This blog was named for a parking-lot epiphany I had sometime in the spring of this year, 2004, when I realized that the war in Iraq just really wasn’t going as well as might be hoped. Somehow I had been reluctant to let myself acknowledge this: in realizing the inhibition’s cause, I overcame it.
There is a notion running loose in our culture, one I’m inclined to glibly blame on a glut of crowd-pleasing war and sports movies, that you can accomplish just about anything if your cause is noble, your heart is pure, and above all, if you just believe hard enough.
What’s lost between the rousing soundtrack and slow-motion charge is the realization that belief, while necessary, is not sufficient. Yes, you need determination to win, but for every hero who gritted his teeth and forged ahead to glory, there are ten more whose dessicating remains now litter the roadside as evidence to the fact that right does not always make might. (People like to talk about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. They’re less likely to bring up, say, the Warsaw Ghetto.)
And so it’s come to this: at the dawn of the twenty-first century we are, as a country, grappling with the idea that the war will be won or lost not because we succeeded or failed to put enough troops into the theater, not because we enlisted or completely alienated our allies, not because we understood or utterly ignored the local culture, not because we chose principle or expediency when deciding how to treat detainees, but because the home audience, thousands of miles from the zone of conflict, slacked off when it came to waving the pom-poms.
Thus the sock puppets for those who got us into this mess exhort us to continue doing what hasn’t helped so far, sure that it will work if we just do it harder than ever. They’re like Peter Pan halfway through the stage version of J.M. Barrie’s story, urging the audience to save the fading Tinkerbell through the sheer force of their belief. Somehow a benign children’s fantasy has become grotesque talk-radio reality. Drink all of the Kool-Aid! Keep the faith! Believe! Believe! Believe!
Or fuck it. Wake up. Realize that the Emperor isn’t going to get any less naked because you refrain from pointing out that he’s not wearing clothes, and focus your passion in a direction where it will actually make a difference. If this blog’s title becomes an antibody for the meme which holds that remarking upon the bleeding obvious is somehow an act of disloyalty, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something.