Tuesday, December 09, 2003


There was a fascinating exchange the other day at one of Oliver Willis' threads regarding the violent eliminationism that cropped up recently in a letter to the editor at a Texas newspaper -- part of a trend I've discussed here at length.

To his good credit, John Cole expressed his well-earned disgust with the letter. But in response, Misha of the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler (whose own predilection for eliminationist rhetoric has been duly noted) chimed in:
'Cept number 2 is absolutely right. Keep up this pandering to every treasonous twit that chooses to aid and comfort our enemies, and we're going to have a LOT of dead Americans before people wake up and realize that we're at war.

You may think that people encouraging our enemies to continue fighting by showing them that they have an effect is "harmless", John, but you'd be wrong. Dead wrong.

Put it this way: What do you think would've happened if people had turned out in the streets in, say, 1942, demanding that we surrender to Nazi Germany and the Nips? You think that we'd have just coddled them and chastised anybody calling them traitors for "stifling their freedom of speech"?

We're at war. Keep denying it if you must, but it'll only make the awakening to reality all that much more painful, because there IS no "opting out" of this one.

It could not have been more clear that Misha was positively endorsing the use of violence against these alleged "traitors." This brought a quick, sharp response from Oliver Willis. Misha showed up in Willis' comment thread and offered a half-lame defense. Which in turn spurred this response, from someone named JR:
Folks like Misha are all talk. This guy is one of these chickenshits who can rant all they want in front of their computers but couldn't even win a one-on-one in basketball, much less an actual fight. Misha rants about the traitors. Who will he send to take out these traitors? Someone else. He talks about 'not breaking necks' so "we" won't get bored. Who's the "we", asshole? Does he mean that HE will do this? Or will he send someone else to deal with these alleged "traitors"?

Real men -- and women -- who have actually faced battle do not talk about such things in such a cavalier, casual fashion. The expression "war is hell" is not figurative.

Many of us who are against our Iraq boondoggle are not necessarily pacifists on principle. I, for one, will not attempt to simply talk any would-be attacker out of attacking me, only to sit around passively when they begin to attack. Some of us don't like violence, but still realize that, too often, the world is a violent place. If someone breaks into my house, he or she will meet any number of weapons very quickly. While I won't initiate a fight, I won't shy from one either. If someone attacks me on the street, watch out. I will do whatever I can to avoid the fight. But I also won't lose sleep if an attacker starts some shit and gets hurt, or worse, as a result.

Some of us think, however, that this current nonsense in Iraq is, well, nonsense. It made no sense before the war and makes less sense now.

I had folks who fought and died in the Revolutionary War for the freedoms that idiots like Misha want to rob us of. And while that includes Misha's right to speak, some of us take threats of physical violence very seriously. It's a step away from dialogue. It's a step toward chaos. I do not relish this direction. In fact, I fear that the polarized dialogue we hear in the country could lead to some serious problems. However, I also recognize it for what it is. Folks like Misha -- and Derik of that lovely letter that started this thread -- had better understand that, when my New Hampshire kin, buried all over that state, put "Don't Tread On Me" onto their state flag, they weren't just talking about some figurative treading. And their response wasn't, and mine won't, be some figurative response. I don't relish or desire a fight. But you threatened us. I get it.

The Misha's and Derik's and all the others who want to silence folks who have legitimate issues with our foolish course in Iraq are the traitors. They are traitors to the U.S. Consitution, which was instituted to "form a more perfect union." Protestors' freedom of speech deserves defending, figuratively or literally.

So I have this to say to the Misha's of the world: Try it, fuckhead. Just try it. Fuck with me or my folks and you will get hurt. Bad. I won't start this fight. But I will finish it. There will be others with me. Unlike you, we won't start this kind of shit. We will not threaten to strangle you for your speech. But do not confuse our desire for peace with credulity, weakness or cowardice.

That includes you, Misha.

I've been hearing exactly these kinds of sentiments coming from many, many liberals these days in direct response to this kind of threatening talk. Many of the people most likely to say these things are veterans. I can't say I endorse arguments that call for liberals "going to the carpets" in the Culture Wars -- at least not yet. But I can't say that the warnings are unwarranted.

Someone wrote me the other day and asked whether I thought liberals should be arming themselves:
I don't wish to be alarmist, but when the Freepers and Militias decide to act out their Turner-Diaries fantasies, perhaps with a wink and nod from a conservative administration, I don't want them to be the only ones with guns.

Well, I come from an ex-NRA family (Dad was a skilled gunsmith) and have always had a gun or two, but I don't think much about them when it comes to this kind of stuff. (Mine are mostly bird guns anyway.) Among the reasons for owning a gun, civil self-defense is possibly the least well-grounded, except at the most distant and desperate and least likely remove. Certainly the right-wing fetish for guns as a way to fend off the "New World Order" is one of the silliest pro-gun arguments in existence.

Moreover, we really haven't yet hit the point where the threats have moved beyond mere rhetoric. It's been all talk. Like JR, I'm not a reflexive peacenik, but I think the kind of fear suggested by my reader is disproportionate -- for now. If and when actual violence does result, you'll hear me change my tune.

However, the rhetoric is indisputably becoming both violent and eliminationist, which is often a precursor to actual violence (as as I've observed firsthand in local settings, and as we all experienced nationally in Oklahoma City). I think that alone is cause for concern.

But it's still at the stage where I think it's all bluff. As JR suggests, most of the time people like Misha are real-life cowards anyway. If we can nudge good-will, majoritarian conservatives like John Cole and Tacitus and David Brooks to denounce this kind of rhetoric as fervently as they decry the rather more tepid "Bush hatred" (hear anyone calling for Bush's death, guys?), there might be some hope.

On the other hand, I ain't exactly holding my breath.

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