“Simplistic” and “primitive” *UPDATED*

As I’ve mentioned just a few times, I just read, and was very moved by, Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.  A liberal I know flipped through the book’s first few pages and had a very different reaction.  The following passages bugged the liberal:

My name is Marcus.  Marcus Luttrell.  I’m a United States Navy SEAL, Team Leader, SDV Team 1, Alfa Platoon.  Like every other SEAL, I’m trained in weapons, demolition, and unarmed combat.  I’m a sniper, and I’m the platoon medic.  But most of all, I’m an American.  And when the bell sounds, I will come out fighting for my country and for my teammates.  If necessary, to the death.

And that’s not just because the SEALs trained me to do so; it’s because I’m willing to do so.  I’m a patriot, and I fight with the Lone Star of Texas on my right arm and another Texas flag over my heart.  For me, defeat is unthinkable.  (pp. 6-7)


[As they’re taking off from Bahrain to Afghanistan:] There were no other passengers on board, just the flight crew and, in the rear, us, headed out to do God’s work on behalf of the U.S. government and our commander in chief, President George W. Bush.  (p. 12.)


[Of the Taliban/Al Qaeda enemy in Afghanistan:]  This was where bin Laden’s fighters found a home training base.  Let’s face it, al Qaeda means “the base,” and in return for the Saudi fanatic bin Laden’s money, the Taliban made it all possible.  right now these very same guys, the remnants of the Taliban and the last few tribal warriors of al Qaeda, were preparing to start over, trying to fight their way through the mountain passes, intent on setting up new training camps and military headquarters and, eventually, their own government in place of the democratically elected one.

They may not have been the precise same guys who planned 9/11.  But they were most certainly their descendants, their heirs, their followers.  They were part of the same crowd who knocked down the North and South Towers in the Big Apple on the infamous Tuesday morning in 2001.  And our coming task was to stop them, right there in those mountains, by whatever means necessary.  (pp. 13-14)

The liberal felt that the above passages showed that the writer was simplistic and primitive in his thinking.  The whole notion of simple patriotism offended the liberal, who also thought it was just plain stupid to seek revenge against guys who weren’t actually the ones who plotted 9/11.  My less than clever riposte was, “so I guess you would only kill Nazis who actually worked in the gas chambers?”  Frankly, given the differences in our world views, I’m not sure there is a clever comeback or, which would be more helpful, a comeback that actually causes the liberal to reexamine those liberal principles.

UPDATE:  Here’s an apt quotation, written by John Stuart Mill, in 1862, as a comment upon the American Civil War:

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

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  • suek

    “The liberal felt that the above passages showed that the writer was simplistic and primitive in his thinking.”
    I’d like to probe a bit on just exactly what “simplistic and primitive” means to the person.  I suspect it means that s/he doesn’t think that the concept of right and wrong as measured by objective standards is valid…but maybe there’s some other meaning.  You know…”on this hand…but on the other hand” kind of thing is _so_ much more sophisticated.  And also freezes one into inaction.  How does this liberal view WWII?
    ”  The whole notion of simple patriotism offended the liberal”
    And what would the liberal prefer?  What constitutes “simple patriotism”?  Again, I’m assuming that the liberal considers that the protective instinct moves up the scale in desirability from self, family, tribe (which we don’t really have any more in the US), nationality (replaces tribe?) to … what?  Planetary humanism?? And if we someday find another planet with some life form on it, would the liberal demand we disregard our Mother Planet?  What if the foreign life form chooses to dine on us?  Do we have any rights?  or do we have to consider that they have needs too…?
    Just wondering.  The day hasn’t gotten busy yet…!
    Does the liberal consider loyalty a virtue or a fault?

  • Tonestaple

    Oh, suek, you’re so simplistic with your “a virtue or a fault” talk.  You can’t just set up these dichotomies and expect to be taken seriously.  The problem with you is, you think things are either/or and you refuse to see the shades of gray in between.  Is it loyalty if you hide information from the people who are paying for it, even if it means that some other people will be in trouble?  Is it loyalty if you punish people for what they think?  I bet you think it’s OK if people are willing to believe what’s in the Bible, just because it’s in the Bible, without any reference to scholarship or The Jesus Seminar at all.  I bet you think people should just be punished for crimes they commit without any contemplation of the root causes that impelled them to break the law.
    I’m trying to channel Book’s acquaintance – I think it’s going well.

  • suek

    >>I bet you think people should just be punished for crimes they commit without any contemplation of the root causes that impelled them to break the law.>>
    Yeah.  Well…
    I went to boarding school during my high school years.  We had movies every Friday night.  Usually they were old films, or British films (which has probably resulted in my sometimes strange sense of humor) and every now and then, a “problem” film.  That is, one that presents a problem situation that could be discussed in classes the next week.
    I only remember clearly only one of the problem movies – “Knock on Any Door”, starring Sal Mineo.  To make a long movie short, the star is about to be put to death for having murdered someone.  It goes back to his being raised by his single alcoholic mother and other contributing factors in his teen years that eventually lead up to the choice of crime, and the resulting murder.   It was very sympathetic, and the name comes from the concept that you could “Knock on Any Door” in that ghetto neighborhood (portrayed as Italian, during a time when the same areas were predominantly Puerto Rican) and find the same problems with many of the same results.  The problem, of course, is the moral culpability of the murderer, given that background.  Should he _really_ be given the death sentence?  In other words, is it _really_ his fault??  The conclusion I came to is Yes…the choices he made were his, no matter how difficult his life was, and he had the responsibility for those choices.
    I think now that this was one of the early Hollywood efforts to change the dominant cultural from acceptance of the death penalty to non-acceptance.  It would have been easy to let sympathy predominate – and I suspect many did.  The fact is though, that whatever the “root cause” – as you say – a person is still dead and there’s no changing that.  Those who are against the death penalty say that killing the killer is just legalized murder – and we should keep that person alive but away from society by imprisoning him for the rest of his life.  And _this_ they call “compassionate”?  I don’t know about you, but I think I’d prefer death to living decades in an 8′ x 12′ cell.  But maybe that’s just me.
    Anyway…that movie was probably the point at which I made a decision that “root causes” don’t really matter – what matters is the “end result” and what someone actually does.

  • suek

    Just ran across this sentence in an entirely unrelated blog/post – it seemed applicable…
    “We were taught cynicism as a form of sophistication, of seeing through what other people ignorantly accepted.”