Friday, October 15, 2004

The Wrong Side of History

It was refreshing to read Tim Bray's blog this morning. It seems he has finally decided along with other world citizens to make the case for firing George W. Bush. It's about time. A lesson learned by some in the US after VietNam and the crises of race in the 1960s is that one can outlive the war and the crises, but afterwards face a terrible moment of self-realization that one was on the wrong side of history. In the technical debates that many of us here are engaged in day to day, this can be costly in terms of career or marketshare, but in the political debates, this can be costly in terms of real freedoms, and of the respect and safety of the world. It can be the difference between a future for our children here in the US, and there in Canada.

The US is a superpower and it is often arrogant about that. It leads many to believe in an unconsidered way that we can do anything, go anywhere, that our will must and can always prevail, that failure is not only not an option, it is not a possibility. This is the situation today. I can show the extremists the blogs that state clearly how many non-US citizens of the world think about the Bush administration and our conduct since 9/11. They will reply with the unconvincing but covering answer that "Democrats always say that" and "We don't need to approval of the world to defend outselves." Both are true. Both are irrelevant to this issue because the reality brought home to the US in VietNam was that even with superpowers, one cannot always use them to prosecute a war. As Sean Connery's character asks in the remake of "The Untouchables", "What are ya willing to do?" Power based on our nuclear arsenal is almost useless and that is why disarmament and work to stop proliferation became important. A weapon that is unthinkable to use is also useless.

So short of turning the world into a cinder, what are we willing to do? Will we continue to send forces into civil wars where there is little chance that we can prevail, but we can occupy? Will we use these forces to stop Iran from possessing arms that half-a-dozen other countries also possess with Iran knowing that proportional response is still the basis for our defense?

The most hopeful thing I've heard came not from these bloggers but from my doctor and his assistant yesterday after the third debate. They said, yes, we've finally decided to vote for John Kerry. When I asked why, they said simply, "He's smarter."

When it gets down to choosing a leader, one wants not to choose based on some misguided perception of our role in the world or even our relationship to God, but based on the competence and experience of the candidate, not his arrogance. This election is too close to call. If I had to predict based on what I know about typical American electoral behavior, George W. Bush is going to win.

So I thank the efforts of the citizens of the world. I only wish you had reconsidered your positions earlier, spoken louder, and helped to restore some margins of safety. Like it or not, understand it or not, we are in this together. A world where terrorists proliferate is a very unsafe place to be but a world in which superpowers find themselves confronting not only terrorists but their former allies through mistaken leadership that cannot accept the limits of their powers is far far more dangerous.

Being on the wrong side of history is bad. Not knowing it or failing to learn from it is worse, not only for your pride, but your future. We are in this together.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Many thanks to Tim Bray for pointing out this blog written by someone who actually served in VietNam and is brave enough now to talk about his own realities. This quote makes the point:

"It's hard to disregard the difficult and evil things we do, so I'm not surprised that so many vets think John Kerry betrayed them by speaking against the war in 1971. But many of them are alive today because of the pressure he exerted on the US Government, at the age of 27, to quit Vietnam, well respected by the kinds of Senators we can barely imagine today."

I'd like to say that the election is partisan. We're waaaay past that. With the announcement by the Sinclair Corporation that it will force its sixty-two affiliates to broadcast commercial free propaganda a week before the election in prime time, it's clear to see that here is a word for the right-wing Republican extremists: Evil..

Monday, October 11, 2004


Kamala danced in the candlelight.
Who did not love her perfect form?
As the tintara droned while the khajiri counted tal
Her shadow twisted among the marble columns
Brushing their eyes with secret delight
While her songs of sringara and viraha
Summoned nava rasas like servants of a raj.
Each man thought she danced only for him
Each man kept his blade close at hand
To protect the jewels he brought for Kamala.

A shanai cries like a child alone in a dark room
Caressing a flower to her face.
Her body becoming water and life,
Kamala prayed before the nataraja
That the Nameless One, face covered in ash,
Might make for her bursting heart, the sharanam.

"Shayad. Shayad. Shayad."
Each one spoke in turn to her uplifted gaze.
They touched her lips tenderly
Cupping the curves of her breast
Pushing the falling hair from her begging eyes
Then passed the seedcake to the one that followed.

Calloused feet fall hard in the temple.
Tears will not fall from silent eyes
Spotted like an aging face unveiled to the summer sun
Kamala does not sing beneath the parasol.
Dust gathers on the mirror as patjhar become sardii.
Yet in the unforgiving moonlight of Holi
Among the crumbling marble columns of an empty house
Old men place flowers where the devadasi who became sharii sleeps.

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