Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Report from Red America - About This War

“I think this war in Iraq is a mistake.”

I heard that increasingly during the week I recently spent in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has its rep as a steel-town, and therefore a Industry/Labor/Democrat stronghold, but I was in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, the suburbs. This part of the territory is Red America - Scaife-Mellon country (he runs the Trib-Review, the “Republican paper” in the area, and was a leading Clinton-hatah), Talk Radio land (Rush Limbaugh honed his chops at KQV back in the 70s when it was rock station 14K), the Scarred, Scared, Scarborough Country (my folks keep the TV tuned to news and weather, and wonder why they’re so nervous all the time). So I was a known liberal among conservatives, but to most of them, I’m still local, and in some cases, family. So they can talk to me, and know that I will be, at least, polite.

But among my right-of-center friends and relations, there comes a moment when the sentence slips out. It happened once when I was out here in May, but four times on this trip. There isn't a lot of talk about politics and national affairs here right now (this after eight years during which not a single feather fell from heaven without family commentary picking up how it was all the then-administration’s fault). But it does come up, and there’s a pause, and then the sentence comes out.

“I think this war is a mistake.”

They say it in a quiet voice of “I think my spouse is having an affair.” There is disappointment in the voice, and the hint of betrayal. No anger. Just disappointment.

For my part, I say “Well, you’ll have that”, or "You may have something there," or something similarly neutral and polite. To me, its seems like a simple fact. This war IS a mistake. We dived into the underbrush, like a deer hunter chasing a six-point buck, and stepped into a bear trap. There's not a whole of discussion that's necessary at this point. It's a recognition of sad fact.

But what interests me is why they say it the way they do - in private, quietly, and to an understanding audience. Why so quiet?

Here's what I think - Consider that deer hunter with his leg caught in the bear trap. The hunter is really hoping that the guy who originally set the trap will come by and let him out. He hopes this because, if a DIFFERENT hunter comes along, even though he be free, it would be embarrassing. The story would spread. People would laugh at him at the local tavern. So he really wants the original trap-setter to show up, and refuses to call out for help because, well, others might find out, and that would be embarrassing.

I’m not worried that another hunter will come along, or even original trap-setter show up and frees us from this situation. I’m worried that the bear will come along instead when we’re caught in this trap. And that's my worry.

More later,