As Rayne points out in comments to my blog post on the administration’s support of torture, to many Americans the events look very different. America harbors duelling narratives.
The Blue Book’s narrative is a story of creeping fascism in which the torturing of captives and suspects is just Chapter One. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are Kristallnacht and the invasion of Iraq is the invasion of the Rhineland — not in their moral equivalences, which are impossible to calibrate perfectly, but as harbingers: We should be awoken by them as the Germans were not.
The Red Book’s narrative looks at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as signs of the seriousness of the threat facing us, and as indications that we are at last taking up the task of leadership we’ve avoided for too long. Our foes treat people far worse than we do, and to stop them we have to shed the crippling moral relativism that has been 20th Century liberalism’s legacy.
The Blue Book sees recent events as steps towards a totalitarian state in which all rights are sacrificed in the name of homeland security. The Red Book sees a world of bright new democracies that drastically narrow the terrorists’ freedom to operate.
The Blue Book fears a policy of appeasement being applied internally, so it wants to draw an early line. (“First they came for the Jews and I said nothing…”) The Red Book thinks we are now emerging from an international policy of appeasement, so it’s happy to see the old lines erased.
The Blue Book worries about America becoming Germany. The Red Book worries about America becoming France.
I am, of course, over-simplifying. But narratives are more stubborn than facts because narratives give facts their relevancy and meaning. I wonder if there is a narrative we can agree on that will get us past our differences.
I am not hopeful. But if a politician were to write such a narrative, I’d vote for her…
Categories: Uncategorized dw