caro thinks

American Flag, 2001/09/19:21:54

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  • cried only once today
  • laughed a few times
  • objectivist doctrine reconsidered
    In response to some alarming statements on the wetheliving lists this week, citing Rand's horrific and ill-considered proclamations regarding the culpability of ordinary citizens of a country engaged in unjust wars or acts of atrocity, I wrote this:
    There's a common tenet of folk psychology that holds that the victim is to
    blame for his or her oppression. This idea persists in the face of massive evidence to the contrary, for a variety of reasons. The present reason that comes to the fore is that we'd like to kill Osama bin Laden, but there are innocents in the way. It would be easier to believe that they somehow share his guilt. Then we could slaughter them with a clear conscience.

    I'd like to recommend two resources, one very general, the other very
    specific. The specific one, which may help a little with understanding why the innocent bystanding Afghanis have not arisen and done their duty to protect the United States from the Taliban and bin Laden, is the Front Line web site, at

    These interviews are with people who have actually been to Afghanistan, who have seen the condition of the people and the country, and who have talked to Afghanis which the outspoken people on this list have obviously not. If you can read these resources and still think that it's acceptable to bomb the victims of their own government, then you will need to provide a better justification that their complicity in their own victimization.

    The other, general resource I highly recommend, is a technical thesis
    written for psychologists: Judith Herman's TRAUMA AND RECOVERY: THE
    AFTERMATH OF VIOLENCE FROM DOMESTIC ABUSE TO POLITICAL TERROR. If you read and try to understand this material, it will mercifully dispel from your mind any temptation to believe that we are justified in slaughtering the victims as co-conspirators.

    Finally, I'd like to point out that the very same reasoning can be used to show that the rise of Hitler and the destruction caused by the nazis is ultimately the fault of the Jews. If only the Jews had risen up and done their humanitarian duty to the world by otherthrowing the nazi regime, World War II never would have happened, and many fewer people--including Jews--would have been slaughtered. Hitler's nazis, and bin Laden's, would be very pleased if this were the conclusion we were to draw. It would complete their victory, because the very people who ought to be stepping in to defend their victims would then take over their job and help them achieve their vision.

    I'm livid about the article of Jack Wheeler's, forwarded without explanation by Nathaniel Branden, that calls for threats to destroy Mecca. But I don't have the strength to deal with this right now; I'll do so later. In the meantime I'll merely thank my lucky stars that no one in our current government will listen to him. Yikes! I know I write some bizarre stuff sometimes, but this is bizarreness to put mine to shame! Perhaps this is what happens when you mix narrowly-focused learning with a complete ignorance of psychological realities.
    wish list

    To pay for the war on terrorism and the cleanup of New York City:

    1. stop the war on drugs
    2. legalize the sale and production of recreational drugs
    3. immediately draft gang members and warlords and ship them to the Persian Gulf before they can kill anyone else at home
    4. tell the 1 million [sorry; I meant to change this figure but as soon as I submitted my entry I lost contact with the server] welfare recipients in New York city's projects that they are invited to come out and help with the cleanup and reconstruction or lose their benefits
    5. lift restrictions on working age for children, subject to close supervision to prevent their parents from embezzling their income (e.g., pay them mostly in food, clothing, books, computers, school supplies, pyschological and medical care, and luxuries that only a child would want, with just a small amount of cash deposited into an account in the child's name, that is only accessible with the child's picture-id check card)
    6. send convicted child-abusers and molestors to Afghanistan without weapons and use them as point people to draw enemy fire; we have to put them somewhere, and that's as good a place as any
    7. drop food, medical supplies and weapons from aircraft, on the Afghanis. This would really piss the Taliban off. Watched a documentary tonight, in which edicts of the Taliban Religious Police (their term, not mine!) were read. Death is seriously too good for the Taliban
    Seems funny, but I had to listen to the sound track from the original Star Wars movie. Not to put me in the mood for war, but to help me deal with the reality of it. It's strong, triumphant music--again, not triumphant in the sense of victory in war, but in the sense of victory in life. My vinyl recording is old and scratchy; I laughed as I took it from its jacket--the sides are numbered so that you can stack the disks on the spindle. Remember when they thought it would be a good idea to drop records on top of each other?
    folk psychology examined
    Notes on an explanation of the American flag for kids.

    Adults, especially adults with children, are invited to send comments to to help make it more effective before I prepare the final copy for the Enlightenment web site. Thanks much.

    What's Up With The Flag?

    What The Flag Means

    Why are adults so nuts about the American Flag? What's the big deal? Why are they suddenly everywhere? And why are all the adults crying every time they see one?

    The flag itself isn't anything. It's just a pattern of bright pretty colors. It's what the flag stands for, that makes it so important in people's minds. What it stands for is not in the flag, but in our minds.

    I was riding my bike through the neighborhood a couple of days ago, and what I saw made me cry. All the flags are sold out, but the local newspaper printed paper flags for their customers the day after the attack. All those paper flags were taped in people's windows. Someone had painted a picture of a flag, and put that in her window. And the local supermarket, owned by a middle eastern family, was waving several cloth flags and had the paper flag taped in the window too.

    A display of the flag makes an important statement to other people. It means that we support our country, our military, our government, and each other. It is a show of rebellion and defiance to anyone who threatens us. Times of war can be extremely discouraging to adults. Seeing the flags waving from every window cheers people up. They know that, whatever their small disagreements, they have something very big and very basic in common with everyone else here: We all treasure the American way of life, our freedoms, our principles. We know that we may have difficult challenges to face, but we're all in it together. The American flag stands for all of these things.

    How The Flag Helps Us

    Human beings also tend to put overwhelming things out of their minds. Everyone needs a break now and then. We don't want to watch the news or talk about war all day every day. But we do need to keep the events in mind, because there are certain things we need to do. We're giving blood, donating money, changing laws, and all sorts of other things to help. The flag helps us keep our focus on what we need to do.

    In a funny way, you can think of the flag as being like a shopping list. People frequently shop just for fun, or as part of a weekly routine. But they often go shopping because they need particular things right now. Even though they go out to the store because they need something, they might forget all the things they need. They might also need to do several things when they go out on one trip: shop, pick up the kids from school, get the dog from the vet and buy a flea collar while they're there. It's a lot to keep on their minds. It's easy to miss something. But they have the list. Every time they look at the list, they are reminded of what they need to do. The American flag is sort of like this. We go about our normal lives, but when we look up and see the flag, we're reminded of what we need to do and why we need to do it.

    How Should You Feel?

    Kids might not be feeling any of this yet. That's because you haven't had the time to build up enough connections in your mind. Adults have had seen a lot more things happen. Whenever our country goes through a difficult time, they see the flag in a slightly new way. Many of us have already seen our country at war, some of us several times.

    You don't have to feel bad if you don't feel it yet; no one demands that of you. And you don't have to make any patriotic displays of your own. Do what you feel comfortable with. If it is meaningful to you to wear red white and blue, then do it. If not, that's ok too.

    Does Saluting the Flag Mean We Think That the United States is Always Right?

    No. I don't think I know anyone who agrees with everything that our country does. Saluting the flag, saying The Pledge of Allegiance, singing The Star-Spangled Banner--these things are being done right now to show that we agree that there are some problems we have to deal with all together. We are encouraging ourselves and each other, by repeating that we agree. Instead of using words, we use the flag. It's like nodding your head. You could either say, "Yes, I agree with what you just said," or you could nod. The flag says a lot in a little bit of space, in a little bit of time. But it doesn't say EVERYTHING that there is to say. If you're having trouble understanding this, don't worry. Lots of adults don't understand it either!

    Other Kids

    There are lots of kids who don't understand any of this. But they act like they know everything! You know the type. You might see kids deliberately abusing the flag. If you carry a flag, someone might make fun of you. Some kids will even say bad things about America, Americans, the government, the police. What should you do about that?

    It's a difficult question for adults, and they don't always do the right thing to help kids. Our laws protect freedom of speech and freedom of property. That's just part of what the flag stands for. In America, whether someone is right or wrong, she is entitled to state her opinion. You are free to listen to it or not, agree with it or not, argue with it or not. But you're not allowed to use force to impose your opinions on other people. People are allowed to destroy flags that they own. But of course they can't destroy someone else's. That's theft and vandalism, and you should report that to teachers at school or police outside of school. The important thing to remember is that you have the right to your own property and to speak your mind, and they do too.


    The war is our responsibility, not yours. You don't need to solve the problems, fix the bullies, or protect the flag. The flag is a symbol for the people who understand what it means. We can't force other people to see what it means. If you're not in physical danger from kids who are criticizing the U.S. or destroying their own flags, and you think you can talk to them, you can try to explain it. But don't worry about it, if they don't get it. Maybe someday they'll grow up.

    Dan Rather with David Letterman

    On Monday night, David Letterman was back on the job, not ready to be funny but ready to work. It was a good interview. Dan Rather, normally the detached interviewer, was prompted for his opinion. Two things struck me especially.

    First, it is spectacular to see so much emotion written on the faces of the male celebrties. Six days after the attacks, just when it seemed that the anchor men were settling down to normal repressed male life, Rather comes on Letterman and just weeps. I've been a fan of Rather's since I was a small girl, and I like him better now. I find it easier to admire real people than their rigid, emotionless portrayals of themselves, and there have been so many real people on the television this week that I didn't know existed.

    Second, he made the kinds of philosophical claims that one would swear were coming from an objectivist. While other people are talking about third world "envy" of U.S. wealth, Rather pointed out that they don't want what we have. They don't want wealth, or territory, or any of the other values that warring peoples often fight for. Said Rather, "They want us gone." Said he, they don't like our freedom of speech, our liberation of women, our pursuit of personal gain. He said that this is a conflict of tribalism against civilization. I'm not making this up.

    I realize that this can all be chalked up to my rabid objectivism, but that would be unfounded. Although I said all these things the day after, Rather is speaking his own mind. Given what my own Middle Eastern friends have been saying to me for years and what they are saying to me now, I believe that we are going to confirm that this is exactly the case. Time will tell.
    in progress
  • It will cost upwards of $2000.00 to fix Max, I found out today. He is apparently burning oil, so I'm going to have his engine overhauled. He's a fantastic car, and I love him dearly, but he is old and his seals are worn. I had talked to my repair guy last year about having his engine replaced with a rebuilt one, but we decided today that if I plan to keep Max (of course!) then it's better to overhaul. It's also more expedient, since getting the engine replaced will take more time than the nice highway patrol officer gave me. Ah, well. I'll look at it as doing my patriotic duty to spend money. That's ten days in the shop too.
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