This is going to be a very hard column for me to write. No, it’s not my farewell column, nor am I depressed. I am, instead, worried: not for my own future, which is really of no consequence in the Great Big Overview, y’know. I’m worried about the future of our country, our brother and sister countries, and about the very future of the entire planet.
At least 350 times in the last few days I have been asked where I stand politically in the entire War Thing. Okay, I can use capitals: it’s pretty big, this War Thing, damn its ugly face. And its face isn’t just Saddam Hussein, it isn’t George Bush, it isn’t Yitzhak Shamir: it is Everyman, it is Everywoman.
Some time ago, the late, great Walt Kelly, in his immortal comic-strip-that-talked-nearly-as-much-as-I-do, “Pogo,” summed it up the best: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Okay, no prewritten script handy, here is the nutshell of Where I Stand.
I did not vote for George Bush, nor do I imagine I will in the future. This is of little or no consequence. I am not in favor of war, period. I’d like to see a situation (wouldn’t we all?) where we could have our differences but still manage to meet each other partway, not compromise our integrities, and get along. It is a small planet, folks, and we better start seeing it that way pretty soon or someone is gonna come along and relieve us of our planet… and ourselves in the process. If the scenario was to be as it became, what other course of action did we have but to step in? It’s not as if we are just fighting over oil: if this were the case, why would we have the allies we do? Same holds if it were strictly a religious war, or a territorial one. Politics here makes stranger bedfellows than usual. I think, with the greatest reluctance imaginable, that we have taken the best course of action. To refuse to step in would have given Saddam Hussein carte blanche to move in and claim Kuwait virtually unchallenged, and then where would the world be? After that, what? Obviously, he’s as hungry for territory and power as the Japanese warlords during WWII: get your Old Vet Great Uncle or Grandpa to tell you about THAT one and what led up to it.
So, the gist of my thought is this: I do not particularly support Mr. Bush, although he could have done far, far worse in many respects. I am saddened that we have to be there, but I support our troops there with great reluctance. It is my hope that we accomplish our ends and get out and back home as soon as possible… with as few casualties as possible and as little damage to the civilian population and infrastructure of Iraq as possible. Remember, Mr. Hussein is not a popularly-elected leader; had he been, we would be more justified in considering every Iraqi to be The Enemy. This is not the case. There are plenty of very innocent people there, terrorized by this headline-grabbing egomaniac. Just because they don’t look like us folks and don’t go to the same kinda church doesn’t make them wrong, only different. They get up and put their clothes on in the morning just like we do, they go to the bathroom just like we do, they love their mothers and fathers and children just like we do, and they love their country just like we do: difference is, they probably bleed inside for Hussein’s ouster and an end to all this. Remember, their press is not as free as ours; neither do they have the right of dissent that we do—and take for granted. I’m coming to that one; boy, am I.
When supposed “peace” demonstrators resort to violence to get their point across (as they did on the Golden Gate Bridge in California), they cease to have a point. I can remember the bumper sticker popular some years ago that said “Support Peace Or I’ll Kill You.” We haven’t had such happen here, and I trust it won’t. I’ve talked to quite a few supporters of peace, one of whom is an 11th generation birthright Quaker: a member of the Religious Society of Friends. They have but a small Athens meeting; there is a large and important one in Atlanta. Getting to know and understand the viewpoint of the Quakers and their sister Peace churches: the Brethren in Christ (many of these folks are in Indiana), The Hutterites, The Amish, The Mennonites, and a couple of others, is something that EVERY thinking Christian should do: they have much to teach us about how to live. I have two “Quaker stories” up my sleeve that will appear in a subsequent column, but they will have to wait… this is more important. I mention the young Quaker lady because I am convinced of the sincerity of the organizers of the peace encampment here. It is legitimate, nonviolent, gentle protest and I absolutely support its right to be even if not completely its reason for being. However, there is an element of people here and everywhere who just want to hang out or do something groov(e)y: it was the hangers-on who caused the shots be fired at Kent State, not the Alison Krauses of the world. She was one of the dead, remember? A real flower child, someone we should all miss: she had a lot to teach the world, even if she must do it in silence now. She believed in nonviolence; so should protestors. The same is utterly true of the pro-troop folks: they defeat their own ends to support violence against a legitimate protest: that is Fascism, and the Dead Mussolini, II Deuce, would smirk from his grave. Both groups have a right to speak their minds but not to get violent against each other. And legitimate protest is the cornerstone of Democracy, folks, like it or nope.
To sum up, I think we answered a totally immature stimulus with a moderately mature response. To have done otherwise would have been like giving a four-year-old a loaded 30.06 and sending him or her out into a crowded stadium (or am I giving Mr. Hussein credit for having too much sense there?). If you want to protest the war, that’s your right: just do it from the heart and keep it nonviolent and I have nothing but praise for your working with the system as it is designed. And you pro-War folks, don’t go kickin’ the antiwar folks’ butts, or you’ll be guilty of being a far worse problem than Hussein ever could be. They and you have a right to be there and to be patriotic. If you, any of you out there, want to refuse those who disagree with your opinion the right to say what they think as long as they do it within the system, then perhaps you should look to live someplace else that isn’t so free. Right now Iraq could use all the help it can get in its fight against American style freedom, looks like.
It’s Saturday night as I write this. I know nothing of the new goings-on over there, all news having been pre-empted by the Metropolitan Opera this afternoon and Georgia Bulldog Basketball tonight. My main hope now is that Israel will be patient before it retaliates; if it fails to, this unholy alliance against Iraq could well dissolve and plunge us into a prime candidate for World War III. I am not looking forward to using that term, so I hope they don’t act quite yet. Casualties on the Allied side remain pretty low, and I hope they stay that way. I’m not impressed with the logic of sending in ground troops for the kill, because that’s exactly what’ll happen and you know it. But I lead into something I’ve wanted to write about for a good while: whatI perceive as a growing racial and religious intolerance—not only here, but around the world. I’m not going to dwell on that tonight, but will save it for another column, one I’ll write after I’ve had something to eat. Right now I’m hungry. Oh, Grit: where art thy sting?
Next column, hopefully, I’ll get to mention the new stuff at The Ga. Bar, The Globe, and some other folks have gotten in; plus a mention of Gyland’s in more than just the passing reference here. And Bali Imports more than just this little bit. And maybe I’ll have made it to eat at Shalimar by then. And to mention Murphy’s. And new records. And live performances. And this. And that. And. And.
Dammit, I’m hungry. If I don’t finish this column pretty soon, I’ll be tempted to eat my own (30). Or at least half of it.
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