Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I Love Ben Stein, But He Scares Me

Since getting a subscription years ago to the American Spectator with Ben Stein's regular column and then watching (only a few times, unfortunately) the hilarious spectacle of various smarty-pants trying to "Win Ben Stein's Money", I've loved Ben Stein. Oh, and don't forget his turn as the sleep-inducing econ/civics teacher at Ferris Buellar's High School.

A few years ago, though, Stein got serious. He gave up acting and frivolity in the wake of 9/11 and he's been on a mission to wake up America, to serve America ever since. His recent New York Times op-ed says it all. (I had read and forgotten to post on it--thanks Anchoress for the reminder.)

I turned it down and became a poverty lawyer instead. But what I did not know about John Weinberg was that even though he was rich and well connected, as a young man he joined the Marines to fight the Japanese in the Pacific, then fought again in Korea. That was America’s ruling class then. The scions of the rich went off to fight.

My longtime pal and idol, Peter M. Flanigan — a former high honcho of Dillon, Read; a high aide to my ex-boss, Richard M. Nixon; and heir to a large brewing fortune — was once a naval aviator. My father left a comfortable job in Washington to join the Navy. The father of my pal Phil DeMuth left a successful career to be an Army Air Corps pilot, flying death-defying missions over Burma. Congressmen resigned to serve. Senators resigned to serve. Professional athletes resigned to serve in the uniform.

Now, who’s fighting for us in the fight of our lives? Brave, idealistic Southerners. Hispanics from New Mexico. Rural men and women from upstate New York. Small-town boys and girls from the Midwest. Do the children of the powers on Wall Street resign to go off and fight? Fight for the system that made them rich? Fight for the way of life that made them princes? Surely, you jest.

And that’s the essence. The other side considers it a privilege to fight and die for its beliefs. Those on the other side cannot wait to line up to blow themselves up for their vision of heaven. On our side, it’s: “Let the other poor sap do it. I’ve got to make money.” How can we fight this fight with the brightest and best educated rushing off and working night and day to do private equity deals and derivatives trading? How can we fight this fight with the ruling class absent by its own sweet leave?

One problem I've had with this war is that average Americans have essentially been asked to do nothing, to sacrifice nothing. And then, when oil prices go up, and home heating oil inevitably goes higher because, hey, winter still comes inspite of our notions of omnipotence, Americans boo-hoo like babies deprived of their bottles. Stein's derision continues:

I keep thinking, again, that if Israel, with its back to the sea, cannot muster the will to fight in a big way, then the fat, faraway U.S.A. will never be able to do it. I keep saying this and it terrifies me.

We’re in a war with people who want to kill us all and wreck our civilization. They’re taking it very seriously. We, on the other hand, are worrying about leveraged buyouts and special dividends and how much junk debt the newly formed private entity can support before we sell it to the ultimate sucker, the public shareholder.

We’re worrying whether Hollywood will forgive Mel Gibson and what the next move is for big homes in East Hampton. We’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The terrorists are the iceberg.

You know for all the discussions with Progressives I've had about terrorism, the topic always inexplicably turns to Bush. It turns to his "uncouthness", his "good old boy" attitude, his brusqueness, his "lack of diplomacy." WHO GIVES A SHIT? Such wasted, infantile energy!

With or without Bush 9/11 happened, would have happened. Remember, America was talking about Social Security and No Child Left Behind? Remember that? Bush was not fixated on the Middle East (he took heat for that, too, remember? the "unserious" former Frat Boy, so privilaged, blah, blah, blah). Tough shit, everyone, he was and is the President and NO, Al Gore or John Kerry are not magic men with capabilities to sway recalcitrant supposed allies to our side. France, Germany and the other depressed socialist countries would still have had huge Muslim populations, they would still have had their money in the UN cookie jar via good old Saddam Hussein, their motivation to make nice would still have been non-existant if every Democrat's orgasm FDR had been in office. So can we just let the pettiness go and face the facts at hand?

No we can't. No we won't. We don't want to see such an enemy blinded by hate. That these kinds of sub-humans still exist after the "last" Great War mystifies and terrifies. No one wants to be in a fight for civilization. Again. No one. Not me. Not anyone. And yet, here we are. Facing Islamofascists intent on throwing the whole world back to the dark ages so we can all rot together because they are jealous, angry and prideful. You know what? I don't give a shit about their "motivation" anymore. It's irrelevant. You can't negotiate with a psychopath. Why would it be easier with a whole nation of psychopaths? How about a whole religion, ONE BILLION strong, of psychopaths. Please, spare me the rhetoric about the "moderates"--they are too cowed by the extremists to say anything and for good reason. That only proves the point, doesn't it? If you are blackmailed into silence you're as good as an accomplice. Do we hold the wife or husband who sits by to less account, when the child is beat to death in front of him or her? No, it is called accesory to a crime. And that is what we all are if we don't get off our fat, blind asses and behave like people who have something to lose. And we have something to lose. Or, at least I do.

WHAT stands between us and the iceberg are the miraculously brave men and women of the armed forces. They’re heroes and saints as far as I’m concerned. But can they do it without the rest of us? Can they do it while we’re all working on our tans and trying to have our taxes lowered again? How can we leave them out there all alone to die for us when we treat the war to save civilization as something we can just wish away?

If we don’t win this war against the terrorists, there’s not going to be business as usual ever again. If the terrorists get to their goal, there’s not going to be a stock exchange or hedge funds or Bain Capital or the Carlyle Group or even Goldman Sachs. If the terrorists get their way — and so far, they’re getting their way — there’s not going to be business, period.

Everyone with the really big money at stake is — again — bidding for the best deck chairs as the iceberg looms, not so far, any longer, under the surface, and very large and very cold and very solid.

The Anchoress blames everyone for the moral obtuseness of Americans and starts with Bush:
Fault President Bush in both a negative and positive sense: In a positive sense, it can be said that he has “done his job too well, has made us feel too safe,” so much so that we’ve grown terribly complacent and lost sight of the enemy. Tax cuts, low unemployment, the dow is at 11,000, everyone is buying new houses, new cars…no, it sure doesn’t FEEL like a war. For all that the opposition insists that “Bush has made us less safe,” the fact is, we’re feeling pretty darn safe…probably too safe.
Then she starts in on us. Uh oh, another rhetorical spanking:
Fault the politicians who - as did Harry Reid when the Sky Terror story broke - too quickly move beyond the seriousness of a matter to indulge their taste for political exploitation. They’ve made the threat of Islamofascist terrorism seem like a simple game of oneupsmanship that can be won on rhetoric, and not much else.

Fault the press who have all but embargo’ed 9/11 footage and rarely use the words “terrorist attack.”

Fault the pundits and bloggers (on both sides) who - rather than really talk about the threats to us - have been content to simply play “us good, other side bad” politics.

We seem to forget that what we are dealing with has never had to be dealt with before. We just go on vacation and grumble that we wish things would go back to the way they were, but they never will, and this particular status quo cannot be maintained forever. Terrorists are going to win or we are, it’s that simple. Something’s got to give.

I don’t know the answer. Clearly Bush didn’t do everything right. But no one else did, either. Bush and Blair have been unshakeable in their convictions - they’ve told us for 5 years that this war is far from over - and for it they are hated. The children of the military-hating baby-boomers have not been raised to love “God and Country” but to love first themselves. The whole 1980’s and 1990’s were taken up with “love yourself, do for yourself, take care of YOU” thinking…that doesn’t translate into “I think I’ll join the service.” [Emphasis added, this paragraph only. -Ed.]

I would be happy if eveyone in our country could agree that we're even at war, but that is too much to ask. We're a country of appeasers, hoping, wishing, negotiating and ignoring. We are easy on ourselves and we're easy on everyone else. We can't even come to the point psychologically to acknowledge that evil exists. How can we face the fact that what we're facing is evil? We're all so politically correct that Islamofascists are just "different than us" and they "have their reason" and it "all makes sense in context" and we need to "see it from their point of view."

Insanity. It will take direct, horrifying experience for our side to name it. You can't act on it, if you can't even name it. There has to be language to define the problem. Why would the elites serve? They are blind to the fact a problem even exists.


Chalmers said...

wow, what a post. I disagree with much, but still a colossal post.

Antoinette said...

Ben Stein is wrong on one point. our "best and brightest" are not in the Ivy League. Our best and brightest are in Iraq and Afghanistan defending our country. God Bless Them.

Chalmers said...

while the statement that our "best and brightest are in Iraq," feels good to say, I would protest the accuracy. While some of those serving in the military probably have higher than normal measurable intelligence, the majority are probably average.

That said, the Ivy League is not a guarantee for intelligence either... after all, look our very own "decider," W. :-) That was for you sis! :)

Dr. Melissa said...

I.Q. makes a big difference in life outcomes. Moral I.Q. matters even more. I know some fairly simple people willing to make some very sophisticated choices because they know they are the right choices.

She said the "best and the brightest"--I don't assume that bright means high I.Q. She is using hyperbole for affect, surely the high I.Q. readers here can comprehend that.

Dlanorrenrag said...

It will take direct, horrifying experience for our side to name it.

Wrong. IQ is far less important than hard, emotional discipline.

We have been so conditioned and marinated with soft, useful idiots that no mere holocaust can shake us from attributing blame to our own forbears and government (as just deserts for an "evil" country).

Cassandra's will not shake sheep from blaming any holocaust, regardless of horror, as an inside job. That will require some Patrick Henry's!