I think Barbara Boxer’s sortie into geopolitical free association tells us a lot about contemporary American liberalism, and thus about the popular culture. I rather suspect her language was cheered by many on university campuses, in newsrooms and broadcast studios, and in Hollywood’s many locations. The bottom line: it’s all about feeling, never mind knowledge and logic. There is a straight line from “if it feels good, do it” to Boxer’s rant:
“Who pays the price?” Boxer asked Rice. “I’m not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You’re not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with immediate family.
“So who pays the price? The American military and their families.”
In other words, in the Senatrix’s view, neither she nor the secretary of state is really entitled to make policy on the war, because neither of them “pays the price,” neither can have the appropriate feelings. Those are limited to soldiers and their loved ones.
In like manner, only women can understand other women, and thus only women doctors can effectively treat women patients, only women can teach women’s history or women’s sociology and so forth. Only blacks can understand other blacks, with the same consequences. Only Muslims can understand the Koran and Shari’a law, only Jews should teach Jewish history, only gays can understand homosexuality, and on and on it goes.
The theory that you must have the correct emotions in order to understand a body of knowledge or master a particular subject is a corollary of the doctrine that there is no objective truth (knowledge being no more or less than an instrument of power). Every idea is held to be subjective, and thus–again–emotions and feelings are the most important things. Indeed, for a certain kind of contemporary liberal, they are the only things that matter.
If you believe that, there is obviously no point in studying anything, except to provoke emotional reactions, and you will be unable to distinguish between the validity of conflicting emotions.
Had Rice been inclined to point out the absurdity of Boxer’s position, the Senatrix could have responded with other arrows prominently stashed in the liberal quiver: she could have accused the secretary of state of being a chickenhawk. Note that Boxer implicitly disqualified anyone who hasn’t served, or who doesn’t have relatives in service, from “standing” to speak about the war.
Those of us who have supported the war for a long time have been attacked countless times for presumed chickenhawkery (t’s unlucky for many of these critics, since an impressive number of Washington pundits have children serving in the military, but no matter), as if anyone who had a child on the battlefield would automatically be anti-war.
That, I suspect, is the suppressed premise of Boxer’s outburst. I suspect Boxer probably believes that no woman with children on the battlefield could advocate aggressive policies.
How wrong she is.