An Off-Topic Squirrel Moment

Aside from the lunacy of Alabama’s recent special election, I don’t comment on politics much.  Hey, as I’ve said before, you and I might disagree — or we might be totally simpatico — but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a meaningful conversation.  It certainly doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.  Not to trot out an old (vastly maligned) saying, but “some of my best friends are…”  You get the idea.

But you know who I’ve decided I respect?  Political writers and bloggers.  To dive into the cesspool of domestic politics every single day?  To write about it…hell, to even acknowledge it, every single day?  Worse, to do so voluntarily?!

Yeah, there ain’t enough shampoo in the world to wash that particular stink out of your hair.

But, and this is the big but, I love to read about politics, and to explore the backstabbing and shenanigans as much as the next guy.  Err, maybe more than the next guy: that history degree in the Roman Republic ain’t because I liked Catullus’ poetry…

It is, quite honestly, the politics that draw me into history.  It was, especially, the cut-and-thrust of international politics.  That there is some fascinating stuff, especially if you have a basic understanding of the cultures involved.  Unfortunately, far too few people seem interested in that part of it.  Far too few want to understand before they (try to) judge.

Countries like Russia, China and Iran — just to name three of the biggest players in the news right now — make easy “villains” in the kabuki theater of the US’s worldview.  Unfortunately, that is simplistic thinking of the worst sort.  That is thinking that gives rise to stuff like the (satirical) map I added to this post.the-world-according-to-americans

Thankfully, for those who want to learn and understand, that thinking lasts only until you actually get to know the histories of the others, the outsiders (from your perspective).  Until you look at things from other perspectives.  Until you switch off prejudices and judgments and try to understand.

Oh, even when you do so, the world is still full of adversaries and allies (well, confluences of interests, anyway)…but it’s nice to understand that your adversaries are neither insane nor maniacally evil.*  Historically speaking, Russia and China have valid reasons for why they are the way they are, both politically and culturally.  Hell, if we had their history, we’d have some of our own issues, too.**

*Both sides of the current US domestic political insanity could learn THIS damned lesson.

**Yes, I know — we DO have our own issues, but I’m staying off domestic politics in this.

And Iran? Let’s be honest: in spite of the last forty or so years, Iran is pretty much the oldest continual civilization in the world (the Persians).  It once was a beacon of science and art and learning…and will be again.  That is something I very much believe.  That is also why I have been so interested in the recent, nascent protests taking place there…they give me (and others) hope for the future.

Sadly, until you understand that history — the history of the Persian people as much as the various states that fall under that name —  Iran will be little more than mullahs and violence and threat.  Once you learn, there is so much more there…

Just like understanding the Russians: a country that has suffered violent invasion and slaughter for most of its history.  Hey, it’s not paranoia if everyone really is out to get you…

Just like China: a country that, in living memory, really was carved up and dominated by outside powers as private, colonial fiefdoms…

And that interplay, the “great game” between nations on the world stage, is just as fascinating now as it was centuries, or millenia, ago.

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