In the end I reached the conclusion that 11 September had already brutally confirmed: there were other forces, far more malign than America, that lay in wait in the world. But having faced up to the basic issue of comparative international threats, could I stop the political reassessment there? If I had been wrong about the relative danger of America, could I be wrong about all the other things I previously held to be true ?
I tried hard to suppress this thought, to ring-fence the global situation, grant it exceptional status and keep it in a separate part of my mind. I had too much vested in my image of myself as a 'liberal'. I had bought into the idea, for instance, that all social ills stemmed from inequality and racism. I knew that crime was solely a function of poverty. That to be British was cause for shame, never pride. And to be white was to bear an unshakable burden of guilt. I held the view, or at least was unprepared to challenge it, that it was wrong to single out any culture for censure, except, of course, Western culture, which should be admonished at every opportunity. I was confident, too, that Israel was the source of most of the troubles in the Middle East. These were non-negotiables for any right-thinking decent person. I couldn't question these received wisdoms without questioning my own identity. And I had grown too comfortable with seeing myself as one of the good guys, the well-meaning people, to want to do anything that upset that image. I viewed myself as understanding, and to maintain that self-perception it was imperative that I didn't try to understand myself.
Guardianista Andrew Anthony follows the path of righteousness which many a good leftie has trod before him - another sinner on the road to redemption. Part 2 and part 3 also.
Predictably, it's controversial.
(the post title is from Joni Mitchell's song Court and Spark.
"All the guilty people," he said
"They've all seen the stain
On their daily bread
On their Christian names
I cleared myself
I sacrificed my blues ...")