Monday, April 17, 2006

Alternating Worldviews
Reader Mark, who blogs over at Truth Perceived (although not so much lately due to the presence of a new little person in the house, I am guessing), made an excellent point in his comments to this morning's post: "I believe I know what your problem is. Your anger is not righteous. Your anger is the product of your world view, where as the world view of an 'angry conservative Christian' is a product of his/her anger."

That made sense to me. And not three minutes after I read it, I came across a column by the inestimable James Carroll of the Boston Globe, which addresses the anger on both sides of the political divide as it relates to our threats against Iran.
An Iranian official dismissed the talk of imminent US military action as mere psychological warfare, but then he made a telling observation. Instead of attributing the escalations of threat to strategic impulses, the official labeled them a manifestation of "Americans' anger and despair."

The phrase leapt out of the news report, demanding to be taken seriously. I hadn't considered it before, but anger and despair so precisely define the broad American mood that those emotions may be the only things that President Bush and his circle have in common with the surrounding legions of his antagonists. We are in anger and despair because every nightmare of which we were warned has come to pass. Bush's team is in anger and despair because their grand and -- to them -- selfless ambitions have been thwarted at every turn. Indeed, anger and despair can seem universally inevitable responses to what America has done and what it faces now.
So everybody's hacked off, but as usual, for different and largely opposite reasons. Liberals are upset because of what the Bush Administration has done; Bush-humpers are upset because of what has been left undone. But Carroll doesn't track Mark's thesis exactly. He observes that the anger of both sides comes out of their worldview--the Bush gang's worldview includes the belief that its actions are self-evidently righteous and wise, and so it views its opponents at home and abroad as ungrateful, or as conspiring against it, or as irrationally recalcitrant, because its opponents refuse to acknowledge that every move they've ever made was precisely the right thing to do.

Carroll continues:
While the anger and despair of those on the margins of power only increase the experience of marginal powerlessness, the anger and despair of those who continue to shape national policy can be truly dangerous if such policy owes more to these emotions than to reasoned realism.
Indeed, what causes a great deal of liberal anger is the feeling of powerlessness that accompanies it: If the best minds in the country, regardless of political affiliation, can't make the Bush gang see reason, what hope do I have of making any difference? From there, it's a short leap to political apathy, and/or outright clinical depression. Carroll sees the danger, but counsels against falling into it:
Surely, something besides intelligent strategic theory is at work here. Yes. These are the policies of deeply frustrated, angry, and psychologically wounded people. Those of us who oppose them will yield to our own versions of anger and despair at our peril, and the world's. Fierce but reasoned opposition is more to the point than ever.
So buck up, liberal friends, if only--and this my depression talking, not James Carroll--if only so that when the shitrain begins to fall in earnest, we'll be able to stand out in it knowing we did our best to stop it.

I am presently auditioning alternate worldviews, by the way. One of them that's working out nicely is playing as I write this: an album by Jimmy Smith, master of the Hammond B3 organ, entitled Standards, smoky, after-hours jazz from the late 50s that can definintely soothe the savage breast. The other alternative I am considering may be more widely popular: drinking with both hands, starting well before 5:00, and continuing for as long as necessary.

Who's with me?

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