Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Still waiting: can we agree to agree?

Faster than even the most optimistic of neocons ever suspected, the dominoes of the Middle East totter and tremble, poised to fall from dictatorship to democracy.

There's no mistaking the jubilation and the feeing of newfound strength in what used to be called the Arab street. There was no mistaking it on January 30th in Iraq, and there's no mistaking it now in Lebanon, where even the previously anti-American Walid Jumblatt said, "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Berlin Wall has fallen."

I have to hand it to Jumblatt. He's done something quite rare: he's revised his previous opinion in the face of new evidence. And he's publically admitted it.

But I'm still waiting. And I'm not alone in that. I'm waiting for my friends, the ones I've had all those arguments with for the past two years over Iraq. I'm not one to gloat, so I haven't brought it up with them, but I'm waiting for just one of them to mention what's happening now, to voice any sort of opinion on it at all.

But it's as though it isn't happening for them. It's as though they aren't reading the papers; as though the Mideast has dropped off their radar screens. I know it's hard to admit you might have been wrong; but surely, in this case, an exception could be made for something so wonderful, so joyous? How can they resist? Remember all that "power to the people" stuff back in the 60s? What is this, if not that?

When I would say to them that there was a possibility Iraq would end up a democracy, and that the thirst for freedom might spread (slowly, I thought) throughout the region, I was called a dreamer. And that was the best thing I was called; ignorant, uninformed, brainwashed, imperialist, neocon (oh, horrors!) were a few of the others. And then, after the tirade, in most cases we had to do the "agree to disagree" thing, in order to preserve our friendship.

Well, I'm just wondering what they think now. Do we still need to agree to disagree? Because I'd love it if we could actually agree to agree. It would be an nice change to hear a little hopefulness from them. Maybe Jumblatt could start a domino effect of his own.


At 2:17 PM, March 01, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post! Given your therapist background, don't you think politics for many people has to do with personal style? The NE/West coast liberals I know think optimism is unsophisticated, clear principles are simplistic, patriotism is low-brow, and that fighting for principle and country is crude and vulgar.

Also, label/designer/party identification is terribly important to some who are convinced that Democrats are the cool "in" crowd and Republicans the to-be-snubbed ones. To these people, believing in the transformational politics of the Bush administration is as hopelessly declasse as buying one's clothes at Sears or eating at The Olive Garden. Rational reconciliation of principle and fact does not factor into their strong stylistic prejudice.

The irony is that Democrat cynical chic is so passe that it almost hurts to watch those who care more than anything to be cutting edge actually look more like yesterday's bargain bin cast-offs. Your optimism is the "new black" for seasons to come!

At 8:28 AM, March 02, 2005, Blogger Jamie said...

Hi - here via Austin Bay.

My life has sort of mirrored my politics, I find - an uncomfortable observation because it implies that I'm just a creature of my environment. (I'm going to trust that it isn't so, because in contrast to earlier times in my life, I'm paying attention now!)

I achieved voting age and attended college in California, then moved to Seattle for seven years. During this time I considered myself "fiscally conservative, socially liberal" - which I now recognize as "wanting to pay as little tax as possible, and not wanting to offend anyone." Then, accompanying my husband to grad school, I moved to Texas (and, maybe not so incidentally, out of true urban life and into the suburbs). After five years in Texas, which encompassed 9/11, Afghanistan, and the Iraq war up until the 2004 US elections, we moved to the far-out suburbs of Philadelphia - I mean, you'd have to be nuts to commute from here, so we're really in a community outside Philly. And now, having spent a WHOLE lot of time reading, researching, and examining my position, I find myself... fiscally conservative, socially still on the liberal side - but in the classical sense. I'm FOR individual freedom, AGAINST speech codes, FOR voting in Iraq, AGAINST nay-saying about it, FOR optimism and idealism (that's really what sets neocons apart from "paleocons," I think), AGAINST reactionaryism. ("Reactionism"?)

I think we were right, on the basis of information we had, to go into Iraq; the lack of WMD stockpiles changes nothing about what we thought was there - to say nothing of the fact that of our multiple reasons for going into Iraq, only that one isn't entirely vindicated now. Watching the spread of the Iraq grand idea throughout the Middle East is one of the great joys of my adult life, I think. I hope, I hope it takes root everywhere it lands, and in our lifetimes we can see that benighted region experiencing the dawn!


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