Wednesday, January 31, 2007


"We shall never surrender..."
-Winston Churchill

Two events have happened recently in the news that concern me greatly. They are unrelated and seem isolated and even oddities that may be forgotten as time goes on, but to me they are clarion calls, alarm bells ringing in our culture. The first is about Paris Hilton, the second is the LA Times opinion piece I satarised below.

Paris HiltonParis Hilton apparently stored various goods in a rented storage unit, which included some quantity of cocaine, several videotapes of her engaging in all manner of sexual activity, audiotapes, diaries, and more. The material was apparently placed there after her home was burgled a few years back. Well, she didn't bother keeping up payment on the rental, and as per the contract she signed when she rented the unit, after a set time the materials became the property of the owner. The owner auctioned off the materials for several thousand dollars to some people who then sold it all for ten million to a Bandia Persia, who has since started up a website with all the nasty stuff available to anyone who signs up and pays for access. The videos depict Ms. Hilton taking drugs, frolicking in a tub, and more, all to a video camera.

Paris Hilton's celebrity status has baffled many people for quite some time. She has no apparent talent, skills, or special abilities, other than being naked and public. She is not particularly attractive, nor charming, she is just another club-hopping socialite trying to distract herself with drugs, sex, and hedonism from how empty and pointless her life is. For some reason, this particular club hopper became a celebrity, and has even been in several movies.

Paris Hilton is iconic for an attitude of the west, that nothing matters or exists save that which we can sense and measure. That pleasure and comfort are the highest goals and ends of human life. That we've got a short life, and should have as much fun as possible. Paris Hilton is famous simply because she's a representative of what people long for: a life of such wealth and comfort that you can do and sleep with and enjoy whatever and whoever you wish.

9/11 TowersThe Los Angeles Times article calls the global war against terrorism an "overreaction" and compares the 2996 dead in the attacks on September 2001 to those who died in automobile accidents every month. The article says that the terrorists are no significant threat to the US despite being the only lethal attack by an enemy on US soil since the war of 1812. The writer claims that the danger posed by terrorists is not that terrible and, why, so many people died in previous wars, there's no reason to be concerned.

One can note that this comes from someone in Los Angeles, and that it is doubtful that a New Yorker would be so dismissive of the deaths of their neighbors. If he said this to a New Yorker face to face I even suspect this writer might stagger off with a black eye. It is not unthinkable now, though, in this present political climate. The presumption in the press and on the left is that the GOP was thrown out of power in congress for their position on the war on terror - indefensible from the facts, but that's the story line.

This opinion piece isn't new, there have been people sitting on this idea for years waiting for a time they could publish it without being dragged out of the newspaper office, tarred, and feathered. This isn't something that the writer came to over time due to careful analysis, but something he held to from the beginning and could get away with speaking openly. More are waiting in the wings to follow up the few incidents of soldiers being spat on at rallies to openly stating what fellow LA Times columnist Joel Stein said last year: "I don't support the troops." Waiting until they feel the time is right, when public opinion has been shaped enough in the direction they desire.

These two events combine to make me look at the nation I live in with a growing sense of horror, one that has been building all my life. In the past, I've compared our times with the end of the Roman Empire, people rich and powerful partying away in Rome convinced that nobody could actually take the city, ignoring what goes on around the world, and concerned only with their pleasures and comfort.

In the buildup to World War Two, the United States wanted nothing to do with another war in Europe. Memories of the ghastly fighting, the incredible number of deaths and the horrible experiences of the soldiers were seared into a generation who did not want their children to face such a thing. In Europe the memories, casualties, and experiences were even closer and personal. Scars of the trenches and battlegrounds, wreckage from the war still littered France and Germany. No family was without at least one member who had died or been horribly mangled by the bloody conflict of the Great War.

The specter of another war filled the people of the west with dread and many responded with willful blindness and simply turning away from what they knew was happening. As Germany clearly showed familiar signs of building up power again, politicians spoke of negotiation and how German honor and pride was so wounded after the treaty of Versailles. As Germany took over nearby portions of Europe that they claimed as ancestral territory, America First rallies called for us to be uninvolved, to stay out, to stay home.

Neville ChamberlainAppeasement is the word that was used, meaning an attempt to dissuade or prevent an opponent from action by giving them some of what they demand. The effort was to avoid armed conflict at all costs because of the price of blood and war. But, as Winston Churchill noted, war came nonetheless, at the cost of honor. Each nation in Europe, one by one, either capitulated or was conquered by the German army regardless of the attempts of diplomats and politicians.

When the war finally started, the reluctant and the war-scarred stiffened their backs, turned to face the enemy, and fought with all their being. America, following Pearl Harbor turned instantly against the foe we all faced and began the long, hard struggle to defeat the Axis, who were more powerful and more prepared than the USA. The America First rallies ended, the protests stopped, the newspaper editorials changed their tone, the movies supported the effort.

We stood shoulder to shoulder as one people, across oceans, to face our shared enemy, putting aside political squabbles and struggles for power to defeat the foe that we all were threatened by.

This war, which I believe is accurately labeled World War IV (The Cold War being WWIII), is following the opposite pattern. True, the Islamofascists declared war on the United States decades ago, with an official declaration by Osama Bin Laden in 1998, but it had been ignored to that point by even the government to a large extent. When 9/11 happened, the nation united with the whole world in a sudden reaction, a sobering that even reduced the sales of and ratings for frivolous goods like fancy underwear and reality TV. People realized the world meant more and was more weighty than we'd been acting, and it was time to grow up.

We faced the enemy with sudden resolve - save for a few such as Senator Clinton who sat through the entire State of the Union speech with a medusa stare of hate and bitterness. True, there were a few feeble protests and voices of the radical anti-war left, but they were shouted down, drown out, or ignored by the united American People who saw this horror and saw the need for action to stop this from ever happening again.

Over the intervening years, the voices became louder, stronger, more strident. In the 2004 campaign for president, these voices became more official, important, and prominent. Instead of starting with the appeasers and the voices of isolation, they are growing, the pattern is reversed. So what happens next? What happens to America when we face a shared foe, but only some are willing to fight them? What happens when the press, the media, one entire political party now in control of congress, the entertainment industry, and many loud, prominent pundits call for us to leave the battlefield, stay home, and say the danger is not great?

How do we fight a battle like this, without the unity we need, without the support of the people, with political struggles for power taking higher priority than the need to fight our enemies. We are turning into a nation

So which will we be, a nation of Paris Hiltons who hides from the world in a haze of drugs and hedonism like an infant screaming for attention and what it demands, or Winston Churchill, who faced the foe with a grim resolution and determination? Will we be adults, who face our troubles despite the cost, the danger, the difficulty and the sacrifice, or will we hide under our covers as a nation and pretend the bad men will go away? Will we stand shoulder to shoulder, united against our common foe, will we take the fight to our enemies?

Is the fight for ideological supremacy so overwhelming that it overcomes the need to fight evil? Is the desire for political power so important that we should ignore our enemies, ignore the war we are in, whether we desire it or not? Where do we go from here?

I am not confident, I do not see signs that we'll take this fight where it must go. I do not see any indication that our nation will do anything but hide and pretend the problems aren't as bad as we know they really are. For over five years we've heard a constant stream of negativity, distortion, and outright lies about the war on terror not just from pundits but from even the press. In the place of movies that stirred patriotism and a desire to fight the enemy, we get movies that make us seem like the enemy, that stir dissent and disloyalty.

We have had greater leadership in the past, and perhaps a greater virtue and sense of honor and responsibility. We have had a nation more united in moral clarity and understanding and less fragmented by decades of deliberate attempts to splinter us all into individual groups to make political exploitation easier. Yet we are the same people and have the same need.
In a long series of very fierce battles, now on this front, now on that, fighting on three fronts at once, battles fought by two or three divisions against an equal or sometimes larger number of the enemy, and fought very fiercely on old ground so many of us knew so well, our losses in men exceed 30,000 in killed, wounded and missing. I take this occasion for expressing the sympathy of the House with those who have suffered bereavement or are still anxious.
How long it will be, how long it will last depends upon the exertions which we make on this island. An effort, the like of which has never been seen in our records, is now being made. Work is proceeding night and day. Sundays and week days. Capital and labor have cast aside their interests, rights and customs and put everything into the common stock. Already the flow of munitions has leaped forward. There is no reason why we should not in a few months overtake the sudden and serious loss that has come upon us without retarding the development of our general program.
We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.
-Winston Churchill
[technorati icon]

1 comment:

Unknown said...

All great civilizations crashed when leisure time outstripped labor and we seem headed in that direction