A Desperate Loyalty

ILCA Online

The Austin American-Statesman says American voters should re-elect the President as a signal to the world that we have the ”stomach” and “patience” for “the kind of protracted, unconventional warfare in which we are engaged.” Yet the newspaper insists that the administration should fire the top architects of that war, because their judgment has been “cloudy.”

While we have to keep the President, say the editors, we must fire his top appointees Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, because, “The young people bearing the brunt of the burden and their families who share that burden deserve no less.” Keeping the President, while firing his war bosses, will demonstrate a crucial “commitment to break from the mistakes of the past three years.”

The confused logic of the editorial board—that we must support the President’s leadership in war, while we must have his war architects fired—betrays a desperate loyalty. (It would, of course, be a wholly different argument had the President already fired Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz himself.) At first, the editorial board’s loyalty appears to cling to the figure of the President himself, but it’s a loyalty more scary than that.

In their two (count ‘em) references to the Democratic challenger, the editorial board takes no pain to meet Kerry on his own ground. Instead, they stand him up as a scarecrow against a backdrop of futility and paranoia.

“Americans should ask themselves whether they really believe that European nations critical of the war effort will intervene in Iraq if Sen. John F. Kerry is elected president. They won’t.” Aside from the bad grammar here (who are they who won’t—Americans asking or Europeans intervening?) the editorial board presents us with a world that can do nothing but freeze America out.

In their second and (already) last reference to the Democratic challenger, the editorial board argues that, “Although Kerry is an honorable man who knows firsthand the horrors of war, he is deluding himself if he thinks a different administration will change the outlook of a foe that doesn’t make war on an individual administration, but on the West in general and the United States in particular.”

Here we find Kerry overwhelmed by a worldview. America, argues the editorial board, is incapable of transforming either its friends or its foes. And this is the tragic loyalty of the editorial board. In a world where nothing will change, we dare change nothing, not even ourselves. The editorial board is loyal to a worldview where we must see ourselves desperately bound to isolation, fear, and stubborness.

The editorial board’s hard-line resistance is instructive. Their twisted logic betrays an unconscious fear that cannot keep itself hid. Yet, where there is deepest fear, sometimes there is deepest truth. As the editorial board is afraid of changing in a world that cannot change, we must thank them for reminding us: this election is about having the courage to change ourselves first.

[last sentence modified oct. 26]

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