The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Two Kinds of Crazy

Posted on | May 3, 2011 | 12 Comments

“Whenever America uses violence in a way that makes its citizens cheer, beam with nationalistic pride, and rally around their leader, more violence is typically guaranteed. Futile decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may temporarily dampen the nationalistic enthusiasm for war, but two shots to the head of Osama bin Laden — and the We are Great and Good proclamations it engenders — can easily rejuvenate that war love. . . . Americans are marching in the street celebrating with a sense of national pride. When is the last time that happened? It seems telling that hunting someone down and killing them is one of the few things that still produce these feelings of nationalistic unity.”
Glenn Greenwald

“I am sorry, but if you believe the newest death of OBL, you’re stupid. Just think to yourself — they paraded Saddam’s dead sons around to prove they were dead — why do you suppose they hastily buried this version of OBL at sea? This lying, murderous Empire can only exist with your brainwashed consent — just put your flags away and THINK!”
Cindy Sheehan

Let’s begin by acknowledging that these are two different kinds of crazy. But people who find Cindy Sheehan’s crackpot paranoia risible might not see why Greenwald’s “nuanced” anti-Americanism is almost equally demented.

As I explained yesterday, I can understand people (e.g., Joy Behar) who view the news of bin Laden’s death as an occasion for partisan political cheerleading. I understand it, even if I don’t endorse it. Our political discourse nowadays is so often a matter of scorekeeping and talking points — the horse-race mentality where the only relevant question is “Cui bono?” — that this is only to be expected.

(If Hurricane Katrina could be used as a partisan weapon, what is off-limits? Once you politicize the weather, everything is fair game.)

No, what disturbs me particularly about Greenwald’s argument is that he doesn’t view every “sense of national pride” as dangerous, but only American national pride. Cubans or Canadians, Chechens or Chinese, Poles or Palestinians — all other peoples can cherish their national identity without stirring any Greenwaldian concern. But let Americans express satisfaction that their military has vanquished a sworn enemy, and this frets Greenwald to no end. His fear and loathing of American nationalism is so great as to produce its mirror-reverse.

Robert Frost once described a liberal as someone who refuses to take his own side in an argument. Greenwald is horrified that Americans do not join him in that refusal. He is appalled that we are happy about “hunting someone down and killing them,” as if bin Laden were just any old “someone,” and not the man who funded, organized and inspired a global terrorist conspiracy that killed thousands of innocent Americans.

America is, to Greenwald, the one nation on the planet so dangerously evil as to be underserving of affection, admiration or allegiance.

One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that; no ordinary man could be such a fool.”


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