Next Time The Fire

I usually do a nine eleven post. It has now become fashionable to apologize at the beginning of these. I have no intention of doing so. No, I have not gotten over it. No, I don’t think I ever will.

Nine eleven was not a sudden, cataclysmic devastation of the sort that comes out of nowhere, tears your life apart and leaves you to rebuilt and get over it. Nine eleven was a sudden cataclysmic devastation that came out of somewhere and left us to deal with rebuilding and with questions, moral and emotional on how to prevent its like again within the limits of the future.

The difference between the two should be obvious but it doesn’t appear to be. Take Hurricane Hugo for instance. It marched from the coast, up the beach roads to Charlotte NC where I lived at the time. It changed our landscape within a night. We were fortunate in that our little cul-de-sac neighborhood lost power only for the 11 hours. But people lost houses, people lost lives, and people lost livelihoods. One of our favorite antique markets was made into kindling, destroying the livelihood of the family who owned it. It was, at the time, a sudden, devastating tragedy. Afterwards, we got T-shirts that said “I survived Hurricane Hugo.” I don’t know what eventually happened to those, because, you see, we got over it within a year or so. What else was there to do? It was the weather. You can’t say “this will never happen again.” Or rather, you can, but who will listen? The weather will do what the weather will do.

Nine eleven is a different kind of tragedy. It was brought about by men – by the will of men, the brain of men, the malice of men. Nine eleven was preventable – if we’d known it was probable (our security can’t prevent “possible” – we’d have to have the whole country in uniform for that.) More importantly, further nine elevens should be preventable by men and women of good will and with a bright enough brain.

Have they been prevented? Oh, please. Of course, yes, we’ve prevented a few of them mostly through intelligence work, and a few more by our determination to be a mob, not a flock. This is good. But mostly, mostly, we’ve hamstrung ourselves with stupid kabuki travel theater, have turned on each other over what brought nine eleven on and have accused each other of unspeakable (and unimaginable) nonsense.

The one thing that Hugo and 9/11 had in common, the one thing that made me fall in love with America and continue to be madly in love with it (I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could) was the… empowerment of the individual. Barely had the wind stopped blowing, after Hugo, and our neighbors were gathering, helping each other cut down trees that threatened to fall, helping each other patch roofs and, later on, when our electricity came back and other people’s hadn’t and didn’t for days, my husband and I spent the next several days making ice and taking it in coolers to our friends, and cooking massive hot dinners, where friends could come and have a meal. Our showers too were used around the clock. Everyone else had similar experiences. If you’re shrugging and going “of course” pat yourself on the back. You’re an American. In most countries, you’d stand around waiting for the “qualified aid personnel” and then complain if the aid was late, instead of taking your hand to what was there and doing what you could.

Nine eleven – well, I know people who crossed the country to help search the ruins, and I think ALL of us wanted to. Instead, we did what we could, even if it was just becoming a check in point for friends in NYC or donating blood.

But the different nature of the disasters revealed itself almost immediately. No one in Charlotte stood around scratching their heads and saying “Why did Hugo attack us?” But almost immediately there were people beating their chests over 9/11 and going “it’s our fault. It’s all our fault.”

Again, this is a very American thing to think – almost endearing in its Americanism. It is the other side of “what can I do” it’s “what can I stop doing so it won’t happen again.” Americans – and I’m talking here of you who grew up here – also tend to overestimate how much influence their actions had in the world and what they could do or not do about it. In American Culture, in Portugal, I was required to read a book, written by an American, about how everything that went wrong with modernity was America’s fault. This book, also used in our universities in the US, is hilarious in its naivite and inverse-hubris. Children, until 1913 or so, the US was a rural backwater, of little importance to the fulcrum of the world, which at the time was located, firmly in the middle of Europe.

It’s just that we’ve grown so powerful and so rich, and those around us have failed to catch up, and we feel – like Hollywood starlets elevated to riches we’re not sure we deserve – that we’re both the center of the universe and that we must have done something wrong. Relax. We haven’t. Not any more than any other country (more on this later) and in fact, considerably less than most countries of any importance. And stop flapping lips in an idiotic manner. The rest of the world would like nothing better than believing we’re to blame for everything, and thereby exonerating themselves. This, you see, makes it easier for them to do nothing about their problems. It makes it easier for them to take our subsidies and not feel an ounce of gratitude. And it makes it easier to hate us.

And that’s the one thing you’re going to have to face. Yes, they hate us. Yes, they will always hate us, until they bring us down. Should they manage that, they’ll spend the next two thousand years trying to deify us, portray themselves as coming from us, trying to imitate portions of our culture, and claiming no part in our downfall.

We are, in fact, in a very similar position to that of Rome in the ancient world.

Why do they hate us:

1 – Envy. Our own theology identifies this as the first sin leading to the first murder. Yes, yes, I know, half of America is afflicted with the heartbreak of psoriasis, (in my case eczema, but never mind. Our heartbreak is often overlooked,) the other half is broke and unemployed. Our children aren’t learning and our dogs scratch themselves too much. Forget it, okay? Our lifestyle is not only far and above more… comfortable than that of your average European (and we EXPECT that) but even our homeless live better than the poor in other countries. When is the last time you’ve worried about your next meal. Really worried? Worry about losing the house, sure. The job, even more sure. Not being able to buy cat food, of course. Problems sending the kids to college, of course. But worry about not eating for days? Please. Even our poorest of the poor have soup kitchens.

In a dark time in my life, in what is considered a first world country – even if the poor relative of the family – I went for three years without new clothes, because we simply couldn’t afford them. Since this was between the ages of 11 and 14 and I grew about a foot, even given my mom’s abilities with remaking clothes, I’ll leave you to imagine what I looked like. Here, even while very broke, we never let our kids go without suitable and appropriately sized clothes. And it wasn’t that hard. The thrift store near us often holds dollar-days where each piece of clothing is a dollar. And though it meant pancakes for a week, at times, we were NEVER so poor we couldn’t spend ten dollars and get the kid sweaters and a coat.

We’re better off than 95% of humanity. They envy us madly. Why shouldn’t they?

2 – Fear. No, not of us. (One of the things Pratchett is wrong about is the whole “if you want war, prepare for war.” It’s not true, it’s never been. Not blaming him too hard, though, I learned this in school, too, and it’s part of what Europeans believe. They fasten onto the mad militarism gripping Prussia on the run up to World War I and the answering militarist thinking in the other countries, and think that’s what CAUSED World War I. Was it? No. Go back and read about the geopolitics and the pressures of growing civilizations. But this is the explanation you’ll find in most books. Because it’s facile. And because it’s easy to avoid. “I just won’t think of war–” Europe should do itself a favor and start really looking at itself and its fracticidal tendencies, and stop trying to diagnose a country they know as little about as we – often – know of them.) Yes, they project it onto us, but what they truly fear is modernity. And, for those who’ve never lived abroad, everyone knows modernity comes from America.

In the summer of 2000 I found myself in a panel at a conference, where they were talking about how wonderful the future would be. How the whole world was now connected. How everyone lived in one big village. And how wonderful this was. And I suddenly felt disconnected and lost, because I could see the other side. Look, I’m not going to claim Portugal is particularly backward, or particularly hateful. It’s not. As countries go, Portugal is the nice guy in your office who keeps his head down and does what he thinks he’s supposed to. The idea of a Portuguese terrorist (or assassin!) could only take root in the mind of a novelist who disdains research. But Portugal is, by culture, a lot more traditional than the US – everywhere is, pretty much. Yes, there are reasons for that, but no room to discuss them – and it clings to “how things are done” a lot more. At that, it’s not the worst such country.
However, I recall people who reacted with irrational gibbering fear turned anger to each wave of technological innovation no matter how small, from new ways of lighting, to piped water. Reactions to behavorial changes are even worse. When I say I grew up between Elizabethan and Victorian England, I mean I was taught not to do things such as stand at the window, because that was shameless and looked like I was trying to attract boys. Yeah. Try to figure out how old that rule is.

So I thought of people more attached to their ways than Portugal, perhaps with the same view of their own supremacy, meeting the wave of the future. Of course they would turn to sabotage and terrorism. The result, Traveling, Traveling, was published in Analog in 2002 and is the free story (free story tab on my blog) for this week. It was the only time I was semi-prophetic, and I promise not to do it again.

Like it or not, the US is modernity for most people. When they want to stop the future, they’ll hate us and attack us.

3 – We’re safe to hate. We don’t defend ourselves. Not in words, not in movies, not in our fiction. Partly because we never cured ourselves of that colonial affectation of our upper classes aping Europe. And partly because we feel vaguely guilty about being better off than other people and a newer nation too. We revere age and tradition. And so, we ape their hatred of us, too. Or at least our artists do. So what they get from Hollywood and even from our literary lions, makes them go “See, it’s their fault. Even they say so.” (The fact this soothes their pride, helps too.)

I remember being in a car with a rabid anti-american when I was about 12. He was going on about how the only reason Portugal wasn’t the leading computer manufacturer was that the US wouldn’t let them. Even at 12, I thought “Oh, so, the long vacations, the lack of capital and, yeah, the fact that our tech education prepares people for the early twenty first century has NOTHING to do with it” and also “HOW does America stop us? And why would they care?” But the rest of the world believes this stuff.

It also, for the record, and because of our movies in part, believes a lot of other crazy stuff: like, that our barely competent secret services are some kind of supermen. That they have operatives everywhere, know everything and secretly control everything. It even seems plausible, from over there, given America’s wealth and the movies we see, in which of course the CIA is often the culprit and often superhuman. For Europeans there is a CIA agent behind every door and under every bed.

And yet, no one ever gets killed for spewing anti-American bilge. We’re the world’s most pussy-cat “empire.” In fact, we’re not an empire at all. All our soldiers want to do is go home. Do we punish people when they attack us? Well… sometimes. Late and usually reluctantly. Yes, 9/11 sent us to war. And then we stayed to rebuild the countries. Let me tell you, children, no other country does that. No. Truly. No other country does that.

In the seventies, I sat with friends around a café table in Porto and tried to scheme how to get the US to invade us. Because Portugal could use the rebuilding.

We’re safe to hate.

Given these three factors and the preponderance of traditionalist, triumphalist countries in the world, the amazing thing is not that 9/11 happened. What’s amazing is that it doesn’t happen once a year.

So, what do we do about it, you say? Let’s take it in order:

1 – You can’t get rid of everything you have. No, you wouldn’t be able to. Despite the beliefs of most college professors, world wealth is not finite, and it’s not a matter of a country playing rob-the-ball from the other. (In fact, at the root of all this, is also the fact that the very, very, very erroneous theories of Marxism have taken over both here and the rest of world, possibly because they’re facile and they make college professors feel virtuous.) Wealth is produced. Wealth grows. And the US, given who we are, and our tendency to roll up our sleeves and get to work, can’t help becoming wealthier. In fact, al the hardships our politicians put us through, which might or might not, be designed to make us look more humble to the world, only make us discover new ways to create wealth. Mind me, we’ll emerge from the great recession a completely different country, but yet wealthier, by an order of magnitude than the rest of the world. I’ll take bets on that.

2 – You can’t make people stop fearing. There is no way, there is no possible way to do that. Even here, right now, as change accelerates, a lot of us are afraid of what’s coming. We have perhaps a little more reason, because we don’t know what the future will look like. They should have an easier time. Except they don’t. A modernity of few children and shattered families is scary to a great deal of the world, but so are things that no one should find scary: mobility, representative government, women who don’t cover their ankles, equality of sexes. It goes on.

The second one alone, though paid lip service in Portugal excites much fear and does not prevail in most homes. And again, Portugal is a modern first world nation. Technically. Imagine the other countries.

This doesn’t mean we should cover our women, stone our gays (sorry, guys, you’ll have to buy your own pot) or make women stay in the home against their will.

Unfortunately, what we do do after we conquer countries – the forcible dragging into the twentieth if not the twenty first century is going to make it harder. Much, much harder. It’s akin to invading a wild species habitat. They’re not ready for it, they don’t know what to do, they just want you to stop.

3 – We can stop looking like the patsies of the world. We can stop being so easy to hate. That starts one on one, and person on person. You do not let foreign friends, in fact or online, talk about the US as being responsible for their plight. You just don’t. You man up; you woman up; you adult-it up. You educate yourself and you come back with facts. You tell them the truth and shame the devil.

First, for those of you who have only read histories of the sort that beats their chests and blames everything on America – find some of the popular but deeper histories on, say, Rome. Or Greece. Or before that. Find out how nations operate. Nations that aren’t the US (the vast majority of nations aren’t, you know?)

Read about other nations that existed in a unipolar world. Rome, for instance. Yes, Romans were Hell’s Own Bastards, the most evil civilization at their time and place – snort! – oh, you swallowed Spartacus whole? Children, children, children, the rest of Europe at the time were as much gentle pastoralists as the tribes of South America when the conquistadors arrived were noble savages, talking to the birds.

Yes, the Romans were scary-mean and addicted to violence and… Yeah. So were the other tribes. War was the normal state of humanity. Despicable practices, both civil and religious were the norm.

Rome distinguished itself only by being, for a brief time, capable of generating more wealth, more innovation and a better life for its citizens than the rest of the world at the time. And it was hated for it. The methods it used to stay on top were horrible and crude. And they worked. Because what came after Rome was 2000 years of darkness that made its earstwhile enemies claim to be its friends.

But after Rome read about the age of empires. Do try to use a book not infused with Marx. Those are always at best unrealiable and at worst laughable.

Read about how nations act. You need to know this, because Americans don’t act that way. And they tend to think other nations are like America. So we let them hang our few “sins” around our necks: the supporting of dictators to stop our enemies; the disproportionate force attacks on those who attack us and the – snort – despoiling of the “native” tribes. Read the age of Empires. I don’t have time to teach you history here. America is a babe unborn compared to ALL European countries, event he most backwards.

And then sit back and wonder, given you can’t do anything about the top two, what can you do about the last factor. Well, you can’t gag Hollywood, either, not without violating who we are. And I doubt you can make most of them study history. And they’ve rather proven they can’t be shamed.

So what can you do? You can be feared.

I say this with much, much trepidation. In 2004 I had an argument with Jerry Pournelle in which he took this position and I told him no, we had to be loved.

It’s been six years. I’ve grown up. He was right. IF another attack happens, we should make sure the response is of the sort that makes children cry in their beds in future centuries, for fear the Americans are going to come get them. We can bind their wounds afterwards, if we so wish, but first we have to respond harshly enough that they are afraid to fight back as we drag them to modernity.

Yes, I’m recoiling, even as I type that. I don’t want to see innocents suffer, and war, even a “small, surgical” war is suffering. Yes, even if we do the type of high level attack that really upsets their leaders (government centers, religious centers, monuments) we’re going to kill some innocents.

But look at it this way, our proctracted “drag them to the future and force them to love us” strategy is causing them to suffer too. And we didn’t go out there and hit them. They hit us, again, and again, and again, until one hit was large enough to make us attack back.

It’s time we make it known it’s not SAFE to attack us. We’re the crazy bastards who would as soon nuke you as look at you. We don’t want war, but we must prepare for it.

And then, after one or two of these, they’ll realize that they can throw fits over their own version of modernity; they can sit back and design it; but they can’t stop us by attacking us. That only makes them hurt more. And then they’ll stop attacking us, and forcing us to hurt them. They’ll stop hurting our women and children. We’ll stop hurting theirs. The future can be peaceful. We WILL help them rebuild.

So, if there is a next time – and yes, I pray to G-d there isn’t, but pardon me, I read history – hit back twice as hard.

Do it for the children.

26 responses to “Next Time The Fire

  1. And in the meantime we have put a 9/11 memorial on Mars–the planet Mars:

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-281

    And over on Facebook Greg Donahue (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705656081) put it well:

    Dear Terrorists: You want to build societies that treat women as property, executes rape *victims*, bans art that shows living creatures, chops the hands off thieves, and thinks bacon and alcohol are evil.

    While us folks here in Western Civ…well, we’re far from perfect. FAR from perfect.

    But we’ve put 9/11 memorials on Mars.

    Oh, and I’m certain many of the engineers involved in doing so are women who enjoy bacon and a nice drink.

    We win.

  2. What people need to realize is that events like 9-11 simply cannot be prevented, at least not in any society most of us would care to live in. The only thing that can be done is to make it clear that the cost of doing so is existential. No ‘just war doctrine’. No ‘proportional response’. Total annihilation.

    We do that, and only the truly crazy folks will attack us, the ones who are evil, but not crazy, will choose softer targets. And the truly crazy really can’t be stopped, I don’t think.

  3. Ronald A. Harrison

    Sarah, if you read Carnage and Culture by Victor Davis Hanson you will find that the general thrust of your recommendations have been the general practice of Western Civilization for the past 2500 years. Because of those strategies in warfare between Western and non-Western nations the West has won all of the wars and all but a very few battles.
    If you read the Constitution and of our Civil War you will find out that all of the historical Western techniques and strategies have been and still are perfectly legal in this country:
    -if they slip a nuclear device into our country and take out a city take out two or more of their cities.

    ETC

  4. Great post, I’ll be sharing this.

  5. Well said Sarah.

    I’ve always liked Teddy R’s quote, “Speak softly but carry a big stick.”

    I am also amazed when those countries that hate us, or our methods, or whatever, when they have a major catastrophe, they turn to the US. Imagine the uproar if there was a major catastrophy in Europe, and the US didn’t send aid, told them to deal with it. Well, the haters who want us to leave them alone will not be happy getting what they wanted, and the others will probably start hating us since we are obviously the source of their problem.

    Think about those countries that have lobbied for the US to remove a military base. It flabergasts me when they are shocked, SHOCKED, we we actually do and the local economy takes a nose dive.

    Yup, not something easy to solve.

    Alan

  6. Stephen Simmons

    Fifty years or so ago, Golda Meir said, “We Israelis cannot bring about peace. Peace will come when the Arabs love their own children more than they hate us.”

  7. This is a depressing post. And…it’s 100% true. Sigh.

    No one who has gone through our higher education system would ever chose empire over civilization. Empire is bad. There, I’ve saved you two years at any Ivy league institution.

    We act as if the choice is between barbarism and civilization, and not barbarism and empire, but name me one society that valued prosperity, the rule of law, basic human rights that wasn’t an empire?

    The idea that mankind can all get along in some joyous brotherhood is a fairy tale it’s only safe to believe in because we’ve threatened the brothers who want to kill us with annihilation.

    Great post.

  8. Have you read Empires of Trust (http://www.amazon.com/Empires-Trust-Built-America-Building/dp/0525950745)? It mirrors and develops what you said about Rome.

  9. Pingback: The White Peril 白禍 » Blog Archive » Today

  10. Thanks for the reminder. I’m adding this to MY 9/11 post —

    “Oderint dum metuant.”

    Y’all remember that from the time immediately after 9/11, right?

    M

  11. My first comment was made before reading your entry. Now that I have, I have to say that I agree completely.

    One of the arguments I make from time to time is that when you use military force at all the very _last_ response you want to get is “Gee, that wasn’t too bad.” It just encourages people to keep right on doing what they had been doing before. The response you want is “My God! I don’t want _that_ to happen again.”

    “Proportionate response,” I believe, actually _increases_ the casualties, pain, and suffering in the long run. It just leads to year after year after year of fighting.

    Consider WWII. I just do not believe that the Nazis and the Japanese militarists were any less fanatical than the RIFs are today. Don’t believe it and anyone trying to convince me of it will have to bring some pretty strong arguments to support the counterproposition. Yet there was hardly any serious insurgency after the war. Oh, sure the Nazi’s had a post-war insurgency plan in place and there was one incident that _might_ have come from that, and there were a few Japanese holdouts that refused to accept that the war was over and hid in the jungle mostly stealing food to live on but that was about it. The difference? Both cultures had learned down in their bones that they had been _beaten_. They’d lost, utterly and completely. In one case it took two atomic bombs to drive that lesson home. In the other, measures didn’t need to be quite so drastic. Neither, however, was eager to tempt fate and the United States Military and Logistics power.

    There is a lesson there, I think.

  12. Sadly, I agree.

    I hate that we dropped nukes in Japan. It was, however, the only way to ensure Japan _surrendered_. As horrible as a choice that was, the thousands of lives *saved* by being willing to go that step probably encompasses the entire population that lived on the island at that time. The number of times I’ve had arguments (in HS, in college, after college, hell, not three weeks ago) with people insisting we were Vile And Evil for doing so … have so little grasp on human nature and reality that I boggle. But it helps me understand why they can’t understand that fighting the wars we are today is *necessary* to ensure our own safety — and that we aren’t being “Vile and Evil” enough to do so as thoroughly as we need to be. I hate human suffering as much as the next person… but my practical side is relentless in telling me that it is necessary, that being a bleeding heart for everything means eventually you bleed out. And then what, for those depending on you?

    “Nuke the site from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.” That’s the response necessary the next time this happens. (I, too, hope it doesn’t. But hope only goes so far.)

    Glassed parking lots are, while cruel and vicious, less cruel in the long run than ten years spent hunting down a single person who thought he could make the entire US cower like a beaten puppy. Between our military losses and the civilian casualties (and, hell, the economic drains caused by the wars), this protracted and much-reviled campaign could have been much shorter, more brutal, and (I think) much more *final* had a nuke or two been dropped at the most likely targets. Who would have really been anxious to piss us off again, for another generation or two, knowing we were absolutely willing to use the most destructive force at our disposal in retaliation?

    And a lot more lives would have been saved. Rebuilding would have been long since underway — our “religion” of democracy and equality (poor practitioners of it as we sometimes are), far more entrenched and belike welcomed and emulated than it is now. If only because I suspect some countries have this idea that being a democracy means our leaders are pussies and unmanly, and dontcha know much of it all is a testosterone contest? :P

    I do wish, as a country, we had less of a Puritan guilt-complex. It is too often mistaken for pity — and I’m sure that this doesn’t help how we’re viewed elsewhere.

  13. Jerry Pournelle’s idea of proportional response for 9/11 was quite simple, elegant and implements the idea, in my opinion perfectly.

    I will quote the critical part from http://www.jerrypournelle.com/war/whattodo.html

    ==================================
    For a start: we know the places where they rejoiced and danced in the streets in celebration of the falling of the towers. Those streets and all their buildings should become monuments: not one stone stands upon another. Level the rubble so that a troop of cavalry could ride across where they stood and not one horse stumble. Then sow salt on those grounds. They will be left as monuments, visible from the air, visible from space: monuments to dead Americans.

    “But we did not do it! We only — we only rejoiced that you would see what it is like.”

    “You chose the wrong friends. Next time make better friends. You may take what you can carry. You have five minutes, then the bulldozers will flatten this area. Get out of here. And of course if anyone is stupid enough to fire on us, the Marines are eager. Aren’t you, Sergeant?”

    “Sir. Yes, sir.”

    Nablus. Gaza. Baghdad. Damascus. There shall be monuments, perpetual, large enough to be seen from the air, from space: monuments of desolation in each of those cities. A million square feet; let the company commanders measure each building before flattening it. Let it be recorded. And let salt be sown where those places stood. Let their refugees go where they will.

    And if that requires the Army fight its way into those places, then the devil take the hindmost. We have no lack of volunteers.

    When that is done, Kabul, since they decline to deliver bin Laden or his head. That will be more difficult because it is harder to get to.

    Begin by laying bare their air defenses. Leave them naked to air attack. These are acts against military targets, legitimate targets of war. Next drop leaflets mapping that part of Kabul that has been chosen for our monument. Twenty four hours later, begin its construction. We will have to open iron bomb factories, we may have to build new heavy bombers. So be it. The monument will be built. It will not be completed until we ritually sow salt on the site, while the population of Kabul stands at a distance and does not interfere.

    I think Libya needs to contribute a monument site as well. There may be other places. Tehran now appears to be a candidate.
    ======================================

    THAT is the kind of action that nations take.

    Note how it was a measured response. 1 million square feet of each city, leveled to soccer field perfection and sown with salt… and if anyone has the temerity to set an IED, to snipe at the bulldozers, the marines are eager.

    AND THEN WE LEAVE.

    Unless they’re stupid enough to encroach on the memorial. In which case, we drive the bulldozer back.

    The problem is, that as much as it is utterly American do do what Sarah says above, to simply look at a mess and say “Something has to be done. Let’s do it.” It’s every bit as American to say “It’s not fair, only take out the bad guys.” Fair is a very American idea.

    I live in Kansas. Even when there are not tornados, we get thunderstorms several times a year that produce 80 and 90 mile per hour winds. “Hurricane force winds” mean “Spring Storm” to Kansans. You would think the trees would get used to it. They don’t. The trees fall. They block the streets, they block the driveways, they smash into cars, and the chain saws come out, and the neighbors band together and cut them up and move them to the curb until a truck can get around to haul them away. Things need doing, we do them.

    It falls back to fair. It’s not fair to sit around while things need doing. It’s also not fair to punish those who only celebrated. There are days I wish that Americans were more able to follow the course of empire, but I don’t think it’s in us. I think that is a deep part of who we are as well.

  14. In the seventies, I sat with friends around a café table in Porto and tried to scheme how to get the US to invade us. Because Portugal could use the rebuilding.

    Perhaps you’ve seen the movie The Mouse That Roared? It is a charming film and quite amusing, featuring superb performances from Peter Sellers & Margaret Rutherford, to select two. It is perhaps a tenth as good as the novel by Leonard Wibberly — not a tenth as funny (although it is), a tenth as GOOD. A quick light read with more substance than most anything published since 1970 it is back in print, with “Look Inside” available at http://www.amazon.com/Mouse-That-Roared-Novel/dp/1568582498/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1315805225&sr=8-3 .

    As for most other of your comments, Amen, Sister – Sing It Out! Although, thanks to AlGore and his acolytes it appears the US can now be blamed for Hurricanes. I wonder whether there is any human impulse so deep as the one, when disaster strikes, when calamity befalls, to turn to another and say: This was all YOUR fault.

    • Actually I have not seen the movie, nor read the book. I’ve heard the title. Something I probably will never lose, from growing up abroad, is that my reading, both for education and for fun, is patchy at best. Not scarce — I mean, that’s how I wasted my youth. But tons of books and movies that did very well here were not seen abroad and vice versa. For instance, in Portugal, Simak was more of a bestseller than Heinlein. It was a shock to me to find out it wasn’t so here. (Though by that time I preferred Heinlein.) To compensate, of course, I know all sorts of obscure foreign literature, mostly Portuguese poetry. (Which happens to be an obsession on the level of soccer.) Polish and Romanian YA fell into it somewhere too, most of them from before communism. Anyway, never heard, will track down as soon as possible though this year my time for reading is minimal.
      And I don’t watch movies — or TV — by preference as entertainment. I think it’s a matter of habit. I grew up without a television — my mom was sure it was a fad that would soon pass — until I was eight, and being a much-younger child than my sibling or any of my cousins (I was ten years younger than my brother, who was four years younger than my next cousin — of those in Portugal) I was functionally an only child, meaning there was no one to play games with. By the time I was eight or so when social distinctions come to play in societies where that matters, (no, I never liked that, but I had to live there, and besides, it wasn’t my choice) I also found my choice of companions seriously limited. There was another family in the village who was good enough for us, and one I wasn’t good enough for. So my choice of companions were restricted to ONE family — who fortunately had 14 kids, but that’s something else. Anyway, what that means is that until I entered highschool, free time = reading. I can only stand to watch TV or movies if I’m doing something else at a time, so I tend to “collect” stuff I mean to watch to do while I’m ironing. And half the time I forget a bunch of them.
      As for blaming the US — well, this saves them from dealing with the kleptocracies they live under. It makes it not their fault, and they can imagine themselves infinitely superior to us regarless of — or because of, sometimes — how much better we do then them.

      • It has been some time since I read this, so the “science” may have changed — and one is wise to never rely on science reporting — but I gather studies found that the brain waves of people watching television are quite similar to the sleeping brain, so being deprived of the dubious pleasures of that medium is probably more benefit than loss. Mouse author Wibberley [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Wibberley ] was an Irishman who’d seen a good bit of the world and was no shyer about expressing his opinions of it than any other Irishman. Here are samples of his perspective, pulled from my quotes file:

        From Oxford Sir Roger had taken away only two pieces of learning, acquired out of his own observations. The first was that while the pen might be mightier than the sword, the sword spoke louder, clearer and more effectively at any given moment. The second was that “Aye” might be turned into “Nay” and vice versa if a sufficient quantity of wordage was applied to the problem.
        Beware of the Mouse, Leonard Wibberly

        “… the world is not a place for timid men, nor is liberty a birthright of those who fear to fight and speak for it come what may.”
        Beware of the Mouse, Leonard Wibberly

        “It is fear that enslaves men and costs them their liberty. Doubt before battle is more powerful than any cannon, and terror has destroyed more armies than all the weapons in the world.”
        Beware of the Mouse, Leonard Wibberly

      • It occurred to me that you likely aren’t familiar with the plot of Mouse: a small European nation (the Duchy of Grand Fenwick) wants to upgrade the palace plumbing and therefore declares war on the United States, intending to lose and apply for foreign aid. Except that, through a Pratchettian (Prachetterian? ? Pratchetterryian!) set of circumstances they win, and must deal with the consequences. A charming satire of post-WWII Cold War diplomacy, Wibberley’s Mouse is what Terry Pratchett would write if he wrote that sort of thing … and had been writing in the 1950s.

        • I HAVE to read it. Mind you, this was one of many harebrained schemes, including but not limited to the idea of having our village declare independence, because we didn’t want to go to heck with the rest of the country.

  15. Sarah, if you have not read this, you must. Frank J. Fleming has a “Realistic Plan for World Peace”: http://www.imao.us/index.php/a-realistic-plan-for-world-peaceakanuke-the-moon/

    It is awesome. A sample quote:

    “I’d then give the country the old one-week notice until bombing starts. Then, after just twenty-four hours, I’d start bombing. When the stupid dictator calls to complain, I’d say, “I meant one week max. Oh, and by the way, ground troops – one week.”