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Solnit Riposte

Rebecca Solnit is a writer that I greatly admire. Her erudition is vast, and she makes insightful and fascinating connections. Her books on walking and Muybridge are treasure troves of philosophical and historical ruminations from a keen multidisciplinary mind.

But I must take issue with something she said in a recent article about hope in our time.

Imagine if political pundits were half so happy to admit error, how interesting political discourse might get; but no Naderites came back to admit that there were actually a few key differences between Bush and Gore...

Now as one of those unrepentant Naderites I feel I just can't let such an assertion pass without comment.

Of course her comment is rhetorical, since there are undoubtedly some Naderites somewhere who have admitted their grievous error; they must feel simply awful for their supposed role in bringing the scourge that is BushCo upon the world. I expect such tergiversators, in fact, wear their hairshirts of political sin on their sleeve (as it were) as a warning to others of the dangers of straying from the path of one-party/two-faction rule "received opinion."

But her assertion is sophistic. (By way of example I will employ a homology.) You see, to a christian there are serious differences between the various flavors of christianity. History is littered with the bodies of protestants and catholics who killed each other in the name of the same god and his son over doctrinal differences passionately felt. (Just ask Emo Philips.)

But to a non-christian, christians killing each other for their different takes on an absurd premise doesn't make any sense — it's downright stupid, in fact. But then factionalized belief systems have their zealous adherents who will kill and die for their beliefs. And then there are those of us outside the belief system who are generally condemned en masse by such believers, and are all too often caught in the crossfire between doctrinal combatants.

And if (to extend the example much further) us non-christians find ourselves unwillingly beholden to a christian for whatever reason — say, for example, our livelihoods depend on the whims of an overseer of some sort — it doesn't matter to us if the slaveowning christian is a protestant or a catholic; it's all the same to us, no matter how key the differences between them may be. I mean, if one master beats me and the other doesn't, I would most definitely have a strong preference for the nicer one. But since I don't want to be a slave, and since I don't want a master, and since I repudiate chattelhood in general, I'll vote for "that guy over there who sees how awful the system is and will try to free me from it even if others think it means risking getting the horribly abusive master instead." I find it somewhat funny that a writer who wrote an excellent and important book on hope in dark times doesn't get that people like me who voted for Nader did so out of hope instead of fear, and that we reject what is essentially a rigged election between one party with two-factions, no matter how great the apparent differences between the two factions. We are voting for a completely different party out of hope for a better future.

So I can't help but take a little umbrage at Solnit's snide and sanctimonious assertion. Yes, there may be key differences between Bush and Gore. I will even declare that there are definitely key differences between them. I, as an unapologetic Naderite, will easily admit it; in fact, I always have. (And thus do I handily refute Solnit.) I will even admit that the world most likely wouldn't have slid as precipitously down the hellchute had Gore gone to the trouble to claim his legitimate right to occupy the White House.

But hinting that because I refused to embrace one faction of a debased system instead of another merely because one sucked less (even a lot less), and that I'm somehow at fault for the way things turned out — I don't think so. I will choose the path of (what I perceive as) truth and hope rather than the path of lies and false hope, no matter whether the lies are white or black. But then, being a non-christian, I'm going to hell anyways whatever happens.

If it helps Ms. Solnit feel better by blaming those of us who voted our conscience then good for her — I'm glad she's found a coping mechanism that works and explains things to her satisfaction. Others find solace in blaming anti-war protestors for the sorry state of the Iraq war, or blaming hurricanes on lesbians. Hey — whatever works.