Answering SomeJo’s questions

SomeJo asks – “where should we go if we fully support the war and the military?” I think it would be terrific if SomeJo would come right here to Metroblog and engage in a conversation, for starters. I also would love it if Somejo would write a letter to his or her newspaper of choice, and give his or her position. I’m not trying to start another war, between regular folks who have differences of opinion. I think it’s much more important that people talk to each other, demonstrate heartfelt respect for differences of opinion, and try to at least understand why someone might feel differently than they do. There is too much personal vindictiveness associated with politics in our country. There is far too little actual discussion and analysis among citizens.

It really upsets me, for example, when college students, or citizens in general, shout down a speaker with whom they disagree. I would much prefer to hear what someone has to say, even if I disagree with it. I don’t think that we all need to agree on the political direction of this country. I just think that people are so angry, Left and Right, that they won’t even listen to one another.

In a class I took at Queens College, called Media 701, the teacher sent a substitute one week. This “substitute” actually had a particular agenda that she foisted on the class, and it was completely left wing. She read her papers and articles to the class for 90 minutes. After the class I protested that she read to us, citing her opinions as fact, rather than engaging the class in discussion. Her response, “I give this lecture all over the country and I’ve never had any problems.”

It made me angry that she simply stated her beliefs as truths, rather than opting to present them as her own gathered evidence, and then invite the other students to critically research and analyze all of the facts.

So – to end this long answer to SomeJo – I would rather hear more about what you believe – and why – then for you to equate my post yesterday with shunning your opinion.

I don’t. I’d like to hear more.

5 Comments so far

  1. SomeJoe (unregistered) on May 22nd, 2005 @ 12:30 am

    Thank you for your candor. I’d be happy to answer your questions, but since there weren’t any specific ones my background might be of interest.

    I’m originally from bluish-violet Southern California, have a liberal arts degree, have worked my entire professional life in creative fields and have lived around the East Village for the past decade. I have travelled extensively, spent time in third world countries (or at least 2.5th world) including North Africa. I’ve fed the homeless on Thanksgiving, been a member of the ACLU, contributed to Amnesty International, subscribed to Harpers and was a registered Democrat up until 2003. I voted against Bush in 2000 and spent a year so lambasting him, emailing those BushOrChimp pics, laughing at Get Your War On, reading BuzzFlash and generally towing the left-liberal party line without much self-reflective critical thought. After September 11th, my first question was “why do they hate us?”

    At some point searching for an answer to that question, my informed liberal world view fell apart. I’d learned nothing capable of helping make sense of the world as I now see it. It wasn’t just September 11th. I became a father in early 2002 and flight 11 flew over my wife and unborn child seconds before hitting the north tower. But it was much more than that. It was the murder of Daniel Pearl, who was forced to state “My father is a Jew, my mother is a Jew, and I am a Jew” right before the terrorists slit his throat and cut off his head. It was also a friend’s father’s funeral, listening to stories from ordinary people and veterans who escaped a Communist North Korea then went back to fight for the freedom of their families. The tolerance of anti-Semitism among the anti-war groups The bombings and killings in Bali. Jakarta. Istanbul. Tel Aviv. Casablanca. Beslin. Madrid. The shameful unwillingness of the UN to do anything except pass resolutions they won’t back up. Unless someone’s willing to pick up a gun and enforce consequences, those resolutions are just useless bluster. (the UN is a mess I don’t feel like enumerating)

    Ironically, most of my humanitarian basis for supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom grew from reading Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UN reports about the horrors of life under Saddam. Those organizations’ opposition to the liberation of millions of Afghans and Iraqis is deeply offensive. Democracy is slowly taking root in the Middle East, no thanks to them.

    Strategically, I’ve known for years that Iran was the larger target, but that Iraq was the linchpin of the region, easier and far more deserving. Finding dissenting information from inside Saudi Arabia is very difficult, but the kingdom will likely collapse from within. Saudi’s Safaniya oilfield is shared by Kuwait and Iraq, with sizable resources offshore. Furthermore, Iran is surrounded on three fronts plus we have additional access to the Caspian reserves. Since the world’s dependence on oil isn’t about to go away anytime soon, it makes sense to have forces in the region capable of securing the world oil supplies. Understanding all of this also points to why we supported the failed Venezuelan coup against Chavez in 2002. Looking at a chart of OPEC output, the pieces fall into place.

    As for letter writing, I’ve had one published in the Times a few years back and I do write Clinton and Schumer on occasion. Both seem like excercises in futility, Senator Clinton especially, based on her responses. I was also indirectly quoted in the Wall Street Journal in a story on political blogs last year.

  2. SomeJoe (unregistered) on May 25th, 2005 @ 12:02 am

    It’s been three days with no response, what should I make of your invitation to “engage in a conversation?”

  3. SomeJoe (unregistered) on May 25th, 2005 @ 1:06 am

    Dammit, I just checked the email on this account and there was a very thoughful reply.

    Mea culpa.

    Please disregard above pissy snarkfulness. I do wish you’d posted it here though…

  4. Lsquared (unregistered) on May 25th, 2005 @ 1:42 am

    Thanks for your clear, thoughtful note. It literally (

    and I never say this) sent chills down my spine.

    Usually only music does that.

    I have to read your letter some more. For now, let’s

    just say I think that a turning point for me, not in

    my politics obviously, but in the way I think

    political discourse should be handled, was after I’d

    been a social worker for awhile, and I began to

    realize that my so-called “liberal” friends, were in

    fact, quite prejudiced against the people I was trying

    to help. And that’s when I realized that there is a

    lot of judging that fills up the space that could more

    productively contain civil exchange.

    Example: In Philly, where I did social work, there is

    a lot of reverse commuting, especially for low-income

    Philadelphians. They head out to the far flung suburbs

    to work in homes, schools and malls. Since suburban

    transit is lacking, often these folks purchase cars

    and drive them. ( This is actually their right,

    thought you wouldn’t know it to hear some people


    So, I was attending a meeting about a planned, mixed

    housing development in Center City – some market rate,

    some affordable housing. (Always a popular topic). The

    neighbors ( all middle and upper class), were incensed

    that the developer was planning to provide parking for

    the affordable units. “Why can’t these people walk to

    work?” one woman demanded.

    When I heard that, I began to realize that I had

    shifted somewhat in my liberal/eco perspective. A

    car-free enthusiast myself, lover of walking and the

    T, Bart, MTA, etc., I felt strongly that this woman

    should try taking three busses out to the Plymouth

    Meeting Mall, and manage grocery shopping for six,

    plus day care without a car.

    And I realized that while I still believe people

    should get un-addicted to cars, the real focus should

    be on those folks who have plenty of transit options

    and insist on driving, rather than on poor people who

    don’t have options and need to get to their jobs.

    In situations like these, where friction is

    exacerbated by lack of understanding, being able to

    talk to one another makes a difference. But when I

    listen to the talk shows (rare), or read the political

    blogs ( I have to, it’s my job), I don’t see or hear a

    trace of genuine interest in what the opposition has

    to say. I don’t have cable so I’m pretty much out of

    that loop and I don’t know what goes on there. .

    I was in Boston on September 11th. If my husband had

    taken the job he had interviewed for in the WTC, well

    that’s where he would have been. Instead he got a job

    in Boston. And if my dad hadn’t retired, he would

    have been in the WTC too.

    Now I have a commuter marriage because my work is here

    and my husband’s job is still there. When I feel like

    complaining, I simply think of the families torn up

    and discombobulated by having a spouse, sister,

    parent, in Iraq. And I figure if they can deal – I can


    Keep reading and writing – please.

  5. Lsquared (unregistered) on May 25th, 2005 @ 11:59 am

    I have had a little more time to read Somejo’s comments vis a vis the war in Iraq, and give them the attention they deserve.

    What strikes me are the two tranformative experiences of world travel and parenthood; both usually have striking effects on people, especially sensitive and observant souls like Somejo.

    In my case, the more I see of kids and other countries, and the more people I talk to here from the Middle East, the greater is my desire for people here in this country to change their attitudes toward “other,”, attitudes that were strikingly, and at times fatally, on display and in action in the days and months following September 11th. I continue to question any connection between a military presence in Iraq and the prevention of future terrorist attacks on this country. I do not subscribe to the oversimplistic promulgation that we “caused” September 11th, or that by becoming less materialistic, we can reduce the prospect of future attacks. I simply do not think that war in Iraq will stop terrorist cells from propagation (sp?).

    Additionally, I read Dick Clarke’s book, and though in parts it reeks somewhat of sensationalism, I believe him when he reports on and subsequently questions the President’s immediate mandate to “look again” for a link between September 11th and Iraq. I think that Dick Clarke is akin to a contemporary Daniel Ellsberg. There are people writing falsely about the events in the White House following September 11th. He is not one of them. I also heard him speak late last year. He is a veteran intelligence professional, who, just like Chief Peter Hayden, does not willingly contradict his superiors. He would not do it unless he felt there was a greater cause to compel the truth.

    All of that said, I continue to feel angry about the treatment by Peaceniks of those in favor of military action. For example, in 2003, I was at a conference at UMASS/Lowell on Democracy in the Humanities. I was on a panel to talk about teaching writing. Several full professors were adamantly against the war ( we were in the few weeks left before the invasion). And several students were either in the military or had friends or family in the military. At least one of these professors was vindictive in her treatment of a student, who was quite calm in professing his position. And I felt angry at that teacher for not opening up a discussion but instead foisting her left wing position on the students, as if it was the “right” position. That is wrong. So when I saw that the Teachers’ Union and Cuny were having conferences this spring about how to increase “teaching peace” in the classroom, vis a vis specifically this war, I thought that was wrong also. There should be discussion – not dogma.

    Thus is it, that I feel hopeless that people in this country, who as you say, are now divided into red and blue states, will ever be able to talk productively about differences in political positions. And I object to the casting of dispersions, by members in both groups, at each other, because of their political beliefs.

    The anecdote is this: In Pittsfield, MA, where I live part-time, (although not much lately), the family that runs the nearest convenience store is adamantly anti-Arab, or they think they are. One day I walked in, just as one of them was saying “we need to go over there and kill every last one of them.” And that made me shiver in pain, at their blatant and stupid prejudice.

    And yet. This family would give you anything they own, do anything for you, if you needed it. Shirt off your back group. People are not bad because of what they believe. But there are people who are bad, from both parties, because of how they act on those beliefs.

    Thanks always for writing.

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