Anger: still in style
I almost didn't write Part II of "Why this war is so hated." The reason is that Part I, yesterday, was actually an attempt on my part to imagine some of the best and most reasonable arguments that could be mounted by those against the war. I was, as Dean Esmay points out, actually trying to be kind. And yet the comments section of that thread degenerated at some point (I didn't chart when, but I think it was some time in the wee hours of the morning) into the childish name-calling that is so common, counterproductive, and worthless.
I've noticed over and over that the tone of arguments on the left, on blogs and also in my personal experience out there in the world, often has this element of rage and name-calling. In fact, sometimes the rage is so ubiquitous that it just seems part of the package.
Of course, in the usual tiresome disclaimer, I must say that name-calling as political argument is not limited to those on the left. Of course not! But I also must say that it's my observation that it is far more prevalent there. And sometimes it also seems that such insults are the mainstay of argument on the left today, their meat and potatoes.
Alexandra of All Things Beautiful has been the recipient of a spate of name-calling recently, and writes about it here. If you're unfamiliar with Alexandra's blog, I want to mention that one of her trademarks is the creative use of art and photography to illustrate her points. The post in question is no exception; love that photo/painting (which is it?)!
Another point to ponder, in this case a historical one: on a certain day in the late 60s I was at a large university campus of the typical liberal sort. As I idly looked around me, I suddenly noticed that most everyone there was wearing some form of uniform. And I don't mean the uniform known as blue jeans; I mean variations on military garb. Army surplus-type olive-drab jackets, fatigues, camouflage, navy pea coats--it was almost as though we'd all enlisted, because there was hardly a person in the crowd who was not in uniform, except the few stray tangential professors.
It struck me as odd, and then it struck me as even odder. If one had polled the group, the aggregate antiwar sentiment would have been almost unanimous. In fact, the aggregate anti-military sentiment in general would have been enormous, as well. So, why the embrace of the garb of the hated ones?
I thought (and still think) it went well with the macho posturings of the rhetoric, the need to look tough and sound tough. I myself never felt that need, although in the interests of full disclosure I will report that I did have my own olive-drab jacket to match the others (in retrospect, not a flattering color for us olive-skinned Mediterranean-type brunettes). So some of it may simply have been the usual slave-to-fashion routine, with no greater meaning than that--especially prevalent, of course, among the young.
I also remember attending an SDS meeting at that same university. For my twenty years of life up till that point I'd been a liberal (and was to remain so for even more years than that), but I was flirting with Leftist thought at the time--trying it on for size, as it were. And what I saw there made it clear to me that it was not a good fit for me. The level of mindless rage was immediately apparent. The speeches seemed nothing but name-calling and obscenities, with a few prepositions and conjunctions and verbs thrown in to aid the flow. It was assumed that everyone was on the same page and no argument or reasoning was necessary. The type of language used reflected the jettisoning of the conventions of rational discourse on the part of speakers who fancied themselves revolutionaries.
Flash forward some forty years, and no doubt many of those speakers would be ashamed to see a videotape of that SDS meeting, if such a thing existed. But no doubt many of them would remain proud.
At the time, of course, those speakers thought they were on the cusp of something wonderful, trailblazers for the brave new world that they would create and that would eliminate war and inequality and rage--except, of course, for their own anger, on which they thrived. The fact that these things had been tried before and found rather difficult to implement, to say the least, was lost on most of them, since history wasn't their bag. Their anger had the energy of hope to it, a belief that they were going to change the world and that their vehemence was part and parcel of that positive and youthful energy.
Now, of course, the Left is considerably more tired, and more than a bit more disillusioned. And some of it is older, a self-righteous remnant of those very same contemporaries of mine who were at those SDS meetings so long ago. But the anger remains, perhaps even stronger than before.