Let’s see, how many silly conversations are the American people having around the watercoolers at work and the dinner tables and televisions at home?
The weather’s always a big one. Did you hear, there’s a blizzard on the way in the Northeast? But I live in Alabama. What concern is it of mine to worry over New York and Boston’s weather? I understand this might be a big storm. Perhaps, maybe, of “historic” proportions. That’s nice. New York and Boston might get to make a little history without really doing anything, or without anybody doing anything to them, unlike 9-11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, where it took a human agent to make the times historic, if also overblown in historical importance.
But the world won’t end if the investment bankers and hedge fund managers miss a couple of days of work. No, really, Mr. Investment Banker/Hedge Fund Manager. It will be alright. Except that leaving all those trades exposed to whoever at the office might want to see them could be dangerous (presuming others make it to the office). They might steal your trading secrets. Or they might see the gargantuan amount of leverage you’ve been employing to make those puny returns, and realize you’d be swimming naked if the tide ever went out. Better slog into the office anyway you can. You were a magnificent athlete in college, as everyone who drinks a beer with you is well aware. Put that toned and trim physique you bought at the crossfit box to good use, and snowshoe it into work. Greenwich Village isn’t that far from the City.
Does New York or Boston worry over Alabama’s weather when it has the occasional winter snowstorm, or when tornadic thunderstorms unleash their fury in the springtime? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The ability to know the weather all around the world holds very few advantages in any identifiable sort of way, another fail of constant and comprehensive communications ability. Weather is like politics, it’s all local, sometimes really local, like when the tornado blows your neighbor’s house down but leaves yours standing. Even Google Earth can’t help you there.
When the newscasters aren’t obsessed over Snowmaggedon, they’re giving us the latest details of Deflategate. Aside from all the puerile double entendres the notion of playing with deflated balls spawn (oops, I sorta did it myself), which aren’t much funny but are anyway less annoying to hear than anyone who is talking seriously about the “scandal”, this is all just a huge waste of time. Obviously, the footballs weren’t so deflated as to cause any referees to question them during the game. And even if they were deflated a bit, could it be imagined that a few underinflated footballs gave New England a five-touchdown advantage over the Colts? Tom Brady and Bill Belichik are certainly implicated in what happened to the Colts, but not because of deflated footballs. Let’s get on to the next contrived controversy.
Which is perhaps the one conversation we should be having, but about a dozen years too late. Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper did a movie, American Sniper, based on the fantastical, egotistical memoir of a now dead Navy Seal sniper and we have finally decided that we should talk about the incessant, twenty-plus years war with Iraq. Or perhaps I should say “war in Mesopotamia” because more and more Iraq is becoming no longer identifiable as an extant entity. The war in Mesopotamia started in 1990, almost 25 years ago. It grinds on, at the present time against something called ISIS. It has had periods where it was hot, and periods where it went cold, but it hasn’t had any periods where it truthfully ceased firing. Because Iraq, or Mesopotamia, forms the natural eastern boundary of any West European-centered empire, such as is America’s, the Mesopotamian wars reflect the incessant skirmishing that happens at the limits of influence in which empires have always engaged. Rome fought incessantly in Mesopotamia too, mainly against the Persians, where the Roman Empire’s influence naturally faded. The US started out fighting someone other than the modern-day descendants of Persia, i.e., it wasn’t originally fighting Iran. But now that it cleared Iran’s enemies from the region with the initial hostilities, it is now faced with Iranian hegemony in the region, much as Rome was face with expanding and contracting Persian hegemony over Mesopotamia. Plus ca change.
The conversation over this movie is a nasty one. More like two competing street demonstrations. There are basically two sides—you must either believe that Chris Kyle, the Navy Seal sniper whose memoir formed the basis of the movie’s plot, was a hero who deserves our unalloyed adulation, or you hate America and all she stands for and would probably have been a Communist sympathizer during the Cold War, and maybe would have provided aid and comfort to the Japs during World War Two.
The movie is really a metaphor. The characters are Kyle, who represents our military efforts in Mesopotamia, and his wife back home, who represents the American people who sent him over to do unspeakable things so that she might raise their children in peace, and fill up their minivan with freely- flowing and inexpensive oil.
The movie elicits a debate on morality, but like the morality debate on Deflategate, it doesn’t matter. Debating the morality of a war by the proxy of debating whether someone is a hero or a thug after the fact of sending them to war accomplishes nothing. The time to debate the morality of going to war is before the troops are engaged. Now it simply doesn’t matter. That particular stretch of the long-running Mesopotamian Wars is over. The debate to have now, right now, is whether we should fight to reassert control over the region, or we should just abandon it for the ISIS or whatever hegemon arises to fill the power vacuum. The correct answer in the premises is which strategy yields the greatest benefit to the US at the least cost, or perhaps to put it more realistically, which strategy yields the smallest loss at the least cost. There are nothing but costs appurtenant to policing the boundaries of empire. Sometimes it is advantageous to contract the area over which hegemony is asserted. Morality is about survival, in this case, of the empire. The moral thing to do is that which most enhances the prospects for the empire’s survival and propagation. Simple as that.
The problem is that people don’t do morality with their reasoning minds, they do it with their hearts, and movies like American Sniper tug at the heartstrings to the exclusion of reason.
But then, in the resurgent Romanticism of this outlandishly wealthy age, there is little hope of ever engaging a conversation with someone who uses their minds for thinking rather than feeling. Reason is the handmaiden of the emotions, and thinking reasonably is hard. As an innately economizing attribute of the brain, reason is only generally employed as a last resort, when survival absolutely depends upon it.