I will share a few paragraphs I found recently that help me understand some of the important ways in which European political thinking is different from American political thinking:
At the risk of overgeneralization, we might say that for Europeans (that is, for those Europeans not joined in the Axis cause), World War II, in which almost 60 million people perished, exemplified the horrors of nationalism. Specifically and significantly, it exemplified the horrors of popular nationalism. Nazism and fascism were manifestations, however perverse, of popular sovereignty. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini rose to power initially through elections and democratic processes. Both claimed to speak for the people, not only before they assumed dictatorial powers but afterward, too, and both were broadly popular, as were their nationalism, militarism, repression, and, in Hitler’s case, genocidal objectives. From the postwar European point of view, the Allies’ victory was a victory against nationalism, against popular sovereignty, against democratic excess.
The American experience of victory could not have differed more starkly. For Americans, winning the war was a victory for nationalism — that is to say, for our nation and our kind of nationalism. It was a victory for popular sovereignty (our popular sovereignty) and, most fundamentally, a victory for democracy (our democracy). Yes, the war held a lesson for Americans about the dangers of democracy, but the lesson was that the nations of continental Europe had proven themselves incapable of handling democracy when left to their own devices. If Europe was to develop democratically, it would need American tutelage. If Europe was to overcome its nationalist pathologies, it might have to become a United States of Europe. Certain European countries might even need to have democratic institutions imposed upon them, although it would be best if they adopted those institutions themselves, or at least persuaded themselves that they had done so.
“The Two World Orders”
_Wilson Quarterly_, Autumn 2003
So, let us look, once again, at Iraq, through this sort of lens. The American point of view is that many nations of the Arab and Muslim world are failures, and Iraq is the most spectacular failure in the pack. In this time of increased danger, it is necessary for America to impose its style of nationalist popular democracy on a region where it is most needed. This is where we find ourselves at the moment.
The European view is that there is one very powerful nation, a well-meaning, if short-sighted, somewhat ditzy hyperpower called America. America is strongly, even annoyingly nationalistic. America has a fearsome, awesome military. America has a strong nationalist leader in the President, who is democratically elected in accordance with popular whimsy.
The view from Europe and on the American Left is that America is currently led by a drooling idiot who can not pronounce the word “nuclear”, is tutored by powerful, self-serving oligarchs like Dick Cheney, and finds itself in an unanticipated situation where the amazingly complex puzzle of “why did 9/11 happen” is ignored for the puzzle of “on this pretext, how much of our wacko, right-wing, neo-Conservative agenda can we shove down the world’s throat?”
Damn, I just scared ourselves. What do we do? Well, we put our shoulder to the wheel. Let us hope, and if the opportunity presents itself, apply our talents toward these objectives:
- That we successfully remove George W. Bush from office in next year’s election. Hopefully we get someone clever in there, capable of independent, strategic thinking, who can work with Congress and the world on a more progressive nation in a more just world.
- That the occupation of Iraq leads to a democratic government that is able to serve its people. I hope that the next generation in Iraq will look upon this period as one of liberation from tyranny and the birth of a modern, just democracy, and that they may look on us with some gratitude, after the fact, for the meddling we engage in today.
On the one hand, you’ve got a powerful, cocky, reckless leader. On the other hand, you’ve got a capable world that lacks the vision and temerity to offer a better route. The sanctions were a terrible joke that strengthened Saddam’s hand, and the alternative to American Imperialism was something like European Appeasement, where we gradually forgot our hatred of Saddam, and returned to normalcy, as he nurtured his insane ambitions against whomever he could reach. Hussein had to go, and George Bush was an implement of this larger purpose. Now that we’ve removed the one we can free ourselves of the other. It’s a tough world, but once in a while someone has to lead it.
Since Monday, October 27:
Total Number Folder
----- ------ ------
746632 233 .IN.tuna/
40458402 2303 .spam/
66014448 8323 /dev/null
1144201 104 /home/djh/Mailbox
24251285 1358 /home/djh/Maildir/
51940 15 IN/tuna
2470117 245 spam
Yup, 8,000 messages delivered directly to the trash upon arrival, and another 2,000 detained as likely spam. 1,400 messages deemed legitimate and routed to my mailbox. A lot of those are boring stuff like cron output and legitimate commercial e-mailings and news notifications and whatnot. I don’t actually have folks writing me 2,000 messages every few weeks.
You can also see a shift from mbox to Maildir. I’ve found that Thunderbird isn’t a bad e-mail client for offline, but Courier IMAP requires Maildir, so Maildir I use.
So, just in case this ends up in someone’s search, I’ll share the Thunderbird-Maildir portion of my .muttrc:
# Courier-imapd compatability
# Where does mutt look for subfolders?
# Subfolders begin with '.' -- default value excludes these
# Where do we store our ingoing / outgoing messages?
send-hook . "set record=$HOME/Maildir/.archive-`date +%Y-%m`/"
save-hook . =.archive-`date +%Y-%m`/
# This is compatible with Phoenix "Drafts" folder
mailboxes ! =.IN.tuna =.spam
So, the past few days, Mom’s cat, Madeline, had been extremely lethargic. Not only had she stopped eating food for the past four days, but two days before had stopped drinking. And while she was barely inclined to move and would walk awkwardly around the house, she fought strongly when Mom would try to give her fluids.
At some point during the weekend I went out to warm up my car, and Madeline was by the back door, and it was still not too cold out, so I let her outside, in case she wanted to do her thing of eatin’ some grass. But this time she took off down the steps, and left the yard, which she hasn’t done forever, and hid under my car. Mom brought a flashlight and I lay down on the ground and pulled her back, though she didn’t want to come home.
On Monday we took her to the veterinarian. She was a pound lighter than when we took her in the month before. I learned a new word, “uretic” which is that smell you get when your kidneys don’t function well.
With some forced feeding and steroids and she might perk up feel better. We vacillated. Was this, perhaps, her time? The vet didn’t want to take a position, and offered both that cats can be suprisingly resilient, and that many owners have felt regret after the fact that they’d kept treating their animal past a certain point.
It took a long time to decide. Mom and I are both thoughtful people, and we both tried to clear our judgment of whatever prejudices we could find and arrive at the best answer. The veterinarian acknowledged that even if she did start feeling better, that she’d need to have fluids injected, daily at first, and at least a few times a week, going forward.
Madeline had herself quit at some point in the weekend, and the question was if we could get her feeling better maybe she’d feel differently. She’s a cat, and as cats go, she has a pretty strong sense of autonomy. She really disliked getting fluids, and she wasn’t getting any better.
She’s been Mom’s companion for seventeen years.
I finally voiced my conclusion that, I think it was time for her to go, and Mom repeated this position. It was kind of like in the movies when they fire the nuclear missle, you get both of the guys in there to agree and turn their keys at the same time before the terrible thing can happen.
We brought the vet back in. Madeline drifted off to sleep in Mom’s arms, her heart going ever slower. I learned another word, “agonal breath” which I think would better be termed “terminal breath” which for Madeline was two or three loud sighs. Sounded like sneezes or coughs, but with a special quality to them. I can get why people believe in souls, escaping the body at death.
The body, and the towel that we had brought Madeline in, we left with the veterinarian. The former turned to ashes and the latter turned to the business of whatever use animal caretakers can put it to. We grabbed some take-out, and found that Uncle John had stocked the kitchen with a coffee cake and beer.
Grandma sent some e-mail:
She’s so charming, on little cat feet,
She’s so lovely, incredibly sweet.
And it proves you’re a sap
If you don’t make a lap
For Maddy, because she’s so neat!
Sweet Maddy was really a lover
When over your book she would hover
She’d curl up in bed
And tuck in her head
And snuggle up close as a cover.
Time with Maddy was quality time,
She was always so warm and so dear
And it’s hard to make up a good rhyme
When writing while shedding a tear.
Mom had retired for the evening when it arrived, so I read it to her in bed.
In case you haven’t already received some e-mail from your favorite nerds about it, it is noteworthy that if you visit Google, enter the phrase “miserable failure” and hit “I’m Feeling Lucky” you’ll be treated to the official biography of our featured American President.
Well, I felt it my patriotic duty help elevate the status of our Fearless Leader by posting this. Huzzah!
Former U.S. Senator from Illinois, and Democratic candidate for President, Paul Simon, has died.
Former U.S. Senator and Democratic candidate for President, Al Gore, has endorsed former Vermont Governor and Democratic candidate for President, Howard Dean.
Dean referred to Gore as “the last elected President of the United States.”
2004 should be exciting.
I’ve got some more job possibilities in the water.
And my glasses broke this weekend. Got some new ones. Pretty sharp, I think, if a bit expensive.
Maybe I’ll type some more, later.
Sometimes I’m sending out a cover letter for a job, and you know, sometimes it’s time to have some fun. I prefaced one today as follows:
My resume, below
Will show there’s
Little about e-mail
That I don’t know
Dedicated, I am
To the task at hand
I am qualified
To Kill your Spam
I figured this was fair game because the company is a start-up and I was going to brag about my word-ic background among my bullet points anyway:
- I have a degree in English Rhetoric, and a minor in Computer Science. Computational linguistics and heuristic content analysis turn me on.
The company had listed “an almost fanatical desire to kill spam” in the job req’s bullet points, at which point I figured we had some shared mentality. I then pasted my little poem on IRC, and got a local job lead at another fun-sounding company who needs someone to engineer better ways to send out lots of e-mail.
Meanwhile, I’ve got one month and one day of unemployment income in the pipeline. So … I’ll start checkin’ out the market for waiters later in the week.
Are you doing enough for the war effort? I just discovered that the government is giving soldiers two-week furloughs to visit home, but the air fare only takes them as far as Baltimore, Atlanta, or Dulles. That is the suck, and hopefully an embarassment for the Commander-in-Chief, but that’s not the point, the real point is that plenty of patriotic folk are chipping in their unused frequent-flier miles, and the airlines are allowing this, so the troops can make it home for Christmas, and in the coming months, to visit their loved ones, without having to shoulder the steep financial burden of short-notice airfare on their modest military pay.
Got miles? Support our troops! http://www.heromiles.org/
Jesse lost his non-paying job last week, so I bought him an abundance of beer. I drank enough beer that I don’t remember much of the actual beer drinking, but he did lend me a book I had long wished to read. It’s a biographical account of a Marine Corps grunt who made it through the Gulf War in one piece. I’ll share a couple of paragraphs from Anthony Swofford’s _Jarhead_, along with my own commentary. Here we find him marching through a valley filled with bombed-out Iraqi equipment, and dead, burnt, and surrendering Iraqi soldier:
This is war, I think. I’m walking through what my father and his father walked through — the epic results of American bombing, American might. The filth is on my boots. I am one of a few thousand people who will walk this valley today. I am history making. Whether I live or die, the United States will win this war. I know that the United States will win any war it fights, against any country. If colonialism weren’t out of style, I’m sure we’d take over the entire Middle East, not only safeguard the oil reserves, but take the oil reserves: We are here to announce that you no longer own your country, thank you for your cooperations, more details will follow.
More than illustrating a high point, a moment of victory, this excerpt also touches on a real problem of America’s ambivalence. Are we the colonial empire, or aren’t we? What responsibility do we have beyond having great military power? If we are to conquer, should we also rule?
Which is why I favored the second invasion of Iraq … the first time around, we were afraid to rule, to expropriate, administer and engage in prolonged occupation — we were unable to own up to the imperial ambitions that put us there in the first place. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t bother going to war for the sake of domestic economic stability, but once we bomb the heck out of a country, we ought to finish the really hard work of trying to put the pieces back together, as best we can. Yes, occupation is far bloodier than the invasion itself, but without occupation, the invasion itself is pointless. We are the imperial authority in Iraq, the conquering, hopefully benevolent empire, and beyond the fact that we are a lesser evil than the rule that preceeded it, the people there owe us no love.
Swofford’s next paragraph sums it up:
Our rucks are heavy with equipment and ammunition but even heavier with the burdens of history, and each step we take, the burdens increase.
A long hard slog, indeed, long delayed, and all the worse for it.
I hope the frustrations and the blood that will continue to be spilt in Iraq will discourage the Americans at home from engaging in further military adventurism. Syria? Iran? France? Not worth it. They can regime change themselves, as we can regime change ourselves, since none of us are especially encumbered by economic sanctions and a regime that controls the UN food rations, as a consequence of our previous militaristic dalliances.
The hope that one dubious bloodbath will deter future bloodier, even more pointless massacres, is the ultimate hope that we took from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My reassurance is that after the Cold War we are more concerned with Global Warming than Nuclear Winter.
. . .