In the last month, Bush has given America’s highest civilian honor to George Tenet, the man who most on the right scapegoated for his “slam dunk” on Iraq intelligence. He’s nominated a petty criminal for the nation’s top security position. And he’s repeatedly emphasized his support of Donald Rumsfeld. I think we’re reaching a point when Bush’s statement of “confidence” will be read quite differently from how it’s intended.
And then one of my Mexican students reminded us of the 1968 Olympics that were held in Mexico City, where only ten days before the games opened 267 students were gunned down and more than 1,000 were wounded during a protest at the Plaza of Three Cultures. And then two of my South Korean students told us of their government’s secret decision to send troops to Vietnam despite the public’s protest against such a move. And then one of my Chinese students, a remarkable young woman who exudes joy like no one I’ve ever known, said, “Yes. The same in China. During the Cultural Revolution.”
From Bob Woodward, we’ve learned that President Bush doesn’t give much thought to history — “History? We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” — but for those of us who do, the San Francisco Chronicle has put together a nice collection of statements from prominent military historians, including G. Kurt Piehler, a member of my dissertation committee.
Not surprisingly, President Bush was at his best last night when asked about his faith and family. Ignoring for a moment the relevance of such questions in a supposed domestic policy debate that never addressed the environment, the Patriot Act, or stem cell research, those two questions allowed Bush to put aside policy (which is awfully complicated) to talk instead about feelings and relationships.
It’s interesting to see how Bush’s rhetoric has evolved. While admitting — finally — that WMD have not been found, he continues to litter his speech with allusions to them, though they’ve now morphed into “weapons of mass murder,” and — in a turn of phrase that would have made Monicagate-era Clinton proud — they are now modified with the nebulous term, “capability.”
Yesterday, I found the “Peace on Earth, No War on Iraq” sign that I carried in a protest during the rush to war, and it occurred to me that I am genuinely proud of that act. It’s difficult to explain, but I know that it was absolutely the right thing to do. I guess that’s why I’m taking some comfort from quotes like these, all taken from traditionally conservative commentators
When I asked my ESL students last night about the great literatures of their native language, one of the Iranians told me about the Arab conquest of Persia. In their effort to erase all evidence of Persian culture, the ancient Arabs outlawed the speaking of Farsi, which, of course, only served to inspire a new generation of writers.
My brain is turning soft. It’s not that I’ve forgotten to update my 2004 film viewing and reading lists; it’s that I have, for all intents and purposes, abandoned my intellectual life. I don’t have the energy for it. Or the time. Or — and this is the big one — the attention span. And it’s starting to wear me down.
The Metro Pulse features a short article this week about the need for a new and much larger library in downtown Knoxville. The unfolding of this project should prove interesting, as it will essentially ask city and county taxpayers how much they “value” the library. The elected decision-makers are already eyeing the $60 million facility recently completed in Nashville, which is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.
De Tocqueville is near the top of my “Darren, seriously, isn’t it about time that you read this?” list. I stumbled upon this passage while reading Wendy Brown’s Politics Out of History, a provocative defense of critical theory as a potentially invigorating voice in the discourse of liberal democracy.
“All around the world there are those who believe in the basic goodness of the American people, who agonize with you in your pain, but also long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.” — Bishop Peter Storey of South Africa