When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

September 05, 2004

The Left's Aging Baby Boomers

Bravo Romeo Delta

There seems to be a bit of long-term cognitive dissonance simmering in certain segments of the Left.

In particular aging boomers who regard Woodstock as the epitome of the salad days of youth and idealism, seem to have an ongoing problem reconciling their youthful idealism with their identities as Americans. This has been exacerbated in recent times with the Iraq War and wishful efforts to remake recent events into the Vietnam War and Protest Period.

On the one hand, they didn’t like the Vietnam War, but know in protesting it, they opened up a Pandora’s Box of really bad consequences. For starters, there’s just not that many ways to be claim that helping lead your nation to its first loss in warfare is patriotic. Then there’s the fact that it’s difficult to claim that you’re trying to support the Vietnamese people when you usher in a totalitarian regime, and in the balance, create vast numbers of refugees and massive chaos throughout Southeast Asia. It’s also rather difficult, when you think about it, to take the high moral road when your actions contribute, in some small way, to the Cambodian autogenecide. One would also have to question the compassion of people, who on one hand, called returning soldiers “baby-killers” and the like, while later bemoaning the fate of those veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and cancer allegedly caused by Agent Orange.

As these aging boomers start to approach their sixth decade, there’s been more than a little bit of an attempt to recapture their youth. A critical part of this is recreating the heady idealism they identify with their adolescent protests. To do this, the effort to recast every military conflict or potential conflict as another Vietnam, has reached new levels in the anxiety of a post-9/11 world.

Watching the evolution of this dissonance has been fascinating. For many folks on the activist Left, Reagan’s rearmament and economic policies would lead to nuclear war or, failing that, widespread depression and poverty. Yet these policies yielded the fall of the Soviet Union and one of the nation’s great periods of economic growth. Note also the often predicted, but never materializing incipient Vietnams in Lebanon, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Colombia during this same time period.

Following this, we entered the protests over the Gulf War. This was a classic opportunity for the moldy activist of yesteryear. Among other things, it was a chance to resurrect some Vietnam-era conspiracy theories, although this time, rather than oil in the South China Sea, we had the highly visible oil of the Persian Gulf to serve as a red herring for anti-war activists. This war also marked the first sizable appearance of the “We Support Our Troops – But Oppose The War” element of anti-war protests, and was a visible marker of the cognitive dissonance that was spawned during the Regan years. The support-our-troops line was a first stab at sort of, after a fashion, recanting some of the poorer behaviors of extremist elements of the protest movements decades ago.

Throughout the Clinton era, folks of this bent went about the business of enjoying huge economic prosperity and failed, by and large, to find anything to really protest about. This is due to the fact that Clinton was an iconic baby-boomer himself, to a lesser extent that the background political charge of the Cold War had dissipated, and last, and probably least, we didn’t have any big wars on the stove.

The graying moonbat community woke up from their slumber with the 2000 election, but 9/11 and misplaced 9/11 anxiety started revving the dissonance engine once again. Much of the reaction towards the Afghan War (with the notable exception of the usual suspects, like Choamsky, Fisk, and Apple) was relatively in tune with general patriotic sentiment. But the Iraq War allowed the tinfoil hat brigade to rev up the dissonance engine to the redline.

On some deeper level, people know that undermining their elected leadership in a democracy is, it can be reasonably argued, not patriotic. For implicit in the social contract of democracy, is the idea that after the election, you all pull together. Personal or small group interests must work within the democratic process for the democratic process to have any value. Short-circuiting this by trying to bypass or short-circuit things runs against the grain of the social contract that makes things work. There has been an attempt to cover over this with the repeated assertions that “dissent is patriotic.” Dissent may be patriotic, but sedition isn’t. And the folks who are trying to, on the one hand, convince themselves of their identities as Americans, and on the other hand, employ very aggressive means of obstructing and hampering the prosecution of their country’s existential struggles aren’t necessarily engaged in dissent for reasons of patriotism.

This has found its personification in the nomination of John Kerry as the Democratic Presidential candidate. He tries to reinforce his credentials as a navy veteran to an extent that is almost comic in nature. But can’t bring himself to disown his actions as a protestor. On the one hand, he wants to be patriotic, while convincing himself that his days of protest really were the right thing to do. I think that, in so doing, he is acting out the inner drama of the remnants of the generation of protest and activism.

Now, not all Vietnam protestors continue walking down this particular path. Some changed their views over time. Others came to realize that supporting goals like opposing fascism could be reached through support of our country in wartime. But for all the thinning of the ranks, the children of the summer of ’68 still retain some significant numbers in their cadres. Not all of them man the picket lines with long hair, streaked with gray. Many of them have moved on to careers and children during the eighties (that decade of greed and, as Senator Kerry describes it a “decade of moral darkness”.)

And the fact that they moved on to participate in the decade of excess, and prospered during the eighties and nineties by “working for the man” in some way still rankles. That’s why the core of much of the left has a soft spot for the pickets and the protests and wants to romanticize virtually every bizarre fringe movement with a cause and a picket line (notable exceptions being pro-life and pro-Second Amendment demonstrations). So when an opportunity to explode with outrage at some war that they are unwilling to understand, the temptation to explode in self-righteous fury is nearly irresistible. The Iraq War has been such a spectacular target for many of these folks because they have invested so much time in misdirection of their own fears, that the idea that Iraq may be a useful pursuit is beyond imagining and, frankly, acceptance of the utility of the Iraq War and the removal of a dictatorship would be anathema to many. It would mean finally confronting the fact that the protests against Vietnam were, for so many, protests in response to the fear of getting drafted. For the idealism was not only misplaced, but, more of a cover for an opportunity to get high with friends, pick up some of the fringe benefits of the “Summer of Love,” piss off their parents, and extend temper tantrums through their adolescence. And the people who ultimately paid the butcher’s bill for this indulgence were the people of South Vietnam and Cambodia.

I don’t think for a minute that this sits in the minds of many of the middle age folks who have found new depths of hatred for the current administration and their policies in Iraq, but I do think that it is present in their subconscious. And that’s a hell of a thing to have floating around in the far, dark recesses of your mind.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at September 5, 2004 06:02 PM
» Anticipatory Retaliation Retaliates with: Aren't I Humble?

Retaliatiory Launches

Excellent Essay. I want to steal it to share.

I would only suggest that dissent CAN be patriotic, but is not in and of itself or just for its own sake, any more than passively going along with things is necessarily patriotic.

Meanwhile, here's a new Limerick I haven't even posted to my blog yet, to give you a little chuckle maybe:

Since Victim Groups hijacked the Dems
Now their voting base suddenly slims.
They could maybe go National
If Kerry were Rational.
But with each speech he makes their hope dims.

Posted by: David March, animator & fiddler at September 9, 2004 09:20 AM

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