On December 8th, 2009, my blog, virgilspeaks. suddenly went viral. The previous day my net counter (an automatic tabulator that registers the number of "hits" per day) averaged around 12, and had reached a total of about 6,080 for the entire year, or so. Then, within a brief span of 24 hours, that number had tripled, registering at more than 21,000. Over 200 people had written comments to a post called "Why I Am No Longer a Liberal"--many of them thoughtful and responsive, a few of them rude and nasty, and a solid majority supportive of what I had to say.
As someone accustomed to receiving only the occasional comment or two, you could have knocked me over with a feather--except that it wasn't really necessary. I fell over, all by myself. What happened reminded me of something I'd only just read by David Sedaris in the New Yorker; it was about an experience he'd had while swimming in the sea in Maui with his boyfriend, Hugh. A gigantic sea turtle suddenly loomed up between them. It was, in Sedaris's own words, "worth the entire trip, worth my entire life, practically...isn't that what we've all been waiting for?"
I do want to share how this high-impact, "sea turtle" experience suddenly loomed up in my blogging life. When I wrote "Why I'm Not a Liberal Anymore," I incorporated an entry about Taoism lifted from Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, a blog that I admire and read regularly. I decided to e-mail a copy of what I had written to Andrew, thinking he might find it of some interest. (I've sent him things before.) Andrew did write back, just two words: "will link." The next morning when I woke up, there were 51 comments to the blog, waiting on my e-mail--and that was just the beginning.
I've always wanted to start a larger conversation on line via my blog. But now, I feel a little bit like the dancer whose red shoes kept her dancing, even to the point of exhaustion. I'm not quite sure what, exactly, has been set in motion here, but I'd like to respond to some of the comments, and to the points they raise.
Regarding Obama's decision to raise the stakes in Afghanistan, Andre wants to know: "What could possibly be preventing the most powerful man in the world from making the most morally honest decision in the world and ending the war? (Hint: he doesn't want to.)"
Anonymous wrote: "You don't say what you think will be accomplished there by our actions and whether or not they're worth the money and lives we have spent. Without you saying where you stand on the occupation, we'd have no way to know on what basis you're judging the story."
From Blitzkreig Bill: "Um...what about the substance of that offending paragraph from Parenti? [in which Parenti claims Obama escalated the war so as to get himself re-elected in 2012]. "Wouldn't it have been better if more people had called Johnson on Vietnam at the time, rather than 'stand by him' and 'trust him' to do the right thing? If we think Obama is wrong here, shouldn't we say so?"
First off, I don't believe Obama is wrong about the war. As for what I personally think, I've written five posts about the situation in Afghanistan ("Taliban Dreams" 1-5). I invite anyone who is interested to read them on the blog. I definitely reject the notion that Obama is "sending troops into harm's way" (to use the lingo of the day) because he wants to look tough to Republicans, or to win re-election in 2012 at any cost, as Parenti suggests, What I do believe--in a nutshell-- is that our presence there is an unwelcome necessity, at the very least to try to impede jihadists from starting World War III in the Middle East, as part of a strategy to re-instate the 7th-century religious Caliphate of Muslim supremacy across the entire region.
There is a serious threat emanating from Waziristan, the large border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a region which is not actually governed by either of those countries. It will require a pincer movement from both sides of the border to corner and then "degrade" the enemy, which is exactly what Obama wants to do. Our military has to maneuver mostly from the Afghanistan side, because the Pakistani government won't allow us to operate in their country--at least, not for now.
Since I do not happen to believe Obama is another Lyndon Johnson, or that he is ignorant of lessons learned in Vietnam, I find myself more in agreement with what (another) Anonymous commenter wrote, namely: "In the environment currently prevailing, it is sheer stupidity not to stand by a man attempting to clear up 30 years of skullfuckery."
That said, I don't think we can afford this war on any level, which is profoundly unfortunate. Obama has called the Taliban and al Qaeda a lethal cancer, and his assessment, in my view, is correct. We are like the cancer patient who has received a deadly diagnosis and who is now facing the prospect of an equally deadly treatment. The treatment could kill us, but so could the disease. However you slice it, either way, this is not a pretty situation, and abusively attacking the unlucky person who has to resolve it on our behalf, by undermining his character and motives, is less than helpful. There is, as I see it, a huge difference between constructive criticism and mean-spirited character abuse.
"Some people on your team are acting like assholes so you're taking your bait and going home?" asks Jonathan. "This is a very odd post," writes pereubu77. "The point seems to be that some on the left have been mean to Obama and so Suzi doesn't want to associate with them anymore, because, I suppose, all liberals should rally around Obama." I do happen to believe that. So kill me.
"The looniest liberals," a Republican writes, "pale in comparison with the wackos in the Republican party." Agreed, but they are still serious troublemakers.
So where are you going from here? Mojo wants to know on his blog, Stinque, which sports the logo "If it smells, we're on it. "A Taoist?" he mockingly asks, as if I had somehow lost my marbles, or never had any to begin with. "Do you have even a fucking clue what you're talking about?"
As a matter of fact,I do. I'm not exactly a Johnny-come-lately to Taoism--having studied Chinese martial arts and sword form with a master teacher every day for ten years. I am also an avid user of the Chinese Book of Changes, the oracular I Ching, a classic manual of Taoism. But I say this knowing it may well turn me into an object of ridicule: this is just one of the hazards of bloggerism gone viral. Once the door is open, anyone can walk in.
So, in response to Joseph Hutchison, who wrote that "My bet is you're not really a Taoist, just a liberal who's sick of True Believers, who are annoying regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum:" Joseph, you're right about the True Believers, but you lose the rest of the bet about me. My Taoism is absolutely kosher.