Behind the TimesSelect walls, Bob Herbert traveled the road most-definitely taken before in his New York Times column Monday, lamenting the reality that most of America's Malls are bustling with holiday spending while Iraq burns and American soldiers continue to die. While I'm game to go along with this semi-legitimate whining something about it is so absurd and misplaced it's just gross:
There is something terribly wrong with this juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children and babies. The war was started by the U.S., but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it.
Personal responsibility, huh... while Herbert quotes some college students who bluntly acknowledge they feel no connection to W.'s moral crusade, he's left with college kids and materialistic mommies as the bad guys and no one else . This is all fine and nice, but when there is so much to be outraged about in this world (hello, poverty, genocide and disease) and when there are so many that are personally responsible for these things (uh, like the Bushes and Cheneys and such) shooting the student and shoppers is just weird. "Gleeful Americans with Fistfuls of dollars," Bob? Really? Come on. We have to question just what exactly people like Herbert mean when they say, "there is no sense of collective sacrifice in this war, no shared burden of responsibility."
I don't know about you, but I have heard this "where's the shared sacrifice?" talk from commentators towing the line on both sides of the political spectrum, and have always wanted them to elaborate. What would they like us to do? Who's responsibility is it to rally Americans to such a collective cause? And even if the President awoke from his fraternity-style detachment, what sacrifice could he offer us to lay down, beyond a token gesture of superficiality? Herbert mentions Representative Charlie Rangel's proposal to bring back the draft--but is mandated all-male army-making the kind of burden this nation needs? I have no answers here, but this brand of weepy "why aren't we all paying attention" column-making doesn't seem to achieve much.
Rampant consumerism is arguably a modern malady but I don't see how a woman buying towels at Restoration Hardware for her Christmas guests is a bad American or has not given any thought to the chaos in Iraq. Americans have given up on this war. The direct cause of this is George W. Bush.
Much better is Nick Kristof's Tuesday column, The Cowards Turned Out to Be Right, which quietly defends the journalists that have steadily turned out factual, balanced reporting from beyond the Green Zone in Iraq. Kristof ends his piece asking this: "how about if the administration devotes itself less to managing the news and more to trying to manage Iraq?"
Wouldn't it be nice?