Log Cabin Chronicles

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Chris Braithwaite publishes the Barton Chronicle, arguably the finest community newspaper in Vermont.]

Is that duct tape, or duck tape?

CHRIS BRAITHWAITE
Barton, Vermont

My friend Jeff brought another gust of frigid air into the house as he arrived for the Wednesday night poker game, the evening of the day Americans were urged to arm themselves against terrorism with duct tape and plastic.

"Duct tape and plastic," Jeff mused as he counted out his chips. "Sounds to me like we're headed for another cold war."

It occurs to me that this could be our finest hour. Who, after all, knows more about low-budget ways of keeping the elements out of our houses than the residents of the Northeast Kingdom? Maybe we should arm ourselves with the basic necessities and head south.

"Cover that big window, sir? Ought to take about ten minutes."

"So you want to wrap the whole house? Not a bad idea. Wrapped my place in December. Worked pretty slick."

Maybe it's not funny. Maybe the vision of our great cities wrapped up in such a feeble defense against terrorists is a fit symbol for the current state of the nation.

Our leaders didn't get us to this state. Terrorists did.

But as we head towards a war that our leaders seem determined to fight, and so many sensible people in this country and around the world seem so anxious to avoid, we can't help wondering how much worse an attack on Iraq will make a situation that is already pretty grim.

We find ourselves agreeing with U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders and, to our great surprise, with state Representative Julius Canns of St. Johnsbury. They believe that an attack by the world's only surviving superpower on a weak and distant Muslim nation will only confirm the worst suspicions of those who view us with such deep suspicion already. As a practical matter, it will make us more vulnerable to terrorism, not safer.

There is a secondary drama playing itself out in the Iraq crisis, one that may ultimately prove more significant than the show in the center ring.

It has to do with how we view ourselves in the world of the new century, and how the rest of the world views us.

Are we the gunslinger of our own Western mythology, imposing our unique sense of justice on a frontier peopled with fools and cowards and villains? Or are we the key player in a new era of international cooperation, where we must agree on what justice means before we can impose it on others?

Our European allies seem to be fighting hard for the latter view of the world. I think they've got it right.

If we brush aside the rules of the United Nations, if we bully our NATO allies into falling into ragged line behind us, we will be tearing up a rule book that, as time passes and the world changes, we may come to miss very badly, indeed.


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Copyright © 2003 Chris Braithwait/Barton Chronicle/03.03