Roger L. Simon

Why We Are the Way We Are

When I read Mickey Kaus, a man I know and like, was voting for John Kerry, a man he pretty much despises, in the coming election, I was reminded again what painful times we live in (sometimes even more painful than most of us realize). And, yes, I know politics is about compromise (triple duh with a brass ring on top!), but the compromises people are making now are of a substantial nature.

Kaus tells us he’s made his decision because he thinks the country and the world need a rest from Bush’s militant foreign policy, if only to preserve the precarious gains of Iraq and Afghanistan. I won’t insult Mickey by calling this a dressed up version of Kerry’s “consulting with our allies.” MK is smarter than that, although like most of us subject to a lifetime of pressures, conscious and unconscious.

As is well known to those with even a passing interest in this, I feel the opposite of Mickey for almost identical reasons. I am voting for Bush to preserve those gains. And even though I don’t despise Bush personally the way Kaus seems to revile Kerry, I certainly condemn the President’s views on a host of issues, principally social ones. I just think an electoral defeat of Bush will be seen worldwide as a rejection of the War on Terror and at this particular point in history that could have disastrous effects.

But I could be dead wrong, of course. It wouldn’t be the first time – even in the last twenty minutes! What interests me is why two men of roughly the same generation (okay, I’m a few years older than Mickey, but not that many) with generally “liberal” outlooks, fairly good educations and even living in the same city (okay, that means nothing) could come to opposite conclusions on the same “facts.”

Let’s leave aside those “pressures” I alluded to above, assume he and I could rise about them (yeah, right) and examine something more basic: our dispositions. In the old days my views were probably more leftist (though not Trotskyite!) than his. I am idealistic by nature and want to heal the world. I think Kaus assumes its imperfectability and just wants to live in it. He is a man of increments. I am a man of revolution. [Will you quit being a Che wannabe? It’s so 1970!-ed. Humor me.]

In defense of us idealists, however, I have this to say: Without us, nothing would change. Of course, without us, there would have been no Robespierre either. “You pays your money and you takes you choice.” But if we’re at a crunch point in history when millions are channeling their shame over social and economic disadvantage into a violent and delusional mindset – and it seems rather obvious that we are – it scarcely seems the moment to pretend it’s business as usual. For a while, I thought 9/11 had made that clear. But now many seem to want to retrench, to go back to first principles and retreat to the safety of their old teams. (Human nature, I guess.) Not me. I’m still out there, flying blind. I said some time ago that we needed new terminology to describe all this. I still believe that.

And obviously we need new sources of information, as these indespensible bloggers also make clear.

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