Monday, August 28, 2006

Stuck in the Middle

Something that keeps bugging me: Why do people insist that I have to choose sides on everything?  Why can’t we just admit that sometimes there is no “good guy” in a particular situation?  Why can’t we just admit that both sides of an issue can be acting badly and in bad faith?  Or for that matter, why can’t we admit that sometimes both sides have a valid position?  That perhaps both sides deserve to win?

And why does each side insist on attacking anyone who isn’t actively on their side?  Because I just don’t want to.  Particularly as what being on “their” side means is that I support their actions and plans, while refusing to say and do things that they don’t want me to do.  Like criticize them in any way.  And if I don’t follow their lead, then I’m inexplicably put on the other side.  It’s like being an only child in a divorce that won’t end.  After a while, you don’t care who you end up with.  You just want a little peace.

Like with Vietnam.  I’m certainly not a supporter of the Vietcong side or anything, but I also know that the American side acted badly too.  And in fact, the actions that the Americans took, going back into the 1950’s, clearly made things much worse than if we had just befriended them and bought a bunch of rice.  Nothing beats communism better than prosperity, but some people just seem to prefer war.  And so we screwed it up repeatedly.  And now, because I’m willing to acknowledge that fact, I’m somehow picking sides.  I’m “anti-American” because I refuse to believe lies.  Of course.

The same goes for our current “War on Terror”.  I certainly don’t approve of Bin Laden or any terrorist group, but it’s obvious that Bush’s “solution” has only made things worse.  And yet as in most situations, the players involved want to insist that I’m on a particular side.  If I criticize Bush’s actions, then I’m a terrorist supporter.  And yet it’s quite obvious that Bin Laden wouldn’t see me as being on his side in a million years.  Not if he got to see what I do on the weekends.  Heck, Bush has far more in common with Bin Laden than I do; particularly with that whole messianic thing they keep working on for themselves.  Looks like somebody hasn’t been explained the difference between famous and infamous.

And so I’m considered to be kind of stuck.  And yet I’m not.  It’s just the extremists on both sides who insist that I pick a side.  And on both sides, they’ve explicitly stated that if I don’t support them, then I’m against them.  And so I’m inexplicably stuck as the enemy of both sides, while preferring to not be on any side at all.  I just want a peace.  

And so the only way that I’m really “stuck” is that I’m stuck between two sides who are both trying to make other alternatives impossible.  Neither Bush nor Bin Laden want to allow us to properly resolve this situation without them, so they intentionally sabotage the middle-roads; thus forcing me to pick sides.  Because they’re not after peace or solutions.  They want victory, and they think that they’re the solution..  

That’s not to suggest a moral equivalence between them, but when it comes to alienating non-supporters, both of these guys have really outdone themselves.

The Defense Thing

And the same goes with the Palestinian-Israel issue.  Why do I have to pick a side?  I certainly don’t approve of what the Palestinians did or are doing, but I also don’t see how Israel is acting in good faith either.  Particularly with the whole illegal settlements issue, which really makes the “national defense” claim look more like a cheap rationalization than a necessary policy.  

On both sides, I see powerful players who act in bad faith in order to retain and expand their power.  Just as many Palestinian’s object to Israel’s right to exist, there are certainly many Israeli’s who also question the Palestinian’s right to have a country.  And it all just comes down to the land and old grudges being egged-on by numerous dastardly fellows on the side.  It’s like a bad western that just doesn’t know when to quit.

So why do I have to pick sides?  Why can’t I just say that both sides are acting poorly and that someone really needs to step in and settle this fight?  There are enough powerful players who don’t want this settled outside of complete victory for their side, so how can we expect this to work itself out?  And please spare me the argument of which side you think is working more in bad faith, because it’s entirely irrelevant.  If you can’t trust either side, it doesn’t really matter much which side you trust less.  Particularly as there are far more victims on both sides than there are bad actors, and both sides could do a whole lot more to correct the situation.  

And there can be no doubt that there are also those on both sides who want no resolution.  They only retain power as long as this battle continues and they have no interest in seeing any kind of conclusion at all.  And let’s not forget that there are many Americans and other third-party players who would also prefer no resolution.  As long as Israel remains a thorn to the Muslim nations in the middle-east, these guys stay happy.  It’s a fact that war and conflict are quite good for some industries, and they certainly don’t want anything to change about that.  (Dick Cheney, I’m looking at you.)  And then there are the other regimes in the middle-east which certainly enjoy using Israel as a convenient excuse for screwing their citizenry.  

Overall, there are too many people who want no resolution, and unfortunately, they’re often some of the most powerful players on the scene.  And that means that it’s not always advisable to react violently to every deed these people do; because that’s exactly what they want.  Perhaps there is some wisdom in ending a cease-fire when a whackjob extremist on the other side attacks, but I just can’t see what that would be.  Because it just encourages the whackjobs to attack more, and gives them the results they want: More violence and the end to cease-fires.  And yet that’s exactly what they get.

A Little Annihilation

And so why do I have to pick a side?  Why do I have to support Israel’s right to blow-up everyone that looks at them funny?  To support the right to kill thousands of civilians based upon a very limited attack on Israel, as we saw in Lebanon?  And while they keep building on land that they certainly shouldn’t be building on.  

But I most certainly can’t support the terrorists in their efforts either.  And I don’t.  I don’t want to pick either side.  They both suck.  They are both to blame.  They both have victims and they have both been wronged.  I don’t care.  I don’t want to win.  I just want it to end.  And I think that the sooner people stop trying to defend “their” side and “their” solution, things will get much closer to a real solution.

And that solution?  That Israel and Palestine will learn to be good neighbors who stop trying to take each other’s land.  Yes, I know it’s a little more complicated than that, but this post is already too long for a better explanation.  And in a few decades, everyone will consider this strife to be a piddling joke, next to the “real” problems they’ll be facing.  Just as the Chicken Little neo-cons now consider the Islamofascist threat to totally dwarf that of the good ole’ days of the Cold War; back when the only thing we had to worry about were trifling things like the complete annihilation of humanity and how we wanted our martinis stirred.

And there can be little doubt that, no matter what the conflict is or how dangerous the players involved are, both sides will insist that I have no other option than to follow their command.  And they’ll work as much as possible to make that true; often working harder to limit our options than in ensuring our victory.  Moderates are the common enemy of extremists everywhere, and they will continue to make me pick sides.  And I have no other choice than to resist these efforts and continue to work for a better solution.  But they’ll try, damn them.  And they might just radicalize me yet: The Pissed-Off Moderate.


whig said...

There's always the side of peace. It's just not as telegenic. No bombs bursting in air. No dead bodies. Just happy people doing happy things, most of the time. Once in awhile it's pissed off people telling assholes to stop hurting people, and that gets a little attention, but not enough to actually get either combatant side to stop doing what they are doing.

Anyhow, don't ignore us peaceful types.

whig said...

Doc B, I know you're not ignoring us, you're one of us too. So bless you for that.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I couldn't get a trackback to work, but I wanted to say I was pleased to be able to include this post in the 20th Carnival of the Liberals. Great piece!