I am moving increasingly to the position that pundits’ refusals to get on board the train of let’s get the hell out of Iraq has less to do with their desire for us to actually win than it has to do with their desire not to be wrong, continuing on the theme of who’s the fairest of them all which I tried to address yesterday.
I really don’t think it’s about anything other than being shown up. We’re talking about people who for years have worshipped a particularly belligerent form of campaigning and governing on the part of the modern Republican Party, in which whoever says the meanest thing is the most fascinating person of the moment, and backing down is for pussies, and apologies are things girls do.
Combine this with a lethal distaste for taking anything so seriously as to get upset about it and what you have is, well, a sociopath, actually, but what you really have is the uncomfortable inability to admit humanity and engagement with the world around you, to admit consequences, to admit that, as much as you like to pretend you’re above the fray in your columnist’s or commentator’s tower, you also want to have the power to move people, and in order not to be terrified of that power you have to believe you’re right. Not just right, but also in the right, and on the side of the angels, and doing noble work. God’s work, as stupid Timmeh would say.
So you’ve got this idea of yourself, and you’ve been walking around for years with it, taunting your liberal sister-in-law at the dinner table and mocking your younger brother over beer. You’ve been calling everybody out, everybody who disagrees with you, as dumb or distasteful or both. And not only is that what you do, it’s who you are. It’s your personality. Your moments of jackassery, you’ve made them your whole identity, and more than that, you’ve made sure everybody knows all about it. You’ve worn your dickheadedness on your sleeve.
SO NOW WHAT?
You can’t just back down, is the thing. You’re not just admitting to a mistake at work. You’re admitting to a mistake in who you’ve made yourself to be. That’s huge. That’s a brick-wall moment not a lot of people actually manage to face down. Half of the world’s assholes are the way they are because they can’t pick their own stories apart and see how much of what they think is about their own needs and how much really is about what happened to and by and around them. Half the world’s misery is not figuring out what is necessity and what is self-aggrandizement, and don’t think I’m letting myself off the hook here, I’ve had to do this recently and it’s fucking hard.
It’s not that I don’t have a certain amount of sympathy. Were this just about your theories about the latest Harry Potter book, or Greek food, or something, I would sympathize with how rough it is to say you’re sorry, and maybe it’s just better you never eat in that restaurant anymore or talk to your sister. I get running away from conflict. I get not putting yourself in situations where you have to be the bigger person, because it sucks. There’s a reason they call this shit character-building in self-help books.
But what these people are basically asking is that other people die so that they don’t have to say oops. So that they don’t have to do that which is psychically uncomfortable but physically peril-less, in reconsidering their worldview. So they don’t have to look at their sister-in-laws across the dinner table and say, “You remember that time I called you a commie fuckwit who probably wanted the terrorists to win? I was wrong about that.”
They’re asking other people to die in order that they not face up to that.
And that’s repellent.