"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Oscars and How to Wash the Will of Allah Off the Grill of Your SUV

I watched the first hour of the Academy Awards last night and then turned it off, because I was tired, had to study, and really had no emotion invested in any of the movies nominated for Best Picture. I did, in fact, see Crash many moons ago when it first came out, and while I'm not sure I buy into Los Angeles being quite such a bubbling hotbed of racism, I found the mingling of the different storylines entertaining and admired the dramatic intensity of several scenes (I think my heart stopped for about ten seconds when I thought that the cute little girl in the flick had been shot in her father's arms). Jon Stewart had a few honestly glib moments, but I think even he knew, about five minutes into the show, that he was going to do as well as David Letterman. Ben Stiller's green leotard was my personal highlight - big roles or small, he's always funny and refreshing. And while we didn't have Michael Moore calling for revolution from the stage, George Clooney managed to fill his shoes (albeit more subtly), smugly taking pride in Hollywood's detachment from the rest of the country and its "courage" in tackling touchy subjects like gay cowboys, heart-warming suicide bombers, and the inherent evil in just about everything America does. Hey, somebody's gotta wrangle with things like sheep wranglers, but I'd be less inclined to call Clooney a pretentious blow-hard if he signed on to movies like these. I'm not holding my breath, though. And to pick on Hollywood a little more: Barbara Streisand, notable for her sizable collection of PH.Ds, Nobel Prizes, and authorship of the MLA handbook, takes George W. to task for being a C student and therefore completely unfit to run the country (as opposed to C students like John Kerry who are obviously more qualified because they're so smart they can vote for and against the same thing in the space of a few months). Well Babs, at least George Clooney can spell.

Victor Davis Hanson on playing smart diplomacy in the Middle East (I'd say more, but he speaks much better for himself and I'm pressed for time).

Finally, couldn't make a post without saying something about Arabs/Muslims/angry angry people, now could I?
Mark Steyn talks about a few things here, including some of the silliness attached to those enforcing the Patriot Act, but makes the point that many people are no longer buying into the whole "Islam is a peaceful religion marred by a few crazies" lullaby. It's something we've heard for years, from the President on down to local Islamic groups, and it's a veneer at which current events are chipping away. Little by little, be it cartoon-crazed crowds burning buildings, flags, and occasionally each other, or college students plowing over their classmates "to spread the will of Allah", or ex-Taliban barbarians comparing the mass executions of women in a soccer stadium to executions in Texas while enjoying the fruits of a Yale education (if there are any), folks are starting to wonder if there's anybody in this world that holds a Koran and still has their sanity. I think the strong reaction to the Dubai port deal is, rightly or wrongly, part of this backlash. The merits of this business transaction aside, I have a certain sympathy for those who wonder whether it's such a good idea to give any measure of control over our ports to a nation from a part of the world better known for bombs than bartering.

Now, I don't think we should make generalizations about a whole group of people based on the acts of a few; I know I get a little miffed when people paint Christians as bloodthirsty radicals when one man decides to blow up an abortion clinic. But when someone decides to drive his car through a crowd to punish them for things their government supposedly did, and someone else plows a 747 into a skyscraper, and a few more blow themselves and a pizza parlor and dance club and everyone inside up, and their politicians call for certain countries to be wiped off the map, and masses of them torch everything in sight over the literary equivalent of Beetle Bailey, and all of them happen to belong to the same religion - do we still have an unfair generalization? Or do we have an ugly reality that requires confrontation while we're still able?

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