Thursday, May 27, 2004

Paradigms, Partisansism, and Pouch Cooking: So I'm sitting here watching Alton Brown do his thing tonight, making a mouth-watering mackerel, wrapped in parchment paper, and I'm thinking how good it looks when my wife mutters, "This is making me sick."

She's not into fish.

And I realize we're both sitting there, seeing the same thing, but we're both referencing a bunch of different stuff in our brains while we're watching it, so even though we're seeing the same thing, it's like we're looking in two different directions.

And it makes me wonder, you know?

Because I realize it's the exact same way I feel with this Iraq situation, with the whole war on terror, with pretty much every single bit of politics I've ever dealt with.

It's like, there's all these people I love and care about and respect, people who I know are good, honest people who want what's best for me and you, and yet we look at the same exact thing, hear the same exact words, and it's still like we're looking in two different directions.

And part of what draws me to blogging, to forums, draws me to even want to be a writer, is the idea that I can maybe straighten out a head or two that's not on straight, maybe even get my own head on a little straighter as I talk and examine and logically discuss issues--

But then I think about that fish, and I realize that no explaining, no appeal to logic, no appeal to emotion, nothing I say is going to change the effect that fish has on my wife. She's already got the mental baggage necessary to make her reaction, just like I've got mine.

I admit I'm a one-issue voter this election. A one issue voter for the first time in my life. It's clouding everything I see all of the candidates doing, and it's affecting every judgment I make.

That issue is the war on Terror. As longtime posters may remember, my daughter was born that week. When I took pictures of the hospital to send to my wife's folks, the flags outside were flying half mast.

And as word started coming out about who had done this, and about the conditions the like-minded oppressors in Afghanistan were subjecting their people to, it was plain what had to be done.

My wife had been in the hospital for a staff infection when she went into labor--my daughter was born in the cardiac unit in a recovery room with the curtain half-open most of the time, instead of in a regular delivery room. Had we been in Afghanistan, my wife wouldn't have even been allowed in the hospital.

There were complications with the delivery, but the doctor who handled it was professional and made it look effortless. Had we been in Afghanistan, she wouldn't have been allowed to go to school.

My daughter had to spend a couple of hours in NICU. Not a big deal, here, but had we been in Afghanistan, who knows what the midwife could have done?

So we went to war there, we brought down a regime, and we freed a people.

And now I'm reading people questioning whether we did the right thing because it spread Al-Qaida out or made them harder to find or whatever, and I realize, we're looking at the same thing, but it's like we're looking in opposite directions.

So then we go to Iraq, talk of WMDs notwithstanding, with one grand and glorious vision in mind--the establishment of a bastion of democracy in the midst of oppression. To conduct a grand demonstration of the peace, joy, and prosperity that Muslims can experience under the rule of freedom. To let Muslims see that it is not freedom that is to be feared, not free people that need killed, but it is tyrants that need to be feared, it is dictatorships that need to be brought down, and that when you are free to go your way and I am free to go my way we can all find joy together.

It's an incredibly bold and noble plan--one of the grandest that has ever been undertaken. If it succeeds, it has the potential to transform a region of the world that has been war-torn since before our nation was born. If it fails, it dooms millions of middle-easterners to lifetimes of continued war and suffering.

We were content to let them have at it, when they were keeping to themselves. But once the bloodshed spilled to our shores, once we knew we were not safe, we were forced to attempt the grandest undertaking any President has undertaken in half a century. Introducing a contagious freedom.

But I read other blogs, and talk to other intelligent, caring people I know, and they don't see any of this. They look at this and see a petty, stupid man who's been manipulated into doing a favor for some oil buddies, and who's taking advantage of a chance to oppress and abuse while he's at it. A guy with no plan, no foresight to get him through the rest of the day, much less this thing in Iraq.

Looking at the same thing, but it's like we're looking in different directions.

So is it like the fish? Is this really all just a matter of taste, of opinion, and nobody's more right than anybody else?

Or is this about truth, right and wrong, good and evil, and there really is some plateau we can all reach through discourse and debate?

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