Sunday, August 05, 2007

Ashamed To Be A Democrat

Winning at all cost

People never cease to amaze me. In the same vein as the condescending and pejorative lamentation by Steve Lopez regarding his nephew’s “uninformed” decision to join the military, I had my own run-in with an individual possessing a similar lack of scruples at a going-away party last week.

My friends are all aware of my decision to join the Marines. I leave for OCS in one month. This fact prompted a friend of a friend to approach me about my decision to become a Marine Corps Officer. We had a discussion about the Marines, the war, and politics, for twenty minutes.

The conversation began innocently enough, but this guy quickly proved that he couldn't refrain from making snide comments. I shouldn't have been surprised, since he works for a Democrat State Senator, but one doesn’t often expect to be subtly denigrated in a public place by a stranger for volunteering in the armed forces.

After explaining why I was joining the Marines (the war on terror, patriotism, the experience, the rich history and tradition, the training, the challenge, etc.), he introduced me to his girlfriend by saying:

"This is Nick, he's a Democrat, supposedly, and he's joining the Marines."

I stopped him and said:

"Wait, what did you say?"

He said: "What?" and looked at me quizzically.

I pressed:

"You just said supposedly. You don't believe that I'm a Democrat?"

He replied:

"No, I just said… ‘This is Nick, a Democrat who is joining the Marines.’ What did you hear me say?”

I didn't want it to become childish bickering match, but to be clear I reminded him:

"No, you said ‘supposedly’ a Democrat."

He shrugged it off, seeming to ignore his own dismissive presumption: “Oh, well, I didn’t mean anything by it, if that's what I said.”

Being the magnanimous person that I am, I brushed aside his smarmy comment, and we continued our conversation.

But he couldn't resist temptation a second time.

I had just finished telling him that I was ashamed to call myself a Democrat because of the way in which the Democrats and their netroot supporters deny AQ in Iraq, and use bad news from the front for political gain - e.g. Jack Murtha’s condemnation of the innocent-until-proven-guilty Haditha Marines, Reid’s "War is Lost," Pelosi’s unauthorized trip to Syria, etc. Frankly, the list is too long to delineate.

Then, perhaps in defense of the pusillanimous politicians, he asked me, (somewhat bemused):

“Why didn't you join the military after 9/11, then?”

I guessed he was trying to poke holes in my motives, or somehow impugn my intentions.

I told him that it had crossed my mind after 9/11, but that I was selfish, being a college student at the time. My annoyance only continued to grow, as he pressed on, trying to push my buttons (maybe he wanted me to hit him and vindicate his own preconceptions):

“So then if you believe in this war, why not enlist, instead of going to Officer School?”

I didn’t get mad about this last comment until I really thought about it later on. It’s a good thing, because the conversation would have only degraded into petty name-calling if I let my temper flare.

Instead, I calmly responded that I wanted to volunteer and serve as an Officer because I felt I was qualified to do so, and it was every bit as difficult as enlisting. I had a college degree, and I might as well take advantage of the opportunity to lead.

I began to lose his attention from then on by talking about my conversion from a somewhat apathetic war critic, to a believer in the war on terror, including Iraq. I spoke of Lawrence Wright's pulitzer prize-winning The Looming Tower, which first got me seriously thinking about Islamic fundamentalism. Then I continued on about the roots of Islamic fascism, the Salafist movement, etc. He admitted how little he knew about the subject, and grudgingly conceded that I was well informed and wished me luck. I retained no small degree of satisfaction by silencing his smug mouth.

His jaw truly dropped after he asked me which politician I thought had my best interests in mind as a soldier. With the disclaimer that I didn't trust any politician all that much, I said George Bush and Dick Cheney. What I realize now is that his view of a politician with his best interests in mind is the one who will keep him out of harm's way. My view is more nuanced; it is the politician that has the best interests of myself, my family, my values, and my country in mind, the politician who makes the difficult and politically unpopular decisions to defend that which we hold sacred has my best interests in mind.

His last question was essentially the end of it the conversation, he undoubtedly wrote me off as a hopeless and hapless.

But it’s gotten me thinking.

What is it about this war that brings out the worst in people? Why does a person’s absolute, irrational hatred of Bush and Cheney blind them to reality, encourage the utmost fringe paranoia, and justify borderline seditious rhetoric, down to the depths of assaulting someone's integrity for even suggesting a war could ever be justly fought?

I am in the minority among supporters of the war on terror in my family, but I'm accustomed to arguing my way to victory or stalemate, especially when outnumbered. It is interesting to witness the altered frame of mind a person enters when confronted with cold hard facts, or at least when getting licked in a debate. A close friend of mine, feeling so cornered by the strength of my logic, even had the stones to compare the treatment of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib with the torture tactics and head removal theatrics fancied by al Qaeda militants.

This same person, a good friend and a good person, also decries what he calls the “illegal” detainment of terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, criticizing the way in which their “rights” are being violated. Yet, when sent links of the numerous released detainees who return to martyr themselves, he is silent. When it is pointed out to him that some detainees in fact do not want to be returned to their country of origin for fear of certain torture and death, he is silent. When told that GITMO detainees receive fresh copies of Harry Potter books, he is silent. When it is brought to his attention that holding detainees as enemy combatants has established legal precedent behind it in codified law, he is silent.

It's Bush's fault. Always.

A strange phenomenon, indeed - how an issue stirs such powerful emotions, to the point of hyperbolic hysteria.

And that is the crux of it all.


The common thread among friends and family on the receiving end of my logic when it comes to this war has been the penchant for emotional outburst, or the reliance on emotion for their views. Their feelings, instincts, stream of consciousness, opinion. Dr. Sanity has written about the denial, the hysterics quite often on display among the theatrical anti-war left.

I suppose, like the Vietnam war, like abortion, like civil rights, the war in Iraq is a lightning rod for criticism that brings many to the brink of losing their sanity. How else can someone call every single American soldier "a bunch of idiots," and "morally retarded?"

Ironically, while we fight to win a war at all cost, while standing up for what we believe in, others are willing to compromise societal norms and courtesies, reasoned logic, fact and reality, by throwing stones in an attempt to win an argument at all cost.

That is the essence of the "debate" going on in America right now over the war. My run-in with a mildly cynical Democrat was a microcosm of the situation. It's a shame that when Americans should be closest, and working together for victory and self-preservation, we are mired in defeatist rhetoric and political casuistry of the lowest order.

Standing in front of the lectern, hearing the oleaginous platitudes from Congressmen about their "good friend" across the aisle of whom they have the "greatest respect" for has gotten us nowhere, barely masking the deep rifts among the two parties. Because those same Congressman walk from the chamber to the waiting press corps and then rehash their lame talking points, which show anything but the "greatest respect" for their peers.

While I believe Republicans are largely correct in their recognition of the threat of al Qaeda and fundamentalist Islam, neither party is guilt-free with respect to the bottomless pit of political capriciousness on display.

Unfortunately, the vitriol has spilled over to the Blogosphere, and among friends and family.

More examples of irrational emotion:

Roger L. Simon: Jon Soltz and the Politics of Rage

Michelle Malkin's Winter Soldier Syndrome


Dr. Sanity's The Consequences Of Denial

My Varying Degrees of Denial

No comments: