Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Call the names"

As Athenae says: just read Jimmy Breslin's column. But this part really struck me:

Just as he was in his great college appearances, Bush is a cheerleader for any war that can be fought by somebody else's kids.

"I grieve for the children of Beirut."

"My heart truly goes out to the people of Haifa."

The vice president, Dick Cheney, is a serial draft dodger: five deferments, a national record.
The soldier arranged a meeting between tribal leaders and the CPA in Iraq, ready to engage them as allies in the effort to bring order back to the country. The CPA rejected the meeting, on the grounds that they wanted to liberate the individuals in Iraq from tribalism. But when we do it, it isn't tribalism; it's simply taking care of our people. Or it's nationalism.

When Bush makes statements like those above, no one declares him an amoral, conscienceless monster. And if anyone does, we condemn them. The local NPR station this morning noted that the Dixie Chicks have cancelled their Houston appearance, and 14 others, due to low ticket sales, and then connected the problem directly to Natalies Maines' comments about Bush last year in London. All she did was say she was ashamed he was from Texas. Singers are the problem in this country, because they don't support the tribe. Even when our war-mongering Vice-President is a serial draft dodger, he's a member of our tribe. We may not like it; but we know enough to put up with it. We understand the concepts of shame and honor just as the Iraqi tribal leaders and their members do. We just give it a different name, and think we are nothing like them.

Breslin ends by calling the names. He is right. We should hear the sound of the surgical saw cutting away the damaged limb of another soldier who "stayed the course" every night. And we should call the names. It's all we can do to control the tribalism that seems to be inherent to our human communities. Maybe it will even make us realize how much we are a tribe, and how much we owe to the other members of the tribe, and how careful we should be to ask so much of them. Indeed, we get away with it now because the soldiers aren't of our tribe: they are Mexican, or poor, or black; almost none of them have ever driven a Hummer, or skiied at Aspen, or sunned themselves in Cozumel. But even that reconsideration won't stop us from seeking war, in the name of improving the status of our tribe.

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