Neil Steinberg, the latest writer to pen an en vogue apologia for his support of the war, mentions:
“I began, in January that year, by quoting Edmund Burke about how evil triumphs if good men do nothing, and sneering at peace protesters who, to be honest, didn’t help their cause by being so far over the top — they thought Bush was an idiot and a killer long BEFORE the war.”
I feel a bit bad calling out Steinberg, because of all the hairshirts being donned, Steinberg’s is unusually sincere and about the only one I’ve read that seems to evince actual guilt feelings. But I think his sneers at the anti-war contingent are a vital part of the history of this fiasco.
It’s not that I don’t understand the logic; anyone who’s been to high school will recognize it. I’m more skeptical of Apple products than I should be because of their missionaries. Certain musical acts and neighborhoods too. I try not to let the perceived coolness of enthusiasts and opponents influence my opinion of political candidates and geopolitical issues, however. As an example, there’s a particularly heinous pro-McCain video circulating on the Web that people seem to find amusing in its incompetence. Andrew Sullivan, who once called war objectors fifth columnists and who is now infatuated with a certain politician with prominent anti-war bona fides, writes “This is almost as painful as a Clinton supporter made video.” Does political-coverage-as-music-criticism bleed over into actual political thought? Yes.
[Making fun of rich, powerful politicians: what satire was invented for. Making fun of earnest, unselfconscious supporters: a cheap shot. “At the end of the day the United States is a pretty tacky middlebrow kind of country”–before writing something like that, think carefully about the meanings of tacky.]
Most of us are susceptible to this, but political-argument-by-socioaesthetic-affiliation is one that’s better off fought. The reason I flag Steinberg’s sneer is that he’s not alone. Sullivan writes in his own apologia: “So I saw the opposition to the war as another example of a faulty Vietnam Syndrome, associated it with the far left, or boomer nostalgia, and was revolted by the anti-war marches I saw in Washington” (two can play that game). Now Sullivan is embracing Obama as a hope that the young politician will save us from people like . . . Andrew Sullivan. Rick Perlstein says it’s not going to happen, as does Digby. QED, it would seem.
If they’re trying to snuff out boomer nostalgia with contrarian self-hatred–congratulations, it’s working. “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” indeed. Hopefully the infamous slacking of my generation will save us from anything more enervating than feeling sheepish for “Rock the Vote.”