The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, June 19, 2003  

Take It Away, Teresa Nielsen Hayden

One of the things I like best about blogging is that it enables a writer to hold forth on any subject he wishes. The limits, at least in my opinion, are determined only by ensuring that one’s blog displays at least some sense of coherency, some degree of logical connection among themes, and some element of intelligent discourse.

Better yet, though, is that when a blogger feels passionately about a particular subject but is hampered by a busy schedule, procrastination, or that perennial bugaboo, writer’s block (about which be sure to see “Breaking Through Writer’s Block,” by John Warner, at McSweeney’s, for which I thank Professor Pinkerton), more often than not there’s a blogger already filling the void with an essay far better than that working its way through your head on the check-out line.

Such is the case this week with the subject of the damage done to the Iraqi National Museum of Antiquities, a subject about which I am unabashedly passionate. I’ve written about the issue in the past, and what with new reports contradicting earlier news of rampant looting of the museum’s most treasured artifacts and the gleeful warmongers happily discounting the tally of priceless stolen vases, cuneiform tablets, and other items, I wanted to weigh in again.

But my blogs are not my life, and the post I started never really got anywhere. I’m grateful, then, as we all should be, to Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light, who, as several other bloggers already have observed, has written what can only be described as the most authoritative and convincing summation of the controversy I have seen anywhere.

Though pleased the most dire of reports of damage at the museum were overstated, Nielsen Hayden persuasively argues that what occurred in Baghdad was nonetheless a cultural tragedy and that the philistines who would have us return blissfully to our Barcaloungers are not only misguided, but ignorant.

Properly, but to a lesser extent than I would have done, Nielsen Hayden alludes to the ethnocentrism of those who would downplay the seriousness of the damage. What does Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld care about ancient vases in pristine condition? Precious little, as his public comments have revealed. It’s a shame, a disgrace really, that he paid no mind to the archaeologists who before the war pleaded with the Pentagon to take such matters into even the slightest of consideration.

“Why do they hate us?” is a popular meme on the right these days. Well, I don’t hate us, but I certainly hate giving “them” so many reasons to do so.

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