Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Advice On How To Make An Omelet

I promise to give you some great advice on how to make an omelet if you’ll just bear with me. It’s advice I picked up from a Russian prince. But first I’m going to take a detour back to the question of the Jim Webb’s “Born Fighting” slogan. Yes, I must.

An insightful reader wrote a comment on yesterday’s post stating that the slogan was ambiguous because she didn’t know whether Webb meant the bad kind of fighting – supporting the military, the neocons, the wars, etc. – or the good kind of fighting – sticking up for the underdog, the oppressed.

Before I answer with my thoughts on fighting, let me give you my bona fides. I am a former anti-war activist. A peace and love hippie from the sixties. Ok, in my case really from the seventies. But most of what we think of as the sixties happened in 1968 and after. And the anti-war movement really hit its peak in the early seventies. Woodstock, arguably the most iconic event of the sixties, took place August 17, 18 and 19, 1969.

In 1968, when I was 14, my boyfriend and I walked into a police station in Suffern, NY, a small suburban hamlet about 40 miles from New York City and handed a bemused police sergeant a daffodil. Daffodils, for some reason that I don’t recall anymore, became the universal hippie symbol for peace and love.

The cops didn’t know quite what to do with either the daffodils or us. Neither did the passersby on the street to whom we handed out flowers on a chilly early spring evening. It was cold enough that I was wearing a long winter coat over my ankle length granny dress. My hair was long and straight and parted down the middle. My 15 year-old boyfriend wore his hair almost exactly like mine, long and parted in the middle. He was attired in faded, ripped jeans and a denim work shirt. We were wearing the hippie uniforms of 1968.

But I have one more solid credential of my former hippiedom that’s even harder to challenge than my actions and appearance that night in March.

When I was 15, I went to the Woodstock Music and Art Festival in Bethel, New York. Actually, I hitchhiked to it. By the time I arrived, the fence at the entrance had been knocked down and in the ensuing chaos nobody bothered to collect our tickets. So I have all three days’ tickets in perfect, mint condition. I have been told they are worth a lot of money to collectors of antique memorabilia. That may be true, but I’ll never sell them. To me, they are priceless.

As I got older, I became more politicized and radicalized. I joined anti-war groups, including the Student Mobilization Committee. I lived a few towns away from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, one of the oldest pacifist organizations in America, located in Nyack-on-the-Hudson, New York.

I had lots of friends who worked there, including a few who sat out the war as conscientious objectors. FOR was a religious organization so its members were able to get the coveted CO status. That wasn’t easy because draft boards were very suspicious of draft dodgers and didn’t hand out conscientious objector exemptions to just anybody. But FOR’s credentials as a legitimate religious, pacifist organization were impeccable.

But I never joined FOR although I admired them greatly. I still do. But I’m not a pacifist. There are a lot of wars I’m still against. But a few that I thought were necessary too.

And I think that fighting is appropriate. But then I went from being an almost pacifist to a self-styled revolutionary while I was still in my teens. Of course, by the time I was in my 20s, I actually gave up romanticized fantasies of me and Che in the jungles. Instead, I became a reform Democrat and I never regretted it.

You see, I think that whenever possible peaceful change is always better than using violent means. And I believed then, and still do today, that America is a democracy. That means we have the power to change things and make a difference through the ballot box. And one thing that living through the Watergate era proved to me was that we are also still a nation of laws. Even those who hold the highest office who would subvert our Constitution for their own gain will get caught and punished.

I still have faith in America.

And I have great faith in the need to wage peaceful fights, but fights nonetheless. The voting booth and the ballot box, the strike and the picket line, the sit in and peaceful civil disobedience are all part of the arsenal of waging a fight for social justice in a democracy.

But so is the right to pick up a gun to defend one’s family and property. Rosa Parks recounted her memories of growing up watching the Ku Klux Klan march down the streets of her neighborhood in Alabama. She also remembered seeing all the black men standing on their porches, clutching their hunting rifles, as they watched the bigots march by.

And Mother Jones wasn’t just some sweet old lady who organized overworked children in the coalmines. She once pummeled a man nearly to death with her heavy boots when he broke into her home. Although the authorities arrested her and wanted to bring her to trial, the charges of attempted murder against her were dropped when the victim was identified as an ally of a prominent businessman with whom Mother Jones and her union were involved in a labor dispute.

There is only one kind of fighting. What distinguishes a moral and ethical fight from one that is an immoral abuse of violence is what it is you are fighting for. Without a fight, and often a bloody fight, many of the gains that were made by the working class, by blacks and by women would not have occurred.

Oh, and the advice on making an omelet. It comes from Mikhail Bakunin, a 19th Century Russian prince who was also a notorious anarchist. First you’ve got to break the egg.


TCO said...

It's hard to take Democrats as "serious on defense" when we know that lurking insider there are the Che-romanticizers.

Mosquito said...

As far as your point about "serious on defense." It's really difficult to take the Chickenhawks--Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld--as competent defenders with the incompetency and ineptness they show time and again. They don't listen to their intelligence and military experts since they have had their eyes on the prize all along....High gas prices and no bid contracts so that their Big Oil and war profiteers (Cheney's Haliburton and KBR) can feed at the trough.

As far as "foreign policy" and defense strategy....The world is not Black and White as much as some wish it would be....Therefore no one is "all good' or "all evil."

That isn't reality.I prefer to live in the real world rather than the Bush World. I prefer to build bridges with others rather than blowing them up.

(Note: Blowing up a bridge may sometimes be necessary but it should not be an easy first option.)

Better to have mutual understanding whenever possible than mutual hatreds.

But Bush hasn't even learned the first lesson that many mother's teach their four year old boys. You have to "talk" with folks you have problems with and learn to work them out.


TCO said...

I served during the Reagan administration and the Cold War. I think a lot of the electorate still remembers the Carter administration, the unilateral disarmament advocates, and then the changes that came in with Reagan. Also remember the Democrats voting overwhelmingly against Gulf War 1. I agree that Democrats have moved more right on defense since 1992. But, if there are still communist sympathizers in there...well...the majority doesn't want/trust that.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...


Oh give me a break! I thought I made it clear in the post that I was a young teenager at the time – 14 or 15 years old when I romanticized Che. Oh, I get it; some conservatives don’t actually read carefully, they just react to their preconceived stereotypes.

I am a completely different person at 52 than I was at 15. Of course, that might open me to the charge that I flip-flopped. I, of course, would call that growth. C.S. Lewis, by the way, was a rather arrogant atheist in his teens. He grew up to be one of the most effective defenders of the Christian faith, whose words are still quoted over 45 years after his death. Obviously, though, he was a flip flopper too.

As for your not taking me seriously on national defense, I would caution you to take me very seriously because I am deadly earnest about that topic.

Right now my husband is in transit from a conference in South Africa and is caught up in the mess at the airports in Europe. I am grateful that Scotland Yard uncovered the terrorist plot before anybody was blown up, especially him.

I also was in Washington, DC in a federal building near the White House on September 11th. I was caught up in that chaos as we all scrambled to evacuate DC that day. It took me three hours. And I have relatives who live in lower Manhattan who breathed in the fumes of the burning World Trade Center for weeks and still wonder how it might have affected their long-term health.

If you’ve read any of my posts on the subject – and admittedly I do stick more to economic and domestic issues – you would realize that I am no knee jerk dove. My opposition to the war in Iraq is based more on the fact that they were the wrong target. I object to incompetence not defending oneself.

Iraq was a war of choice that was not necessary for our national security and it misdirected our attention and resources from the real threats and dangers to our national security. While we are conducting a show trial of Saddam Hussein (who is a truly evil man, by the way) the real perpetrator of 9/11 and the exporter of most of the international Islamist terrorism, Osama bin Laden, slipped through our grasp in Afghanistan and continues to roam the wild tribal lands of our so-called ally Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban, which was in cahoots with al Qaeda, is mounting a comeback in Afghanistan. We should have concentrated our efforts on defeating them, not abandoning Afghanistan and letting them mount a resurgence.

And our lack of a coherent diplomatic or military strategy has left us truly ineffective in the latest Middle Eastern conflagration between Israel and Lebanon. We’ve squandered our resources in Iraq and now can’t assert ourselves with Iran, which is a far bigger threat to international security than Iraq ever was. If you want to find weapons of mass destruction, just give Iran a few more years and you’ll finally find them there. And most Middle Eastern experts believe that Iran encouraged its proxy Hizbollah to attack Israel as a diversionary tactic so that they would not have to deal with international censure of their nuclear program.

So you see, it’s hard for me to take Republicans seriously on national defense when they’ve botched up so much strategy and have made our world so much weaker. And they don’t even have the excuse of being a dumb 15-year-old kid.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Also, tco, I am obviously not a communist sympathizer. In fact, the only people I know who still have relations with real, practicing communists are American businessmen who have commercial interests in Communist China, and of course our government, which gave those communists most favored trade status. I actually try not to buy Chinese goods because their communist government violates human, civil and religious rights among other transgressions.

I may be an economic populist but I am far from a communist. In fact red baiting is a silly, outdated canard at this point. The Cold War is over. So, please feel free to come in out of the Cold any time you care to join the 21st Century.

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