In Which Our Heroine Thinks Obvious Thoughts While His Birthdayness Sleeps

17 February 2003

It's Timprov's birthday! Yay! Sadly, there's also this president thing, so no mail delivery for us.

So who wants to talk about world politics?

Well, sorry. Skip on a bit, then, because that's what I'd like to do. Mostly because I have two things to say. Then I'll shut up. Really.

The first one is, I've been a libertarian since I was too young to register to vote. So I can tell you all: over-the-top rhetoric doesn't work. I occasionally will still pull out the gun-to-the-head thing when I'm talking to friends, as an expression of how I really feel about a topic. But if I'm talking in public, I try to avoid that kind of thing, because after the first time one hears it, it alienates. It's at odds with the listener's perception of his/her world to a great enough extent that it's usually distancing rather than illuminating. Rather than inviting the listener to see that you're right, it invites the listener to immediately find ways in which you're wrong, and he/she will rarely be content to find one way in which you're wrong and stop.

Anti-war and especially anti-Bush sentiments work the same way. If you say "Bush is a dictator" or refer to him as "Generalissimo Bush," people who already agree with you may go, "Yeah! What you said!" But the unconvinced are unlikely to become more convinced. They're more likely to look at the freedoms they have and say, "That's not true." And then to go on and doubt the rest of what you're saying, or at least want to go stand at a distance from you.

I know other people have said this before. But it's more important to protect civil rights than to have a pithy sound bite. It's more important to promote peace than to sound cool doing it. And so if you're my friend and you're venting this way to me in private, I guarantee I'll have the urge to ask you to moderate it, because the minute you're talking in public instead, it's about convincing other people. Calling someone an idiot -- even if you do believe it most sincerely, and even if you have reasons to back it up -- won't convince anyone who doesn't already agree with you. You have to give them the reasons. Broad-based support, people. Arlo may have said, "You gotta sing loud if you want to end war and stuff," but sometimes that's the wrong way to go. Sometimes you gotta sing quiet and make it a tune that's really easy to hum.

The other thing that's been bothering me is about world opinion. It seems like a lot of people are either assuming that World Opinion Doesn't Matter or that It Does, Too. For me, it's both. It matters when someone who agrees with me on virtues is pointing out some way in which this country is not living up to those virtues. If someone values freedom and human rights and points at aspects of foreign or domestic policy that violate those things, that opinion matters. Even if the person or group is misinformed (and I'm not saying they always are, not by a long shot!), it still matters what they think, because if we go around thinking of ourselves as the champions of liberty, things will get unpleasantly confusing if we're the only ones who think so.

But there's another component of World Opinion that doesn't matter to me in the slightest, and I don't think it should matter to any of the politicians I elected, either. (Oh, wait. I didn't elect any politicians. Everyone I voted for lost, in every single election. Well, it shouldn't matter to Ron Paul, either, how's that?) Anyone who thinks that the U.S. is wrong for supporting the repressive Saudi regime may have a point and is at least worth talking to about it, to find out what, exactly, the problem is. (With the Saudi regime, that's a long talk. But anyway.) But anyone who thinks that the U.S. is wrong for letting women vote is just not the kind of World Opinion I care to hear. Yesterday's sign, "Never stop negotiating"? Nope, sorry. Stop negotiating at that point. That's how things are here, period full stop, no negotiations. I'm not prepared to make any concessions on that one. There is nothing to negotiate. Anyone who thinks that America is evil because I can wear a bikini when I feel like it is not a World Opinion I can particularly deal with. So I won't show up in any part of the Arabian Peninsula wearing that bikini. (I probably won't show up in any part of the Arabian Peninsula anyway, but that's another issue.) That's as much of a concession as I'm willing to make.

I don't think you have to make a decision between World Opinion Matters and World Opinion Doesn't Matter. I think a few politicians set it up in that dichotomy for reasons of their own, so that they could make simplistic arguments about who believes what and get people, reluctantly, to agree that they didn't want to do everything that people in China or Morocco or Sweden want them to do. You don't have to buy that dichotomy. It keeps coming up. And it keeps being wrong.

On a practical level, it also matters when another country can make our lives quite difficult and unpleasant, but that's a different kind of "matters," and one to be handled diplomatically, not in a court of our own public opinion vs. someone else's in the newspapers. Both of these things seem obvious, and yet I read the papers, and I hear from people, and I think that obvious things are maybe okay to say now and again.

Okay, no more politics, you can come back now.

Everybody has winter but us. Pout pout.

I finished reading Louise de la Vallière yesterday. I love Porthos. I hope there's more Porthos in The Man in the Iron Mask. And more Athos and Aramis and d'Artagnan, actually. I'm amused and annoyed at what they changed for the movie "The Man in the Iron Mask" so far. The most amusing part to me is that Louise was changed to Christine. As I said in an e-mail yesterday, I don't know if they thought that Louis/Louise would be too hard for the audience to keep straight, or if Louise was just too dorky a name for a heroine, or what. Also, Louise was much less morally sympathetic in the book, and less annoying, and the king was much more sympathetic. On purpose, no doubt, because heaven forbid there should be something that's difficult or greyish.

I'm resisting the urge to dive right into The Man in the Iron Mask. Part of that is that I think it'd be bad for my work to have that much Dumas going into my brain in that short a time period, but part of it is that I know that when I finish The Man in the Iron Mask, there will never be any new Musketeer stories for me, ever again in my entire life. I'm not eager to hasten that day. So instead of that, I started reading Michael Chabon's Summerland, which I like very much so far, and which is in quite a different vein.

It's a little strange to talk about the "Prototype" sale, because it's being released by Far Sector as an e-book, but it's only 3500 words. So when people refer to it as a book, it sounds strange to me, even though it's essentially an e-chapbook format, because, well, it's not a novel, it's a short story! Ah well. We'll get it figured out by the time it's available.

We tried to get salmon to make Timprov's stuffed salmon for his folks yesterday, but the Albertson's salmon turned out to be nasty, so we went out instead. And now I have a question for you guys: if you get fish at the store, and it turns out to be bad less than two hours after you buy it, can you go back and get some money back? Or is fish kind of one of those "buyer beware" things, and if you can't see from the case that it's bad, it's your tough luck? Anyway, we're pondering tomato soups with all the tomatoes we bought for with the fish. Hmmm. We'll see.

Today's plans are pretty sketchy: we're going to House of Nanking for dinner, I think, and other than that, I'm going to work on Dwarf's Blood Mead until His Birthdayness wakes up and says what he'd like. And if he wants to run around to museums or parks or gardens, or if he wants to sit home and play pinochle and watch silly movies, or whatever, it's his birthday, so we'll figure out how to do what he wants to do.

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