Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Shades of Gray

A big philisophical difference between Republicans and Democrats was crystallized by the following (in)famous quotes by last year's presidential nominees (forgive the paraphrasing):
"You're either with us or you're against us."
- George W. Bush

"I voted against the $80 billion before I voted for it."
- John F. Kerry

Bush has been much maligned for his tendency to reduce things to their most simple terms -- things are either black or they're white, nothing in between. Similarly, Kerry was ridiculed for his mush-mouthed parsing of issues, unable to describe his view in a sentence, always needing a paragraph. But this difference is hardly limited to these two men; it represents a stark differentiation between the two parties (and arguably is responsible for Republican victories and Democratic losses in recent years.)

So I should not have been surprised when an old right wing friend confronted me in the comments about an apparent inconsistency on my part:
Todd posts all sorts of stuff about Cindy Sheehan, but such doesn't constitute an endorsement of her views or actions?

This was in reaction to my saying that I never accused the president of being unfeeling about the deaths of servicemembers and that in my mind I allow for the possibility that he really does mourn and he really does hurt despite the view of Cindy Sheehan and other parents of fallen soldiers to the contrary. To my friend, my embracing of Cindy Sheehan constitutes the endorsement of all of her views. How's that for a ridiculous over-simplification, typical of the "you're either with us or against us" worldview of the right.

The fact is that Cindy Sheehan's story moves me to write about it because it is bigger than just one woman. As I've written before, I'm no anti-war activist and I wasn't even fully against the war in Iraq at the outset. I didn't buy that Iraq was a threat to our national security but I did feel that removing Saddam was a noble goal if it could be done as efficiently and painlessly as we were led to believe it would be. I wondered where the humanitarian left was when it came to removing this man -- they were so outspoken against the sanctions for ruining lives of innocent Iraqis but were silent when it came to overthrowing the man who had contributed so much to their misery.

My conflicted feelings were probably typical of many on the mainstream left -- uncertain, unresolute, struggling with the shades of gray. But then I saw the very uncertainty I felt criticized by the right: anyone who questioned the war was made out to be unpatriotic and anti-American. And the administration very effectively managed to manipulate the media to glorify the war, relegating any anti-war views to the margins.

A lot has happened since then, of course. The administration's horrible mis-management of the war has led to many media mea culpas and has made this optimistic and nationalistic country of ours much more open to the anti-war point of view, a view that calls into question the decisions of the president and the actions of our military, two things that in this country are sacrosanct. It is this sea change that Cindy Sheehan's story represents and makes her a sort of hero. Her rise is a direct slap in the face to all those on the right who maligned those that spoke out against the war and for that I celebrate her.

Yes, it may be hard to believe, Republicans, but I support Cindy Sheehan and will write about her until the cows come home yet I don't agree that we should pull out of Iraq right now as she does. I respect her opinion, I even envy her resoluteness on the issue, but I am still struggling with the shades of gray.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Todd, your sudden insistance (assurance?) that you are "struggling with the shades of gray" would be credible only if you showed signs that you were actually struggling.

It's all too easy to look back at what you have choosen to post on this blog and see that you have invariably selected items and causes that fall within a very narrow ideological point of view.

I hope you realize that this is not indicative of a "struggle", by any means. It is indicative of disingenuous, backhanded partisan advocacy ... promoting something while leaving yourself just enough weasel room to claim in defense "well, I was just posting something that I felt deserved to be heard, even if I don't agree with it" once you are actually called out on running with it.

Although I can't really blame you for it. Considering Sheehan's recent statements (including the assertion that her son really died as a result of a Zionist conspiracy and her comments regarding the wrongness of the US in going after the Taliban) I'd be trying to find a way to run away from her like a scalded dog too.

8:30 PM  

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