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June 29, 2006

The Cost Of Freedom

Lunchtime. My morning reading list is still stacked in the taskbar of my new computer. Different topics lie jumbled together with no rhyme or reason to sort them out, much like my thoughts at 4 am after a long night with no sleep. Some days the egregious asshattery is too much to absorb.

Presidential signing statements are more than just executive branch lunacy. Do I even want to go there again? No. Been there, done that. Don't need the stinkin' t-shirt.

NPR compares the media's coverage of the terrorist plot in Florida and the SWIFT banking furor.

Ted Olson wants a shield law? What the...? *sigh*

This could be interesting. The first part is unintentionally amusing:

The strength of "Whose Freedom?" is that it attributes the left's current foundering not just to a failure of strategy but to a failure of self-knowledge. Progressives, he argues, don't really understand what they believe or, just as important, how they believe it.

Sometimes I wonder if these people are reading my posts. But then I realize how ludicrous that is. Even I don't want to read my posts. Still, you have to love the progressive struggle to deal with their uniquely existential crisis: they really don't have a coherent ideology. Or rather, to hear some of them tell it they do - it's just that no one can articulate it because it's so incredibly complex. But when in doubt, take ownership of the problem:

"Freedom and liberty are progressive ideas -- our ideas," he writes. "It is time for progressives to fully integrate them into our everyday thinking and into our language."

In other words, we may not be able to tell you exactly what we believe, but damnitall, we're fully integrated. And whatever the heck it is, it's as American as apple pie. Yessir:

Furthermore, the progressive notion of freedom is identical to "traditional American freedom," which "still reigns in the American mind." Progressives really are in tune with what many average Americans believe, Lakoff insists, but conservatives are so good at hijacking the language to peddle their own radical redefinition of "freedom" that the other side can't get its message across.

Way to go there, perfessor. Witness for Tolerance by demonizing the Other. This is all beginning to sound nauseatingly familiar. It's at this point that I generally start to hear that little Valley Girl in my head saying, "What-everrrrrrrrrr". Hold this thought: we're not losing because we can't articulate what we think. We're losing because those wily conservative bastards stole the words right out of our mouths.

It gets worse, later on. Predictably, they try to figure out what they think about freedom. That never ends well, but when you're trying to avoid an unpleasant thought it always helps to distract yourself with psychobabble. And actually, I'm being a bit unfair. Lakoff's theories are actually quite insightful, so far as they go. But then they hit that dark, soulless place that progressives instinctively shy away from, their hands held out in furious denial:

A soldier was dead, and it was time for him to go home.

The doors to the little morgue swung open, and six soldiers stepped outside carrying a long black bag zippered at the top.

About 60 soldiers were waiting to say goodbye. They had gathered in the sand outside this morgue at Camp Ramadi, an Army base in Anbar Province, now the most lethal of Iraqi places.

Inside the bag was Sgt. Terry Michael Lisk, 26, of Zion, Ill., killed a few hours before.

In the darkness, the bag was barely visible. A line of blue chemical lights marked the way to the landing strip not far away.

Everyone saluted, even the wounded man on a stretcher. No one said a word.

The pallbearers lifted Sergeant Lisk into the back of an ambulance, a truck marked by a large red cross, and fell in with the others walking silently behind it as it crept through the sand toward the landing zone. The blue lights showed the way.

From a distance came the sound of a helicopter.

This is it. This is the subject of those quotes from the Founding Fathers; the ones progressives never seem to misquote when they're losing an argument.

This is the cost of freedom.

Because whether progressives like to admit it or not, someone always pays. In blood, sweat, toil, endless nights staring at an empty space where someone's head used to lie. A lump in the throat that never goes away.

What Lakoff's 'nurturant parent' model doesn't quite take into account is that there really are monsters under the bed, sometimes, and 'discussion and explanation' aren't much use when you're faced with people in exploding vests who haven't read your article in Salon:

Progressives, by contrast, subscribe to the "nurturant parent" model. This concept seems somewhat foggier, "authoritative without being authoritarian," based on mutual respect and the idea that discussion and explanation, rather than simple decree and force, are the best way to set rules. Adhering to key principles like fairness or kindness according to the situation is more important than following the letter of the law in every circumstance. The reward for behaving well is affection, togetherness and help when you need it. It holds that the "citizens care about their community and each other and act responsibly toward their community and each other." The nurturant-parent model puts its emphasis on the carrot, while the strict-father model is all about the stick.

Sergeant Lisk didn't have to be in al-Anbar. Very likely he didn't want to be, much of the time. Perhaps not at all. But he was there on the day death found him:

In the minutes after the mortar shell exploded, everyone hoped that Sergeant Lisk would live. Although he was not breathing, the medics got to him right away, and the hospital was not far.

"What's his name?" asked Col. Sean MacFarland, the commander of the 4,000-soldier First Brigade.

"Lisk, sir," someone replied.

"If he can be saved, they'll save him," said Colonel MacFarland, who had been only a few yards away in an armored personnel carrier when the mortar shell landed.

About 10 minutes later, the word came.

"He's dead," Colonel MacFarland said.

Whenever a soldier dies, in Iraq or anywhere else, a wave of uneasiness — fear, revulsion, guilt, sadness — ripples through the survivors. It could be felt on Monday, even when the fighting was still going on.

"He was my best friend," Specialist Allan Sammons said, his lower lip shaking. "That's all I can say. I'm kind of shaken up."

Another soldier asked, "You want to take a break?"

Specialist Sammons said, "I'll be fine," his lip still shaking.

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be able to read one of these stories without spending the rest of the day (and often waking during the night) in tears? I hope so. Then again, I hope not. I hate the too-quick teardrops I can no longer control, the swift rush of anger, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that never quite seems to go away. I hate the way I see his face, the first one who died. For me, he will always be the face of this war.

His name was John. A good name. A strong name.

And it was with the same conflicting emotions that I read Col. McFarland's remarks to his men. "What in the hell was he thinking?", I thought at first. And then, "You have no right... no right." Am I talking about him, or myself?

And a few seconds later, "I wonder if any of them - the media - really understand how it feels? That most of us hate war, question it, doubt it? I wonder if they know that we question the cost, all the time?"

But questioning the cost is not the same as denying that there is a cost associated with our freedoms. It's hard to grasp, when the gap between cause and effect is this abstract. It makes being resolute much harder.

Ideas like Lakoff's give me hope that the two halves of our divided nation may some day be reconciled, may someday try to understand each other's positions. History tells me, though, that this won't happen until the pain is a distant memory. The war half a world away reverberates beneath our feet here at home, causing the ground to crack underneath us when we least expect it; causing bitter quarrels even among friends.

This is the cost of our continued freedom from fear, and refusing to acknowledge that cost doesn't make it go away. Some say war never solves anything.

Rubbish. Open a history book. War solves a great number of things, quite finally in some cases. War has finished entire civilizations. But the act of engaging in warfare does not make us all morally equivalent. It matters - very much - what we're fighting for. And how we fight. It will always matter.

Colonel McFarland is right. In one sense, nothing can ever be worth losing men like Sergeant Lisk. They are the ones who show up. Who risk it all for the fine-sounding words we like to drag out on Independence Day. But in another sense, their deaths give shape and meaning to our ideals. Without the willingness to sacrifice, those bold words would be as dry as dust. Men like Sergeant Lisk are the living embodiment of freedom: they are not victims, but free men who voluntarily give their best to protect what we - and they - hold dear.

And in that sense, does it really make sense to cheapen their sacrifice by saying "nothing is worth this"?

They thought it was worth it. They were willing to pay the cost of freedom. And one day thousands of people not yet born, on both sides of this planet, may yet come to call their names blessed when they reflect on the freedoms purchased with their blood.

CWCID: Thanks to NB for the Thomas Paine link.

Posted by Cassandra at June 29, 2006 12:52 PM

Comments

Cass,
I try not to think about the horrific cost of what it is we believe in. But if I don't ever think about it, what will I have to live for and teach?

Yes, I hear people who say they would die for their beliefs. But if those beliefs are never tested, it is usually because someone else paid the ultimate price for that safety net, that comfort zone.

I find it difficult to live every single day
but I have to, because I have something to live for. I don't want those young men to have died in vain, nor do I want my children to have a legacy of complacency.

Instilling a moral basis, an absolute is necessary if you want to have a free society. And freedom
is purchased at a terribly high price. I don't know that I could ever fully repay that debt except to use the blessing of it.

Abusing it comes under another heading and is a discussion for another time.


Posted by: Cricket at June 29, 2006 04:10 PM

I don't want those young men to have died in vain, nor do I want my children to have a legacy of complacency

That seems to be what we've lost, and perhaps what upset me about what it seemed Filkins was trying to leave the reader with: the idea that there isn't any single thing, any single idea bigger than our individual selves, anything worth dying for. What a shallow and cynical thought. I don't think it's necessarily glorious to die or to be wounded. But I don't heap scorn on it either. I honor their service, and I suppose don't want to see them diminished in death.

It's funny. All over the world Americans have always (at least before Time and Jack Murtha prejudged them) been proud of what the Marines stood for. But what (IMO) the Marines do a better job of than any other service is to instill a sense of being part of something larger in new recruits. Contrary to the anti-war, anti-military Left's characterization, this doesn't lessen them; it makes them more confident, stronger, more willing to speak up and stand up for what's right because they're not simply taught that they're better than everyone else because they're Marines.

They're taught that it's the discipline of living up to your ideals and meeting your goals that makes you a better man or woman. And if you don't live up to them, you tarnish not only those ideals but the service of your fellow Marines. It's not that they are no longer individuals. They just choose to harness part of their energy to a larger good.

Sacrifice is not a bad word when it is freely and knowingly given for something you cherish. Mothers do it. Husbands do it for their wives and children. Police and firefighters do it.

Not every individual can live up to the ideal, but you get a lot closer if you hold yourself to a higher standard than if you're cynical and only think of yourself.

Posted by: Chinese Jewish-Mexican Lawn Princess at June 29, 2006 06:09 PM

Wow, I knew you trimmed a mean shrub, but I had no idea you felt that way about the US Marines.

Posted by: Pile On® at June 29, 2006 06:18 PM

Smart aleck :)

Aye yay yay yay
Al-hways aye hyearn for Pile Juan!
Caressing his grasses so lush and so green
Out undahr thee moonlight
Aye'm making a scene!

To paraphrase Henry II, "Dear God, the pleasure I still get from tormenting you".

Posted by: Cassandra at June 29, 2006 06:31 PM

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be able to read one of these stories without spending the rest of the day (and often waking during the night) in tears? I hope so. Then again, I hope not. I hate the too-quick teardrops I can no longer control, the swift rush of anger, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that never quite seems to go away. I hate the way I see his face, the first one who died. For me, he will always be the face of this war.

Thank you, Cassandra, for putting into words what I've lived for the past five years and never quite understood.

Posted by: Lyana at June 30, 2006 01:57 AM

Princess-- "And if the Army or the Navy ever look on Heaven's scenes/ They'll find that they are guarded by United States Marines." (from the board that is just across from where I'm typing, writen by our Marines during last deployment.)

Cassandra, I'm glad there are folks like you out there. It makes me feel more normal. (I was in bootcamp when 9/11 happened; I have trouble reading much about it without crying, and the pictures-of-the-dead thing on the news always does me in.

Posted by: Sailorette at June 30, 2006 01:59 AM

> We're losing because those wily conservative bastards stole the words right out of our mouths.

If this ties at all to why they are losing it is because all too many people have caught onto the Orwellian DoubleSpeak that is at the heart of the liberal-socialist mythos.

The German "Democratic Republic"
"Pravda"
Liberal "Patriotism"
etc.

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at June 30, 2006 05:26 AM

> The nurturant-parent model puts its emphasis on the carrot, while the strict-father model is all about the stick.

Right. Mommy vs. Daddy.

The Left is all a bunch of faggot/wimp wannabe mommies.

They don't get that *sometimes*, problems are better solved by daddy's approach. Not ALWAYS -- but certainly *sometimes*.

In life, seek balance. Extremes are almost ALWAYS wrong... like being obsessed with being mommy.

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at June 30, 2006 05:32 AM

> Some say war never solves anything.

> Rubbish. Open a history book. War solves a great number of things, quite finally in some cases.

I like Heinlein's riposte to this idiocy (paraphrased -- I've got the jist of it right):

"War never settles anything? Really? Go tell that to the city fathers of Carthage. What? There is no Carthage? Well, I guess that war pretty much settled that dispute, didn't it?"

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at June 30, 2006 05:38 AM

Sailorette:

FWIW, Cass is far from alone. It's only the whining, yammering megaphones of the media which make people like Cass sound like the minority.

There are too many who Just Don't Get It, but part of that is the simple fact that ANYONE who Just Doesn't Get It is too many.

;-)

I've never served, but I very much respect those who have.

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at June 30, 2006 06:37 AM

My Protest Warriars shirt I wear regularly says:

"Other than ending tyranny, slavery, nazism and communism -- WAR NEVER SOLVED ANYTHING"

Posted by: KJ at June 30, 2006 09:33 AM

I am reading this...and OBH, I love the idea of the carrot and stick approach, but one thing I think that most people miss in punishment/discipline:
Punishment is MEANT to be a final solution. Discipline is to correct behavior and help the person grow.

In watching my children learn and grow, a couple of things really made me stop and think about how we go about as a family, neighborhood, community, etc ad nauseum to solving problems so that everyone benefits. In the smaller cases, it is holding someone to account and some form of restoration or restitution.

On a global scale, war is one of those options.
While we see the threat of war, proliferation, etc, we seldom see that diplomatic solutions work
(discipline), so we use war to drive the point home. The Left screeches about nation building, and all the other attendant problems that result from war, but the benefit to the people is that they will be able to have a representative government, accountable to them instead of to no one.

I know, this is lame, but work with me here.

heh.

Posted by: Cricket at June 30, 2006 10:10 AM

". . . their deaths give shape and meaning to our ideals. Without the willingness to sacrifice, those bold words would be as dry as dust. Men like Sergeant Lisk are the living embodiment of freedom: they are not victims, but free men who voluntarily give their best to protect what we - and they - hold dear."

If I think the American solders who are dying over there are fighting a war that makes no sense, the fact that they die does not somehow "give shape and meaning to our ideals." It's a human tragedy. It certainly doesn't make the war they are fighting any less foolheaded than it would have been had they not died.

The terrorists are dying right and left over there in Iraq. Their "willingness to sacrifice" for their foolheaded beliefs does not impress me. It certainly does not "give shape and meaning" to their idiot ideals. It's just a tragedy -- especially for those who do not share their ideals, who are killed in the process.

"They thought it was worth it. They were willing to pay the cost of freedom. And one day thousands of people not yet born, on both sides of this planet, may yet come to call their names blessed when they reflect on the freedoms purchased with their blood."

Are you talking about the terrorists, or the American soldiers? Because that statement could apply to either of them, depending on who wins. Both equally "think it is worth it" and "are willing to pay the cost" to get what they're fighting for.

Finally, you said that "War solves a great number of things, quite finally in some cases." I disagree. War does NOT "solve" anything.

War is what happens when parties give up trying to "solve" whatever problems they have between them, and just try to kill each other so they don't have to "solve" anything. Eventually, they kill enough people who have given up problem-solving that the remainder are willing to go back to actually solving the problems.

That's not to say that you can "solve" a problem by *refusing* to fight a war if someone else really wants to fight you. If they want to fight you that badly, they can't be persuaded to work on "solving" the problem, and you'll both have to give up problem-solving and be occupied with other tasks (namely, killing off non-problem solvers) for a while. Just don't expect that fighting back will "solve" whatever problems made them really want to kill you in the first place.

Posted by: Phil at June 30, 2006 03:42 PM

Are you talking about the terrorists, or the American soldiers? Because that statement could apply to either of them, depending on who wins.

This is a facetious question, since I have been talking about the our soldiers for the entire post and you know that. Got it. You oppose the war. Move on.


Both equally "think it is worth it" and "are willing to pay the cost" to get what they're fighting for.

Wrong. Only one side is refusing to fight man to man and intentionally targeting their own people - innocent women, children, and civilians - with bombs because they're afraid of getting outvoted at the polls. The insurgency is NOT equally willing to pay the cost. If they were, they'd be fighting our troops instead of their own people. That you don't get this speaks volumes.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2006 03:57 PM

If they want to fight you that badly, they can't be persuaded to work on "solving" the problem, and you'll both have to give up problem-solving and be occupied with other tasks (namely, killing off non-problem solvers) for a while. Just don't expect that fighting back will "solve" whatever problems made them really want to kill you in the first place

That was never the goal. Police don't think they're going to "solve" crime. They just want to discourage it and punish lawbreakers so society isn't overrun by madmen.

You are making a lot of points that are essentially beside the point. The insurgents are trying to prevent democracy from taking hold because 20% of Iraq's population used to dominate the other 80% and they're pissed that they're not in charge anymore.

The way to stop them is to make it so hard that they give up and join the process or die. No one much cares which. They just need to stop bombing innocents. Just like they needed to stop during the Saddam years. The killing has been going on for three decades. The only reason the Left is concerned about it now is that Iraq has a free press and it's disturbing their dinner hour.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2006 04:03 PM

I actually read this book. When we were at Borders, the day of the "Coffee at Borders" story, I picked it up because it looked interesting. I read through it while the wife was looking over the first several magazines.

It really isn't a fully-considered piece. I think the fellow runs into his biggest trouble because he hasn't thought all the way through what he wants to say about "rights." He wants to assert that people have rights, and that governments are instituted among men to provide for those rights.

This is subtly but sharply different from the original idea, which is that governments were instituted among men to secure rights. In other words, he means something different by "rights" than what is normally meant.

He asserts, for example, that there is a right to connect with nature, which Progressives understand and want to support. He proceeds from this to an idea that you'd want to support politics that provide for national parks, etc. Well, national parks are very popular; but they aren't a right, as traditionally understood. If they were, someone before Teddy Roosevelt would have thought to erect such a park.

By the same token, I have a right to self-defense. For that right to mean anything, I also need to have the tools with which to defend myself. Therefore, I have a right to keep and bear arms. I don't, however, believe that my right to keep and bear arms extends to the government buying me a gun and supplying me with ammunition.

That's really the jump the guy is trying to make, and it's just not logical.

The reason this model breaks is economic, and it has to do with the problem of scarcity. What we have isn't a right to connect with nature, but a desire to do so. We can't all do it at the same time, though -- there are only so many campsites even at the biggest national park. If you feel that hunting constitutes connecting with nature -- I think it's probably the closest connection you can get, except possibly for being hunted -- there are only so many elk. We can't all shoot one.

When the government stops securing rights, and starts providing for them, you run into this problem every time. There has to be a system for deciding who really gets what they want -- and, since you've defined "getting what you want" as a right, you have to decide whose rights will be violated. Somebody's not going to get his campsite, and he's suddenly got a legal complaint.

I'm sorry for the fellow, because he really is trying to think this all through. Until he gets a handle on the problem of scarcity, though, he's not even going to begin to be able to build a coherent system of thought. If it's not going to be a market-based system, what will it be? More to the point, what will it be that works better at the business of creating the largest number of realized desires?

It's not just nature -- think about health care. Health care has an unsatisfiable demand. If we have a "right" to have all the health care we want provided, it never stops: we can all be kept alive almost forever by machines. We may find that we need massage therapy to get through the day. Expensive drugs that have only marginal benefits become rights. Heck, Canada can't even keep up with knee surgeries.

That's the fundamental problem, and there's no hope for addressing it. There is nothing better than the market. All you can do is require an alternative, socialized system by law -- and then suppress the market using the force of that law. But that only leads to less happy results, in real terms. The only benefit is that you get to feel good about everybody being in the same boat -- even if the government boat is a lot leakier for everyone than it would have been if we'd just bought our own boats.

So, yeah -- conservatives do have a coherent thought system, where things like "right" and "freedom" have clear meanings. Our Progressive friend really doesn't. He wants rights to be things that government provides to you -- and until he untangles that from the problem of scarcity, it's going nowhere.

Posted by: Grim at June 30, 2006 04:41 PM

I think the fellow runs into his biggest trouble because he hasn't thought all the way through what he wants to say about "rights."

This is an incredibly funny statement when you think about his thesis being that progressives are losing elections because they don't know what they think, n'est pas?

Here we have a guy who hasn't thought matters out, telling his fellow progressives that they keep losing because they haven't thought matters out.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2006 04:54 PM

He's trying to think it out, though -- he has gotten that far. He just hasn't gotten all the way. It's a start, and an honest start, which merits some respect.

I just don't think he realizes exactly how he different his concept of "rights" is from the traditional American understanding. He really seems to think he's on the side of the Founders. He's not, not even close -- he believes rights are benefits that governments provide/pay to citizens. Rights are really spaces in which the government has no authority to act, save only to stop third parties from interfering with the citizens' freedoms.

Posted by: Grim at June 30, 2006 05:15 PM

Grimmy,
I think the reflexive (progressive) answer to the "scarcity" issue can be summed up with:

"From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs"

But there is a lot of historical baggage with that statement, and the 20th century has proven it to be rather...costly in other terms. Few "progressives" are willing to openly say this, though it is a bedrock axiom to their synthesis, just as "unalienable rights" is to Constitiutional Americans (like all us dumb red-state Americans). And besides, there is the unavoidable connection between that slogan and all that it entails, which few people will openly espouse, at least in the United States.

Europe, however....well, that's another day.

Happy Fourth, Americans!
Wave that flag.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 30, 2006 05:18 PM

I actually would have liked to have written a serious piece on his ideas.

I thought he did a fairly good job, for instance, of trying to explain what conservatism is all about, especially for a liberal. They almost always get it wrong and I thought his was an honest attempt to get it right. I respected that.

It's just that over and over and over I've been reading progressive literature bemoaning their lack of electoral success, and they all seem to agree on one thing (briefly before they glance away from the uncomfortable thought and start blaming Karl Rove): they don't believe in anything. It's an end-based movement.

They believe people shouldn't have to go hungry. But what if they refuse to eat? Well, if you force-feed them you're violating their rights. Can't have that.

What if they won't work? Or won't work hard enough to make a living? Then their living must be taken from someone else, who very likely has no reason to want to support them. We used to call this theft, but when govt. does it it's welfare. You've solved one wrong with another.

What they can't seem to accept is that all actions have consequences and it isn't the job of government to change the fundamental causal connection between what we do and the consequences that result from our own voluntary actions. Because when you do that, you very often make things worse and people start making major life decisions, not based on the likely consequences, but on some unreal fantasy world where if you screw up someone will always take care of you. And there are some screwups that government can't fix, like illegitimate babies.

My Dad has a funny saying: pain is a wonderful motivator. It's true. That's how we learn not to do dumb ass things like touching hot stoves. That's how we learn caution, prudence, foresight, the ability to delay gratification - through having experienced the negative results of NOT doing those things. But if govt. keeps stepping in and preventing people from learning those lessons, it really torques up their lives.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 30, 2006 05:27 PM

Don:

If he'd just said, "We're really Communists," I'd not complain. It's just the part where he pretends, and indeed seems to really believe, that he's a Classical Liberal that's a problem. :)

Cassidy:

You know I agree with you, of course. The guy also suffers from being a psychologist, which is not healthy for anyone. It's the one medical specality in which health is indistinguishable from illness, except by fiat of the doctor. It's sick if we say it is -- otherwise, carry on.

Posted by: Grim at June 30, 2006 05:42 PM

Thanks Grim,as I said before,if this guy thinks he is a classic liberal,then I'm a distant cousin to Marilyn Monroe,these people don't even know what a classic Liberal is anymore.

Posted by: Lisa Gilliam at July 6, 2006 10:51 AM

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