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Sheryl Crow, useful idiots, and the fashionable anti-war crowd
At the American Music Awards singer Sheryl Crow stepped onto the stage with a catchy anti-war slogan on her shirt. It was something like "Give peace a chance," "Make love not war," "Don't groove on war," or "War ain't my daddy."
It was something like that.
As I watched her I wondered if this entertainment bubblehead could even find Iraq on a map, let alone understand the long-term implications of failing to stop Saddam Hussein. Sheryl Crow probably thinks Hussein is a New York City cab driver, but she hears the word "war" and out comes the T-shirts.
Many of the people who marched in anti-war demonstrations recently aren't much different. Some of them are communists, rabid anti-Americans who are using the prospect of war with Iraq to undermine the United States. Sheryl Crow and her crowd might not be communists, but they are "useful idiots," as Stalin might say. They are people claiming pacifism and peace, being used by those with sinister motives.
Every time I see these useful idiots I can't help but be deafened by the hypocritical screech of their political statements. Whenever an American pacifist and other anti-war demonstrators speak it's always wise to remember that their right to speak out is being guarded by people with guns. That's an old cliché, but many clichés have their roots in truth.
If we go to war to protect American interests, somebody else will be doing their fighting for them, leaving them free to stay at home drive sports cars, watch Friends, collect music award and wear cliché ridden T-shirts.
Critics of the war against Iraq often talk about how easy it is for politicians who don't have to fight to commit others to do the fighting. They've missed the point. It's much easier to be an American pacifist, where your commitment to pacifism will never truly be tested.
Sheryl Crow and others like her aren't faced with the realities of violence and they aren't perceptive enough to grasp the long-term implications of failing to act against Iraq. They can exist in their Disneyland-like environment knowing that their commitments to non-violence will never be truly tested. In other words, the time to put up or shut up never arrives.
In her book Guns of August Barbara Tuchman recounts the story of Emile Verhaeren, a Belgium poet and political activist. In 1914 Verhaeren preached and lived the doctrines of pacifism, socialism and world unity. Then the Germany army invaded Belgium on its way to France. The Kaiser had hoped the Belgium army would stand aside and let his forces pass through. When Belgium took a stand and held up the German advance into France, civilians became targets.
There had been no war in mainland Europe in a generation and being a pacifist had been easy. In 1914 it became more difficult.
Verhaeren's pacifistic believes vanished as stories of German atrocities against civilians began to swirl. He became an outspoken advocate of German destruction. Later, his pacifist believes shattered, he dedicated a book to "the man I use to be."
"He who writes this book in which hate is not hidden was formerly a pacifist for him no disillusionment was greater or more sudden," Verhaeren wrote.
Current American pacifists will never be tested as Verhaeren was.
It is true that not everyone who opposes war with Iraq is a pacifist or a communist. It is possible to see, at times, the necessity of a particular conflict, but oppose others wars as wasteful or unnecessary.
But to assume today's useful idiots have such discretion is to assign them too much credit. Opposing the war to many of them isn't so much a moral imperative as it is a popular fad, a feel-good lifestyle. It's a way to show off their sparkling morality and their moral superiority over the rest of us.
Their pacifism doesn't come from a concern over people who might die in a war, and they have even less concern for the oppressions and deaths of thousands who will live in dire circumstances if their isn't a war of liberation in Iraq. Their anti-war activism is, instead, part of the image, especially for show business types like Sheryl Crow. A person like this puts on her pacifism much like she puts on her performance costumes.
Americans are a very image conscious people. Because we don't have enemy armies threatening our boarders we can concentrate on the sillier things in life, like what types of cars we should drive or what trending places can we go to for dinner. Some people pick out their moral beliefs with the same mindset. It's more a matter of what looks good on them, rather than any true concern for death, destruction or the consequences of not acting.
For them putting on the costume of anti-war activism is a safe choice, because their rights are being guarded by people with guns, people who have put away the trendy silliness of a Sheryl Crow and who take on the dirty jobs the rest of us don't want to touch.
This is Patrick Bryson's first contribution to Enter Stage Right. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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