I followed closely the writing in The Nation following Sept. 11th. I was dumbstruck by several things:
1.) The willingness of most columnists (probably based on the parochial experiences of their own lifetimes) to assume the responses of the U.S. government to Sept. 11th had close parallels with the U.S. experience in Vietnam. In my mind, Pearl Harbor was a far closer analogy. As a result, we read a lot of ignorant bile about the dangers of military quagmire in Afghanistan. This from the segment of society that probably knows the least about how the military works (whatever they learned from Vietnam has been forgotten). Any random person from Fargo can give better analyses of the military situation in Afghanistan than these folks could, because, duh! - they know more!
2.) We also had to endure Katha Pollitt's column, where she wrote, in unintentional hilarious detail, how she was having to persuade her daughter not to hang a U.S. flag from her bedroom window, because patriotism had been misused in the Vietnam years (even though Vietnam was 30 years ago, even though her own city had been attacked, even though bin Laden had long made clear that Americans were being targeted just because they were Americans, and even though a patriotic response in the U.S. was all-but-inevitable). Talk about clueless!
3.) These folks write columns - they apparently don't read history, or even talk to their neighbors. And that's what worried me the most. Even though many of the writers are from NYC, they didn't seem all that concerned that some of their neighbors had been killed in such a cruel way. Jonathan Schell yammered on about the great void left by the collapsed towers, as if the void in the sky was there by some kind of natural calamity, not by purposeful intent. These folks will go to great lengths to complain about the Bush Administration, but don't ask them to go to a funeral.
4.) The only exception at The Nation was Christopher Hitchens, who gave brilliant and scathing analysis. But he was very, very alone there.
I had started my subscription to The Nation several years ago because I thought, with anti-globalization efforts, the Left was finally beginning to stir. How wrong, wrong, wrong I was! This form of the Left is dead, finished, and deservedly so, by their own hand. It's up to us to reinvent the Left, so it actually does speak for the oppressed of the world, which includes (paradoxically) people like the bond traders caught in the upper floors of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Better days ahead, Christopher Hitchens! Vanity Fair is a more subversive magazine than The Nation anyway!
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Salon.com has an in-depth interview with Christopher Hitchens. Here's my Letter to the Editor in response: