the right views

in a time when there is so much to write, i have written nothing.

this self-censorship stems primarily from a feeling that certain topics, like religion and abortion, are often best left undiscussed, mostly because they are matters of personal opinion, and not subject to rational discourse. it has also seemed to me lately, at least here in san francisco, that there are clearly ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things to believe about the war in iraq.

independent of the content of the discussion, this feeling of political and moral righteousness troubles me.

the situation in the middle east is complex and chaotic, and something that very few people in the world understand even half as well as they think they do (yours truly included).

in discussions of the war in iraq, people are seemingly lumped into two convenient, easily understandable categories: those jingoists who support the war, and those pacifists who believe it to be an exchange of blood for oil, a slaughter
of innocents, and a sad turn in world history.

this polarization of allowable opinions is an oversimplification, in my opinion, one that overlooks the complexity of the issues at hand.

it overlooks the possibility that someone may see the inevitability, perhaps even necessity, of armed conflict, while still feeling that it was not approached in the proper way, and that it is terrible to grease the wheels of politics with blood from precious human lives. a spectrum of possible beliefs exists, some of which may even seem mutually exclusive. this is one of the amazing things about people – that we can hold rationally inconsistent opinions without our heads exploding.

yet there seem to be right views and wrong views, and people often make assumptions about which views one holds.
i was walking down the street the other day, and a woman on a street corner was handing out leaflets that proclaimed ‘books not bombs.’ how is a feeling, conscientious person to argue with this logic? if one believes in books, does this mean that bombs, even for self-defense, are out of the question? or conversely, if one feels that bombs are a necessary component of being a sovereign nation, does this mean one does not want books for children?

is the argument this leaflet puts forward really logic? or is it an emotional argument designed to sway an opinion? are the two things (books and bombs) actually mutually exclusive? how is this argument different from us showing how the iraqis are committing war crimes, while silently covering up the fact that we are, too? each is political communication designed to sway opinion one way or another. they vary greatly in the gravity of what they communicate, but their aims are the same. they each distort a complex and unpleasant truth.

this woman followed me for a few steps down the street and asked, ‘what do you think about the war?’ i couldn’t respond – i just wondered, does she really want to know?

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2 thoughts on “the right views

  1. michele

    “is the argument this leaflet puts forward really logic?”
    “or is it an emotional argument designed to sway an opinion?”
    “are the two things (books and bombs) actually mutually exclusive?”
    quite probably not in the least.
    I stopped protesting the day the war began. It seemed a moot point by then.
    All I know, Ryan, is that I am brokenhearted, but I go on, and I have paintings to paint and an upcoming “dance” [ahem--my blog explains the rest] audition, and I’ve got to tend to my own life, which is in disarray as always. For a brief time my own personal life and inner world was eclipsed by a bigger one, and by the issues and concerns of the world at large–which, in the end, only made me a hypocrite for decrying this war when others have been going on for decades, health care crises and droughts and famine and genocide and horrible human rights abuses exist and on and on and on and on…
    I hope it is not hopeless apathy that has overtaken me, but perhaps just a desire to handle the inner crises first, before I presume to fix the world.
    We are but poor players who strut and fret our hour upon the stage. sound and fury. etcetera.
    I dunno.

  2. Andrew Lynch

    Good points, Ryan, well thought out. What perplexes me is the instability of debate around this war. People I bump into are more eloquent about their sex lives than they are about the war. Why?
    What we’re afraid to talk about is the REASON for this war, not war itself, something about which humans are generally clearheaded.
    Like Michele, I stopped protesting when the war started. I — and people like me — didn’t have a popular enough argument to avert war. I keep thinking of Ari Fleischer expressing outrage when the Turks refused to let us launch a northern front from their soil. Why not? The population wouldn’t have it, and when the population speaks, democracy gleams. The majority — here and in Turkey — rules, and I’m fine with that. Even when the majority is wrong.
    If Bush thinks that any success in Iraq gives him and his a blank check to cultivate the conceit of preventive warfare, then I’ll see him in the voting booth.
    Oo, boy, now you got me all hot and bothered.


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