AS Israel slaughters starving Palestinians trapped in the world’s largest open-air prison, American liberals are waging a parallel war of annihilation against the English language.
On Saturday morning, a statement was released by Patrick Gaspard, president of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a daycare center for underemployed Democratic Party hacks most famous for being the place where Neera Tanden used to work.
I was psyched to see it land in my Signal chat. Gaspard, a former ambassador to South Africa, seemed well-qualified to speak on Israel’s apartheid regime with the “moral clarity” promised in the sub-headline. And this is a guy known to have literary flair—he’s a poet, according to his Wiki page. He even has a Walt Whitman quote in his Twitter profile.
Ambassador Gaspard, sir, you didn’t make things easy for me.
The Homeric epic poems open with the invocation of the Muse, the goddess of artistic inspiration. Judging by his prose, Gaspard’s first step in drafting his statement was to pray to the cliché-goddess.
And damn, did she sing. In Gaspard, the “war drums” beat. The “ground”? It’s “fertile.” The clock not only “ticks,” it does so “relentlessly.”
Soaring to the uppermost heights of poetic splendor, Gaspard implores us to “move at the speed of the right questions.” I have no idea what that means.
Ambassador Gaspard, you made me feel like I was back in my high school world literature class, struggling to unravel Tennyson sonnets at 7:30 in the morning.
Desperate to possess Gaspard’s insight, my first reaction was to seek assistance from Professor Finn Fordham. He’s an authority on Finnegans Wake, the famously-impenetrable book by the great modernist author James Joyce, which says this on the first page: “What clashes here of wills gen wonts, oystrygods gaggin fishy-gods! Brékkek Kékkek Kékkek Kékkek! Kóax Kóax Kóax! Ualu Ualu Ualu! Quaouauh!”
If Professor Fordham could make sense of that, surely he could help me decode Gaspard’s statement. I never actually wrote to him; what’s the point? Gaspard’s wisdom is probably just impossible for us mortals to fully apprehend, much like that of the God in Dante’s Paradiso.
I realized I had no choice but to dive into Gaspard’s masterpiece on my own. I toiled in the Library of Congress over many days; I figured the Jefferson reading room would provide fertile ground for moving at the speed of my questions. After three pots of coffee and at least as many trips to the toilet, I began to make progress.
Gaspard denounces Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s call for Israel to “level” Gaza. Does that mean he supports a ceasefire? No. On the contrary, Gaspard says “defense support” for Israel’s army is “one of the best tools” at Biden’s disposal—he just kindly asks that “we” offer our “full witness and urgent reckoning” for the US-enabled ethnic cleansing of Gaza.
CAP’s president does his readers an unwitting service by summing up the differences between the two parties on the question of Palestine: Republicans support Israel’s genocide and feel good about it. Democrats support the genocide, but feel embarrassed about it.
Gaspard’s grandest flourish comes at the end. “History in this region can be a prison,” he writes. “Revenge, as opposed to justice, is its psychic lock. But it can be picked, and responsible U.S. policymakers—armed with the perspective of our own errors in response to unimaginable horror—can play a transformational role that no others have the capacity or credibility to take on.”
If you’re like me, you broke out in laughter when you got to “But it can be picked.” So let me sum up the rest for you: Gaspard wants Biden to arm himself with the weapon of our own errors so he can pick the psychic lock of revenge that shuts the prison of history—all while providing Israel with actual weapons with which to massacre Palestinians.
I think that’s about all the moral clarity we can expect from American liberals.
Ambassador Gaspard, I’ve decided to take inspiration from your South African experience and establish a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate how you ever managed to publish this nonsense. It just makes no sense. Were CAP’s editors all out sick last week? Or is the price for moral clarity on Palestine just too much to pay?
Before you release another statement, I recommend you ask your communications staff to bear witness to the crime against humanity that is your writing style. May they move at the speed of suggesting edits.