Well, if the Democrats screw up the economy so I can’t retire & spend all my time surfing the net and watching old television shows, probably that will not be a bad thing. But if enough of those moderate Democrats actually think we are at war, actually think there are bigger issues than politics, America will continue on, finding its way, making mistakes, but eventually working out some of the problems. And it was the conservative Democrats who did best.
So, we can hope, those who have believed we wage “Bush’s war” will have a broadened vision – power can do it, clearly Bush’s vision expanded in that first year in office. But if those elected remain fiercely myopic, fiercely partisan, we will have lost important gauges – indeed those of our Western liberal tradition – to guide us as we work our way through policies. We will lose it if we become isolationist; we will lose it if we dissolve into identity politics. We will lose it if we forget the long years that an egalitarian society, one that was highly literate and used to a large measure of self-reliance, took to move from the Revolution to the Constitution.
As usual, Iraq the Model has something to tell us that is both heartening and worrisome:
Building rule of law is much more of a difficult task than breaking the law is and the transformation from jungle law to civil law requires patience and determination. What makes me feel good about this is that we’re now moving to prosecute the criminals of the present just like we prosecuted the criminals of the past.
Gangs and militias are stronger today than they were three years ago and the same can be said about the legitimate foundations and institutions of the state, even more, the latter are growing stronger at a faster rate even though that might not be so visible.
Anyways, I think if law-enforcement apparatus, judicial and military alike, are allowed to retain the momentum, then maybe in a year we will be discussing al-Sadr and al-Dhari verdicts.
The big deal about our sins at Abu Ghraib was not that they were done – we are fallible creatures & when a system fails and someone is given too much power over another, bad things are likely to happen. Prisons and mental hospitals in America have demonstrated that great truism for centuries. The big deal was the accountability, the jail time and demotions. Omar is right – the point is not that those under Saddam are convicted (not that that isn’t important, too) but that those acts committed now, under this government, are.
But change takes time. We have troops in Germany & Japan in 2006. Jim Crow laws set in in 1877; it took the South another century to integrate. People don’t change easily nor quickly; the main stream media often seems to be born anew each day but that isn’t true of most of us. We need to learn to prize Telemachus as well as Ulysses, for, as Tennyson understood, both have their place. In the poem that ends with the great lines we heard often a few years ago:
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Ulysses also acknowledges the important role his less famous, indeed, less heroic son is undertaking – a role with its own quiet heroism:
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,–
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.