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Hell, no, we won't... leave? - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Hell, no, we won't... leave?
sjepstein sent me an interesting Op-Ed from the Washington Post. If you click it, you'll have to do the ritual free registration if you haven't already; if you don't feel like doing that, the gist of the article is that a big part of what's happening politically today is that we're now dealing with the kids of the 1960s being the major players in politics today. The author, Broder, writes of watching the end of Marilyn Quayle's 1992 speech at the GOP national convention:

When she finished, I turned to my Post colleague Dan Balz, a contemporary of the Clintons and the Quayles, and said, "I suddenly have this vision -- that when you guys reach the nursing homes, you're going to be leaning on your walkers and beating each other with your canes, because you still will not have settled the arguments from the Sixties."

Now it is 12 years later. The United States is at war. It is threatened with terrorist attacks. The economy is under stress. And the presidential campaign has been usurped -- by what? An argument among aging boomers about who did what in Vietnam and in the protests against that war.

My memories of Vietnam are mainly stacks and stacks of paper bags filled with clothes to give to refugees, a Cambodian family that randomly appeared in my grandmother's house once (I don't know why; it may not have had anything to do with the war, but the timing is right), and families coming through the various churches to find a new place to live. My aunt volunteered to teach English to immigrants, so sometimes their stories would come through. Most of that was past the end of the war--the fallout. I know my mother took me to a protest in a stroller when I was a baby, and my godfather was involved in Veterans Against the War (it never occurred to me that there might have been anything other than base motives for the war until sometime in late high school), but I remember nothing of that.

I am thirty-four years old.

Can we please finally get out of Vietnam, and the sixties, and the stupid, self-destructive, useless, infuriating culture wars? Both sides of the Swift boat thing are annoying me at this point.

Now, every generation has its sane people and its lunatics, and heaven knows, our generation has some doozies. But at the moment, it's the overhyped passions of the 60s that have the highest office in the land (and control the rivalry for it). I feel sorry for the normal, sane Boomers who've had to deal with this reputation all along, but the leaders aren't helping much. My generation has a reputation for being a bit blunt and pragmatic--not particularly ideological--and while it sounds less exciting than all the yelling, in fact, I think that's the face we need to start turning toward. This screaming match has been going on long enough, and of course no one is going to compromise... the whole point is to not compromise and get everything you want ideologically while the other guy is forced to concede everything. Since that's not going to happen, it just keeps getting worse.

And people are getting sick of it. The very fact that the candidates keep promising to stop "going negative" (though they will resignedly do so in the end) suggests that the American public has had it up to the nostrils with the culture war. Okay, yes--it's easy to go negative. Whipping up a frothing mob is always easier than actually getting a national dialogue going. But I'd had enough of frothing mobs somewhere around the time of the Rodney King riots, and when I walk out the door at work to find lunatic undergrads declaring (more or less) that Bush is the Antichrist and Armegeddon is upon us, so if it takes some unethical means to get the Messiah in office, then go ahead... cut corners! It's all the godly path. (Oh, okay, that's a paraphrase, but the tone is right.)

Meanwhile, what's the most popular campaign image so far? The vid at http://www.jibjab.com, which makes fun of both of the candidates, to the tune of a popular counterculture folk song.

This country needs to calm down and get to the business of defending our borders, getting our economy in order, and re-creating civil society.

So, if my generation follows its stereotype in power as well as the 60s generation has followed its, here's what I think would happen:

War on Terror: Major overhaul of intelligence. Recruit in the immigrant community and get spies placed in the organizations on the ground. Step up psychological tactics, because we tend to recognize where the battle is actually being fought. Iraq? Fix it, get the elections held, get out. Put pressure on Saudi Arabia. And drop aid to countries whose state schools use that aid to preach anti-Americanism (and antisemitism, usually).

Economy: No hardline stances. What Reagan did (sort of) worked in the 80s, as long as you didn't happen to own a farm or something; what Clinton did (sort of) worked in the 90s, as long as you didn't sink all your savings into the dot-coms. Constantly watch the economy and make corrections to policy as necessary--it's policy, not ideology, and when a policy isn't working as expected, it's time to tweak it.

Gay marriage: Federalist solution--states' decisions. People will vote with their feet for what system they want. Either that or just get the government out of the marriage business and declare that all non-religiously-mandated unions are civil unions (with whatever benefits are attached to that), thereby leaving the decision of what to call "marriage" to the individual religious institutions. Either way, I don't see us having a lot of patience for the continual shouting match over it. I also tend to think that we'd disassociate some things with romantic attachment of any sort... our living arrangements have been pretty haphazard, and a platonic roommie might well be a good person to have some limited power of attorney, since that person is, you know, there.

In general, when an issue comes up, I think the instinct is likely to be to stop piling side issues onto it--no hitchhikers allowed. People aren't much going to like it, and it will come off as ruthless and lacking in nuance. But with luck, when we end, we'll have gotten something resembling a status quo. In fifty years or so, they can have another big cultural upset, but by then, it may be time for it. Right now, we've just been in an agitation cycle for two long. It's time to stop and soak.
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fiatincantatum From: fiatincantatum Date: August 24th, 2004 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Either that or just get the government out of the marriage business and declare that all non-religiously-mandated unions are civil unions (with whatever benefits are attached to that), thereby leaving the decision of what to call "marriage" to the individual religious institutions.

Actually, I've always rather liked this one.

And, re: the Vietnam thing, if it wasn't that issue, it'd be something else. They'd find something to use. At least this one makes them all look as silly as they actually are.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 24th, 2004 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Whatever it is, it would still be Vietnam and the sixties. They're stuck there.
volandum From: volandum Date: August 24th, 2004 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Um.... voting with one's feet is all very well, but some people may find it very difficult financially to move, or if they do move what would happen on there return to a place whether the relationship wasn't officially recognised?

I'm not trying to attack - I recognise that people feel strongly about the subject of gay marriage and politicians simply cannot go against their will, but I would like information, because I suspect that there have been precedents, possibly with secular marriage in a religious country, or differing incest laws?
dreagoddess From: dreagoddess Date: August 24th, 2004 02:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
The best precedent to check would be the various cases against the Mormons in 1880s-1890s regarding polygamy, I think. Good arguments on why the state should/should not be involved in marriage, and how it decides what is to be prohibited.
volandum From: volandum Date: August 24th, 2004 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Right, thanks. How might I go about looking this up?
dreagoddess From: dreagoddess Date: August 24th, 2004 02:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
US v. Reynolds is the most important of the cases. I also found a law journal article that appears to have a good summary of things (and is free to view ;)).
volandum From: volandum Date: August 24th, 2004 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. Main problem is that law libraries over here don't have that much on US law.
dreagoddess From: dreagoddess Date: August 24th, 2004 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
You can get a heck of a lot online, trust me. ;) You can get more with a subscription to Lexis or Westlaw, the legal search engines, but I tried to find things that weren't through that! *g*
volandum From: volandum Date: August 25th, 2004 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I might be able to access Lexis, now that you mention it...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 24th, 2004 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Voting with the feet" is the basis of Federalism--there are different places with different ideas, and you go to the place you want to be in. If the majority of people like something, more and more places will adopt it. If the majority aren't crazy about it, there will still be havens where you can go and enjoy it. (Says the conservative who deliberately moved to Boston, where she knows perfectly well that she'll have to deal with some truly whacky lefties day in and day out for all eternity.)

And don't worry about "attacking." I can deal with disagreements. But this post was more about attitude than about the actual policy--not so much what I think should happen as what I think is likely to when our generation comes into power: just stop the screaming and cut a deal, because this is tiring.
volandum From: volandum Date: August 25th, 2004 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I acknowledge the bit about attitude, I just wanted to learn whether differing policy would lead to problems - and I don't think that a state-wide decision on gay marriage is going to leave many havens, and when there is more than one policy in play this system can lead to a majority of the people losing policy-wise in a majority of the important policies...
hughroe From: hughroe Date: August 24th, 2004 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with a Federalist solution for most things :), the Federal Government should be concerned with foreign problems and keeping the various States from going to war with one another.
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: August 24th, 2004 08:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't see a status quo coming around anytime soon because society has become even more fractured and put into niches than ever before. I see gay marriage getting the okay stamp through the courts, because no one has the patience for a federalist solution (though I agree if it's what State X wants, that's the way the cookie crumbles even if I don't agree with it). The trouble with declaring marriage a purely religious construct is that it isn't purely a religious construct and it never has been. What do you about mixed religious marriages? Marriages between atheists or agnostics? I'm concerned about defining marriage down to the point where it's whatever anyone says it is. By that logic, you can have polygamy, proxy marriages, marriages between people and animals, incestuous marriages, child brides, etc.. It'll produce social chaos; things are bad enough as they are.
straussmonster From: straussmonster Date: August 25th, 2004 08:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I love David Broder. He's one of Ours (my alma mater), and is easily one of the most respected political journalists. Always precise and careful, yet willing to go out and say it when no one else would (his column contra all the Jesse Helms panegyrics was a real breath of fresh air.)

I admit to being somewhat more of a lefty, but the current Republican party with the strongly socially conservative wing really bugs me with their general 'states' rights, except on social issues' tack. I think Roe vs. Wade actually came at the wrong time--the states should have been left to work it through. Marriage law is, was, and generally always has been (kudos to the more up on it legal scholars up-thread) a state prerogative, and should remain as such. Besides, don't we really have more important issues to obsess about than gay marriage? Being the lefty that I am, I loved Jon Stewart's comments (from memory, so likely wrong): "I was all worried about this gay marriage thing, until I found out that I didn't have to have one."

One more addition: the current White House really worries me on economics because I think the evidence is rather strongly there that they *do* primarily think of it ideologically, rather than empirically and with issues of policy implementation in mind.

Ooh, one more addition: I'm the child of a poli sci prof of the same generation as the candidates involved in the election. He was in school when the war happened...in Texas. He's not the angry raving type, but the edge in his voice when he says 'Texas Air National Guard--yeah, WE ALL KNEW what that was about' leaves a strong impression on me. It shouldn't be as big of an issue as it is (with regard to BOTH candidates), but...'undigested past', someone once put it (in a rather different context)...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 25th, 2004 12:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
One more addition: the current White House really worries me on economics because I think the evidence is rather strongly there that they *do* primarily think of it ideologically, rather than empirically and with issues of policy implementation in mind.

Oh, yeah. I can't find myself filled with righteous outrage at Bush--he's just a regular-sized guy--but I do get frustrated at the inability to give up a notion when it's obviously not working. However, generationally speaking, I don't think Kerry is likely to be any different.
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