Tuesday, September 2, 2014
THE WAY I SEE IT by Don Polson Red Bluff Daily News 9/02/2014
Attackers devoid of truth, shame
As we resume normal Internet access, and the ability to peruse these pages, there are three items requiring my response. The first is a simple correction to the name of the slain young man in that altercation with police Officer Wilson in Ferguson, MO. His first name was “Michael,” not “Jason.” Absent Internet sources for verification, and with only marginal radio reception, my memory did not serve me well. One of my emails to the editor associated with the column asked for the names to be checked but that didn’t happen. By the time I realized my error, it was too late to even phone a correction in, so the wrong first name appeared for “Michael Brown.” Otherwise, I stand behind all other statements and opinions that I wrote last week. I’ll happily correct an occasional mistake but small-minded, antagonistic critics will have to do better than that to “prove” me wrong on the issues.
While it is often wiser to ignore epithets hurled my way rather than dignify them here, there are some that rise, or rather descend, to a level of offense demanding refutation. Most readers have little or no awareness of the regular issuance of “the North State Voice,” by Cliff Larimer, emailed to recipients. It is often a good, but rather cynical and caustic, read on the numerous topics and news items that come to his attention. While my name turns up occasionally, it is, as I said, not worth dignifying with any sort of response. As I went through literally hundreds of items in my Inbox, his August 29 issue described me thusly: “a Tea-partier with a strong racist bent.”
I’ll put it this way: To call someone a racist is the equivalent of using the “n-word” when referring to African Americans, the way I see it. It is such a despicable, unfair and disingenuous lie that it ought to be legally actionable as defamation or libel. I believe it is used in mostly irresponsible ways to attempt to stifle another’s free expression, and for someone of Mr. Larimer’s journalistic background to stoop that low reveals to any fair-minded person more about his character than mine. I harbor no ill will for any group of people, save those who reveal their own idiocy through foul-minded expressions and prevarications. Moreover, Larimer never once spelled my name properly, using “Poulson” in place of “Polson”; the correct spelling is easily discoverable by simply reading the Daily News or its online equivalent. It’s sad, in my opinion, for someone of his background to resort to name-calling, ad hominem attacks and, well, lies.
Finally, a line of argument that has been hurled my way by one Mr. Hogan for about as long as I have been writing this column (over 9 years), surfaced on this page and I want to provide some perspective. The argument goes like this (in case you missed the letter last week): He offers to pay my way to Iraq so I can do the fighting myself, since I have supported America’s military in past columns. The point is absurd in every respect and, due to his incessant and offensive emails on that and other topics, I have banned him from emailing me, which request he ignores, prompting me to delete his messages unread. He has used the term “sand (n-word)” to describe middle-eastern people as well, which term I prefer not to even read.
It behooves me to point out that he intentionally misquoted what I said when he wrote that I, “as he often does, called for military action in the mid-east.” That I did not do. Anyone can plainly observe what I pointed out: America’s military have remained in every country in which they have fought in order to, as I said, “secure peace in the midst of potential instability. That prevents subsequent chaos and bloodshed requiring going back into a country like Iraq.” Nowhere did I “call for military action,” only that “chaos and bloodshed” might not be stopped without further American efforts. Some would say that we broke it (Iraq) so we own it (the chaos and bloodshed). Remember, President Bush left Obama a relatively peaceful and stable Iraq with, yes, enough troops to keep it that way—not many of them were dying in action by then, either.
The last time I looked we’ve never had an active military leader as President—the Commander in Chief is always a civilian and every time our military is deployed, it is at the direction of a civilian President and a Congress composed of civilians and inactive veterans (mostly). Democrats in Congress insisted on voting a second time for war in Iraq so they could be on record supporting something that Americans, when polled, supported.
I just read recently that a civilian, non-veteran President Obama continues to keep American troops and advisers in Iraq and has deployed Special Forces into harm’s way to assist some of the refugees. He’s happy to take credit for spending tens of millions of dollars to launch air strikes against the Islamic terrorists while he vacations in Martha’s Vineyard; no military assets are being deployed at my direction or encouragement. What disasters befall the people in the Middle East are on Obama’s head and skinny shoulders alone. He’s the one who refused to keep a residual force of 20,000 soldiers in Iraq, which is what military commanders (not 63-year-old, non-veteran pontificators such as myself) were asking for to “secure the peace.”
Monday, September 1, 2014
President Obama doesn't know much about history.
In his therapeutic 2009 Cairo speech, Obama outlined all sorts of Islamic intellectual and technological pedigrees, several of which were undeserved. He exaggerated Muslim contributions to printing and medicine, for example, and was flat-out wrong about the catalysts for the European Renaissance and Enlightenment.
He also believes history follows some predetermined course, as if things always get better on their own. Obama often praises those he pronounces to be on the "right side of history." He also chastises others for being on the "wrong side of history" -- as if evil is vanished and the good thrives on autopilot.
When in 2009 millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest the thuggish theocracy, they wanted immediate U.S. support. Instead, Obama belatedly offered them banalities suggesting that in the end, they would end up "on the right side of history." Iranian reformers may indeed end up there, but it will not be because of some righteous inanimate force of history, or the prognostications of Barack Obama.
Obama often parrots Martin Luther King Jr.'s phrase about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. But King used that metaphor as an incentive to act, not as reassurance that matters will follow an inevitably positive course.
Another of Obama's historical refrains is his frequent sermon about behavior that doesn't belong in the 21st century. At various times he has lectured that the barbarous aggression of Vladimir Putin or ISIS has no place in our century and will "ultimately fail" -- as if we are all now sophisticates of an age that has at last transcended retrograde brutality and savagery.
In Obama's hazy sense of the end of history, things always must get better in the manner that updated models of iPhones and iPads are glitzier than the last. In fact, history is morally cyclical. Even technological progress is ethically neutral. It is a way either to bring more good things to more people or to facilitate evil all that much more quickly and effectively.
In the viciously modern 20th century -- when more lives may have been lost to war than in all prior centuries combined -- some 6 million Jews were put to death through high technology in a way well beyond the savagery of Attila the Hun or Tamerlane. Beheading in the Islamic world is as common in the 21st century as it was in the eighth century -- and as it will probably be in the 22nd. The carnage of the Somme and Dresden trumped anything that the Greeks, Romans, Franks, Turks or Venetians could have imagined.
What explains Obama's confusion?
A lack of knowledge of basic history explains a lot. Obama or his speechwriters have often seemed confused about the liberation of Auschwitz, "Polish death camps" the political history of Texas, or the linguistic relationship between Austria and Germany. Obama reassured us during the Bowe Bergdahl affair that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt all similarly got American prisoners back when their wars ended -- except that none of them were in office when the Revolutionary War, Civil War or World War II officially ended.
Contrary to Obama's assertion, President Rutherford B. Hayes never dismissed the potential of the telephone. Obama once praised the city of Cordoba as part of a proud Islamic tradition of tolerance during the brutal Spanish Inquisition -- forgetting that by the beginning of the Inquisition an almost exclusively Christian Cordoba had few Muslims left.
A Pollyannaish belief in historical predetermination seems to substitute for action. If Obama believes that evil should be absent in the 21st century, or that the arc of the moral universe must always bend toward justice, or that being on the wrong side of history has consequences, then he may think inanimate forces can take care of things as we need merely watch.
In truth, history is messier. Unfortunately, only force will stop seventh-century monsters like ISIS from killing thousands more innocents. Obama may think that reminding Putin that he is now in the 21st century will so embarrass the dictator that he will back off from Ukraine. But the brutish Putin may think that not being labeled a 21st-century civilized sophisticate is a compliment.
In 1935, French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval warned Josef Stalin that the Pope would admonish him to go easy on Catholics -- as if such moral lectures worked in the supposedly civilized 20th century. Stalin quickly disabused Laval of that naiveté. "The Pope?" Stalin asked, "How many divisions has he got?"
There is little evidence that human nature has changed over the centuries, despite massive government efforts to make us think and act nicer. What drives Putin, Boko Haram or ISIS are the same age-old passions, fears and sense of honor that over the centuries also moved Genghis Khan, the Sudanese Mahdists and the Barbary pirates.
Obama's naive belief in predetermined history -- especially when his facts are often wrong -- is a poor substitute for concrete moral action.