Saturday, April 12, 2003

Shock and Awe: A Columnist's Parting Shots
NB: I am not parting from the Internet. This column, however, is the last one that will appear in The McGill Daily, as it is done publishing for the year, and I am, similarly, done with McGill.

With my McGill soapbox about to pulled out from under me, I’m left with a couple difficult questions. What is the one thing that I’d like to say most to my audience? What one topic is resonant enough to weather four months on the stands?

Given my predisposition to waffle and vacillate and just not make choices in general, I refuse to be pinned down to one topic for my farewell column. Instead, I’m going to take a page from the American army’s book and use the cluster bomb approach. Go out with a bang, trying to shock and awe as many people as possible in my allotted 900 or so words. So, here we go.

Fuck you, too

I love the word fuck. It grabs attention, creates excitement, and can send a shiver down my spine when articulated at the right moment. However, I was displeased to pass an anti-war march on St. Catherine the other day, and hear one of the leaders shout in his megaphone, “Fuck America!” The crowd cheered. A moment later, a man came up to me, handed me a sheet of paper and reiterated, “Fuck the USA!” I took the paper and nodded politely.

About ten minutes later, I thought of what I should have said. It was something along the lines of: “Yeah, buddy. Fuck the Americans. Fuck the Texans and fuck the New Yorkers. Fuck my relatives and friends scattered across the United States. Fuck Michael Moore and Lewis Lapham. Fuck the hundreds of thousands of ordinary American citizens who have been and continue to march for peace.”

“And when you’re done, roll up this little propaganda sheet of yours, shove it up your ass, and fuck yourself.”

I’ll be honest. Marches, peaceful or not, generally turn me off. Sure, it’s nice to show solidarity with a cause, but there’s something fascistic about mindlessly parroting slogans that are screamed at you through a loudspeaker.

Still, I’ve gone to anti-war marches and I’ll probably go to more. However, anti-Americanism, while de rigeur at the moment, is no more acceptable than racism, sexism, or any other prejudicial -ism or -phobia. It’s hurtful and unhelpful. I, for one, resolve not to quietly let it go anymore.

The Politics of Occupation

At the same march, I heard a lot of calls to end the occupation of Iraq, which is being set up as we speak. Oh God. That would be a disaster

Let’s face it: the only thing worse that letting the Coalition of the Willing finish up their task would be to have them abandon the whole idea right now. The civil war that would be unleashed would be completely devastating.

Let’s get the international community involved in the rebuilding of the country and ensure that the Iraqi people get control of their resources and real freedom, not Kissinger-brand freedom. This means, unfortunately, establishing tight control over the country in the short-term.

The US should arrange to cede control of the occupation to a UN force as soon as possible for two reasons. One, it is the right thing to do. Two, it will show to the world that the United States is not interested in Empire-building.

The Right-Wing Media

With the war raging, I’ve heard a lot of old complaints resurfacing about how the media is right-wing and thus partly to blame for the mess we’re in, yadda yadda. Frankly, I’m beginning find this argument somewhat ludicrous.

I get my war news from metafilter.com, The Globe and Mail, forwarded articles, and occasionally from CBC News. The so-called alternative press is not difficult to find. The perspective that I have personally received is, if anything, anti-war.

The media has fragmented so much over the past five years with the rise of specialty channels, digital cable, and the Internet. Somehow, the evil media myths that I clung to in my youth don’t ring true for me anymore. Public opinion isn’t being manipulated by shady, cigar-smoking men in tall, corporate buildings. Alas, public opinion is just as fickle an indicator of what is right and what is not as it has always been, FOX News or no FOX News.

Abortion

If you think abortion rights are safe and sound here in Canada, think again. The curtailment that is taking place south of the border could easily migrate here.

If abortion activists are going to keep winning, they’re going to have to drop the disingenuous argument that life begins at birth. It’s as silly as the argument that life begins at conception.

Trying to fix a moment when a baby is a baby is an absurd debate that scientists, theologians, philosophers, and Pat Buchanan will never resolve. All I know is that I don’t want women being horribly mutilated in alleys or babies being dropped in garbage cans at birth.

To me, the argument ends there. The larger philosophical issues of conception and birth are up to the woman (and, hopefully, her partner) to deal with.

Gay marriages

I don’t think that the government should start sanctioning gay marriages. Nope. In fact, I believe the government should get the hell out of the whole marriage business.

The concepts of marriage and family are up to individuals to figure out for themselves.

Civil unions for everyone! Huzzah!

Self-indulgence

Barring some horrible graduation mishap, this will surely be my last writing in The McGill Daily as a McGill student. Permit me a moment of self-indulgence. I’d like to thank this year’s Commentary Editor Ian McKellar for encouraging me to write this column. Many thanks as well to the four coordinating editors who have managed this paper since I began: Jason Chow, Ben Errett, Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, and Phil Todd. And, finally, thanks to the readers of this space. I have very much enjoyed receiving your emails and kind comments.

J. Kelly Nestruck can be reached at jkelly@cup.ca. He can still be found on the fence on the internet at http://fence.blogspot.com.

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