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Baselines

you have to agree or at least acknowledge them

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, June 28, 2006.

As you get older, or smarter, you realize that winning arguments and wars is not the same thing as accomplishing anything, and that you can win an argument or war – even important ones that reflect issues that need to be fought about and won – and create such perpetual animosity – often pointless and needless animosity - that, in the long run, the effect on any benefit in winning is negated if not made infinitely worse. And concurrent with that is the realization that where the baseline for consideration, the starting point of discussion is drawn, is essential to both winning and beneficial result.

That’s very important, the baseline. Statesmen understand this and factor it in. Politicians ignore it for transient gain.

Our nation has just been spared the deep stupidity of a Constitutional Amendment to prevent burning the American flag, an issue of such overpowering unimportance it’s difficult to laugh at it. Especially when it came within one vote of passing in the Senate and going to the states. Why burning the American flag is an issue when so many state and local governments fly the Confederate Battle flag in seal or on official document or in reality outside government buildings is dissonant and hypocritical. This is the flag of Treason against that very same constitution, yet the same folks who look forward to legally being able to beat up flag burners look upon flying the Confederate flag as a right of Southern passage and traditional and patriotic in some sort of way. I can safely say I do not recoil at the Stars and Bars, and I went to a southern college, and I do not doubt the essential patriotism and regional ancestor worship wrapped up in flying it. And it’s over. The baseline isn’t 1861.

But if the baseline for discussion went back only as recently as the early part of the twentieth century, flaying that flag before the wrong people could still evoke a riot and not a few deaths. In fact, it wasn’t allowed for years. We forget that many, many in the north wanted all Confederate officers shot or hung, starting with Davis and Lee, and with especial attention given those who had attended West Point. When we see old men shaking hands across lines at Gettysburg at anniversaries in the old newsreels, these were not tension free moments. What seems cute and play acting now were certainly not then, and it was only the example of Lincoln and Grant that saved much in the way of retribution. After all, if treason isn’t a capital offense, and leading an insurrection that killed 650k Americans isn’t a capital offense, what is? It doesn't matter, because Lincoln before he died, with the Second Inaugural Address, gave us a roadmap to reunion that moved the baseline way forward. Incredibly farsighted and our great good fortune.

But posturing politicians, many of whom never served in the military and need patriotic props, want to rev up feeling against long gone Hippies, and allow the aging middle class and right wingers to finally get to satisfy delayed bloodlust from the Vietnam War, and this for current political gain. If they drew the issue’s baseline back to the end of the Civil War, they’d have to deal with the Stars and Bars, and for issues even more important than slavery and civil rights. So they keep attention in the present and pretend its about support for the troops today. It really is not. If it were, no stars and bars on military uniform or vehicle. And what about all the people yelling Geronimo and serving in operation Crazy Horse, names of insurgents used with affection? Why is that fine, burning the flag not?

For another obvious example of the importance of baseline placement, take the Middle East. Israel will discuss pretty much anything after 1948, because it won’t argue about its right to exist, since that either came from God or was justified by the Holocaust. The Arabs resent the baseline for discussion moved forward from 1948, but pretend they allow it and this for two reasons: They’re nowhere need strong enough to whip Israel in a war, and they think that by a population boom they’ll win in the end anyway.

They may well be correct, it has happened before, but Arabs are the walking illustrative negative example of “wherever you go, there you are.” The problems of the Arab world, not just the Palestinian part, is caused and sustained by the inferior social structures of the Arab world and the empowered thuggery of militant Islam’s numerous factions. If Israel did not exist, it’s possible not much would be different in the Arab and Muslim world, as Sunni and Shiites and their numerous militias and splinter groups would still be at each other’s throats.

It’s been suggested that what we are currently witnessing in Islam is not at all different in some ways from pre-Reformation Europe and Christianity. Then, the Christian Church was so corrupt and militarily empowered that it could launch crusades and wars for petty gain under the gossamer of sacred mission just like the Islamic world today. In other words, maybe Islam, world wide, is on the verge of separate but concurrent sectarian and fundamentalist reformations and counter-reformations that threaten the patriarchal structure and social status of the men currently and perpetually in power. A baseline in the making.

And commonly agreed upon baselines are crucial for discussion that might lead to beneficial result.