He Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks: Bring on the Next War!
By BEN TRIPP
I’m starting to look forward to our next war. On an average day, you can find me deploring war and all its trappings. But now I have deplored myself silly, and I am very tired. If there’s to be another war, I don’t know if I have the gumption left to oppose it. Actually it might even be a welcome thing, because after eleven-and-a-half score years, we would finally get the definitive answer on what kind of country America has become. Up to now our recent adventures could be considered a ghastly mistake. If we attack yet another nation, there’s no mistake at all. Most of me shudders at the thought, but a part of me, the same part that slows down to look at automobile wrecks on the freeway, is rather enjoying the suspense. It’s a sickness. In this creepy malaise I suspect I’m not alone.
Left-wing web sites are hurting for cash lately. I hear it from many of the long-suffering, ill-groomed people that run these outlets: the money was trickling in for a while, not exactly stacks of loot, but enough to pay some of the bills. Then, what with the popular call to piss money down the mainstream political sewers (after all, it’s almost an election year) and an economy that has turned as sour as Bigfoot’s jockstrap, the famed bastions of the Digital Progressive Movement are crumbling. Is it just because readers are strapped for cash? That’s part of it, certainly. My own time is dominated by the requirement to make as many dollars as I can while there are dollars to be made (it’s not working, but that’s a horse of another currency). I think, however, (clever people always say “however” if they can’t work “indeed” into the text somewhere) there’s more to it than just economics. Indeed, Shakespeare put the anti-war malaise best: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (He may have mistaken me for a woman, or he may have been speaking of someone else. The problem in my case is from behind I look uncannily like the late celebrity chef Julia Child.) I have protested too much, I admit it. Anti-war fatigue has hit me like a dose of clap, and I’m starting to think there’s an epidemic.
As an American I am satisfied, on some primal level, to have at the ready a nice fierce army with tanks and rockets, some battleships and airplanes and so forth, ready to slaughter any enemy that wades onto American shores for purpose of conquest or similar. As unlikely as the prospect is, we have obviously rather overdone it; I know it’s not the best idea in the world to have a bunch of folks standing around with half a trillion dollars worth of weapons if you can’t think of something useful for them to do, but it’s just bred in the bone. That said, Thomas Jefferson put an interesting line in his draft of the Constitution for Virginia: “There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war.” He ran that little notion up the flagpole, and it was promptly run right down again. We’ve had a standing army ever since. There’s something impressive about a great big military, as long as you never, ever, ever use it.
But war is another kettle of horse color! In my lifetime we’ve had the Cold War, Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq, plus assorted other actions martial. That’s a lot of exploding and dying. I oppose war of any kind, unless it is absolutely the only course left to stop an atrocity against mankind from occurring, such as our recent intervention in Myanmar. I mean Iraq. Those Burmese monks will do just fine without our help. Every single war we’ve gotten into since my spawning has been a complete and utter waste of life and resources. One could attempt to argue, if one had the vim, that the Persian Gulf War was necessary to stop Saddam Hussein annexing poor helpless Kuwait. But we were shaking that rat prick’s hand and clapping him on the back a quarter century ago. The Persian Gulf War was blowback.
I must pause here to say: please, pro-war types, don’t bother with the hate mail. It’s not even entertaining any more. I reserve the right to think war in general and our recent wars in particular are useless. This does not mean I think all military personnel are useless, or bad people, or baby killers, or any of that; I will not be at the airport spitting on them once we finally get them home. Instead it is the corrupt and incompetent asshats that start wars and conduct them from afar that I rage against, in my pacifist kind of way. Why do I offer this disclaimer? Same reason. Very tired. Don’t want to argue with the un-examined chickenhawk “I have a cousin in the military” jingoistic pro-death legion of hateloving fetus-fetishist Jesusgobbling fuckwits any more. Which brings me back to the point. I’m so damn tired.
The symptoms are unmistakable. First, one finds oneself repeating the same political and social arguments again and again, usually to people that already agree. An established pattern of obsessive news-watching develops, always aimed at confirming one’s darkest suspicions. These suspicions are generally confirmed. A distaste for the general public comes next, as one realizes that, statistically, most people just don’t give a shit. Symptoms begin to cascade: feelings of alienation, suspicion, and isolation hang overhead like a morning fog that never quite burns off (although it will dissolve in alcohol). Frustration at the lack of popular interest in life-or-death matters leads to a desire to do something drastic, such as flee the country, commit suicide, or post short videos on YouTube. At last, feelings of exhaustion take over. Apathy follows, sometimes accompanied by hives. I additionally broke out in onions, though this could have been unrelated as I had recently visited a farm.
What is to be done? Not only am I not donating money to my favorite leftie outlets, I don’t have any money to donate. I don’t even write for them much, any more. Used to be I’d knock out a polemical screed once a week. Now it’s months between outbursts. This is probably a good thing from a humanistic standpoint, but it’s worrisome. I’ve mostly dropped out of the game, just waiting for the news that we’ve attacked Iran, so I can move to a quieter place where they don’t start wars. As much as I deplore war, and I deplore it a whole bunch, at this point it would almost be a relief to hear we’ve finally gone round the bend and attacked somebody again. So far it’s been death by a thousand cuts, a series of insults to which one almost becomes inured: the magician Jim Steinmeyer describes such a fate as “being nibbled to death by ducks”. I’ve hobbled duck-like in peace marches, stood on a street corner vigil with an Ikea votive candle in a paper cup, written emails to congresspersons, called senators on the phone, scribbled thousands of semi-witted words for the digital thinkspace. None of it has mattered much. Not one bullet has gone unfired as a result.
Some minds have been changed, some ideas have caught on, and in this snail’s progress I may have played some tiny part. For years I’ve said to myself, “keep on keeping on”. Of late I’ve added, “you may stop keeping on if we become embroiled in another war, because keeping on is not working at that point”. There is something weirdly seductive about it. Alloyed with the horror and tragedy of war is the horror and tragedy of losing one’s own country to bad men and evil ideas, and yet there would be a certain catharsis in knowing it was time to get out before the Gestapo starts rounding up dissidents. One hopes for better– to avert catastrophe, to save millions from misery and death. But to have this hideous suspense end, even in disaster (like Julia Child’s recipe for dynamite & asshole soufflé), would signal it is okay to be done with the weary struggle and get the hell out of Dodge. That is how, despite every fiber of my being, I have come to find the idea of another war attractive.
Ben Tripp, author of Square in the Nuts, is a hack in many mediums. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.