Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hillary "Remembers" and We Forget

On Christmas Day, 1985, I happened into a war. It wasn’t much of one, really, but it included kids trying to sell us (I was traveling with a friend) what they claimed were pieces of the bomb that had fallen on a cattle market, a bomb that had signaled the start of hostilities; bullets fluttering the leaves of a tree we were sitting under; lots of panic; and wholesale evacuation of town.


Though my memory of those few days seems perfectly clear to me, I am sure that my friend, were we to meet up again, would draw a substantially different picture of the events.


As there were no cameras around, nothing recording the events of that forgotten conflict, we would have no way of establishing the veracity of either account. His memory or mine: which could ever be the truer?


Probably neither.


And we all know that. We’ve all heard examples of differing memory, especially in connection with eye-witness accounts of automobile accidents and (for example) wars. We’ve all experienced embarrassing instances where our own certain memories have been shown fallible by more reliable recorders.


Why, then, are we giving Hillary Clinton such a hard time about her faulty memory of the dangers of a trip to Bosnia, a dozen years ago?


Could it be that we, the self-righteous Obama supporters, are discovering that, when the temptation is there, can fall into negative campaigning as quickly and easily as Clinton herself? Could it be that we are proving no better than they?


Last week, Obama offered us an opportunity—and I mean all of us, not just the candidates—to raise the level of public political discourse in America. Now, however, we seem to be following the lead of William Kristol, saying “Let’s not, and say we did” instead of addressing the substantial issues of our time (including race, which is not, as Kristol thinks, peripheral to anything in America) in considered discussion. Like school children shamed into seriousness, we bowed our heads and promised to be good but, as soon as teacher was out of earshot, what did we do? We piled on once again, and with a manic glee unbecoming of even a sixth-grader.


Come on, people… we can do better.

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