Friday, October 01, 2004

Know the Rules

James Lileks has penned his thoughts on the debates and the philosophy that John Kerry seems to live by. I agree, the vision is very striking, but there is a problem.

Here’s the thing. I’d really like to live in John Kerry’s world. It seems like such a rational, sensible place, where handshakes and signatures have the power to change the face of the planet. If only the terrorists lived there as well.

There are two types of thinking that one needs to use in the course of daily life: strategic and tactical. Strategic is what you want, tactical is how you get it. In the daily life of people in the industrialized world, we want to make our lives as pleasant as possible while still remaining civilized, because being civilized and moral is a pre-requisite for most people to be able to live with themselves.

This past weekend I was watching the new DVD release of the original Star Wars trilogy with some friends. (This is not as big of a digression as it seems, bear with me, please) The scene were Luke Skywalker leaves his training on Dagobah to rescue his friends came on. Yoda and the ghost of Obi Wan try to convince Luke that he must harden himself to the plight of his friends and continue the training. Luke, knowing full well it was a trap, went anyway. I, putting words into Luke's mouth, said, "There is no way I could live with myself, Jedi or not, if I let them die." My friend Drew said, "Wouldn't self-hatred lead as quickly to the Dark Side?"

My point being, we in the West value our honor as compassionate enough so that it tempers our actions, that we would count ourselves held by a handshake and a signature. That we would respect the feelings of others enough not to destroy something they value even if the enemy uses it for war (snipers in mosques, etc.).

The problem is that we are facing a foe that embraces cruelty as noble. They capture and behead unarmed workers, they bomb children, and they take war to those who do not fight them. Their goals, whatever they may be, are judged so lofty that they forgive any slight to any other value, be it compassion or mercy.

How far can a person who sins against those ideals be trusted to uphold the honor of a handshake or a signature? Let us ensure that we don't lose sight as they have.

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