Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dispatches from the static . . .

For almost eight years now, we have been living with a Chief Executive with a unique ability to take a "buzz-word" and pound it into unintelligibility with coarseness and a painful lack of persuasiveness. This morning, while driving, I heard him exhibit this rustic skill with the word "destabilizing." Hamas is destabilizing, Syria is destabilizing, Iran and Hezbollah are destabilizing.

Now, to be sure, the use of the emotionally potent oversimplication is nothing new. One can trace it back, in its modern context as far back as Walter Lippman. However, an enterprising intellect can travel back as far as the earliest forms of public discourse and find analogues. What strikes me most about the president's use of this technique is the utter obviousness and transparency of it. It is clear to me, with every Texas-tinged utterance of "destabilizing" I grow increasingly less convinced that either myself or the president knows exactly what it means.

Clearly the idea is that the actions of certain, um, actors, persist in disrupting the formula and execution of the status quo. This is what destabilizing means. What the destabilizing descriptor misses is the fact that the status quo is not stable to begin with. The original "destabilization" took place long ago, and the ripples have run through decades of dictatorships, covert marriages of violent convenience and the crushing of popular, democratic resistance. As we come upon the 60th anniversary of al-Nakba, let us remember that Bush does not mention the destabilizing effect of the continuous, illegal construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Let us remember that he does not mention the destruction and needless loss of life in Iraq, and let us not forget that he does not mention a how our "partners" in the region, presumably stabilizing agents, daily jail opposition activists and close dissident publishers. The point here, boys and girls, is not draw moral equivalences, but to understand the nature of the game, and to not be deceived by the oversimplification that suggests that if only so and so would behave, the Middle East could really be a nice place to take the kids on vacation.

Pardon the poison pen. Until next time friends . . .

1 comment:

  1. Truly fantastically written. Although at times my feeble mind struggles to follow your carefully woven prose, I appreciate reading your comments nonetheless, and actually, I always finish with an unexplicable sense of clarity and something to ponder in the future. Thank you.