I wanted to, I could probably start another India-Pakistan war all by myself, or incite some quiet office worker in Reston, Virginia, to try to overthrow the United States government.

I’m really not sure if he’s joking or not. He goes on to remind us of Frank Rogue, who shot and killed a Sikh gas station attendant who he mistook as a Muslim. Packer does have some good things to say about Americans and even George W:

It was a little remarkable that there weren’t more Frank Roques in those early days. We Americans congratulated ourselves for our tolerance and restraint. If an atrocity on the scale of 9/11 had been perpetrated in any number of other countries, people belonging to the religion of the perpetrators would have been hunted down and lynched by the score. Instead, the President joined an interfaith service, and the mayor of New York talked about equal citizenship, and Oprah devoted a show to Islam. We had a right to feel pretty good about ourselves.

But, then, it all goes to hell!

Nine years later, no, Frank Roque has not won the day. Not even Terry Jones is Frank Roque. Crazy, murderous violence hasn’t spread across the land. But unreason, cheered on by cable news, has won the day. We have undeniably gone sour on interfaith tolerance. We have turned inward in sullen exhaustion. The staggering chain of consequences and characters that followed 9/11—Kabul, Tora Bora, Daniel Pearl, John Yoo, Bagram, Guantánamo, Baghdad, Sergio Vieira de Mello, Madrid, Falluja, Abu Ghraib, Nick Berg, London, Zarqawi, military commissions, Samarra, eavesdropping, Sean Hannity, the Taliban’s return, Benazir Bhutto, Mumbai, Hakimullah Mehsud—seems like a fever dream of can-you-top-this atrocities from which we can’t wake up.

These only seem like a fevered dream if you don’t count the actual events that took place on 9 / 11. And are you going to tell me there have not been some bright spots? Ousting and eventually capturing Saddam? The Iraqis, two times now, voting in real democratic elections despite the threats of violence against them, doesn’t give you some hope? Or is the complexity of it all just too overwhelming?

The bill is finally coming due at home. It turned out that the Bush rhetoric of religious understanding and freedom was a lot less potent and durable than the Bush policies. Our Wilsonian phase just took too much effort, required too much suspension of deeper, stronger feelings. And we are out of it now. In Wilsonian terms, we are around the year 1919 or 1920. The noble mission to make the world safe for democracy ended inconclusively, and its aftermath has curdled into an atmosphere more like that of the Palmer raids and the second coming of the Klan.

Klan = Tea Party? And the Palmer raids???? Did I miss Palmer 2.0? Because if it happened, it didn’t get reported (which would be your fault George). Packer could be talking about the arrest of the Hutaree, but this was done by the Obama administration, which puts his guy Obama in a negative light. And somehow, I don’t think Packer has much sympathy for Christian extremists.

Speaking of Obama, Packer continues:

This is why Obama seems less and less able to speak to and for our times. He’s the voice of reason incarnate, and maybe he’s too sane to be heard in either Jalalabad or Georgia.

Double Barf! Maybe he’s not a good fit for our times and his vision of the world is rooted in outdated 1960’s philosophies. Maybe you perceive him to be “the voice of reason incarnate” because you’re so politically bound to him, you hear nothing but sugar coming from his rhetoric, much in the same way the the Bushites behaved toward their guy. Maybe Obama simply isn’t the leader you perceive him to be, and you’ll be the last to admit it.

Oh, and PS. Packer writes:

“In Wilsonian terms, we are around the year 1919 or 1920. The noble mission to make the world safe for democracy ended inconclusively,…”

I would have to disagree with this premise. The mission had just begun. The ink on the treat of Versailles was not even dry at this time. I would argue that the League Of Nations should be the metric to use in this case. It had it’s first official meeting in the summer of 1920. It showed early success in being the arbiter in international disputes – the cessation of the Upper Silesia riots in 1921 is one example, and the prevention of all out conflict between Greece and Bulgaria in 25 is another. It would take time, a good eight years or so, to recognize that it would not be up to the job it was designed to do.

Car Commercial # 2

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My favorite car… though the hub-caps leave something to be desired….

Here’s an even older one.