Rachel S. Heslin
Thoughts, insights, and mindless blather

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I'd talked about debating politics on Derek's blog. The other day, I was accused of making an ad hominem attack, that I was allowing my personal dislike of Bush to cloud my ability to see the real reasons why we need to go to war.

This upset me. I do not make ad hominem attacks. I mean, I'm a veteran of the Enigma Chatlist! Any argument which runs the gantlet through Ian, Ray and Scott comes out the other side either completely decimated or nearing perfection in logic, reason and citation, and air-tight enough to transport water across the Sahara.

But it's not having my analytical skills impugned which bothers me. It's the assertion that I would objectify a person -- any person -- to the extent that what they say or feel or believe has no meaning. Such an objectification is anathema to me.

On 9/11/01, I posted a treatise which I flippantly and provocatively refer to as my "Terrorists Are People, Too," speech. I was vehemently excoriated by those who missed a couple of very important points:

  1. Acknowledging another's humanity and trying to understand the motivations for their actions is not the same as condoning those actions, and

  2. Denying another's humanity takes us one step closer to becoming monsters ourselves.

This is why I was so drawn to Mieville's depiction of Garuda culture in Perdido Street Station. (For those who haven't read the book, this isn't a plot spoiler.) Every crime that we would split into separate categories -- theft, rape, murder -- were all considered as taking another's choice and of not respecting another as a Concrete individual.

That's a very powerful concept. I am a Concrete individual. I am real. I live, I love, I breathe, I sing. You are a Concrete individual. You yearn, you dream, you fear. We each are beings who are. It's very difficult to commit a major crime against another human being when you are aware of their humanity, when you identify with them and they with you. I can not imagine a murderer being able to take the life of a person unless that murderer does not see the victim as a real person. The murderer must Abstract the victim, make the victim a symbol, a concept, a Not-Real-Like-Me.

The saddest thing, though, is when a person Abstracts himself and does not remember his or her dreams and reality.

So what do I think of George W. Bush?

I do not think his intelligence is as brilliantly intuitive as is Clinton (either) or Gore's. I do think he is very canny. I think he grew up with a sense of entitlement to power. I think he wants his father to be proud of him. I think he instinctively thinks in terms of power and manipulation rather than listening and cooperation. I do not think him a mean man. I do not think him often malicious, although I do think he has the capacity. I think his understanding of the world is sadly narrow, defined by a small set of beliefs that excludes a large quantity of data that he considers irrelevant noise.

But he is a human being, and he is not automatically wrong in all that he does and strives for. I merely disagree with much of what he has shown to be what he feels is important, and I disagree with his methods.

And, for the first time since Clinton's first campaign, I may find myself volunteering for a Presidential campaign. I will be working for Bush's opponent, whomever that may turn out to be, doing what I can to ensure that he not be re-elected.

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