Saturday, April 07, 2007


Rush to Judgment

I've struggled with expressing myself about the recently concluded events in the waters off Iraq and Iran. I've had to walk away from the computer twice, just this morning, to avoid writing a post that should rightly be deleted (this, in a blog in which I have some personal investment as a participant); I'm not sure, even so, if what I posted will not cause enough offense to be deleted.

So, before my head explodes, some thoughts and rants about judgment, honor, and the idea that we (in general) know a damn thing at all about the hearts and minds of others.


I am the son of a warrior. I phrase that deliberately. My father was born to a militaristic culture. His schooling was militaristic in the literal sense. His expectation upon reaching his majority was primarily an officer's commission in an army. He was, himself, special in his native skills, so the expectations of others were if anything well beyond what any young man might have on his own.

He had, in my never humble opinion, as accurate a sense of honor as any person I can name. And, in any rational sense, he was completely unworthy of my personal trust.

In his own culture, he was eminently sane. In the US, he was rightly diagnosed with clinical paranoia, and the only reason he was not involuntarily committed was because a judge wasn't convinced that he was a threat of physical injury to himself or those around him. The emotional scars he left in myself, my siblings, and my late mother were, of course, of no matter. [end brief sarcasm]

But that in no way contradicts the fact that he was an honorable man, that he comported himself with honor while a soldier, and that he accurately commented on the state of military conduct in the US. I have his letters and personal notes, collected over 40 years. They are lucid, direct, and in some cases brilliant.

Yet, in his personal life, he could not trust others, thus preventing him being in any way trustworthy in himself.


We are faced with a mindset, in our contemporary world, that is by itself capable of more destruction than any other single mindset I know of. It is, in short, the notion that one's faith, ethnicity, form of government or nationality are somehow more important no matter the circumstances than one's own life, or short of that one's own personal dignity or physical well-being.

We see it in action every day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We see it in hate crime legislation (more details about that in a future post). We see it in the current debate over the behavior of the captured sailors and marines held in Iran, and I find it exceedingly difficult for anyone to offer the slightest criticism of that group of men and one woman at any point prior to knowing exactly what transpired during their incarceration, and without knowing what their standing orders were from their commanders concerning being caught in that sort of situation.

I find all of the commentary, even the parts that praise them prematurely, cowardly posturing at best.

Do them a favor. Say nothing about them until you know all the facts, on both sides of the question. Every commentator has a completely random chance of being either completely right or completely wrong. If nothing else, that random chance should cause one to hesitate.

But no. In this journalistic world of me-first, get the prize, scoop the world regardless of the confirmation or even possession of facts, we get inundated by personal takes on a situation that most writers have never faced, not even vicariously through someone close to them. We get inane comparisons with isolated (but oh-so-well documented) cases like that of John McCain, inane because every logical point in the comparison is ignored; only the outcome matters. And, in the end, being the one to publish commentary about the outcome before it manifests is all that matters.

Counsel advising against a rush to judgement is almost always wise. Given how things have turned out, though, would you care to hazard a guess as to what your father would think about those soldiers now?

Also, I try to be a pretty civil and level-headed sort here in the blogosphere. But part of the fun of this medium is shooting off half-cocked. Usually people like me do a pretty good job of offering all the relevant caveats, but sometimes the mind moves faster than the fingers. I am usually ready to offer the benefit of the doubt to someone who pops off before knowing all the facts. That is, of course, assuming they recognize they were wrong after the fact.

Nice post, by the way. May I ask if your dad was from Eastern or Central Europe? I'm going to guess Serbian!
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