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November 30, 2006

Filed under: fiction»litcrit

It was just a suggestion

Dear Orson "Scott" Card,

When I joked that your upcoming novel about a war between the red and blue states would be a rehash of the Turner Diaries, I was only kidding. But clearly, based on the excerpts you've made available, you were too crafty for me, and you went ahead and did it anyway.

My own words fail, sir. But yours speak pretty well:

Princeton University was just what Reuben expected it to be -- hostile to everything he valued, smug and superior and utterly closed-minded. In fact, exactly what they thought the military was.

He kept thinking, the first couple of semesters, that maybe his attitude toward them was just as short-sighted and bigoted and wrong as theirs was of him. But in class after class, seminar after seminar, he learned that far too many students were determined to remain ignorant of any real-world data that didn't fit their preconceived notions. And even those who tried to remain genuinely open-minded simply did not realize the magnitude of the lies they had been told about history, about values, about religion, about everything. So they took the facts of history and averaged them with the dogmas of the leftist university professors and thought that the truth lay somewhere in the middle.

Well as far as Reuben could tell, the middle they found was still far from any useful information about the real world.

Am I like them, just a bigot learning only what fits my worldview? That's what he kept asking himself. But finally he reached the conclusion: No, he was not. He faced every piece of information as it came. He questioned his own assumptions whenever the information seemed to violate it. Above all, he changed his mind -- and often. Sometimes only by increments; sometimes completely. Heroes he had once admired -- Douglas MacArthur, for instance -- he now regarded with something akin to horror: How could a commander be so vain, with so little justification for it? Others that he had disdained -- that great clerk, Eisenhower, or that woeful incompetent, Burnside -- he had learned to appreciate for their considerable virtues.

And now he knew that this was much of what the Army had sent him here to learn. Yes, a doctorate in history would be useful. But he was really getting a doctorate in self-doubt and skepticism, a Ph.D. in the rhetoric and beliefs of the insane Left. He would be able to sit in a room with a far-left Senator and hear it all with a straight face, without having to argue any points, and with complete comprehension of everything he was saying and everything he meant by it.

In other words, he was being embedded with the enemy as surely as when he was on a deep Special Ops assignment inside a foreign country that did not (officially at least) know that he was there.

Princeton University as an alien planet. Reuben Malich as the astronaut who somehow lost his helmet -- and spent day after day gasping for air.

He had to acquire the iron discipline of the soldier who works with the government -- the ability to stand in the same room with stupidity and say nothing, show nothing.

The real danger was not losing his temper, however. For in the second year of his studies, he realized that he was beginning to treat some of the most absurd ideas as if they had some basis in truth. It was Goebbels in practice: If you tell the same lies long enough and loudly enough, even people who know better will despair and concede the point.

We are tribal animals. We cannot long stand against the tribe.

Thank heaven he could go home to Cecily every day. She was his reality check. Unlike the ersatz Left of the university, Cessy was a genuine old-fashioned liberal, a Democrat of the tradition that reached its peak with Truman and blew its last trumpet with Moynihan.

Oh, and this one's proving a big hit with various parts of the liberal blog community, for obvious reasons:

"You look pissed off," said Malich.

"Yeah," said Cole. "The terrorists are crazy and scary, but what really pisses me off is knowing that this will make a whole bunch of European intellectuals very happy."

"They won't be so happy when they see where it leads. They've already forgotten Sarajevo and the killing fields of Flanders."

"I bet they're already 'advising' Americans that this is where our military 'aggression' inevitably leads, so we should take this as a sign that we need to change our policies and retreat from the world."

"And maybe we will," said Malich. "A lot of Americans would love to slam the doors shut and let the rest of the world go hang."

"And if we did," said Cole, "who would save Europe then? How long before they find out that negotiations only work if the other guy is scared of the consequences of not negotiating? Everybody hates America till they need us to liberate them."

"You're forgetting that nobody cares what Europeans think except a handful of American intellectuals who are every bit as anti-American as the French," said Malich.

"You think we'll do it?" said Cole. "Bottle ourselves up and let the world go to hell?"

"Would it be any better for us to get really pissed off and declare war on all of Islam?" said Malich. "Because we've got plenty of Americans who want to do that, too, and we don't have the President anymore to hold them back."

"I have a terrible feeling," said Cole, "that some turban-wearing Sikhs are going to die today in America, and they've got nothing to do with this."

They reached the end of the bridge.

"It's weird," said Cole. "I always feel like when I get to Virginia, I'm back in the United States. Like DC is a separate country. And not just DC. Maryland along with it. Like the Potomac is the boundary line between the country I love and a foreign country where they hate me because of this uniform."

And when I say your words speak for themselves, what I mean is that they speak crazy, fluently, with no trace of accent.

Addendum: Just a note for anyone who might have thought that Card has--despite a chronic lack of writing ability and creativity--a modicum of expertise on the topic of the American government and culture, I'd like to draw your attention to that last paragraph. Most liberal blogs have been cutting it off after the French slur, but I think his passage about Virginia is telling. Because as anyone who lives near DC knows, the Northern Virginia area is about as blue as it's possible to get. It was a significant force in swinging the vote for Jim Webb this time around. Walking over the T.R. Roosevelt Bridge from DC takes you into Arlington, where I live--and it is definitely not some sort of red state stronghold.

So let's be clear: when Card's soldier crosses over the river and then claims that entering Virginia is like being "back in the United States," compared to the heavily-Democratic DC and Maryland, he's actually revealing just how thin a cardboard construct created by a Utah-based Mormon fanatic he really is.

There's also an echo of George Allen's "Welcome to the Real America" about Card's choice of words. I wonder if he's self-aware enough to realize it?

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