Getting back to the future?
By Sean Gonsalves

This is the time of year when columnists do their
year-in-review piece and offer prognostications for
the future.

But in this crazy, mixed-up world the future seems
more uncertain than ever. Those leading us into the
future don't appear content with simply repeating
history. It's as if there's a conscious desire to
literally bring America back to the "good 'ol days,"
at least as far back as the era pined for by Archie
Bunker. Back when men were men and goyles were goyles.

Not only is it politically correct to think of
"liberals" as meatheads, it's now cool to ridicule
international law and the U.N. as "ineffective," even
though the genocide in Rwanda and the current crisis
in Darfur were not and have not been effectively
addressed because of the lack of political will on the
part of the country who created and controls the U.N.

And despite the mid-term election "thumpin,'" the New
McCarthyism that sees a "terrorist-sympathizer" in
anyone who isn't a war cheerleader, is still very much
in vogue.

How far back are we going to go? Manifest Destiny?

Can America get back to the future?

All this confusion has once again led me to seek out
Dr. Oxy Moron for a little perspective. Of course, Dr.
Moron continues to limit her comments to the memorable
witticisms and the often paradoxical observations of
celebrated sages.

SG: One of the "biggest" events of 2006 was the
mid-term elections that swept the Democrats into
Congressional power. But President Bush said recently
that he interpreted the "thumpin'" to mean Americans
were simply not happy with the "progress" in Iraq, not
as a call for a timely end to the occupation. Do you
think the Democratic resurgence will lead to a change
in the direction this country is heading?

DM: The most radical revolutionary will become a
conservative the day after the revolution (Hannah
Arendt).

SG: I suppose with all the uncertainty and fear in the
air it should come as no surprise that there's a lot
of talk about faith in politics. Whether it's the "war
on terror" or the "culture war," matters of faith are
very much intertwined with debate over policy and
seems inextricably linked to conflict. Does religious
faith inevitably lead to war and conflict?

DM: A faith is something you die for; a doctrine is
something you kill for: there is all the difference in
the world (Tony Benn). The problem isn't competing
faiths but competing doctrines.

SG: There's also lots of talk about the "war on
terror" being a "clash of civilizations" or a conflict
of "civilization" against "barbarism." But it seems
like America is moving backwards. Do you agree?

DM: You can't say civilization don't advance. ...In
every war they kill you in a new way (Will Rogers).

SG: Didn't Nietzsche say something about the civilized
becoming monsters?

DM: He said, whoever fights monsters should see to it
that in the process he does not become a monster. And
if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will
gaze back into you.

SG: Nietzsche wasn't very kind to religion. Do you
share his disdain?

DM: God is best known in not knowing Him (St.
Augustine).

SG: Speaking of monsters and Nietzsche - the
philosopher who championed the will-to-power - what do
you think was running through Saddam's mind as the
noose was tightened around his neck?

DM: I suppose if I had (won) the war I would (not)
have been tried as a war criminal. (Un)fortunately, I
was on the (losing) side (inverting the words of Gen.
Curtis Lemay on World War II).

SG: As we head into the new year, do you have any
parting advice?

DM: When a dog runs at you, whistle for him (Thoreau).

SG: Any human-relations advice?

DM: Never let your sense of morals get in the way of
doing what's right (Isaac Asimov).

SG: Happy New Year and many more to come.

DM: Yeah, well, the future ain't what is used to be
(Yogi Berra).

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff reporter and
a syndicated columnist.