Tom Goulter - student, Christchurch

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

A Couple Of Truisms

Truism The First: History Is Written By The Winners

Well, of course this is true. How else do you explain John Wilkes Booth's monumentally successful two terms as President, during which (as any scholar of American history will tell you) he won the World Series nine times? Exactly. Or, to give a more recent example, the fact that (as any scholar of American history will tell you) George W. Bush is currently the President of the United States?

Groan, yeah, here we go, Fighting Talk Is A Soppy Mouthpiece Of The Liberal Media. Relax. I don't think anyone particularly wants to go into the finer points of ballot-boxes and chads and voter fraud and so on and so forth. We've all read books. However, it's worth mentioning that, three years on, significant amounts of people, not all of whom are morons or big fat idiots, don't just believe Bush won the election in 2000 - they take it as a given. Move on, they say, it happened already, let's talk about something else.

Sample: Appearing on Letterman not long after the end of his tenure as White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer characterised a member of the press as irritating and out-of-touch: "Helen is very liberal, she disagrees with everything I say, she still thinks Al Gore won Florida.” Far from opening any cans of worms in an audience who, theoretically, should have contained at least 49% of people who agreed with this Helen character, the quip hit its mark and was greeted with the requisite laughs.

Many reading this site, of course, will be what you'd call The Converted, and far be it from me to preach thereto. But before we move on, it's worth repeating one more time: If ever there was a case of history being written by the winners, it's the worldwide community's acceptance of the notion that George W. Bush is the President.

Truism The Second: Democracy Is A Good Thing

Separating Democracy from Capitalism, putting aside problematic issues of invoking the ideals of Democracy in order to invade countries and stage coups and unseat democratically elected leaders when it suits your purposes, and allowing what seems at times to be the benefit of the doubt to The Great Unwashed re: their ability to self-govern, Democracy kicks ass.

Even, specifically, Democracy in America. If you're going to found a society on an ideal, aim high: establish that every person has an equal right to their say as to how the world is run, and trust them to use that right, so that all sectors of the populace are well-represented and everyone's voice is heard and taken into account when decisions are reached.

The fact, for instance, that Thomas Jefferson stood for ideals such as the equality of all men while engaging in jungle love with his slave mistress, does not undermine the founding ideological beauty of a society: it enhances it. Because hell, if a society as flawed and directionless and at times just plain barbaric as circa-revolutionary America could have the guts to set forth on an adventure as incongruous with the realities of the times as the Constitution was, that's aiming high. You could call it cynical, you could call it hypocritical, or you could argue that this was the beginning of a tradition that, when it's honored correctly, is one of the things Americans can be most proud of: laying down high-minded ideals, saying dammit, we're going to work toward this and get halfway there if it kills us, and displaying an honest commitment toward reaching toward those goals you've set out for all the world to see.

The fact that this tradition is often hijacked or manipulated, and that people with their own agendas are often the same people who talk loudest and most bullishly about Ideals and Freedoms and whatnot, doesn't undermine the integral virtue of the American vision; characters with demons are always the most fascinating. Coop is a good character; Coop trapped in the Black Lodge while his doppelganger runs amok is a fantastic character.