For? Against? Don’t know?

“Don’t know” is a response that doesn’t exist outside polls. Everywhere else, everyone knows everything, has an opinion about everything and is busy sending it out for all to hear. What we don’t always realize is how obvious our buttons are, the ones that every social, economic, or political issue pushes. We are robots with features incorporated by our background and circumstances and rarely are we capable of moving beyond. Think? God forbid. We just jump in and engage in disquisition about this or that issue that’s already being beaten to death. The public gabfest wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t carry my voice, would it?Tsarnaev boat
Case in point, the Zimmerman verdict. This guy, a self-appointed vigilante who thought packing heat made him someone to be reckoned with (my regular readers know how I feel about guns) shot and killed a young black man. Neither the police investigation nor the trial that just ended with Zimmerman’s acquittal could establish the exact sequence of events, only that the armed guard was not racist. The jury did its best under murky circumstances and returned a not-guilty verdict. But the chorus of voices on all sides pitching in with arguments and opinions? The only one worth hearing was the President with a moving unscripted statement about what it means to be a black man in America today. Everything else, just so much wind.

Case in point. Rolling Stone magazine’s cover of surviving Boston Marathon bomber, Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, and the related story by Janet Reitman. Howls of outrage went up; calling it a glam shot glorifying the assassin, retailers refused to carry the issue; one Boston police photographer retaliated by producing photos of Tsarnaev bloodied and dazed flushed out of his hiding place. Personally, I’m not as worried about the cover as about the question foremost in my mind: how many Tsarnaevs, Adam Lanzas, Mohammad Attas are even now stirring in their primal muck in pods like those in the old horror film “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” getting ready to unleash mayhem? But does the magazine cover insult the victims of the bombing? I don’t know.

Case in point, Edward Snowden. Now stuck in Russian limbo, was this man–overnight celebrity for the next fifteen minutes–right when he denounced the NSA’s vast spying system of unsuspecting citizens? Here I do have an opinion. Yes, he was. But the rest of the discussion about his life, personality, motivation—out to make a quick buck, selfless whistleblower, cheat, hero? Who knows? I certainly don’t. And I’ll defer to Daniel Ellsberg, certainly more qualified than anyone to have an opinion on the matter, when he says that Snowden was right to make a run for it.

Case in point, Syria and American intervention. Is it okay for tens of thousands of Syrians to die while Bashar Assad emails congratulations to his wife for buying her latest Louboutin heels? Should Obama go in, is he half-hearted about it, has he moved the red line again, should he actually arm insurgents? I don’t think anyone, including the President, has the answer to that. The administration is playing it by ear. Two years ago, something could possibly have been done to overthrow the tyrant son of a tyrant and replace him with a more palatable government (though America would never have heard the end of it) but now? Obama promised light armament and logistics help to the insurgents but despite David Ignatius’ op-ed echoing others accusing the president of equivocating, the situation is not clear. Whom would we be arming? Sectarian fanatics? Democratically inclined future leaders, potential allies of the US? Brutal thugs who think nothing of ripping out their enemy’s heart and eating it, as we saw in one video? What should Obama do? Once again, I don’t know.

About many things, I have an opinion, some too strong for my own good. But about many others, such as in the above examples, sorry, the earth will have to continue turning without knowing what I think. All of you out there express more than enough to fill the void.

  1. July 23, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Your uncertainty about some of these issues is justified.

    But re Snowden, Ellsberg’s thinking has become muddled. Anne Applebaum got it right:

    “There is a tradition of whistleblowing in the United States, even among people who work with classified information — and there are long-established ways to do it. Snowden might have approached a member of Congress, perhaps one of those with intelligence oversight. He might have written to his organization’s lawyers, to clarify the legality of his work. He might have argued his case from within. Jack Goldsmith, a legal expert then working in the Justice Department, fought against the use of torture by the Bush administration. Eventually he resigned and wrote about it. There were setbacks, but ultimately, Goldsmith was successful: The policy was reversed.

    “Snowden chose a different path. He stole a hoard of documents and fled to Hong Kong. Thus did he place his fate in the hands of a government that exerts total control over its nation’s Internet and spares no expense in its attempts to penetrate ours. His decision to speak from there, in public, is also noteworthy: It means his interest in publicity trumps his stated fear of arrest.”


  2. July 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Too many people like to oversimplify, and in doing so jump the gun. I thought Zimmerman was guilty of something. I don’t want to completely jump on the anti-Zimmerman bandwagon because proving he murdered poor Trevon beyond a shadow of a doubt is a tall order. Now peope are all the suden becoming legal experts, digging up other cases to “prove their point.” I don’t have the correct answer and not sure there is one. Sometimes, it is ok not to know!


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