November 24, 2003

Pax Americana

CLEARLY WE'RE HAVING ONE of those fundamental cultural disconnects this morning. You see, we can't understand why James Lileks' retort against Iraqi blogger/Guardian writer Salam Pax has created such a fuss, as it seems entirely reasonable to us.

Now, you likely know what Mr Lileks wrote about the whole situation. Today, he apologized for using a popular if crude two-word rejoinder in response to Mr Pax's argument, in which Mr Pax complains that things are not getting back to normal as quickly as one might have hoped.

Still, Mr Lileks' initial words have created much discord. For instance, Brian Linse writes: "Fuck You, Lileks, you coward. Stay in MN where your wannabe bullshit will still impress someone enough to cut you a check."

Meanwhile, Arthur Silber writes: "Please note that Lileks writes this from the great comfort of his affluent life in Minnesota, where he is undoubtedly tortured by the earth-shattering question as to just how much he ought to spend on Gnat's Christmas presents this year.

Has Lileks ever lived under a vicious totalitarian regime? If he admits that Salam Pax knows more about the situation than Lileks himself does, how exactly does Lileks know that it is "precisely" because of "people like" Salam Pax that the Saddam regime "would have prospered into the next generation"? Have four of Lileks' relatives gone missing? Has one of Lileks' friends been summarily executed? Has one of Lileks' close friends "never returned"?

I suspect, indeed I am certain, that the answers to all these questions are a resounding: No. In which case, Mr. Lileks, the only proper response to you is the one you make to Salam Pax: Fuck you. How dare you? How dare anyone?

Mr Lileks, of course, can defend himself very well in this matter, so we will leave that to him. What we do not understand is why his words created such a stir in the first place. Here's our thinking.

Let's say that, in 2023, some home-grown Communists have somehow taken over the United States, and we were unable to flee to Bermuda with our secret stash of gold and negotiable bearer instruments. Let us further say that said Communists have made it clear that anyone stepping out of line will be dealt with in an extreme and final manner. In addition, let us say that the Communists have an eye to liquidating any troublesome writers that formerly supported the old order of democratic capitalism. But wait! A short while, after a particularly short but effective conflict, the French come to our aid and liberate us from our bondage.

The last thing we'd do six months down the line is complain -- in our bad French -- that the electricity is only on eleven hours out of the day, particularly if many of our fellow Americans were doing all they could to gum up the works. We are sorry, but we don't see how such griping would particularly help matters. Firstly, it would be particularly unseemly and gauche to gripe in such a smarmy way -- that complaint, perhaps, might wound the upper-class Mr Pax more than anything -- and secondly, it does nothing to address the situation at hand.

We dare say that if the above situation were ever to come about, we would -- we don't know -- actually help our liberators in bringing about peace and order, as it would a) speed along the process of having us manage our own affairs and b) assist in getting things back to normal. Both of these things, we think, are what we would want, and probably pretty close to what Iraqis would like now.

We agree that is oversimplifying matters, but even still, that is how we see it. As such, we approve of Mr Lileks' rhetorical slap against Mr Pax. In our mind, it was both needed and well-deserved.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at November 24, 2003 09:27 AM | TrackBack

Don't be silly, Ben -- the French would only come over here and end up surrendering to this new regime of yours. I'm thinking more along the lines of, say, Mexico, or, God help us, Canada.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at November 28, 2003 03:46 PM