Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it
It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
Be careful of fixed enmities or alliances:
Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.
George Washington, September 19, 1796
He was declining to run for re-election, and this was his Farewell Address.
Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views it in the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.
I was talking to a friend the other day, and during the course of our conversation, he admitted to me that he doesn't vote. My reply to him was that my estimation of him immediately tumbled a substantial amount. This is a smart person in a lot of ways, but for some reason has decided to take himself out of the process. I just told him that in future discussions, his opinion of any political issues didn't matter to me, as they obviously didn't matter to him enough for him to express them.
Don't sit on the sidelines and complain. Participate, and then complain ~ at least your complaints will have some standing.
Friday, November 1, 2002
I've lived overseas (England, the Continent, Asia). It's a valuable and tricky experience being an expatriate. You see your country from an entirely different perspective, and if you're an American with any degree of sensitivity you're like to find yourself constantly apologizing for its behavior, and distancing yourself from the power elites and the swarming masses in equal measure. You feel the burden of being a sterling representative of your homeland.
Right up until the point when you get really, really annoyed with all the inappropriately self-righteous fingerpointing being done by the insular myopic Europeans (or whomever) you encounter. Right up until you realize that you love your country despite its flaws and arrogance and ignorance.
Power has consequences. Noblesse oblige. No doubt there's so much we can do better, especially right now.
...but it's not every day that I learn something from my late local news. WJLA (Channel 7 here in the DC area) just reported on Rome's first official gay marriage. Typical late-night news fluff.
But why "official"? Well, apparently it's a legal marriage because one of the men is French, and France recognizes same sex marriages.
Did you know that? I sure didn't.
Vive la France!
Monday, October 21, 2002
Sniper Theory Redux
In light of the fact that Wired has chosen to delve into the snarky world of the sniper-blog, and that it apparently remains impossible to have a social gathering here in DC where the topic remains unplumbed, I am revisiting my version (originally posted at For the Record, My Theory).
I don't know whether I find the Michaels Crafts store connection as compelling any more, although I still think it may have provided the first impetus of anger. If this weekend's shooting is connected ~ and I have no reason to doubt that it is ~ then my guess is that this weekend was the first where shooter-guy didn't have the kids (or, even creepier, he went out after putting them to bed, which would suggest that he lives near Ashland).
The police have not released any information yet about the race or occupation of the man shot behind the Ponderosa (or his spouse). The latest intrigue centers around the request for an individual to call the phone number left "at the Ponderosa" and, more recently, the police saying they will respond to the message they've received.
It's been my suspicion from early on that the police have more information than they have released (which is perfectly reasonable, by the way), and that the apparent randomness of these shooting is more apparent than truly random. I was particularly struck that, after the Ashland shooting, the authorities swiftly threw up two major roadblocks on Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues in Northwest Washington ~ stopping and searching every single vehicle. Bear in mind that the shooting was 80 miles away. I've heard no cogent explanation for this action, which only makes sense if they are operating with significantly more information than they are releasing.
A grace note ~ as reported on CNN's website, the Ashland victim's wife released a statement including these words:
I would like to thank people of Richmond and Ashland for their caring and prayers. They have been a bright ray of hope and comfort. This has been a frightening and difficult time where I feared for the loss of my husband, friend and soul mate. Please pray also for the attacker and that no one else is hurt.
May God bless her for her ability to speak the language of peace while carrying such a heavy personal burden.
I'd like nothing better than for my theory that these shootings are motivated by white-supremacist, anti-government sentiment to be wrong (if my divorced/separated theory is right, then I wonder too whether the wife may not have left him for a person of color). At the moment, I certainly don't have enough information to either modify my thoughts or to reinforce them. In any case, I hope I'm wrong wrong wrong.
We don't need more egregious evidence of our internal divisions and failings as a society. From my perspective, the "best" possible outcome of this would be for it to be proven to be foreign terrorism. But I think that's very unlikely.
It's also true that the last thing this region needs is another reason for people not to visit. Our tourist economy took a huge hit after September 11th, and still has not properly recovered. Do the patriotic thing and come visit me in our nation's capital!
[Update: So I've clearly been wrong about a bunch of things. The Tarot card apparently WAS left by the sniper, as the Ponderosa letter made mention of additional messages on the card that have not been reported in the media. The thing that has me the most baffled at present is reports that the Ponderosa letter includes a demand for money ~ 10 million dollars, according to some sources. That makes no sense to me. Also, I'm trying to figure out why Chief Moose would report the postscript threatening children. How is anything improved by going public with that? I'm going to stop speculating for now because I truly believe that the public has only inadequate and misleading information to work with.]
It's not enough that the voters have no choice on the ballot in the upcoming Iraqi election. Or that, despite the trappings of privacy at the "polling" places, each ballot can be traced to an individual voter's identity.
No. There is no end to this madman's cruelty.
[Saddam Hussein's] campaign song, Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," has been getting lots of airtime.
This insanity must stop. I now feel that we must invade immediately.
Friday, September 27, 2002
Here's an idea...
I was talking with my brother and his wife about impending war with Iraq. They live in Geneva, and both work in diplomatic circles. Of course they know more about policy than I do, so it's hard to have a debate. At least for me, since if they state something as factual I have no recourse. After all, what do I know?
So we're discussing inspections and deployments and timing. And my brother suggests, jokingly, that maybe the best way for the US to proceed is just to announce: "If the UN requests to inspect a facility and Iraq refuses, the US will just bomb it."
Actually, this sounds like a pretty good idea to me. It's a little bit like the protocol kids use to ensure that everyone gets a fair slice of pie ~ you cut, I pick. You deny, I destroy. Neither of us gets what we originally wanted, but it's sort of fair. And it provides an incentive to NOT impede inspections.
I won't be holding my breath expecting this to be taken up in official policy, however.