One of you wrote something a while ago that I’ve repeated a dozen times in conversation. It was about how police decide who will serve on SWAT teams and the gist was that they ask “who wants to be on a SWAT team” and if you put your hand up that means they will never let you be a on a SWAT team ever. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s a very smart idea, at least to me.
I thought of this when I was reading Bobo’s piece about Osama bin Laden. It’s a predictable profile, Osama has a flaccid handshake yet he inspires hard men, etc. When I read the last two paragraphs, I understood where Bobo and the other neocons are coming from. I can’t promise you that my Bobo obsession is over now, but whereas once I was blind, now I see.
In short, Osama Bin Laden seemed to live in an ethereal, postmodern world of symbols and signifiers and also a cruel murderous world of rage and humiliation. Even the most brilliant intelligence analyst could not anticipate such an odd premodern and postglobalized creature, or could imagine that such a creature would gain such power.
I just wish there were a democratic Bin Laden, that amid all the Arab hunger for dignity and freedom there was another inexplicable person with the ability to frame narratives and propel action — for good, not evil.
I heard this kind of thing from my friends on the left when I was a local blogger a few years ago, that if liberals could believe with the same intensity that conservatives do, we could have our own Fox News, write our own Lee Greenwood songs, and convert some chunk of the Applebee’s-going masses to our cause by sheer force of conviction. It’s seductive, the idea that all one needs to advance the greater good is a few tough-but-tender true believers whose flaccid handshakes go straight to your heart (like a cannonball).
Like most alluring ideas, it is bullshit. Galt’s Gulch and forty-six virgins in heaven motivate zealots precisely because they are part of larger, impractical, unworkable fantasies. A “democratic Osama bin Laden” is an oxymoron, because accepting democracy means accepting compromise, not flying a plane into a building — or refusing to raise raise the debt ceiling — to further some abstract cause.