Daniel’s response to my previous entry was well thought out. I am perhaps overly sensitive to the tools of rhetoric, and the hazards of generalization. Daniel responds that he “just didn’t get” the isolationist spin; I think I clearly noted where I saw that in a previous entry: “Tony Blair, whose determination to bind Britain ever closer to US foreign policy ratchets up the threat to our own cities, will only fuel anti-western sentiment.” What this says, effectively, is that Blair’s support of a war on terrorism is a bad thing because it could cause an escalation of terrorism in Europe. Nice response: the UK has had no part in the unrest in the Middle east EXCEPT by it’s alignment to US policy. The UK has never had anything but humanitarian intentions in its vehement support of Israel since 1945, and would never do anything to raise the ire of the Islamic world except by blindly supporting the US agenda. The policy of the UK has been its own, and it is just as bloody as the agenda of the US. Get real.
Daniel raises the point that he embraced from the article in contrast to my impression: “I just didn’t get this idea from the article. I just hear it saying, “Americans are clueless”, which is hard to refute.” This rhetoric has been prevalent and dominates the commentary of a lot of folks out there. It was never my intent to single Daniel out, many other people also embrace this thinking it’s just that I like Daniel, and read him more consistently than I read other people. This impression of US culpability needs to be examined closely, and the reaction placed in the proper light.
I haven’t seen any editorial crying about the ignorance of the Afghani people, or the Palestinians. How much does a typical European resident know about their country’s foreign policy? I suspect that they are just as clueless as the Americans. Does this make them legitimate targets for terror? I don’t think so. Knowledge is strength. We ALL need to know more about what is going on. I’ve spent a bunch of time the last few days explaining the history of the Middle East to people, who didn’t see this coming. I’ve spent a bunch of time refreshing my memory about these things as well. This must be done, by the World not just by the US. I get sick of all the pointless finger pointing. That was my point. We don’t need to rally round’ the flag; we need to hug each other across the oceans. We need to stop terror.
Other nations have been dealing with it for a long time. The resources that the US can bring to bear on the problem are frightening; like many of the people I’ve read, I’m afraid of trigger happy yahoos shooting in the dark. And I am also afraid that freedom can be the first casualty of overreaction. Everyone I know is asking themselves, “what price are you willing to pay?” There are no quick fixes; hindsight is not the answer.
What is the answer? The only answers I know are the actions of people under pressure. A 6′ 5″ gay rugby player saved some lives. People are pitching in to furnish the relief supplies that are needed. People are pulling together for the most part, learning more about what is facing us. When I say “us” I mean the world. I do not consider our country to be alone in the world, and I resent the implication in the rhetoric of both sides that we should consider ourselves to be alone in a struggle against senseless death everywhere.
Jingoism on any side won’t do it. However, I can remember an old saw (Jefferson I think) that “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Vigilance, to me, is recognizing the rhetoric of hate wherever it appears, whether it be well meaning liberal exposés of US misdeeds, or the demonization of people or nations in general. We’re all people, as individual and inexplicable as that label is. Creating straw dogs to assuage our enmity is horrific to me. Freedom is at stake, not nationalism. I will stand up for freedom; regardless of the misdeeds of my country and its administrations, I have no choice but to hope that they take a direct and clear course to stop the cruelty. Does this mean reforming foreign policy? Yes, not to concede to threat, but to avoid responding “in kind” to barbaric attack. The response of the US must be direct, precise, and effective. I have not seen any of the “who lil ol’ us?” rhetoric that Daniel speaks of. Instead, I have read many who express a state of shock that this could exist on our own soil. We’ve been dragged into the real world; as a fairly well read guy, I was not as surprised as most. But to cry that the US people are somehow more ignorant than others as to their place in the world, grants an awareness to most of the rest of the world citizens that I think is undeserved. Everyone is in shock, not just the US.
As I revise this to clean up my language, I hear that Cuba is making a gesture of solidarity with the US. If they can bury the hatchet in the name of humanity, anyone can including the media pundits who scramble to say “the evil US brought it on themselves” Cuba has suffered under unfair draconian trade embargo from us since the 60s, which has damaged many people in this country including Arkansas farmers. I think most people in Europe are ill-informed about the level of “awareness” among the educated in the US. Awareness is not the problem; the problem is that those in power, in all the countries of the world, don’t care how their game of global chess destroys lives. To blame it on an uninformed citizenry, or their arrogance, only raises the level of hate and isn’t going to change a thing. That’s what bothers me the most. We need more love in the world, not hate. Americans are clueless? Yes, I suppose we are, but we’re in good company.