Political consensus not always worth forging

If you know the name Peter Buckley, you most likely know him as the Democratic state representative from Oregon. Few know him as a former administrator of Dell’Arte International, a school of ensemble-based physical theater in Blue Lake, Calif.

This summer, I, along with other participants in a Dell’Arte workshop, received a copy of an essay that Buckley had written on the subject of the actor/creator’s approach to the work. In reading a passage about the creative process of the ensemble, I was startled to read Buckley’s recommendation to use consensus “very, very sparingly.” This recommendation comes, he explains, “after seeing countless examples of work bogging down into personality conflicts and dead ends. The end result, more often than not, is a mess.” In short, if you focus on reaching consensus, you will find yourself “spending the vast majority of your time negotiating instead of creating.”

Rarely does advice given to young actors have any place in the world of conservative policy-making. Then, however, you read a Scripps Howard poll reporting that one of every three Americans suspects that the United States government was part of a conspiracy that led to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The poll highlights a fanatical hatred of the current American government — a hatred that rejects both principle and patriotism. The American Left has adopted a policy of radical iconoclasm, sacrificing reason and honor in the process. Their view is simple: In the face of our country’s greatest challenges, it is a given that George W. Bush ’68 will make the wrong decision because, by definition, any decision made by George W. Bush is the wrong decision.

For years, the left has desperately tried to hang on to patriotism by claiming that it debates, protests and cries foul out of a love for America, out of a search for the truth. Some components of the left maintain their dignity, and hey, we can all stomach jokes about our president’s speech patterns. But when the search for truth comes to a grinding halt — when despisers of conservative politics and policies resort to pure fabrication — then such subterfuge can hardly be counted as anything other than alliance with the enemies of this country.

How (and why) should conservative policy-makers seek consensus in the midst of such enmity? We are told by United Nations officials and first-grade teachers alike that consensus, cooperation, “getting along,” is the best approach. How does this tactic fare when it comes to solving the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah? “What is most urgently needed is an immediate cessation of hostilities.” Thank you, Kofi Annan. Yet in the midst of an “open war” which will persist “until the death of the last Jew on earth” (1992 Hezbollah statement), consensus — peace, cooperation, cessation of hostilities — just sounds silly.

Eyad Houssami and Mahdi Sabbagh, co-authors of “Whoops! Israel killed 1,110 Lebanese people” (9/8), will have to pardon me for “cherry-pick[ing] words, loaded with ideology.” Perhaps they should recognize that when one fruit has the potential to infect the whole tree, the cherries must be picked. To call both Israel and Hezbollah war criminals dismisses a vital moral difference, which Noah Lawrence, despite his cheerleading, aptly points out in his article “Conflicting clash styles fuel Mideast war” (9/6). This moral difference does not excuse obvious lapses in Israeli intelligence, nor does it remove any skepticism over Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s display of military machismo. Nevertheless, it remains the most crucial part of this debate. Terrorists like Hassan Nasrallah have mastered the art of public relations: By using innocent Lebanese citizens as human shields, they manipulate public opinion until the Israeli army looks as morally corrupt as Hezbollah. It is this grotesque twisting of the truth illustrated by the Scripps Howard poll that gives Houssami and Sabbagh the license to call Lawrence a racist for pointing out Israel’s moral superiority; equality under “international humanitarian law,” to which the co-authors appeal, is yet another rhetorical fabrication. Unfortunately, they are only two of the many Americans who have fallen victim to this devious tactic.

Buckley’s advice seems counterintuitive in the world of ensemble theater, let alone if you apply it to a country where freedom of speech and the democratic voice are held as the highest ideals. Yet over and over again, we continue to see the personality conflicts and dead ends, the catchy bumper stickers and the newspaper cartoons, the senseless calls for negotiations and cease-fires. Too long have conservatives dealt with liberal cheesiness, and now they can plainly see that the cheese is full of holes. Less and less will conservatives charting out American foreign policy seek consensus with the U.N., the American Left or any other body that confuses righteousness with hollow rhetoric. The gap between the left and right will continue to widen, but the world will see action.

Alexander Dominitz is a sophomore in Saybrook College.

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