June 12, 2008

What someone saw

"I started to look at A in a more sustained way. What I saw repelled me. On all sides, positions were hardening. Those who supported X sneered at those who opposed it. Each side demonized the other. Some of the [anti-X] demonstrators were repulsive: self-righteous, snarling, judgmental in the worst way. The supporters of X were repulsive in a different way, prepared to fight to the last young man."

("A" and "X" are substitutes).

Questions:

1) What does "A" stand for? What does "X" stand for?

2) Who said this, where and when? (Usual rules: No Google/Wiki/Whatever).

3) What else might "A" and "X" stand for, apart from the originals?

Note: #3 does not have a definitive answer.

***

Update: Here's the original quote:

"I started to look at Washington in a more sustained way. What I saw repelled me. On all sides, positions were hardening. Those who supported the war sneered at those who opposed it. Each side demonized the other. Some of the antiwar demonstrators were repulsive: self-righteous, snarling, judgmental in the worst way. The supporters of the war were repulsive in a different way, prepared to fight to the last young man."

From "June 5 1968: The Last Hours of RFK", by Pete Hamill, New York magazine, May 26 2008.

The war Hamill refers to is Vietnam.

As I mentioned in a comment here, posting this without the context was a less successful exercise than I anticipated -- the lines became too generic and thus meaningless.

Still, the reason I posted this was that when I read these lines I was struck by how they might apply to the Iraq war, or to various Indian wrangles. Reservations, Babri Masjid, take your pick.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are neither a leftist nor a rightist, assuming these (A and X) are political parties, why wud u look at "A" in a more sustained way?
Obscure stuff...

Sudhir Kadkade said...

1. A = Vietnam, X = war
2. Scott McClellan
3. A = Iraq, X = war

Pankaj said...

I am afraid I didn't quite see the point of the question. The quote you have mentioned could describe any emotive issue which strongly polarizes public opinion. Matters of faith, matters of war/nationalism and matters related to perceived deprivation of one group vis-a-vis others, are typically issues which generate strongly polarized views, with strong lobbies both for the issue and in protest against the issue.

In the Indian context "A" could be reservations and "X" could be Mandal commission report.
"A" could be Ramjanmabhoomi movement and "X" could be the building of a Ram temple at Ayodhya. "A" could be Operation Blue Star and "X" could be Sant Bhindranwale.

In the American context "A" and "X" could relate to any of their wars.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Pankaj, you hit the nail on the head. The quote intrigued me, but after I put it up here stripped of identification, I realized it must have that context.

In any case, "A" happens to be "Washington". "X" is "war", in this case specifically the Vietnam war. I'll put the original quote and the author up as an update on the post itself.

But having said that, I think "A" and "X" can stand for many things. I did think, like you, of X as reservations, or the building of that temple. I also thought of the Iraq war, or Kargil, etc.

Pankaj said...

I do believe that strong emotions are a pre-condition for strong protests. Politicians know this and use it as a potent weapon. Pity that they rarely raise the more relevant issues, and encourage real debate and action on them.

There is a connection between this quote and your recent post about why there are no protests from within the Indian military establishment to our armed entanglements. I strongly believe the reason is that a majority of Indians see the army's role in a positive light in most cases, conditioned as we are to conform and accept the correctness of the way that those in authority act. The absence of constructive debate within the political class and the media's obsession with sensationalism (some of the best thought provoking programs I have seen run on an obscure channel called the Lok Sabha Channel) doesn't help the situation either. As a society we are yet to realize the value of constructive debate and protest as a tool to encourage plurality.

Having said that I do believe Americans have two main factors which favour and accept their use of debate and protest - 1) they have a head start of a couple of centuries of democracy, free press and high rates of literacy; and 2) frankly, in their wars and their successive governments' overt support to indefensible causes inside and outside the US, their thinking people really have had a lot of justification to protest the actions of their governments!

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