Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #143 (February 1st, 2007)

Dave Sim's Collected Letters Volume 2 will be released in late spring/early summer 2007. Until Dave (who currently has the flu) is feeling better – and to whet your appetite for the book! -- The Blog & Mail will run two-page excerpts from the manuscript each day.

Today: Pages 130 and 131:

Bluntly stated as well, it seems to me that like a lot of other young fellows, you are coming to me to try and find out how a long comic-book narrative is accomplished. And when I tell you how it is that I accomplished it, you tell me that's not how you intend to do it. You intend to do it this way over here.

That's all well and good. But why did you come and ask me for advice when you already decided how you were going to accomplish your massive task?


D.B. Little

6 July 04

Dear D.B.:

Yes. It was an extraordinary day. The National Post arrives about 7 every morning and I went out the front door to pick it up and as soon as I saw President Reagan's picture on the front page, I deflated inwardly. No other word for it. Of course we all knew how mortally ill he was and for how long and still it came as a blow. The National Post devoted the better part of its first section to various articles about him. I suspected it was just going to be a Conservative thing. Valuable for all of that — the equivalent, to me, of Gore Vidal's reaction to the passing of Eleanor Roosevelt, "As the box containing her went past me, I thought, well, that's that. We're really on our own now." — but a private loss for those of a particular political affiliation.

I sense the gathering force of the winds of great events only indirectly now. It all happens on television and the Internet and two or three days later the commentary in the newspaper will catch up with it, so I was naturally pleased to see that even the liberals and the Democrats were being dragged into a state of semi-consciousness temporarily. Just as you say, a natural groundswell of appreciation for the guy who most epitomized the phrase "stay the course." I'm not sure I could've taken watching the coverage on television — as you say, when the liberal Democrat vulgarity reaches such an inappropriate fever pitch that Barbara Walters becomes the voice of reason you know you must either be inhabiting one of the inner circles of Dante's Inferno or watching television news coverage of one kind of another.

He trusted in his own instincts, it seems to me, because he trusted in God and so knew that he couldn't go too far wrong. America as an idea was partway between himself and God and everything was a very straightforward matter of right and wrong. I think Iran-Contra was what dealt him the mortal blow alluded to above, which is always the danger when one treads the heights of shaping world events. He was able to sequester in his mind the trading of arms for hostages from his own strongly held view that you can never negotiate with terrorists, and it became the fault line along which his own personality fractured. The President wouldn't — couldn't — make a mistake like that, so it couldn't be a mistake or the President didn't make it. The fact that it occurred so far into his two terms of office pays eloquent testimony to how sound his own notions of what the distinctions between right and wrong are no matter what others tried to tell him. He strode confidently through the executive minefield through which most other presidents tip-toe so gingerly.

I know what you're talking about with the US being "easily the most self-critical nation on earth," and the extent to which that can become pathological which, it seems to me, was the net cumulative effect of Vietnam and Watergate. "We made a mistake" very easily erodes into "we are a mistake" when allowed in proximity to leftist sentiment (Chairman Mao's institution of self-criticism during the Cultural Revolution didn't come out of thin air). The problem, of course, is refuting the counter-revolutionary-charge of mindless jingoism. And it seems to me the way to do that is to say, "Well, just for the sake of argument let's say that Barbra Streisand and Michael Moore are right. It's really that bad. The United States in toto is this entirely loathsome and irredeemable mess and the central source and catalyst for everything that's wrong in the world. What do they suggest instead?" And it seems to me that their suggestion is always really good parties with lots of interesting people and witty conversation and composting and trying to live the way the Indians did before Europeans came to this continent. And the implicit point (to me, anyway) is that they misunderstand what the question is in the first place. What do they suggest should be done on a global scale? And the answer is the same: All countries and all governments should be having really good parties with lots of interesting people and witty conversation and composting and trying to live the way the Indians did before Europeans came to this continent. There is no distinction on the left between the choices of the individual suburbanite and the overall plotting of a course for Western Civilization. There is no difference between how to negotiate Free Trade for the Americas and how you keep two three-year-olds from getting upset at a birthday party. The metaphor, if anything, would only appeal to them and their sense that everything, microcosm and macrocosm, is the same and needs to be treated in the same way. Russia needs to have a "time out." The United States needs to be put down for its nap.

I agree with you about Tony Blair, as well. I think you might have gone a little far with describing his epiphany as, "Oh, shit, that's right. I'm a man. I have to do this. I have to stand up to these bastards." The Prime Minister is rather in the Clinton mold with their mutual "kissing to be clever" "Third Way" which largely amounted to acknowledging that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan had been right on just about every count so the way to have political success as a leftist was to basically steal the right's thunder by usurping its positions on Large Issues (crime, fiscal responsibility, toughness on...


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