It’s too serious a day to discuss libraries.
Is there any rhetoric more divisive than war rhetoric? Probably, but it’s too depressing to think about. In my opinion, generally the pro-war and anti-war forces both use divisive rhetoric, but today a particularly irritating essay in the Wall Street Journal brought the point home. In “America the Ugly,” Norman Podhoretz discusses those on the left whom he considers to hold the“negative faith in America the ugly” and their role in the current anti-war movement, essentially equating the two.
This rhetoric both divisive and overly simplistic. It assumes that everyone who is opposed to the War in Iraq thus hates America and loves “Islamofascism.” This is the right-wing version of the simplistic left-wing view that anyone who thinks America is a great country or appreciates the rights and liberties of American citizenship is some sort of fascist (or whatever the current pejorative is for patriots). One can certainly love America and be opposed to both the current government administration and the War in Iraq, but the “love the War or Hate America” dichotomy disguises this obvious fact, and is merely a way to demonize any opposition to the war as a bunch of disgruntled radicals who want America to lose another war because they hate their own country.
Where, I ask, does that leave those who want to end the war not because they hate America, but because they were always opposed to the war? Not everyone was part of the fickle survey crowd who first wanted to go to War and then opposed it when they realized that somehow people actually get killed in wars, and not always the enemy. (My 7-year-old daughter told me one of her male friends said he wanted to grow up and join the army until she told him that sometimes soldiers get killed. That was shocking news to him, but he’s 8).
Podhoretz dislikes the “America is ugly” crowd, but one can find the “America is Ugly” crowd overly simplistic without thus defending the War in Iraq. “Well acquainted though I am with its malignant power, I still believe that it will ultimately be overcome by the forces opposed to it in the war at home. Even so, I cannot deny that this question still hangs ominously in the air and will not be answered before more damage is done to the long struggle against Islamofascism into which we were blasted six years ago and that I persist in calling World War IV.“
This quote is also overly simplistic. For one, it assumes a connection between the War in Iraq and “Islamofascism” that may well exist now, but did not exist prior to invasion. Iraq was not an Islamofascist state, and compared to many of its neighbors wasn’t even much of an Islamic state. The alleged connections to al-Qaeda were tenuous at best, and there no weapons of mass destruction. How could the initial invasion of Iraq have been a justified part of the struggle against “Islamofascism”?
Regardless, this rhetoric also implies that anyone opposed to the War in Iraq is some friend of “Islamofascism.” Yet surely there must be some people who do not want to give up capitalism and democracy and convert to Islam (as Osama bin Laden is supposedly urging Americans to do in his latest video), who love both America and the freedoms it offers, who oppose totalitarianism of any kind and any attempts to infringe American liberties, and yet who also oppose a war that one could argue was never a just war in the first place.
Despite the divisive rhetoric, perhaps it is possible for someone to be an American patriot opposed to terrorism and “Islamofascism,” and yet still be opposed to the War in Iraq. Perhaps it’s just possible not to fall into the trap of false dichotomies in political rhetoric.
It’s just a thought.