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August 21, 2006

Faith and Commitment

This is a difficult post, one I have misgivings about publishing. For the past week I've been trying to decide whether there is any real value to anything I've done for the past two and a half years. I am still not sure what the answer to that question is.

All I know is that I am more troubled than I have felt at any point I can remember. I sit down to write in the morning and more often than not I feel sick. And angry. Very angry. That is not a place I want to be. I have always striven to bring some degree of objectivity, of distance, to my writing despite the admittedly strong feelings and convictions I bear towards the subjects I write about.

I am not sure I can do that anymore. And if I can't do that, I don't see how I can continue to write.

I no longer recognize the America I thought I knew, that I have worked so hard to support in the way I thought best. The country I love, the one I taught my sons to revere, is described lyrically by (of all things) a foreigner:

The Americans are more old-fashioned than us, and what is equally admirable, they are not ashamed of being old-fashioned. They know Churchill was a great man, so they put his house on the map. There is a kind of Englishman to whom this sort of behaviour seems painfully unsophisticated.

We are inclined, in our snobbish way, to dismiss the Americans as a new and vulgar people, whose civilisation has hardly risen above the level of cowboys and Indians. Yet the United States of America is actually the oldest republic in the world, with a constitution that is one of the noblest works of man. When one strips away the distracting symbols of modernity - motor cars, skyscrapers, space rockets, microchips, junk food - one finds an essentially 18th-century country. While Europe has engaged in the headlong and frankly rather immature pursuit of novelty - how many constitutions have the nations of Europe been through in this time? - the Americans have held to the ideals enunciated more than 200 years ago by their founding fathers.

The sense of entering an older country, and one with a sterner sense of purpose than is found among the flippant and inconstant Europeans, can be enjoyed even before one gets off the plane. On the immigration forms that one has to fill in, one is asked: "Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offence or crime involving moral turpitude?" Who now would dare to pose such a question in Europe? The very word "turpitude" brings a smile, almost a sneer, to our lips.

This part brought a smile to my face, too. I'm not a fool. I realize it is, to some degree, a fanciful notion. We are not, really, that old-fashioned anymore. But there is a grain of truth to the description and we are, after all, speaking not of absolutes but of degrees - of the comparison between America and Europe. And America is different from the rest of the world. That is what made us, to generations of immigrants, to those huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the Golden Mountain. It is what made us the City on the Hill: a beacon of freedom, opportunity, and prosperity even with all our manifest failings.

At any rate, that passage reminded me of countless childhood hours spent reading the classics - of pouring over stories of ancient Greeks visiting the rustic Romans, whom they found unbearably quaint, almost stuffy in their regard for integrity and simple living. But Rome was then still a Republic and Roman matrons were still virtuous and relatively chaste. Not for them the licentious revels and corrupt politics of later years. Rome had not yet replaced integrity and stern conviction with that special brand of defeatism and attenuated cynicism that passes for sophistication in more 'advanced' cultures. But it was this section that tore at my heart:

The Americans are prepared to use force in pursuit of what they regard as noble aims. It is yet another respect in which they are rather old-fashioned. They are patriots who venerate their nation and their flag.

The idea has somehow gained currency in Britain that America is an essentially peaceful nation. Quite how this notion took root, I do not know. Perhaps we were unduly impressed by the protesters against the Vietnam war.

It is an idea that cannot survive a visit to the National Museum of American History in Washington, where one is informed that the "price of freedom" is over and over again paid in blood.

The Americans' tactics in Iraq, and their sanction for Israel's tactics in Lebanon, have given rise to astonishment and anger in Europe. It may well be that those tactics are counter-productive, and that the Americans and Israelis need to take a different approach to these ventures if they are ever to have any hope of winning hearts and minds.

But when the Americans speak of freedom, we should not imagine, in our cynical and worldly-wise way, that they are merely using that word as a cloak for realpolitik. They are not above realpolitik, but they also mean what they say.

These formidable people think freedom is so valuable that it is worth dying for.

What put that lump in my throat and what continues to worry at me day and night, is that a small part of America still believes in this ideal, still possesses this purity of vision. But it is dwindling daily, being replaced by a 'smarter', more effete nation that believes in nothing whole heartedly. That will commit to no promise, will see no course of action through to the bitter end. That finds, paradoxically, wisdom in expediency and intellectual honesty in being morally flexible when the going gets tough. That eschews idealism for the new God of the 21st Century Man: realism.

I have, on more than one occasion, been accused of being a Pollyanna. But I come by this honestly. Americans have justly prided themselves on being a naive people. We open our hearts and our pocketbooks, without reservation or suspicion. There are worse faults. If one were to pick a phrase to describe the American character, one would almost have to say that as a people we have a boundless faith, an almost limitless optimism. We believe in the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity, we believe in God, in that crazy 'melting pot' that is American culture, in that great experiment called democracy.

In fact, if I had to pick one of my favorite posts it would probably be this one, called (unsurprisingly) Democracy, The Glorious Dream. I have written better ones. I have written few that came more from my heart; from what makes me get up at 4 am every day and pound away at my keyboard like a madwoman.

About a year ago I was sitting at the dinner table with friends, Democrats, which is not uncommon since many of our closest friends are Democrats. We like to argue with them as a spur to the digestion. It was just before I wrote that piece and largely inspired it. The subject of American exceptionalism and the war came up. The conversation grew somewhat heated, and I tried to explain why I think it so vitally important the United States not do as so many of the Jeffersonian stripe would have us do: firmly push our heads into the sand as though we lived in some 18th Century isolationist utopia that no longer exists. In truth, I am not sure it ever did exist. It was just easier to blind ourselves to the evil that men do, back then. To isolate ourselves, to live in our own little worlds and say "this doesn't touch me".

Perhaps we could afford that kind of dangerous naivety in an age without jetliners and nuclear bombs, but it strikes me as almost unbearably funny that the few remaining champions of American exceptionalism are accused of "unrealism". To some, there is nothing more realistic, and nothing more "worth it", than backing our ideals with American sweat, blood, tears, and treasure.

Sitting at the table that night I tried to explain that nature abhors a vacuum. There is always a balance of power in the world, and if we do not stand up for what we believe in, the space we leave will be quickly filled by someone else. The question then becomes, who? Surely not Europe: Europe has been in the process of disarming itself for at least a generation. What good was internationalism at Srebenica?

If I shrink in horror when I hear statements like this from conservatives, what must the rest of the world be thinking? "Oh, bringing democracy to the Middle East is fine in principle, but in practice it has been FUBAR so now we must consider more realistic alternatives." Odd how those more realistic alternatives always seem to involve doing nothing or retreating to an 'over the horizon' position, from whence we can safely tut-tut and do nothing while everything goes to hell in a hand basket while we maintain comfortable but competent (and above all realistic) deniability.

In today's Washington Post, Iraq's ambassador to the US delivers a stern and much-needed rebuke:

As the debate on Iraq rages on, we hear more and more voices that call for throwing in the towel and leaving the mess to Iraqis to sort out. A new and unexpected proponent of this argument is Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, who said in a recent column that it's time for "Plan B." Only a few months before, he was arguing that it would be time for the United States to pack up and go only "when we don't see Iraqis taking the risk to build a progressive Iraq." Now, under the weight of bad news from Baghdad, he seems ready to abandon those very same brave men and women fighting valiantly to establish peace and justice in Iraq. I am an admirer of Friedman, who is generally thoughtful, well informed and supportive, but in this case he and many like him have gone dangerously off-track.

What has made the past three years hugely more difficult and complicated is the fact that we all underestimated the determination of our opponents and some of our neighbors to undermine this new project. In the context of a global confrontation, this has pitched our fledgling democracy onto the front line of a monumental struggle. It is these outside forces, allied with Saddamists, other terrorists and regular criminals, that threaten to overwhelm us.

To argue that American withdrawal from Iraq would create a "huge problem for Iran" is disingenuous. Iran is fairly secure within its borders. Any problems in Iraq will be for Iraqis to suffer. If there is a collapse and a civil war in Iraq, it is Iran's proxies who will do the fighting, and when the dust settles these proxies will most likely end up with the oil-rich southern region of Iraq -- a significant strategic gain for Iran.

There would also be the psychological impact of the perceived defeat for America. That would encourage all the enemies of the United States -- and they are many -- to be bolder and readier to challenge its interests everywhere. A new super-radical, geographically contiguous bloc would be born: Iran, Syria and a radicalized, totalitarian, fragmented Iraq.

As for the argument that the very presence of the foreign forces is a source of tension and that their departure would remove a prime source of violence: It may appear plausible at first glance, but it is in fact without merit. We need to understand precisely who is ready to fight to drive foreign forces out; it is only the Saddamists and the religious extremists (al-Qaeda and the like). If U.S. forces are in fact withdrawn, these people will consider it a victory and go on fighting even harder to achieve control over the country.

Since when has America had to be reminded to support democracy? Since when have we had to be reminded not to desert the weak and the defenseless, not to renege on our promises? Why, oh why in all the tiresome Iraq=Vietnam comparisons, does no one trouble to remember the slaughter that followed the fall of Saigon? Or is what happens when a "realistic" Congress pulls the rug out from our allies just another lesson we are determined to sweep into the dustbin of history?

I am sorry, but I am disgusted beyond measure with my own party.

The most dangerous form of "unrealism", from where I'm sitting, is the inability to deal with frustration, to understand that policy is rarely implemented in a vacuum. It is the carping, niggling, wheedling criticism of pundits who've never had to work out the practical details of the ideas they expound every day, nor compromise their lofty principles in a democratic society where no one agrees on anything and everyone is a Monday morning quarterback. It's the unbelievable arrogance that allows bloviating bloggers to sit back and calmly debate whether America ought to install a "stong man" in Iraq, as though freedom were some particularly gaudy bauble we had bestowed on Those People but had decided they weren't really ready for.

Or perhaps we ought to ignore the Constitution the Iraqis just came out and risked their lives to vote for, and set aside lives of the over 2500 American men and women who've died so far to breathe life into it, and simply slice up their country like some obscene pizza pie; as though Turkey would stand for two seconds for an independent Kurdistan and Iraq's neighbors wouldn't immediately begin picking at the pieces of her corpse like vultures. Doubtless Iraqis and American war widows alike can comfort themselves with the knowledge that it was nothing personal. Their sacrifices have been duly noted, but it's all part of the New Realism that is all the rage amongst the Georgetown set.

George Will thinks John Kerry was right. He thinks the law enforcement approach was the way to go after all. In an almost unbelievable triumph of hope over experience he cites the success of the recent disruption of the London plot.

Has he been reading any American newspapers lately? Has he, perhaps, read about the latest ruling on the NSA wiretapping case, one so poorly reasoned that even opponents of government wiretapping are scratching their heads over it? Did he miss the outing of the SWIFT program, exactly the kind of program John Kerry was describing when he said combating terrorism was "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world." Perhaps it escaped Mr. Will's notice that such cooperation is endangered (to put it mildly) when the NY Times outs even programs it called for in the aftermath of 9/11. Or maybe the rather startling gap between the freewheeling press and bill of rights in America and those of, say, Pakistan or England are minor details he feels can be safely ignored.

The truth is I've had it about up to here with words and the criticisms of those who are only satisfied with perfectly fought wars and governments who never make mistakes, though those two commodities don't seem to exist in any history book I've ever read. Words don't win wars. Two things win wars.

Faith. And commitment. No one really doubts we have the resources to win in Iraq. We are the world's largest superpower. Right now if you walk though the halls of the Pentagon (and this is a point seldom made when the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth starts on Capitol Hill), though members of all services are represented in the War on Terror (and they serve bravely and well), there are only two services who are wearing cammies: the Army and the Marines. That is because only two services are full-on at war. We are not yet strained to the breaking point. If we had to, we could do more.

And if you are one of those who are angry at government for not convincing you to sacrifice, for not spoon-feeding you commitment, for not soothing your doubts and fears, what is keeping you from sacrificing, from getting involved, from being informed, from motivating yourself? We live in an information age. So many people are doing good work: Semper Fi Fund, Project Valour IT, Purple Heart Foundation, Homes for our Troops. Any one of them would be glad to hear from you, or to have your help.

And Brian, I hate like hell to do this, because I will treasure your kind remark until the day I die, but I have to say this:

My love affair with the written word is just about at an end. Words are easy, and they have never won any war that I can remember, and George Will and his "farrago of caricature and non sequitur" can kiss this Marine wife's rosy pink ass.

Posted by Cassandra at August 21, 2006 08:10 AM

Comments

Don't give up on the written word just yet. You just did one helluva post. It would be a shame to let that talent whither while so many hacks out there haven't a clue.

Posted by: Jeff Bell at August 21, 2006 04:52 PM

Agreed. Don'tcha quit now, you're on fire.

Posted by: Syberyenta at August 21, 2006 05:05 PM

Mmm,George Will, didn't he used to be somebody? I mean before Steyn, Wretchard and VDH?

Posted by: ck at August 21, 2006 05:05 PM

Please don't quit! The blogosphere just wouldn't be the same without you... and I think part of me would die inside. :-(

Posted by: Watcher at August 21, 2006 05:08 PM

Honey, if you don't stop and place your hand over your heart when the flag is raised, or when the National Anthem is played...then your life ain't worth shit.If the sight of the flag on the tail of a U.S. based air carrier when overseas doesn't make you stop and sigh---then you probably will never "get" it...Someone (or someones) need to keep the faith.You have the "bully pulpit",fight as long as you can.But when you can't, I'll understand.God speed Cass.

Posted by: WildBlueYonder at August 21, 2006 05:28 PM

I don't know how to say this without sounding churlish, which is the last thing I ever want to be to people who have been so generous to me.

I really, really appreciate the encouragement. More than I can say. But that is not why I wrote this. I don't want people to feel like they have to say anything. I especially don't want this to turn into a pat Cass on the back session, though I appreciate your kindness - believe me.

I am just having a bit of trouble right now figuring out what I am doing, and more importantly distancing myself from the subject matter. I don't like writing when I'm angry but I didn't want to go silent for two weeks either (which was about where I was at yesterday).

VC ends up being sort of my vent space because it's not fair to talk about blogging 24/7 at home. It wasn't going away, keeping it bottled up. It was just getting worse. I guess this is my equivalent to punching a hole in the wall every now and then, which I can't really do b/c I'm female.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 21, 2006 05:32 PM

Anyways, thanks for letting me rant. Really, I am fine. I am just really pissed right now.

I will get over it. I always do.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 21, 2006 05:33 PM

Cass... I haven't been involved in the blogosphere for very long, but yours is one of my regular reads. When you need to vent, go for it. Just wake up please and recognize that the pi**&moan crowd is just an overly-loud, overly-covered minority. They get everybody down now and then, that's their job and they're very good at it. Keep the faith, semper fi.

Posted by: Stashiu3 at August 21, 2006 05:53 PM

and George Will and his "farrago of caricature and non sequitur" can kiss this Marine wife's rosy pink ass.

The unit might have something to say about that. :-)


But, that is what makes undertakings such as Iraq great, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

To butcher a phrase: What benefit is it to you to do easy things, even weak men do that. But, instead do those things which are hard, and your reward will be great.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at August 21, 2006 06:15 PM

I suspect Mr. Will wouldn't find the prospect all that tempting either, truth to tell :)

But I don't imagine I will let that keep me awake at night. That man really frosts me at times.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 21, 2006 06:25 PM

Cassandra -- I hippolinked this at discardedlies.com which generates more comments but not here. There were 14 encouraging comments, with the best excerpt as follows: Now I'm going to go punch a kitten while breaking up a tea party for Palestinian orphans evicted from their olive groves.

Posted by: levi from queens at August 21, 2006 06:32 PM

Thank you levi - I really do appreciate the comments - I don't want to seem ungrateful. I just didn't want this to be one of those "OH_DEAR_SWEET_JESUS_ON_ A_POGO_STICK_HOW_MANY_TIMES_CAN_THE_FREAKING_WOMAN_QUIT" posts.

I may not post much until I calm down. But the reason I wrote this at all is that I'm trying not to go that route.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 21, 2006 06:47 PM

Cassie, you sound as if you think you need to apologize for this post. There is never a reason to apologize for the kind of intelligent and righteous anger on display here. Not one bit!

My reaction to this post is: DITTO!! I feel that same anger (and I fear, too).

I think the same thoughts you're articulating. I'm just not as brave as you--I don't go reading all the idiots and keep tabs on things the way you do. I dip my toe into the stories and opinion columns and find my emotional reactions so overwhelming that I pull it back out. I am afraid of what I would say or do of feel if I allowed myself to be immersed in it as you do (part of why I have almost zero tolerance for trolls).

It's obvious this is your passion, the direction you funnel your reactions to living in the times we live. Please don't hold back and think that your passion and intensity as expressed here are somehow wrong. I take my passion and intensity of reaction I have to "these times" and put it into my "support" activities. And I'm finding that yes, there is a certain type of people who look at me funny because of it (especially since I'm civilian). But I have been forced to realize I am good at it and I am compelled to do it by something inarticulate in my soul; I had to stop trying to pretend it's a hobby. I wonder if you need to accept that about yourself too--that this isn't what others say it should be (a modest little diversion or an "outlet" of little signficance), but a fundamental part of who you are and what have to offer this world. Maybe that's part of why writing is such an emotional experience for you...

I'm not saying you need to step out and change careers like I'm doing, but don't fight this part of yourself. It's who you are and why you matter.

Posted by: FbL at August 21, 2006 07:07 PM

Hmmm... I think this is the billionth time I've tried to write a comment about this. I am attempting to first avoid the 'Awww Cass' syndrome and the pat on the back that you don't want... but I feel should be given anyways, but can't, so I'll skip for now.

I am also attempting to avoid any 'Pollyanna' sentiments about "How things will turn around" or how I feel that "America will survive the people that want to lead it to dhimmitude"... as that doesn't seem appropriate either.

So, what is it I'm trying to say? Perhaps, the only thing I feel comfortable saying is "Nicely written, Cass! Me too!"

But then, I've gone and pretty much done everything I've said I was trying not to do. Ah well. Thanks!

Posted by: Kevin L at August 21, 2006 07:28 PM

Cass -- do not despair.
Do not give up.

BTW, George Will is the living definition
of effete. So what?

Please hang in there.

Regards

Posted by: Randall Tanner at August 21, 2006 07:31 PM

I don't get a chance to see your site often, but found it today.

Whenever I have the thoughts you are having, I remember that evolution kindly endowed us with a lifespan that is just short enough that no single generation can screw things up too badly.

Remember, the ones who animate the anti-war self-love cult, who are so frivolous and misguided in these serious times - those are the flower children of days gone by. And guess what? Demographically, they are on the wane. This is their high water mark. And as they pass away, our population is being replenished with new life, and new hope.

The self-absorbed baby boom is leaving the stage. We have to keep our heads, grit our teeth right back at the rat bastards, and America WILL regenerate itself in our lifetime. This fact is as real as the nose on my face.

Geoff

Posted by: Geoff at August 21, 2006 07:51 PM

Cass -

I live in a fairly safe haven of support for George Bush, but I work in alternative medicine. These people are often grown hippies, and they still want to live the glory days at college when they were protesting and getting high.

Still, I was shocked when a guest lecturer did a sort of WWE cage match with me, when I just suggested that the pendulum is swinging back from its highest point of libertinism and all-about-me-ness, toward a more conservative society in which some people will feel the love for their country enough to volunteer to die for it. I said that people's viewpoint about the place and obligations of the citizen in society has changed since 9/11, when the folly of the Jimmy Carter approach to international dialog was shown to be a foolish one. I nearly got my throat ripped out.

I may now open a bag-o'-metaphors, so be patient with me. There is always turbulence when two systems collide. Warm humid air from the Gulf moves north, a front moves south, they collide over Houston and we get massive flooding, thunderstorms and tornadoes. As a nation, I believe we are in thunderstorm-and-tornado mode now, because long entrenched viewpoints, such as those delivered unchallenged for decades by the NYT, Time, Newsweek etc., are colliding with the "army of Davids" written about by Glenn Reynolds. No monolithic organization has a monopoly on "fact" and "truth" any more. Dissenting opinions, written to their editors, never saw the light of day, but that matters less now. The silent majority is now being heard.

Still, those who had power are loathe to relinquish it. I think that rather than the effete nation that you worry has emerged, that group has had the rug pulled out from under it. They have landed with a hard thump on their fat untoned a$$e$, because they thought they were living in reality, and they are just awakening to the fact that there are other life-forms in this country. They don't know what to do about it -- call an exterminator? They still own the megaphones, so they bray and holler, and their voices are magnified. What I see is my son, now 15, but when 13 told me that he would fight for his country. I was stunned. Where did this boy, who has been raised by computer jockeys, develop the feeling of love for the country that makes him consider military service? On the one hand, I am afraid that he'll enlist, and die. On the other hand, it gives me great hope to see the stirrings of responsibility for the great American experiment growing in one so young. He knows instinctively that freedom isn't free, that someone has to do the hard work. I put my ear to the ground among his friends, and I realize that he is not alone.

I was in high school during the Vietnam war. I remember when my classmates refused to recite the Pledge of Allegience, and my brain-dead high school administration made it optional. I wanted to say the pledge, so I stood to say it. I was the only one. They ridiculed me, and I sat down. I never tried again, being a person who had not yet developed the backbone that I have had to grow in more recent years. I think my son would have stood, and recited the pledge alone, and ignored the ridicule. I think he might have changed others' minds, and others might have become strong enough to stand with him.

I think there is a new "greatest generation" coming of age, whose seminal moment was watching the towers fall and deciding that no one has the right to do this to us, especially unprovoked.

Back to the weather - I think George Bush has been out in the thunder and tornadoes standing mostly alone for five years. I think he is tired, and does not waver in his commitment but wearies of trying to 'splain the whole thing over and over for those of short attention span. I think there are many Republicans who are as I was in high school, lacking in backbone. I am loathe to vote for them, because I think that only encourages them, but when I see what's on the Democrat side of the aisle, my palms get sweaty and I realize that this is no time to elect Democrats.

As Margaret Thatcher told George the father Bush, this is no time to go wobbly. I gain strength for these times by reading about Abraham Lincoln, and the hatred that was unleashed upon him. He died for his belief in this Union. His face is on Mt. Rushmore. Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter never will be. In 50 years, if we don't lose our nerve Dubya might be, because he is a true believer in liberty, and when these loud protests and fair-weather Republicans are lost to history, the vision of George W. Bush will live on.

As Betty Dawisha, Iraqi voter, says, “Anybody who doesn’t appreciate what America has done, and President BOOOSH, let them go to hell!”

Posted by: MathMom at August 21, 2006 08:21 PM

Cass, I blame myself for this. If I hadn't been so busy lately and unable to post, you wouldn't be feeling this way. Chirac has not been by to serenade his love-flower, as they say, Oleg has not been by to inflame the vanguard of the Revolution, and the Mad Mullah has not administered your necessary beatings in accordance with Sharia Law. Add to that my typical pithy musings, and I now see what a void I have obviously left in your blogging life! Being a humble and modest fellow, I beg your forgiveness.:)

Now, as to the substance of your post, you are allowing the MSM to get you down. The americans I know are just as patriotic as ever. Yes, the america-hating Left is more vocal, and they are given support and encouragement by their fellow-travellers in the MSM. This, however, presents a false view of our nation. I understand that it is easy to fall prey to the steady drumbeat of negativity from the MSM, though. Just remember, it is all propaganda. Plus, I never liked George Will anyway. He's way too much the talking head, Washington "insider". I differ with him on many conservative issues.

I remember you once compared me to one of those "stern" Romans you discussed here, IIRC. I thank you for that compliment. I have never been one to embrace the effete, decadent, "greek" lifestyle.

Maybe it comes from coming to this country as an immigrant with two suitcases in my hands and no knowledge of the English language, and clawing my way up to upper middle class status. I can certainly attest to the fact that America is still the land of opportunity, but it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to seize that opportunity. If one simply sits on his backside and waits for a handout, then I don't believe that person will amount to much.

On the other hand, maybe my attitude comes from seeing what happens when the lunatics gain control of the asylum as they did in the Soviet Bloc. I have seen what the Left does with their Statist, utopian theories, and I have never seen more evil in my life. Therefore, I am fully insulated against the siren song of the Left trying to lure me to my doom upon the rocks. I will fight the america-hating Left with every fiber of my being. I will do everything in my power to resist the creation of the Soviet States of America. If others will fight with me, then great, but if not, then I will fight on alone. Surrender is not an option. If you experienced what I have experienced, then it would not be an option for you either.

I had a friend in college who was one of the Vietnameses boat people. He is now a doctor. Anothe friend was a survivor of the killing fields of Cambodia. He is now an engineer. Another friend survived the genocide of Idi Amin in Uganda. He is a biologist. These people do not need to be convinced that America is indeed that shining city on a hill, nor do they need to be convinced that we are facing ruthless and evil enemies. It is only when I speak to my american-born friends that I hear this type of equivocation and second-guessing you raise, Cass.

Americans take so much of their freedom and liberty for granted, that it amazes me. Are you so pampered and sheltered that you cannot see the comparison with other places and peoples in the world around you? Why do you think the whole dang world is trying to immigrate here if the US is such a horrible place under the "Bushreich"? Do you truly believe America to be so unworthy that you will not defend her against these baseless charges? Have you lost your faith in the principles that made America great? Why? Have those principles failed in any way, or have certain people simply proven themselves unworthy of those ideals? The Left has, for a long time, proven themselves to be no more than the Roman "mob", living for and demanding more bread and circuses from the State. While the Left maintains the same type of parasitic existence, it no more represents the USA, than the mob represented Rome.

Do not give in to despair, and surrender your principles and virtu (in the Roman sense). Join me in the ranks, sister, and let us defend our shining city on a hill.

Posted by: a former european at August 21, 2006 08:34 PM

Having been only recently alerted by the Power Line people to your blog, and being somewhat new at this myself (but Lord, not at 4:00 a.m.), it distresses me to read how worn down you have been feeling, how you seem to think that your writing, your talking, your urging others to think, has somehow become . . . pointless.

There is no other choice, Cass; not really. It has never been easy to be the voice crying in the wilderness (and that voice has never been George Wills' voice either), to live in places where everyone is just so sure that it's all Bush's fault because they don't want to take the time to do anything besides mouth a party line that makes no sense. Their views are based on suppositions lacking in any historical support, because, frankly, they just want it all to go away, just as it always did at the end of the thirty-minute dramas and sitcoms which inform most of their views of life.

Freedom isn't free, it says simplistically but truly on the magnetic ribbon on the back of my car.

Please keep writing. We need every voice.

Posted by: Everyman at August 21, 2006 09:44 PM

Cassandra,

Hold fast.
Your clear writing, tackling the truth head on is of value in helping us remember to be true to our origional character and fights the rot from within.
It may not seem like a lot, but every drop of water is of value in the dessert.

Posted by: MajS at August 21, 2006 09:47 PM

"For the past week I've been trying to decide whether there is any real value to anything I've done for the past two and a half years. I am still not sure what the answer to that question is."

I read a lot of blogs every day. Occasionally, like today, I get kind of bored or something, or just fed up with the "same old, same old." More than once when I was feeling like that I happened upon one of your posts and reading it made it all better.

Today was one of those times. Speaking for myself, there is much value in what you write and, judging from the comments above, I'm not the only one.

Thank you for what you do.

Posted by: Glenn Sutherland at August 21, 2006 10:23 PM

Frankly, I blame AFE , too. :-)

Cassie, how long have we been "talking" to each other via the this thing they call, "the internet"? Three and a half years now, since those wacky days on TOB, etc. ?
You've survived the hairy fruit monster (R-**, you know), been deafened by Jet Noise, warded off Deb Frisch, and on, and on....

All I can say is, you make a difference. You make a difference to me, and to a lot of other people who read and care about what you write about.
I don't always agree with you (some of those caption contest winners, ugh, really!), but you're in there pitchin'.
You've always made difference, that's the kind of person you are. If you cease to wish to make a difference in some way, you will diminish as a person (or is that persyn?).
And frankly, that's not you at all.

I have a hard time contolling my anger about these times, too. I hold my tongue now, as many of my so-called "family" strongly disagree with my views. My brother-in-law and I nearly came to blows over this, and I've known this man for 30 years, but have blinded myself to our differences due to 'family', and the fact that in many ways I love him as if he were a real brother.
There is no balm to the hurt and anger, things are likely to get worse before they get better, and some of us may not live to see a better age born, but the consolation is the knowledge that this blog helps to connect like-minded souls, and that YOU are making a difference.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at August 21, 2006 10:27 PM

I didn't read thru other comments, so I don't know if this is an echo or not, but here's how I see it:

You are one of many. You give voice to those who lack the ability or courage. You share your thoughts and feelings with us, which entertain, inform, tittilate, amuse, scare, anger, and educate us on things we knew, knew and forgot, or should have known.

You matter. What you do here matters. I for one am a better person for having experienced it.

Thanks.

Brettzky

Posted by: LongTabSigO at August 22, 2006 12:39 AM

Cass,
I don't like war. But I do remember what it was like to lose some freedoms that I took for granted just by being with my husband in West Germany. It isn't West Germany anymore. It has been reunited, and the Soviet Union is going through its crisis too. But it happened because we held the line and didn't back down.

Getting a peace in the Balkans took ten years and half the population is Christian. I don't think that Iraq is going to be easy because we are not dealing with anyone who wants to forget culture and tradition within the religion to see the big picture. THAT is what scares me. Not the alleged lack of committment on the part of the US, but that those who want a free Iraq and a society that isn't governed by Sharia law are going to be drowned out. And I know they come from both sides of the spectrum.

Just my two cents and part of my daily prayers for an ancient and honorable country. After all, even Nebuchadnezzar gave up the throne to study religion.

It could still happen you know...

Posted by: Cricket at August 22, 2006 02:36 AM

Cass,

Now you know why "I am" the way "I am"?

You have a gift don't let it abuse you.

Many years ago - I thought that the constant abuse from the malcontents in this world would drive me simply mad. It did but I girded up my loins and "drudged" ;) forward anyway-

thus began the moniker "Harden Stuhl".

People will always be a pain in my ass and I have the name to prove it....

Hang in there kid. We will survive....

Happy trails.

Harden

Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhl at August 22, 2006 03:57 AM

To paraphrase the bumper sticker: "Life Happens".

Oh the stories of misery and unhappiness I could tell you, if only I felt like sharing (with the WORLD, no less) and typing that freakin' much...but I don't. Maybe someday, if by chance we should meet face-to-face, but never in an open forum.

Like "they" used to say, you've got moxie, kiddo. I suspect that you'll soldier on, somehow; it's what we soldiers (past and present) do...

Posted by: camojack at August 22, 2006 05:12 AM

Dear Cassandra, Let's remember that God protects little children and the United States of America. It may be some Americans don't get what we're all about and what w're doing. Ok. (I happen to think it's about 25-30%, magnified all out of proportion be the lamestream media.) But most people do get it, deep inside. And beyond that, the cosmic energies and wisdom that helped bring America into being in the first place are still here and still actively supporting us. And the mission to help all the world become free is still ongoing. So let's remember that we are in the hands of something good beyond words and keep our eyes on the truth of that and not get pushed off track by the sometimes imbecilic remarks of our fellows.

Your posts are awesome. You have become one of the blogs I read frequently. You have energy and humor and insight and remarkable organizational abilities to pull a story line together.

When driving from the midwest to the west coast, on early trips, I always made the mistake of thinking we were almost there. In spite of the map. Then I would get impatient and upset in interminable Nebraska. Eventually I learned that I needed to take the longer view.

Hope this helps. You are taking in a lot of toxins when you consume the lamestream media. I appreciate very much that you do this, because I pretty much only get my news now reflected in the blogs. The lamestream is just too toxic.

Maybe you need detoxification days where you have only pleasure and fun.

Sincerely,
Constant Reader SJ

Posted by: lovestarlings at August 22, 2006 05:33 AM

Join me in the ranks, sister, and let us defend our shining city on a hill.

afe, darlin:

With you at my side, I could take on the terrorists during my lunch break and still have time to knock out the insurgency in Congress :)

What would I do without you guys?

Thank you. All of you. Sorry for the angst.

Fbl, thanks. I will probably respond privately later.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 22, 2006 08:15 AM

Cassandra -

I'll keep it short and simple: Thank you. When I find my resolve wavering in the relentless negativity, it helps to know I'm not alone. Again, thank you.

Posted by: Daveg at August 22, 2006 08:47 AM

Ahem, if you and AFE are going to go all commando, I want to go too!! I'm one angry woman and I've got time on my hands.

Seriously, Cass, you know how I feel about your blog and your writing. Like Dave's comment above, when I read your words, I know that I'm not alone.

Posted by: Carrie at August 22, 2006 09:01 AM

Ahem, if you and AFE are going to go all commando, I want to go too!!

[[looking around wildly]]

I DO TOO WEAR PANTIES!!!!

Well, OK, maybe sometimes I don't. Under skirts. In summer. BUT NO TELLING!

Posted by: Cassandra at August 22, 2006 09:10 AM

Heh..I'm discovering the joys of nekkid housework.
'course that whole bacon frying thing still has some kinks in it.

Can we get boots? And night vision goggles?
CAN WE PACK HEAT???

Posted by: Carrie at August 22, 2006 09:22 AM

This is why men fry bacon, honey. I just hand 'em the splatter screen and tell 'em to guard the crown jewels.

*running away*

Posted by: Cassandra at August 22, 2006 09:36 AM

you coulda told me that earlier..GEEZ!!!

PS: Just so you know, when you run, your skirt flies up. :)

Posted by: Carrie at August 22, 2006 09:39 AM

Don't I know it?

Tease.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 22, 2006 09:43 AM

Skirts flying, grease spattering and jewel guarding. It doesn't get any better than this.

My air conditioner conked out at midnight and between the thunder, lighting, heat and pain,
I thought I would surf the net. You wouldn't believe some of the things I see at three am.

Kind of like running out of milk and deciding whether or not to run to the local QT or Wally World.

heh.

Posted by: Cricket at August 22, 2006 10:20 AM

You're right that faith and commitment win wars, Cass. But words often stoke the fires of faith and commitment, as you of all people would know. Re-read the Gettysburg Address, or ponder again the influence of Thomas Paine's "Common Sense." The world has always had its summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.

If you stop writing, I will miss you. But I will still love you for what you've done so far, and how you've done it, with humor and passion such as the blogosphere could use more of.

Posted by: Patrick O'Hannigan at August 22, 2006 10:42 AM

The good guys always win! There is no moral equivalence between the whiners and yapping dogs who feel unworthy of living in this great country of ours and those who standup when the colors pass!

I was inspired by Joe Lieberman standing up to the losers in the Democratic Party. I am also inspired by the millions of Iraqis who quietly go about the daily mundane activities that come with the freedom of not having to worry about rape rooms and murder.

They understand the cost of freedom! To the losers who wish the world operated on soundbites and 30 minute sitcoms I say, you are unworthy of being a U.S. citizen!

Posted by: vet66 at August 22, 2006 12:13 PM

Speaking of bacon spatter...Guys, speaking of cooking in the kitchen au naturel, never store the bread to be toasted above the toaster. Reaching above the hot toaster for another slice of bread can have deleterious affects on certain vulnerable parts of the male anatomy!
Trust me! I have the scars to prove it!

Ladies, never reach over an operating fan for any reason! My sister-in-law did and the sound will haunt me forever!

The rich, east coast elites pay people to do these sorts of things for them! That is why they are out of touch with the rest of us, and themselves!

Posted by: vet66 at August 22, 2006 12:22 PM

My first time here. Sad to see the weariness. I'll never give up, and neither should you. Keep the faith. If I can do it, you can too. You've inspired me. I'm stealing your VC pic. VC will be used on a future military endeavor.

Posted by: Badfrog at August 22, 2006 12:48 PM

Cass,

I want to encourage you to keep that angst and emotion inside. Wad it up in a little ball, then when you feel the need to let it out, swallow real hard like you trying to take a huge pill. You feel that ball of emotion right under the rib cage. Then, put on a nice little smile and move on.

After you do this awhile, and when you end up in the clock tower, I will do an interview on the news and tell everyone on the news about your blog. Then you will be really famous, even if you give yourself up after the standoff.

Posted by: Dr. Male at August 22, 2006 12:58 PM

Well, I can only echo what others have said, Cass. Your voice is very important, but I understand your frustration, and I will understand if stop writing. I will be disappointed though, as I was when you took your recent hiatus.

I, too, am disappointed in the ones on the right who are now wavering. WE MUST NOT JOIN THEM! We must remember what is at stake.

I thought this was appropriate for this thread

Posted by: JannyMae at August 22, 2006 01:04 PM

This is the first time I have visited your site. I found it accidentally as I was jumping from link to link. Now that I know where you are, I'm coming back for more. I hope to find that you have continued to write. I don't know what you have been doing for the past 2.5 years (I'll go back and read more), but if it's been anything like this, you bet it has value. You are kicking good Americans in the butt and reminding us what we need to do. You are inspiring us. You are making us feel proud of what we have been, and can always be. You are providing focus and direction. Not many can do it as well.

Posted by: judyrose at August 22, 2006 01:08 PM

Cass:
First, great heartfelt post! Thank you. It made my morning (could have used this yesterday. Ugh!).

Second, clearly your psyche has taken a mugging from the quibblers and quislings of the Blue Staters and beltway bloviaters. You have a righteous anger! (You are not alone by any stretch). Do you remember when Jesus (in his righteous anger) drove out the money-changers who were making his Father's house into a den of thieves? You, Cass, are just getting a little weary of these thieves (of the same ilk) who are trying their darndest to rob, undermine, marginalize, and mock the goodness, the nobleness, and freedom-loving values of our great nation's peoples.

I've only been a VC convert for a couple months now. What makes your blog addictive is its poignancy. As a confident heterosexual (?) I can honestly say that some of your posts (including this one) moved me to tears. You have a God-given talent, Cass. Never tire of doing what is right! Scripture says to NOT be overcome by evil, ...but overcome evil with good. Your writing is "good". --Ziobuck hating evil and clinging to what is good.

Posted by: ziobuck at August 22, 2006 03:47 PM

The people have spoked....speaken...er...said some stuff.

Posted by: Pile On® at August 22, 2006 05:56 PM

Ok... take a deep breath.

I stopped reading Little Green Footballs years ago because I found myself being more and more pissed off all the time... I had become an adict of bad news. I haven't stuck my head in the sand, but I stopped the daily intake of acid-bile news and it helped. I still get aggravated, I still keep up, but I do NOT allow myself to be poisoned by a daily dose of arsenic.

I love reading what you write, and I love your incisive opinions, etc., but You really need to stop worry so much. Go a middle school, talk to kids. Go to a Kiwanis Club meeting, or a local scouts meeting. Hang out at a local diner with the early morning don't have to go to work crowd for a few days....

I know this is simplistic sounding and maybe insulting sounding (not my intent, as you know), but I am serious. Take a break from bad news, only see the good for a week or so, filter your day, ignore some of the less important stuff. I don't know how to say this different. Like that article you quote about Americans by a Brit. I read a website named Watching America, It is mostly foreign press, it is a lot of anti american stuff, but not all. I take it as it comes, I try not to get too revved about stuff that is just people being people. I saw that article and like you, got a bit choked up. To me it's a reverse of all the aw-shits and atta-boys. One atta-boy wipes out a lot of aw-shits for me, since I don't like or believe half that crap anyway... Know what I mean?

Really, just don't read the bad stuff all the time, it will poison you. I was me.

Lots of good out there, as you know well. Just don't think it has all gone away.

Regards,
SangerM

Posted by: SangerM at August 22, 2006 06:10 PM

P.S. George Will is a putz, always has been. Really. Just an educated Rush Limbaugh but with fewer readers...

P.P.S. I know the above was inarticulate, I was writing in a hurry (I'm in classes again), what I mean by all that is go smell some flowers, drink a glass of chocalate milk, watch a feel-good movie. The world hasn't stopped turning, and in spite of how it feels, it isn't going to. WWII must have seemed like dark days indeed to folks who had just passed through a depression, and for whom (as in England) the end of time was possible months away (thank GOD for the U.S., eh?)...

The sun shines, the sky is blue sometimes, and kids laughing can cure any evil. Go to a hospital and wander the halls of the birth center. Watch a playground.

Again, I know this sounds simple-minded, but sometimes you just need a rejuv.

V/R

Posted by: SangerM at August 22, 2006 06:19 PM

No, it doesn't. That is what I am trying to do. Just give myself some space to think.

The Internet can be toxic. I am good about not letting news get to me most of the time. I can shut it off. I am not so good about shutting people out. I have never learned to do that. I think I just need to let the sun in.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 22, 2006 06:34 PM

And KJ, you are first on my list :)

Posted by: Cassandra at August 22, 2006 06:35 PM

I second what SangerM said. That is part of the reason I get rather simplistic. When people start wrapping themselves around the axle, and using their emotions for brains (in lieu of fertilizer but I digress), that is when I have to stop and take a deep breath.

Today, it is a horrendously lovely thunderstorm complete with lighting and rain. And we are on the front porch watching it and the CLUs play in the water.

The donner and blitzen were over when they donned their swimsuits and ran outside to play squirtgun soccer.

Now they are inside, getting showered and dressed and ready for dinner. We have something in the bread machine and crockpot, brownies in the oven and ice cream base cooling in the fridge.

The sixth chapter of Artemis Fowl awaits and as we pause to gather, we give thanks for our blessings.

Life is good...and we never forget that.

Posted by: cricket at August 22, 2006 06:40 PM

Going commando?!? No way. I would never give up my ginormous codpiece.

Cass, I admire that you finally had the courage to admit, some months ago, that it was my ginormous codpiece which scared you away from blogging the first time around. It hasn't gotten any smaller, baby, but I think you are now over the initial shock. Tell me more about your lack of unmentionables. :)

Posted by: a former european at August 22, 2006 09:11 PM

Cassandra, I hope and believe that, should you give up blogging, that you will at length reconsider and return to it.

There's a lot I could say but most of it sounds terribly pompous. Sorry in advance.

While the fight and the need for the fight goes on, we must participate in the debate on how the future will be handled. We must be informed, thoughtful, and vocal. Rest; recover; renew your strength. Your comrades-in-words will close ranks and hold the line. You'll be in our thoughts and we'll be waiting for you to return.

Posted by: hiraethin at August 22, 2006 10:17 PM

"Without a vision the people perish," the Scriptures have it, and it is true. Grand and glorious visions are wonderful and heartwarming things, but uncommunicated are no more than personal philosophical reflections. Great visions are needed in our times, and visonaries with glory-clouded eyes, and clarion voices ringing clear and true. Words alone convey vison from heart to living heart. The prophets of old cried out their visions when their freighted hearts could no longer bear the torment in their souls, seemingly in vain most oft. Yet now, centuries hence, their words rumble down the ages and lightning cracks anew in every generation. Every generation in turn turns, groaning and grumbling, away from it's flesh pots du jour to the new-kindled light.
Be not dismayed, VC, for thus did they treat the prophets of old. Neither did the prophets labor in vain, nor do you.

Posted by: Tamquam Leo Rugiens at August 22, 2006 10:23 PM

Just wanted you to know that I appreciate your rational, lucid, well-informed words. Your voice in the tangled wilderness of rantings and ravings helps me to center and clarify my own voice, and you keep the creeping cynicism and anger at bay for me. I hope you can do the same for yourself. The national climate has become so base and vicious, so godawful effin' stupid. Your words reinforce the presence of America's best ideals, and the willingness to sacrifice for those ideals. We're out here and we're with you!!

Posted by: Maggie at August 23, 2006 11:37 AM

I vote for you not quitting. I don't read your blog regularly, but sometimes I'll take an hour or two on a rainy day to read everything that has been written on it since my last visit. The one thing I admire about your writing is it seems to be honest and based on truth.

Reading truthful things is one of my greatest joys. The universities are full of professors that have heads full of facts but no truth in their hearts. Likewise, the libraries are full of books full of facts, but no soul. I enjoy reading the thoughts of people who know the facts of the matter at hand, but that don't just stop there; they work the truth out of the accumulated facts.

You, Cassandra, are one of the writers I enjoy the most and I would hate to know that your gift of writing would be unused. I also know that the America you are mourning is not dead; it is alive and well. I live in a small city and I see it everyday. I spent a week in Gulfport MS this summer and I saw the American spirit there. People, by the hundreds, volunteering their time and talents for a few days to help rebuild what Katrina took away. It chokes me up just thinking about the conversations I had with the survivors living in FEMA trailers who are, after almost a year, daily amazed at the outpouring of love and help that strangers are willing to give them.

So, yes, America has its failings, and seeing the foolishness sometimes can be depressing, but to me there is one truth that always stands above the rest; that freedom is worth the price paid, even unto death. That is the legacy of my God; that is the gift that was given to this nation by our founding fathers.

Please keep writing; you have the gift for it and the freedom to do it. Bless you!

Posted by: dougrc at August 23, 2006 05:12 PM

I appreciate your writing a lot. I've a son-in-law in Iraq now, and I'd rather it were me. I see Americans giving the enemy encouragement, and I am enraged. Weren't the few million dead in SE Asia after we betrayed the South Vietnamese enough stain on our honor?

I guess it's almost always been this way - some people do more than their share. My grandfather told me about shovelling coal on a Navy cruiser during WWI. He said they used to put grates over the hatches so the stokers couldn't flee their posts during battle. How could he do that?

My dad was a P-47 pilot in Europe at the end of WWII. I was a lucky, Vietnam era Marine who spent the end of the war in Japan. This country has always found the good men and women who step up when a difficult job needs doing.

I find it hard to despair. A lot of our countrymen are misguided, but few are evil.

Posted by: MarkD at August 23, 2006 07:48 PM

Don't give up girl, I set my feet on the little yellow footprints in 1967. when I came home form the RVN the country seemed to have set out on the yellow brick road. Yea, sometimes it looks like Oz, and that hurts like hell,but, Semper Fi.

Posted by: john at August 23, 2006 10:59 PM

Pretty good. You were just serious enough that it took almost 24 hours for the comments to devolve into the usual debauchery.

You're not going anywhere (I fervently hope). Take a break. Get out into the country. Leave the wretched Blue masses and get out into the red states and see some of us normal (and I use the term advisedly) folk.

Just come back when you're ready. We'll be waiting for you.

Posted by: James at August 24, 2006 01:40 PM

Why can't we ever have unusual debauchery?

Just askin'.

Pile On? Pile on?

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at August 24, 2006 02:32 PM

Madam:

Cold fury is best.

Decades ago, when I was young, I was mystified by the omnipresent citations of "European sophistication". Increasingly over the years, I have watched Europe progress down the dark side of the cycle into decadence and hoped that we would not follow too closely. But now I'm afraid that that old worship of sophistication has been passed down to so many of our younger generations that our propensity for fast learning will put our country right on their heels.

I hate it.

Posted by: Socialism_is_error at August 24, 2006 10:02 PM

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