I was of course very flattered to be listed on Lance's Writers team, but it did bring to my mind the question of why I mostly tend to leave the political stuff up to the hypertensive set and content myself to rooting around, oinking gently, in the leaf-mulch of life and finding the occasional truffle.
I think that if you read me fairly closely, you'll find that actually I am pretty pinko. But I mostly assume, since you are here and reading, that you agree with me on that stuff. That's just a starting point: Given that we are both firmly convinced that George Bush is a smirking fratboy cipher surrounded by evil swine, that our country is sliding slowly into fascism, that our shared culture has been dunked into a vat of molten Saran-Wrap, and that young men and women are dying in a misguided, manufactured war the transparent purpose of which is to control a major source of oil while posing as a War on a Paramilitary Tactic ... what else can we find to talk about?
In other words, I don't think there's anything I can say that's going to improve your understanding of that stuff, and anything I do say on the matter will only add to the cacophanous background dissonance against which it becomes increasingly difficult to discern a coherent truth.
I finally got around to finishing "The Home Front: A Soldier’s Father Wrestles with the Ambiguities of Iraq" by George Packer in the July 4 issue of the New Yorker, in which he does an excellent job of laying out -- as if it needed to be done yet one more time -- the spectacular serial incompetences of the Bushites in Iraq. But in the course of this evisceration, one thing he said reached out and grabbed me by the throat:
Whereas the street fights of the late nineteen-sixties were the consequence of Vietnam, the word fights of this decade were not the consequence of Iraq—if anything, it was the other way around. It was the first blogged war, and the characteristic features of the form—instant response, ad-hominem attack, remoteness from life, the echo chamber of friends and enemies—helped define the tone of the debate about Iraq.Yeah. That sounds about right. Instant response, ad-hominem attack, remoteness from life. Echo chamber. Yeah.
But especially that remoteness from life.
Lance is really on target when he says that Liberal culture's advantage is that it's by definition open. While the Opposite Camp lectures and hectors and demands Adherence to Universal Principles, "Liberalism," says Lance, "does not have a doctrine," and he's quite right. The effect here is that it frees us up to make heretical connections -- joining up the dots! -- with a dispatch and guiltlessness that you won't find in the Frother Mind.
That, I would like to think, is the Jingo Principle. While the Wonks of both wings racket on at each other with wordwordswordswordswordswords, I'm free to sit in my little tree, hullo clouds, hullo sky....
I think, if I really boil it down, I'm trying to show (prove? hint? suggest?) that there's another way.
Ken Kesey, I think, was onto the Jingo Principle when, in 1965 at a huge antiwar rally at Berkeley he lampooned the militant crowd: "Holding rallies and having marches," he said, between blowing "Home on the Range" on his harmonica, "you're playing their game.... There's only one thing to do.... And that's everybody just look at it, look at the war, and turn your back and say... 'fuck it.' "
Now, I'm not suggesting that we drop a bunch of acid and drive off in a silly painted bus, but I do want to suggest this:
Acting like Them makes you, well, act like Them.
The Right waves around this Culture of Life crap, and we've forgotten how to wave our own Culture of Life back at them: We're alive.
We breathe. We love. We fuck. We sing. We eat. We drink.
Yes, of course, goddammit, the world is in pain, people are dying in agony, injustice & bad faith & ugliness & intolerance & the whole fucking depressing batshit insane ball of ear wax. I know. I know, all right?
But let me ask you, if I started racketing along with all the rest of them, shrieking indignantly about whatever passes for the fuckin' Latest Outrage of the Last Ten Minutes...
Would that change anything a single goddamned iota? Would that Push the Pendulum even one tiny degree back into True? Would it save one starving kid, one soldier in Iraq, convince one crazed, bulging-eyed monotheist to put down his Bible or Qu'ran and just relax for a second?
I put it to you that it would not.
So instead I turn my back on it and say fuck it. Instead of contributing more noise, more howling, more indignant huffing, I try instead to celebrate in my own quiet way those little joys that a true Culture of Life would hold dear.
That's what I do.