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2008

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Equal and Opposite Reactions
Victor D. Infante, Editor In Chief

It never ceases to amaze me that people are surprised when some good comes out of bad things, or vice versa. Take, for example, the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq has been a travesty of international law, grossly immoral, devastating a country and bringing America’s economy and its international standing to its knees.

But then the inevitable response from those who believe in such things: “Isn’t it great that Saddam’s gone?” And you know what? It is great that he’s gone. he was a monster and the world’s a little better for his absence.

But like I said, it’s nothing remarkable that some good has come from bad, and I think the families of dead U.S. soldiers, or of those caught in the crossfire of the resultant sectarian violence, may not find as much comfort in the loss of a commonplace monster as the war’s shoddy architects might imagine. No, Iraq was a war fueled by the unholy confluence of American political expediency, the naive and ethics-challenged neoconservative ideology and the insatiable greed of the oil industry. The short-term results have been disastrous, and pondering the long-term effects seems grave. Even the Bush administration’s prized “surge,” which they insist is working, is only a bandage on an open wound: It maintains the status quo by gunpoint. That sort of situation never lasts long.

But then, it seems we only know how to deal with each other at gunpoint, anymore, we’re all so convinced of the rightness of our myriad perspectives and causes. This was seen most clearly in the Bush administration, obviously, its bizarre and paranoid resistance to criticism or dissent, going so far as to quiz civil service workers going to Iraq on their positions on abortion, or to fire army translators for being homosexual, as if those details of their lives had any bearing on the jobs they were doing.

But we see that in the left, too, perhaps best illustrated by the nonsensical split between Obama and Clinton supporters. and indeed, while the two Democratic candidates did hold great significance to American race relations and gender equality, it seems preposterous that supporters on both sides didn’t seem to understand that in order to address those issues, you have to kick up all of the ugliness that’s been hiding under the surface for ages. There’s no point in trying  such an endeavor if you’re not ready for that to happen. Because just as some good frequently comes from bad, the act of doing good inevitably kicks up demons.

We knew America was going to go bat-shit crazy during the Democratic primary. We knew that every inch of racism and misogyny hiding under the surface was going to burble up like water from some dank, contaminated well. To pretend that it’s a surprise is disingenuous.

And it’s truth: demons that reared their heads during the campaign, the hideous misogyny that manifested from media personalities and activists and any number of people, the dark stains of racism re-emerging when most people had foolishly convinced themselves it was dead. But I found neither the Obama or Clinton campaigns particularly guilty of these sins’ emergence. No, it would be easier if it were true, but trying to pin the blame on those particular politicians is simply avoiding the bigger issue: We wanted America to be better, and it isn’t. Obama’s no more to blame for Chris Matthews’ idiocy than Clinton is for the four armed white supremacists arrested in Denver while hoping for a chance to kill the Democratic nominee. That’s all going to get worse, too, because here’s the truth: America is sicker, more diseased than ever right now, and it’s going to take years of fighting to get it healthy again.

But you have to actually fight for its health, not against. But I fear far too many people right now are more invested in their personal perspectives, throwing tantrums that only those who think like them should be brought to the table. No, I fear that far too many people are convinced they hold the answers, and that strikes me as vanity. Here’s the truth: You have to bring a lot of people to the table to build something that will survive: new voices, old voices, liberal, conservative, the disenfranchised, the entrenched. All of them have something to add to the mosaic, but this clamor of ideological purity smacks of the same hubris the Bush administration clung to, a hubris that metastasized a tumor inside the heart of America, and I don’t think we can survive more of that from anyone.