The Risk is from the Media

Chris Thomas is apparently unaware that most Americans and even our most recent veterans don’t have an issue with eliminating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  For some reason–I guess it’s the ol’ Rove mojo–taking an action supported by more than 70% of Americans is a grave political risk, akin to a major military blunder.

The fact of the matter is that the majority of the country opposes what is essentially a hateful, senseless, and discriminatory practice.  Thomas never suggests that Republicans will pay a price for being the mouthpieces of hatred (nor, to be fair, do many stories of this nature) or for being on the wrong side of history.  Yet we know this happens.  We have Senator George Allen’s infamous Macaca Moment, and the current surge in Hispanic support for Democrats in the Southwest in the wake of Arizona’s insanity.  There was a reason that Bush II had to campaign as a “compassionate conservative,” and it wasn’t because he believed the hype.  Voters by and large do not like the hateful face the far right enjoys showing; and make no mistake, the “family values” people are the farthest of the far.   Somehow the flip side of “the liberal insistence on treating people fairly will doom them!” is never “the conservative insistence on treating not-white, not-rich, not-male citizens of this country (ed. note–that’s 2/3 of America!) unfairly will doom them!”

Thomas seems to be arguing that the media will grow bored and thus coverage will grow negative, and that Republicans will be allowed to claim, in the face of all evidence, that America opposes repealing DATA.  Neither of these has ANYthing to do with the rightness of repeal, or indeed of the values behind the drive to do away with the policy.  In other words, it’s more of an indictment of the media and the way politics get covered in this country than it is a “warning” to Democrats that they’re doing the wrong thing.  Fixing the media is a separate issue from repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  Repeal is the way to go.  Let’s do it.


I’m all for eliminating the Civil Rights Act in places where I’m confident local government will do its job and a cartel of white businesses won’t use coercion to discriminate against black people.

This is from a comment highlighted by Ta-Nehisi Coates at his place over at The Atlantic. Yes, it’s a very truncated quote, but let me give you the summation:  Dude is saying that when he’s sure people are following the law, we can repeal the law.

This has to be the stupidest thing I’ve read all month.

Why do we have to get rid of the rule, if everyone is following it?  Why does it bother you that a rule mandating equal treatment exists?  And why does it bother you so much that, in the face of its success, you feel the need to destroy it?  Without the law on the books to remind people, what’s to stop the same discriminatory behaviors from resurfacing?

Maybe the best counterexample to this sort of bullshit is the current Wall Street debacle.  Many felt that regulations could be relaxed, since there had been no financial catastrophes for 60-something years.  We relaxed them aaaaand….BAM!  Catastrophe!  Oh noes, how could this have happened?!

Arguments like the one highlighted above never take such considerations into account–it’s too inconvenient.  People have never behaved in the way he proposes they could, and they never will.  It’s why we have laws in the first place.  It’s also why this is such a frustrating article.  If we’re going to discuss fantasy worlds, couldn’t we talk about the last couple issues of Green Lantern or Xbox games or something?

The Quiet American (Repost)

The Quiet American, Graham Greene, London 1955, (Penguin 1986 edition)

p. 163:
Unlike them, I had reason for thankfulness, for wasn’t [my lover] Phuong alive? Hadn’t Phuong been “warned?” But what I remembered was the torso in the square, the baby on its mother’s lap. They had not been warned: they had not been sufficiently important. And if the parade had taken place would they not have been there just the same, out of curiosity, to see the soldiers, and hear the speakers, and throw the flowers? A two-hundred-pound bomb does not discriminate. How many dead colonels justify a child’s or a trishaw driver’s death when you are building a national democratic front?

Obviously, there was renewed interest in this book when we invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003. The story centers on the relationship between a British journalist, his Vietnamese lover, and the eponymous Quiet American, an “economic attache” who works for the CIA. Fowler, the Brit, tries to stay as neutral as possible during the French war in Indochine; while Pyle’s American idealism begins to fuel more unrest in an already war-torn country. As you can tell from the quoted passage, Fowler finds his neutrality increasingly difficult to maintain in the face of Pyle’s callous commitment to his ideals above all else.

Greene manages to create engaging characters who can also serve as representatives of international schools of thought. Neither Pyle nor Fowler exactly cover themselves in glory, as they seem to me to represent two different strains of colonialism more than anything else. Nevertheless, the grisly question Fowler poses after witnessing the effect of a terrorist bombing is one that Americans–the ones who think about the news, anyway–have had to grapple with for years in the wake of Iraq II.

Being something of a connoisseur of Vietnam stories, both fictional (The Short Timers, The Things They Carried) and journalistic (seriously, I have and have read at least twice the Library of America’s “Reporting Vietnam” anthology–it’s all newspaper and magazine articles covering the scope of the Vietnam War), I really appreciated a take from the mid-50’s on the same conflict. Many of the elements that appear in later American stories also appear here: dispirited troops, official misinformation a la the infamous Five O’Clock Follies, the bending of the facts to fit into the occupiers’ preconceptions. It’s eerie, and it’s a timely enough echo of what much of our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have been like as well.

Finally, I think they made this into a movie starring Michael Caine a few years ago. Maybe it’s just my imagination. Whenever Fowler spoke, I kept hearing Michael Caine read his lines, so if the movie hasn’t been made at least the casting choice is clear. 🙂

Enthusiastic thumbs up! Greene was a prolific author, so expect to see me pick up more of his work.