Sunday, September 24, 2006

My quote in the NYTimes

To those who have expressed concerns about my quote,

I was not speaking from the experience of someone who lost someone in the war. I was not speaking from that perspective. I can't. And none of the people that you have met would wish me to be talking from that perspective.

Let me give you the context for the word "fool".

"Life is, among other things, an elimination contest. We get eliminated from this and that and from them and him and her; and finally a germ or faulty pump valve eliminates them altogether. A few find the contest so disagreeable that they eliminate themselves. They are the 24-karat fools who miss the important point about it all; namely, that the major meaning of life is the opportunity to strive and struggle: an opportunity forever denied inanimate things. Striving and struggling implies that the striver is aiming to do something he is not doing now, or get somewhere different than where he is now."

Wayne Valdemar Brandon

Wayne Brandon was my grandfather. From when I was 6 years old to when I was 13, I lived with my grandparents. More than anyone else in my life, my grandfather taught me what values to live with. How to make decisions. What to care about. He came to the US from Sweden in 1923. He and my grandmother survived the crash, survived the Great Depression, survived the 2nd World War.

In 1991, during the first Gulf War, I was in the Navy. In Bremerton, Washington, with my ship in Dry Dock. I did nothing during that war except watch the clock. I didn't know about the damage done by the Reagan years. I knew that George H. W. Bush was my Commander in Chief. I was told by my officers that the Arkansas Governor, William Clinton, was incapable of doing the job. I voted the way I was told. I was a fool. A damned fool. And I learned.

People, individuals, deserve respect. And they have, do, and always will, get my respect, and my ear. But attitudes that deny the larger struggle, ideas that lose the path from where we are to where we should be going. Those I intend to change.

In order to stop the war, this president must be held accountable for his decisions. This will not be done if the Republican party maintains control of the House or the Senate. We must take both in the 2006 election. This is something that the most liberal, most progressive members of our House and Senate agree on.

All of the people that have been mentioned to me in emails and phone calls care about health care. So do you. So do I. All the people that have been mentioned care about the environment. So do you. So do I. The war is a node in a network, a nexus in a web of cause and effect. You know that. So do I. We must work to make sure that everyone is aware of the web.

To call people fools, without context on the front page of the most important national newspaper in the United States, was wrong. To have an interview with a reporter from that newspaper last 45 minutes so he could print 4 sentences is a poor way to show respect for mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives and husbands that have lost family and friends in this war. For that, I sincerely apologize.

Politics is about people. And it is about decisions that people make. And those decisions must be made with a full understanding of the consequences, and a full and complete understanding of the context. I did not have that understanding when I talked with the reporter, and I don't have it now. But I'm closer, thanks to all of you. Hopefully, the context that I have provided will also bring you closer.

My wife and I bought a documentary a week or so ago. "9/11", by Jules & Gedeon Naudet, and James Hanlon. It peels to the bone the illusions that those of us who were on the other side of the country had and have about what happened that day, and gave me a very interesting change in perspective to watch it for the first time while I was writing this response. I hope to ever have that kind of change in my perspective, whenever someone writes to me from theirs.

I am no longer defending myself from criticism. My statement was my opinion, based on my understanding. And we are 44 days from the election.


No comments: