Using Bees To Effect Vengeance

I get to be as self-indulgent as I want without wasting anyone's time. Guilt-free solipsism -- excellent!

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Thursday, February 06, 2003
So I'm taking a break from slaving over my template (I am absolutely *crap* at HTML. Why won't the bleeding title go across the top like it used to? I've compared before-and-after templates like a blogger possessed and I can't figure it out. DAMN AND BLAST) to post my reductive-but-possibly-insightful aphorism. Here it is:

Liberals would rather be dead than be oppressors. Conservatives would rather be opressors than be dead.

Or, if you'd prefer: conservatives would rather wrong others than be wronged. Liberals would rather be wronged than wrong others.

OK, laughably broad. But while it's overstated, I think there's a small kernel of insight, at least as regards current events. Essentially, I think that generally speaking (of course), liberals -- and I count myself here -- tend to be very concerned about their own consciences. About not staining their self-perception with questionable deeds. I think the common progressive slogan "Not In My Name" reflects this mentality perfectly. This worldview ties us up in knots when we're confronted with situations where there is no morally pure choice -- e.g post 9.11 foreign policy, Iraq -- and in my view sometimes leads us to distort our perceptions of reality in order to accomodate our desire to feel moral, progressive, possessive of unblemished integrity. It also makes us self-flagellating, very conscious of America's faults past and present, where conservatives enjoy an untroubled, often jingoistic faith in America's intrinsic goodness. This faith makes conservatives quite happy to exercise American power around the world, whereas liberals are very suspicious of the exercise of power.

I was poised to expatiate on this at even greater length, but am going to hold off at least for now. I would be happy to discuss further, should anyone wish to take up the conversation in the comments. For what it's worth, one of the main issues I've been grappling with as a liberal is that I no longer feel like we can avoid exercising power. America is the dominant economic and military force in the world, and as such we're burdened with power. It's a little existential crisis for the US of A -- America can do anything it wants except pretend like it can't do anything it wants. Liberals have to come to grips with the fact that we are going to be soiled by our power, that abnegating that power is neither possible nor desirable, and that there is no way to avoid unpleasant choices about how to exercise it. That's not to say we resign ourselves to being bullies, reconcile ourselves to being hypocrites, turn ourselves over to those who posit self-interest as the highest good. But when both leaving Hussein in power or removing him = dead civilians, we have to flail around in the muck along with everyone else.

Originally the aphorism boasted the even-more-inflammatory construction "Liberals would rather be dead than be Hitler; conservatives would rather be Hitler than be dead", but the H word is rarely very helpful, is it?


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