Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Is that All Concrete, Comrade?

Readers of this blog will have noticed that I spent most of the last winter and spring, when I could steal a few hours from work to shed tears of desperate outrage on this blog, warning the Left that Trump was a much bigger problem than they realized, or than they seemed prepared to handle -- that a full-on xenophobic, racially-scapegoating demagogue standing as a major party candidate would make John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, Paul Ryan, and everyone else they'd spent the last twenty years fearing and despising look like child's play (and boy, remember the days when Paul Ryan seemed further to the right than the rest of the party? That takes me back). We have to get ready to surrender some of our ideological purity, I said. We have to prepare ourselves to cross the aisle and shake hands with the former enemy, because a worse foe is in town. It is time for Léon Blum to embrace the chairman of the C.P. beneath the Tricolour and the band to strike up the "Internationale." Time to look for allies in unlikely places. "On this one we need all the forces of bourgeois democracy to pull together," I wrote in February, "plus the forces of Old Europe and Metternich and Guizot to boot-- and Lindsay Graham and whoever else we can get. Come one, come all! This is Popular Front time."

Well, writing now in August 2016, it seems, strange to say, that I sort of got what I wanted. And I scarcely know what to do with that fact -- I don't think it's ever happened to me before, where politics is concerned. To be sure, with 90 or so days left to go before the election, I do not at all wish to minimize the still present danger that Trump could turn this all around and win the thing. He'd have to overcome a major deficit in the polls by this point, to be sure sure, but there are a few shudder-inducing scenarios by which it could actually happen -- Julian Assange, say, (the Left's new Molotov to Trump's Ribbentrop -- in more ways than one) unloads something truly damaging in a leak a month before the election; Trump rides a wave of fear coming off a major terrorist attack, etc. As Hillary's lead stabilizes, however, and Trump continues to self-destruct -- as, moreover, the number of high-profile endorsements Hillary continues to secure from Republican donors, former military bigwigs, CIA operatives and the "national security establishment" more broadly continues to ratchet up, it is clear that something like the Holy Alliance I had been envisioning is actually coming into being. Not, presumably, under the direct impetus of the recommendations of this blog, but still-- there it is, in the flesh.

And, grateful as I am to the Holy Alliance for keeping Trump's polling numbers reassuringly low the last few weeks (though not low enough -- never low enough) -- and wary as I am of jinxing anything in an election that still has three month's worth of nail-biting left to go -- I do have to ask myself, as I survey the strange and ungainly thing I helped wish into being -- do I not feel a certain wistfulness? A certain sense of lost innocence and purity at the compromises that were made? My inner Glenn Greenwald -- er, actually, the outer Glenn Greenwald -- has been calling me to task.

This feeling has nothing to do with Sanders, I insist. I don't have much of a sense of loss about the Bernie campaign, which I was secretly rooting against even as I was still donating to it ("In your heart, you know he's wrong," might be an apt slogan). No part of me shares the rather astonishing levels of grief displayed by the Sanders people at the D.N.C. During the master's parting soliloquy on the first night of the convention, the C-SPAN cameras would occasionally abandon the stage to zoom in on the tearful twenty-somethings whose cheeks were sparkling with emotion as they stated up at him, enraptured, and one was reminded very distinctly of a North Korean state function. "Dear Leader!" joked a friend who was watching with me -- another Bernie defector. That's cruel, of course, but politics is cruel, and I suppose my radicalism has been watered down enough in some respects that I do see the necessity for occasional strategic compromise when it comes to pushing major progressive legislation through Congress. The Sanders people didn't seem within a planet's length of understanding that.

Okay, so, timely and limited compromise when trying to positively do something of one's own has merit. To restrain one's own action at times, to show patience for the sake of the long-term objective, has value. Here's where I'm not on the same page as the Bernie people. The Clinton-CIA-Republican-Military Holy Alliance, however, suggests the danger of compromise of a quite different kind. It forebodes the moral compromise of basic human rights -- the active, positive doing of things, that is -- so not a compromise in the form of restraint at all, quite the contrary -- but of things that fundamentally violate the conscience (albeit in the service of some far off worthy goal -- as they always are, aren't they?). From the specific worrying examples -- like the former CIA director who has defended the Bush administration's torture program and impeached the credibility of the Senate "Torture Report" and who has now endorsed Clinton -- to the general (pardon the pun), like the  locker room-style blast of hawkish machismo delivered by Gen. John Allen at the D.N.C., one's anti-militarist, human rights-advocate conscience feels rather stained at the spectacle. Here's where Greenwald has got me by the nose.

There does, after all, seem to be a bad -- even an epidemic -- case of mock-innocence going around the Holy Alliance. Clinton, for one, has not hesitated to criticize Trump for his blatant pledges to commit torture, to deliberately target civilians, and other war crimes. Former military generals backing Clinton have warned against the Trump presidency on similar grounds, saying that any career soldier would have to immediately contravene the order of their own commander-in-chief if he asked them to do such things. To be sure, one's heart is warmed to hear it. They at least have some kind of humane standards, one thinks. The "national security establishment" feels some ideological or principled obligation to bring their actions into a relationship or dialogue with legality and human rights -- even if it leads to hideous contortions of the truth in the process (like the phrase "enhanced interrogation") -- whereas Trump just nakedly renounces both.

On the other hand, one would never guess from hearing them talk that the same state-military apparatus they have all served over the past few decades has -- and under the direct leadership of many of them -- committed all the crimes they are warning against under a Trump presidency and then some. Torture? "[T]he thing is daily done by many and many a one" (Davidson) -- most obviously in the Bush administration program that kidnapped people, rendered them to secret prisons, suspended people from ceilings, waterboarded people, and a host of other barbaric crimes committed against detainees who were held without charge or legal process -- but also in the form of rampant solitary confinement in our prisons. Bombing civilians? The Obama administration has declared the prerogative to bomb anyone anywhere in the world that it suspects of terrorist activities, with no legal limit, due process, or check on its unilateral authority as an ender of human life. In the midst of the convention season, U.S. airstrikes reportedly killed as many as 167 civilians in the Northern Syrian city of Manbij -- a greater death toll of innocent people than the Paris, Brussels, and Orlando attacks combined. The U.S. continues to provide deadly weapons and support to Saudi Arabia in its renewed air war in Yemen that has left hundreds and possibly thousands of civilians dead. And in the not at all distant past, the U.S. military was responsible for upwards of 100,000 civilian casualties during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Of course, the vast majority of ordinary left-liberals who are not steeped in the contortions of ideology -- and who are moderately well-informed but not yet ruined by the notion of themselves as "intellectuals" -- will not find in this any particularly new problem. One votes for the lesser of two evils each election season, they say, but that doesn't mean one accepts the lesser of two evils as necessary. Far from it -- one spends one's time in between each election year actively working against the evils they perpetrate. This seems to be the solution most commonly adopted, as far as I can tell, by members of the activist and human rights communities in which I vaguely move. "Yeah, Clinton's by no means perfect, but she's clearly better than Trump. So I'll vote for her, while criticizing the aspects of her program I don't like, and then oppose anything she does that I disapprove of when she's in office with whatever strength I have left."

If this solution already makes perfect sense to you, then you need read no further in this post. You have already grasped, by intuition, the point at which I intend to torturously arrive through an engagement with Greenwald et. al. For those who are afflicted with the virus of ideology, however -- who have to test their pieties against the criticisms of all possible factions, no matter how esoteric -- well, you had better bear with me, and take comfort from the fact that Samuel Butler has already provided our apologia and our raison d'être: "I was not born sensible [...] But [... T]here must be hewers of wood and drawers of water—men in fact through whom conscious knowledge must pass before it can reach those who can apply it gracefully and instinctively[.]"

It occurs to me that you, the "instinctive and graceful" appliers of moral knowledge, you might not even be aware of the Greenwaldian position's existence. Who could seriously entertain it, after all? How could there be such a thing as an identifiably Left position that nonetheless flirts -- if not quite with outright support for Trump, then with a kind of uneasy, roundabout crypto-defense of him that makes gleeful hay of the ways in which Clinton might actually be worse than Trump, from an anti-interventionist, anti-militarist point of view. Is such a thing possible? Well, my friend-- you who are exempt from the ideologist's and propagandist's curse-- the truth is that when it comes to Left-wing sectarianism, something like the internet's "Rule 34" would seem to apply: if it can be conceived, it can be found somewhere, in some splinter movement. If Greenwald did not exist, he would have to be invented.

He does exist, though, and if I can venture an irresponsible paraphrase of what I take to be the tendency of his writing -- and of much of the other writing that has been appearing on the Intercept -- over the past few months, let me suggest that it amounts to something as follows: 1) Look, Trump is a fascist and a racist and a demagogue; we all know it, you won't get any argument from us; BUT, 2) the destabilization and delegitimization of the Establishment that he represents is nonetheless a basically salutary thing, because it will open up spaces for a genuine Left alternative to emerge to take the place of the old order (how, though? how on earth? why should we think... no, Josh, no -- you're only paraphrasing at this point, let the man speak); 3) does anyone honestly think that the real reason the "national security establishment" is linking arms with Hillary is because of all these professed humanitarian concerns?; 4) Is not the real reason the fact that Trump, with his talk of abandoning NATO, scaling back the U.S. military footprint abroad, etc. poses a genuine threat to the military-industrial complex; far more so than Clinton and other so-called "progressives" who in office in fact tend to expand the power of the executive branch, the military, and the intelligence services?

Assuming I'm not mischaracterizing any of this argument -- write in, please, if you think I am -- what, then are we to make of it? I can't see anything to disagree with in item 1. #2 I've already addressed elsewhere as best I'm able. As for #3, I basically agree with the direction in which this rhetorical question is leading us, though I don't think it's necessary to wholly discount the sincerity of the humanitarian ideals expressed by the Clinton endorsers -- people are complicated, after all, and most don't believe themselves to be hypocrites, even if they might be judged to be doing hypocritical things by a less partial observer. #4 would appear to be the real meat of of the argument, then -- the place where the disagreement hits the road, to mangle a metaphor.

In order to address this last of the four points, I don't really want to go down the rabbit hole of analyzing "Trump's foreign policy." What could such a thing be anyways? Is he an isolationist or a hawk; a revanchist or an appeaser? Does it even matter when he would plainly be the worst version of whichever of these options he lands on? Trump might indeed throw the Greenwaldians and the Paulists and the paleocons and the Chomskyites a bone on occasion with his talk of reducing the number of U.S. military bases abroad, of spending less on military hardware, etc. -- but his talk out of the other side of his mouth about how we need to "rebuild our military" and how "our military's a joke," his pledges to commit war crimes, not to mention his blatant dehumanization of whole categories of human beings against whom he would immediately have the chance, if elected to office, to deploy military force or even exterminating violence, make such hints of the "anti-interventionist Trump" not worth the spittle with which they are expelled from his lips.

And by the way, Greenwald et al., there are bad reasons to oppose the U.S. military-industrial complex as well as good ones, in case you didn't know. Vladimir Putin and the Chinese state oppose NATO and the U.S. military. Is it because they are such great lovers of peace and human rights? Isolationism and anti-Semitic fascism, meanwhile, have a long history as likely bedfellows in the American context. Also, there is a difference between opposing aggressive U.S. military build-up and telling long-time U.S. allies that "you're on your own" in the event of an attack. I could, of course, go on. Perhaps, though, an analogy is more in order.

My hope in the winter, when I began floating the whole Popular Front/Holy Alliance idea, had been for something to happen in this country like what occurred in France last fall, when general elections following the November Paris attacks had brought the Front National perilously close to power and in response, as you may recall, the conservatives and the Socialists forged an uneasy pact not to compete against one another in departments where they could only be spoiler candidates. The result was that two parties who were ideological foes, but who nonetheless saw themselves as the inheritors of a shared French Republican tradition, were able to close ranks against a party that stood outside of that tradition entirely, that hearkened back instead to strains of French reaction in the vein of Boulangerism and Pétainism.

Now, one could of course imagine a French Glenn Greenwald-- actually, no -- one can't, since Greenwald is such a distinctly American product, in spite of himself -- but one can at any rate imagine a French Old Leftist making a vaguely Greenwaldian argument in this context. Le Front National, she or he might say -- sure, it's fascist, but that's not the real reason the conservatives and the so-called Socialists oppose it -- the real reason is that it poses a threat to their beloved established European order. This French Old Leftist might actually share the FN's Euroskeptic stance, though from an alter-globalist rather than nativist perspective. She or he might also point out that the major French parties are playing the innocence game in much the same way that Clinton and her endorsers are. At the same time that the Socialists are loudly condemning and disclaiming the xenophobia and Islamophobia of the FN, for instance, their government officials have implemented and extended emergency laws that allow them to seriously undermine the basic rights to assembly, religious expression, and speech of French Muslim immigrants. The conservatives were willing to similarly write off the FN's anti-immigrant views as beyond the pale, in the degree of their extremism -- but what was Sarkozy's campaign of expulsions against Roma people in France if not extreme, if not xenophobic and racist, if not morally beyond the pale? Shouldn't we then dissociate from electoral politics altogether, and consider the FN to be no worse than the so-called "Republican" parties?

I turn to the French analogy because the stakes in these kinds of calculations -- and thus, the reason why the French Greenwald is wrong -- are perhaps somewhat easier to perceive on a Continent where the "Republican" consensus is more obviously historically recent and fragile and in need of protecting; where that consensus broke down so catastrophically less than a century ago -- where bourgeois democracy, for all its failings, for all its corruptions and hypocrisies, was proven to be so very much better than its alternatives; where the dangers of small-minded men who are artisans in the media of hatred and chauvinism and populist grievance was proven forever and for all time and beyond all questioning and carping. Europe's twentieth century demonstrates beyond all doubt that there are worse things out there than the "Establishment," however bad, however bloated and imperialist the latter may be.


This, however, is not a new argument from me, and still it seems somehow not to be getting at the heart of things. Still less does it explain why I feel the need to argue with Greenwald, if I find him to be so obviously wrong. I wouldn't be going round and round on this the way I am if did not still feel guilty somehow in Greenwald's presence.

The Greenwald-induced guilt complex is a fascinating thing -- I have never experienced its like before in the presence of a writer with whom I basically agree, if pressed, on so many subjects. On the one hand, I am annoyed by nearly everything Greenwald says and writes, and by nearly the whole of his authorial persona -- the total humorlessness, the self-seriousness, the lack of self-criticism; also the ahistorical consciousness -- the way in which he seemed to zap into existence in just this era with a set of utterly iron-clad convictions, and never bothers to provide us with a picture of how he or these opinions came into being, and never seems to display a deeper engagement with the humanities that might provide his beliefs some context. Then there is his self-mythologization, his propensity to surround himself with straw men. Greenwald, in a Greenwald article, is always the only person who ever opposed the Libya intervention or the targeted killing program, the first of his kind (I'm exaggerating, of course, to make a point). When reading Greenwald, one's sense of Leftist self always wants to cry out, "Glenn, of course we think the Libyan intervention was a disaster, of course we oppose the drone program -- why are you treating us as if we don't? Who do you think you are arguing against?"

And to this the unspoken rebuke comes back: If you really oppose those things, why is it that I never hear one thing from you about them; why is it that I only hear you criticize them when I call you out on this? This is the source of the guilt complex, because it's actually hard -- sometimes impossible -- to argue with it. One wants so much for him to be wrong. But it is altogether a harder thing to find that he actually is wrong.

Greenwald has caught on to to something real in me, I confess (not that he knows of my existence -- but he knows all about the type that I embody) -- a genuine gap in my checkered conscience. I do have an instinctive loyalty to the Democratic Party -- an unwillingness to think the worst of its leaders -- that poses something like the problem of nationalist pride to my ability to be an impartial social critic and moral arbiter where their actions are concerned. I can't help it. From the time I was a child on and someone first explained to me the distinction between the two major parties, I knew which one I was. Even in my Marxist days, when I was officially committed to the belief that both parties were merely the two Janus faces of the same capitalist oppressor, I didn't see any real conflict between this stated conviction and meanwhile cheering with my heart in my throat at Kerry roadside sign-holding parties and Obama rallies. Oh, the sainted pleasures of what Russell Baker once called -- somewhere -- the early joys of partisanship. "[W]e were fairy Democrats and this was our day," as Vachel Lindsay described the mood in his own youth, more than a hundred years earlier.

I hope I have proved often enough by now on this blog (and elsewhere) that I can, as an adult, rise above this bias far enough to criticize Obama and the rest of the Democratic leadership for the wrongs they inflict, but I confess that it requires me to overcome a certain amount of inner resistance each time. And in a way, the sheer terribleness of Trump, the depths of his depravity and the extremes of his obscenity, has allowed me to surrender some of that uphill effort-- to indulge in an Indian summer of party spirit, to let myself feel the ésprit de corps coursing through me. Watching the D.N.C. on my laptop, I unapologetically thrilled to Clinton's and Obama's speeches. When the Sanders people would occasionally try to interrupt Clinton with chants of "war hawk," etc., I gritted my teeth and scrunched into my seat in fury. "What's wrong with them?" I'd think. "Where's their spirit of loyalty and solidarity? Don't they want us to win? Don't they understand that the alternative is fascism, which makes us something absolutely heavenly by comparison?"


I've spent a lot of the past few months accusing the Greenwaldians and the Sanders people of a kind of Stalinism -- of doing what the German C.P. did in the lead-up to Hitler's rise to power by refusing to focus their attention on the real enemy and savaging their natural friends and allies instead. And I still think the criticism stands. Yet there is more than a whiff of Stalinism too, I suppose, if I'm being honest with myself, in the complacency of the Democratic apparatchik, savoring our moral superiority over Trump (oy, the day that that becomes the standard...). Mentally, I have been pleading with the Sanders people all year -- "Look, we can go back to thinking whatever we want to about Clinton after the election, we can criticize whatever she means to get up to then, but just save it, friends, save it until we're not in so much immediate danger of something profoundly worse." This, of course, is just what the old Party hands used to tell the straying members of the flock, in their cell meetings. It's the sort of speech that shows up frequently in The Golden Notebook, and which might go something like this, without quoting anyone specific: "We all know that all is not well in the workers' state, comrade. It is inevitable that mistakes will be made in the process of building socialism. But now is not the time for public criticism, not when the worker's state is so under threat from all sides by capitalist spies and saboteurs. Moreover, any criticism will in the present context only be twisted around by our enemies for the purposes of capitalist propaganda." There was always the promise of future criticism, you see, even in the grimmest days of Stalinist repression and mass murder -- it just had to wait until the enemies could be cleared away. I swear, we can criticize Hillary next year, we just have to defeat the fascists first at the polls!

The sheer delight with which one takes note of the many outrages of Trump, and feels one's own moral stock rising by comparison, also has its Stalinist precedents. In his autobiography, Arthur Koestler writes of the relief with which he poured himself into an investigation of the Armenian genocide in his Party loyalist days -- here was a crime against humanity that he could condemn whole-heartedly, he thought -- one that had not been committed by his own party or cause, that had in fact been perpetrated by the enemy. He notes the feeling of psychological release he obtained thereby, the pressure built up and redirected by all the horror he had felt about what he had seen under Stalin that he could not repudiate directly.

Then, in a related way, there is the bracketing of certain crimes as so abhorrent that only the enemy could commit them, and of which one's own party is absolved by definition. "We may not be perfect," the loyal but wavering comrade thinks, "but at least we don't do that." For the narrator of The Golden Notebook, this unthinkable crime is Anti-Semitism (much as for the Clinton supporter it might be Islamophobia or xenophobia). As this narrator finds out in the last years of Stalin's rule, however, the years of the so-called "Doctor's Plot," that argument only works so long as one's own party and its leaders do not commit the crime in question -- and no further.

Okay, so what else is wrong with this whole line of reasoning, we ask? I last thought my way out of Stalinism (or rather, out of other less unsavory left-wing sectarianisms that follow the same patterns of thought) in high school, and have been trying to convince everyone else to do the same ever since. Yet it's been so long since I had to turn these arguments against myself that it takes me a moment to conjure them up again. But ah yes, here they come. Let's go through them together -- let us hew some wood and draw some water -- even if the "instinctive and graceful" will already be satisfied with their anti-Stalinism without needing to do so.

For one thing, the whole notion that criticism of the party leader can be delayed to some imagined more peaceful future, when there will be no more saboteurs and capitalist enemies, depends critically on the assumption that one's own party is carrying the world in the direction of such a better place -- and would take everyone there with it if only these outside meddlers and obstacles weren't in the way. This was obviously not in fact true in Stalin's case -- and this, rather than any hemming and hawing about consequentialism or ends and means, is the best single reason not to be a Stalinist. Even if consequentialism were totally valid, even if the ends always did justify the means, it wouldn't matter in this instance, since Stalin's ends were plainly as abhorrent as his means, and no socialist paradise was about to spring forth from them, no matter how remorselessly they were pursued. (A poem by Roque Dalton dubs as "Crock Logic" the notion that "Criticism of the Soviet Union can only be made by one who is anti-Soviet" (Schaaf trans.), which is all well and good -- but it doesn't particularly matter to me since I think people like Dalton should have bitten the bullet from early on and just been anti-Soviet.)

This is what Camus was trying to suggest, toward the end of Neither Victims Nor Executioners, when he wrote: "[W]hat if these forces wind up in a dead end, what if that logic of History on which so many now rely turns out to be a will o' the wisp ? What if, despite two or three world wars, despite the sacrifice of several generations and a whole system of values, our grandchildren - supposing they survive - find themselves no closer to a world society?" (Dwight MacDonald trans.) And oy, it's all so obvious, when you write it all out, all this anti-Stalinism, yet it apparently took a whole generation of Communist-inclined and later woefully repentant intellectuals to figure it out -- hewers of wood and drawers of water the lot of them.

But Hillary Clinton is not Stalin (another one of these conveniently low bars). The ends she claims to be fulfilling are more modest -- center-left progressivism rather than the utopian worker's state -- and the means in her case do not involve "two or three world wars" and the loss of entire generations, thankfully -- they "just" mean friendship with Henry Kissinger and similar war criminals and the probable continuation of the drone program and possibly new aggressive wars in the Middle East. The notion that Obama and Clinton are basically well-intentioned people who are aiming at the right things and simply use morally questionable means to get there is a lot more plausible than it would be in Stalin's case. With them, therefore, we can't entirely avoid dealing with the ends-and-means question, so let us turn to it.

If I were trying to formulate a consequentialist excuse on Obama's behalf, it would probably go something like this: Look, he's done some bad things, for sure, but what president hasn't? And in light of all the other American presidents, it seems to me that Obama is the best one I'm likely to see in my lifetime, perhaps the best one we've ever had. And whenever he's done something wrong, it's always been because his right-wing opponents were trying to get him to do something even worse. The drone program? Well that's just serving to replace the outright prolonged military intervention on foot that the Republicans would have embroiled us in by this point in Iran and Syria and god knows where else. Obama's mass deportations and family detention and raids against Central American asylum seekers? Well, that's just a trade-off with Republican hardliners down the road. He has to do this, because the Republicans are trying to force through legislation that would do even worse, by using the "Obama doesn't enforce our borders" line.  He doesn't want to do any of these things, he has been compelled! ("[P]erhaps he never knew about all the terrible things that were happening," says a character in The Golden Notebook, referring to Stalin. And the narrator reflects: "how odd [that] we all have this need for the great man, and create him over and over again in the face of all the evidence.")

So what's the flaw in this consequentialist argument? It's not -- or not necessarily -- that it's an entirely inaccurate view of Obama's political psychology. Obama genuinely has been trying to pursue a cautious and broadly non-interventionist foreign policy -- in the face of much "good advice" from the experts and the usual "Very Serious People" in Washington -- and he probably thought from the outset that a targeted killing program would stand in place of bloodier and more protracted interventions. Similarly, I suspect he actually does want immigration reform to be a part of his legacy, and that the unprecedented levels of deportations under his presidency, the detention regime that had never existed before, the ICE home raids, all of it, were justified in his own mind -- however speciously -- as necessary political maneuvers to secure it.

The problem with this line of thinking is not that it is overly generous to Obama's ultimate objectives; it is that it is only possible to entertain it from the perspective of power, where the people who will actually suffer under these various policies exist primarily as abstractions and units, which can be traded against one another, rather than as human beings.

This is why human rights have to be seen as inviolable and absolute, not political commodities or bargaining chips; this is why, as Dr. King once put it, "we can't wait." It's not because of some coterie of activists who are impatient and unwilling to compromise, as is so often assumed. It's because, from the perspective of the sacrifice victims of these "ends-and-means" arguments themselves, there has in fact been no compromise at all. They get nothing in return for their suffering. The Central American refugee who is deported after a nakedly unfair screening process and is assassinated after her or his return, by the same persecutors she or he had fled the country to escape -- such a person is not permitted to see the fruits of the glorious immigration reform that will supposedly one day result. Her or his life has literally been discarded by those with the power to wield the violence of deportation, has been used wholly as a means rather than an end in itself-- the ultimate violation of the categorical imperative. In the same way, it does a person killed by a predator drone on his way to a wedding in Yemen no good to speak of all the ground wars that Obama didn't initiate, but could have, instead. Either way, that person is dead. This is why some moral compromises cannot be made, no matter the circumstances. Compromise on legislation, perhaps. Compromise on implementing the full raft of one's positive progressive agenda in one go. But we cannot compromise on human rights.


None of this is to repudiate the solution advanced by the "instinctive and graceful" above, however, as I say -- the solution of voting for -- and canvassing for and phone-banking for -- Clinton, because she is so transparently and obviously the better of the two alternatives, while meanwhile not sparing her from criticism and devoting one's strength to opposing anything truly despicable she or her administration does once in power. This answer still works, as far as I can tell. What does not work, however, is the notion that such criticism and opposition can be pushed off to some distant future, in which the fascists are no longer bearing down on us. Because that day may never come. The "sacrifices" of innocent blood in the name of great purposes, whether through refugee refoulement or militarism, cannot be tolerated-- unless you or I would like to volunteer to be one of the lambs on the altar -- any takers?

We can do what the "instinctive and graceful" advise us to do and vote for Clinton while criticizing her -- but we have to really mean it, damn it, not just claim when the Glenn Greenwalds come around that of course we oppose this, of course we oppose that, and meanwhile never make a peep about it when he is not holding our feet to the fire. So, Clinton, Obama, et. al. -- I will vote for you, I will, I will support you. "But I do not approve. And I am not resigned." (Millay).

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