Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Personal is Political--"Cutting Our Losses"

I've noticed a trend in my writing tone lately. It's harsh and I don't like it. Sarcasm is a form of anger and I've been angry.

It started with the mid-term elections. You might think that the Republican loss has me peeved, but it really doesn't. In fact, I kind-of expected it and they more than kind-of deserved it, so I became resigned to the situation fairly quickly. In fact, my political perspective has been one of watchful curiosity. The Democrats promised many good things pre-election. I was hopeful that they'd actually follow through. Clean up the culture of corruption? I'm all for that! Demonstrate fiscal restraint? That sounds great, too! More government transparency? It's about dang time! The end of pork? I can't wait! Send troops over to Iraq to "get the job done"? We should have done that from the beginning!

So, you could say, that while I had hoped the Republicans would seize their historic opportunities over the last years that they controlled both the legislative and executive branches of the government, since they didn't and since the Democrats made typically Republican promises, I figured I'd give them a shot. Why not? It was better than sulking.

Are you laughing at me yet? My personality assessments say that I'm a preternatural optimist who can turn to despondency with "a high risk of suicide" when greatly disappointed. Well, my watchful curiosity wasn't all that optimistic, so don't fear for my life. I'm not surprised the Democrats are lying liars as a certain Leftist likes to say, I just hoped they wouldn't be or that they would choose differently this time. Alas, no.

What have I been angry about, if the un-kept promises fail to surprise or even were to be expected? It's a cultural thing, I've decided. My anger is pervasive and aimed at society at large. We are a nation of quitters and it disturbs me to my core. I'll get to this in a minute.

The Democrats are nothing if not beasts of expedience. If they are scurrying around like berated help, it's because the Master Is Not Happy and the Master is the American People. And we, according to focus groups and opinion polls and every other measure the Dems take confirms this notion. To keep Master happy, and more importantly to keep their jobs in the next two years, the Democrats will be craven creatures of cowardice even if that doesn't serve America in the long run. Serving themselves is ultimately their specialty and they are very good at it.

Americans want Iraq over. I've disputed this assertion, myself, saying that just because 60% of Americans are unhappy with the President and the War, doesn't mean they want out now. People like me could want a change in strategy--to become more aggressive and win the thing once and for all. I could be one of the 60% unhappy people, right? Well, this poll indicates that I'm dreaming. Only 35% of Americans think like me. The rest want it over.

I can muse about why this is so:

  • The MSM has succeeded in painting Iraq as a losing proposition. True.
  • The Democrats want Bush to fail more than they want America to win. True.
  • The President hasn't been an effective enough communicator about the rightness of the War on Terror front in Iraq. True.
  • The strategy and rules of engagement in Iraq have hamstrung the military's effort thus making the war look like a stalemate. True.
But none of these reasons explain why Americans would be so willing to leave a populace to their own devices where they face certain extermination. None of these reasons explain how a people who witnessed the horror of Vietnam's abandonment could so easily do the same thing again in Iraq. None of these reasons explain why the messages the MSM, the Democrats send resonate so powerfully.

When did America accept "losing" as a method and message?

As others have rightly noted, the current attitude of Americans, pundits and the Left would have been unthinkable fifty years ago. Losing was simply unacceptable. If America chose a fight, she fought to the death or to victory and often to both.

I think our language is telling. One favorite line "cutting our losses" gets used all the time these days, not just about Iraq. I'll give you a minute. Can you think of how this is used most?

That's right. Divorce.

Not so long ago, divorce equaled shame. It was a moral failure, an acceptance of defeat. Quitting. Look at this chart. See any trends? Here's some explanation. It's both better and worse than it looks.

As the overall divorce rates shot up from the early 1960's through the late 1970's, Dr. Martin found, the divorce rate for women with college degrees and those without moved in lockstep, with graduates consistently having about one-third to one-fourth the divorce rate of nongraduates.

But since 1980, the two groups have taken diverging paths. Women without undergraduate degrees have remained at about the same rate, their risk of divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage hovering at around 35 percent. But for college graduates, the divorce rate in the first 10 years of marriage has plummeted to just over 16 percent of those married between 1990 and 1994 from 27 percent of those married between 1975 and 1979.

About 60 percent of all marriages that eventually end in divorce do so within the first 10 years, researchers say. If that continues to hold true, the divorce rate for college graduates who married between 1990 and 1994 would end up at only about 25 percent, compared to well over 50 percent for those without a four-year college degree.


Where is another place in society where people literally "cut their losses"? Imagine a life ruined, a future interrupted permanently, the difficulty of two lives, not just one ruined?

Abortion.

There was a time when abortion was illegal. When a woman and man were forced into "shotgun" commitments and kept them--lest they meet the wrong end of said shotgun. Commitment was sewn into the fabric of society. When contraception and then abortion became a norm, the view of sex, child-bearing and commitment irrevocably changed. Look at this chart. Again, see the trends?

In addition to those who are "cutting their losses" there are those too timid or cynical to even try to commit to begin with. Instead of marriage: cohabitation. This is a euphemism for uncommitted. The New York Times:

The census survey estimated that 5.2 million couples, a little more than 5 percent of households, were unmarried opposite-sex partners. An additional 413,000 households were male couples, and 363,000 were female couples. In all, nearly one in 10 couples were unmarried. (More than one in four households consisted of people living alone).

And the numbers of unmarried couples are growing. Since 2000, those identifying themselves as unmarried opposite-sex couples rose by about 14 percent, male couples by 24 percent and female couples by 12 percent.

A telling statement:
A number of couples interviewed agreed that cohabiting was akin to taking a test drive and, given the scarcity of affordable apartments and homes, also a matter of convenience.
A "test drive" and "convenience" define these relationships.

How much of Americans' politics is driven by the personal? Have Americans "tried out" the War on Terror, found it "inconvenient" and have decided to "cut their losses"? I think so. And why not? When America wed itself to fighting evil, the marriage was "forced".

9/11 struck us, and though we shouldn't have been, we were surprised and shocked. In the emotion, the first blush of the moment, Americans were swept away. Rage and fear and a momentary existential clarity ruled.

The Democrats, always sensitive to the fickle feelings meter, forgot their Bush animus for a moment to fight a common enemy. Almost immediately after, some woke up and like a trapped wolf tried to gnaw their limb free. The War on Terror would be a really great one night stand for most Democrats. Intense, exciting, and definitely feel-good for the moment.

Americans, most anyway, let the relationship take it's course for a while, but when the nasty underbelly of the War inevitably showed itself, they decided that the War should be over. It's complicated. It's difficult. Bad things happen. People make big mistakes. It's sometimes embarrassing when talking to friends--especially sophisticated overseas friends.

And the military feels like a jilted lover. Doing its best. Confused and just wanting love and wondering what it was all for. (via Instapundit)


I do believe the personal is political. I believe that as a country, enough of us have lost our ability to commit and/or have as first instinct to bail when times get tough to cause a societal trend of discomfort with committed military actions. I believe that too many of our people have had it too easy for too long. I believe that Americans think commitment is for suckers. When times get tough, the tough don't get going, they cut their losses.

Getting out is a sign of sophistication, of staying "true to self", of some idealistic pursuit of perfection. Divorce, abortion, living together leave empty souls, disenchantment and disillusionment, but in an attempt to justify the carnage that these choices cost, people dress the failure up in platitudes. My life is so much better now. Lives have been saved. Imagine how bad it would be if we'd have stayed together? We were so unhappy. There just wasn't any love anymore. We're happier now.

"Getting out was hard, but it was the right thing to do." If you tell yourself a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. The Western world is awash in regret and denial and delusion.

Cutting our losses in Iraq will be just be the latest example of the political reflecting the personal. It will cause great harm, not only to Iraq, but to the very soul of our nation. Americans, so used to rationalizing their personal failures, will deny and delude themselves about their political failures. And American, like her families, will be in worse shape than before.

And that's why I'm angry. Well, writing about it helps. And it is comforting to know that there is a Master of all and even the hubris of the American populace can't stand in the way of His grand plan. So I'm letting this go. I'll try to adopt a kinder tone, too.

5 comments:

carol said...

My parents were very moderne so I grew up in a broken home corca 1953, long before it became fashionable. My mother was continually reciting those platitudes to justify the divorce. She told me also that I was much better off not being around parents who were unhappy staying together. Oh.

Anyway, it's probably no coincidence that although she like most people supported the Vietnam war at the beginning, my mother began complaining that she was tired of hearing about it so much on TV. So, the war was like a TV show everybody got tired of. So nowadays we have to always worry about ratings too when we go to war.

Antoinette said...

Dr. M.

I have been rather testy myself since the summer when Ohlmert led Israel into it's first military defeat, ably abbeded by that naif Condoleeza Rice. I am used to America losing a war, that happened when I was a young girl. But Israel losing a war seemed to me a turning point in history, and not for the better.

The stakes are too high right now fo the political gamesmanship that goes on and too high for a nation of quitters. Yes He has a plan, but if He can't count on us, we might not be a part of it.

Dr. Melissa said...

Antoinette,

My thoughts exactly. When I write "I'm letting this go", I mean I'm letting my worry and anger about it go. I'll still do everything within my power to encourage this fight and continue keyboard-warring!

M. Simon said...

Life has a way of correcting imbalances.

If we stay or quit we will be forced to fight.

The only question is the cost.

It is 1936 and we can do it on the cheap.

We wait til '39 and the price gets much higher.

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