Denial is a complex thing. It's refreshing to see how simple it can be.
Let's go way back to 2007, when Megan McArdle was sittin' pretty at The Atlantic
Defending Vegetarian Honor:
Matt Zeitlin writes:
I read Christopher Hitchens’ heartbreaking piece about a 23 year old soldier who was inspired to enlist by reading Hitchens and was killed in action in Iraq. The soldier, Mark Daily, was a UCLA graduate, registered Democrat, an agnostic, had early doubts about the war and even was once a vegetarian.
We're* not pacifists, you know. Indeed, some of us are quite feisty. I could have joined the military with a clean conscience in 2002--except for the part where I'm a 4F asthmatic with lousy eyesight who was medically unfit for the State Department. But that had nothing to do with my tofu-loving ways.
* Technically, I'm not a vegetarian: I eat humanely raised and killed meat. However, given the difficulty of locating such meat, and the expense of buying it, this is generally a distinction without a difference. Moreover, I was a vegetarian at the time of the Iraq War's inception.
She could have been Captain America but was stuck being Steve Rogers.
McArdle vociferously defended our invasion of a random country after 9/11 and much blood and money later was forced to admit she was wrong and liberals were right. This makes her very unhappy and McArdle, like almost everyone else, tries to avoid unhappiness. Therefore she tries to avoid thinking about Iraq. When someone mentions people dying in Iraq, a war she wanted and a war that rose her to blogging prominence and subsequent fame and fortune, McArdle's need to defend herself from feeling, basically, anything but self-satisfaction kicks in.
We know McArdle is not capable of understanding others' breaking hearts. She does not allow herself to feel for others; that leads to pain. She would rather other people feel pain than she; they are far away, comparatively speaking, and she is right there. She has no way of dealing with pain so she avoids it.
This avoidance in one innumerate, insensitive and incurious woman may seem like a small thing but it is not. It is magnified by millions of others who act to avoid emotional pain and then project that pain onto others in horrific ways. It makes us ignore what we think we cannot control but still devastates us emotionally. We must block out some of that pain; we cannot suffer for all of mankind and remain sane. But most people block out all of the pain and many of those people do it out of cowardice, self-indulgence, ego, and/or material gain.
Megan McArdle read an account of a soldier killed in Iraq, a man who didn't believe in the war or a Christian duty or killing so much as an animal for food. He sacrificed his career, principles and lifestyle to answer a call of honor. There could be no greater rebuke to someone like McArdle, who wanted the war, agreed with its principles, wanted others to fight for her, profited personally off of the war, and refused to sacrifice anything whatsoever to the cause. So she abruptly veered away from the topic to talk about herself in a positive way, making herself look amazingly callous and self-centered. (Which she is, of course.) She actually made a sad story about a dead soldier into a peppy little post all about her, how she was a vegetarian and pro-war and therefore not all vegetarians are not-feisty. And that she would have totally joined the military to prove her feistiness but couldn't because of her poor health.
The most jaw-dropping claim is obviously her statement that she is a vegetarian despite the fact that she eats meat. Food is important to McArdle and so is being special; she non-ironically refers to herself as elite. She does not want to be lumped in with the ordinary folk and their ordinary moral and values. She is special and better and so are her dietary habits.
McArdle claimed to be a vegan at one point, which we suddenly realize may or may not have been true, especially considering the amount of dairy in the recipes she has blogged. She talked about giving up meat for Lent despite being agnostic, not Catholic. She blogs and tweets about food and even did a cooking video for the Atlantic. Therefore she cannot simply say that she used to be a vegetarian but gave it up. She would be less special. She must deny that she is a meat eater. Since there is not enough denial in the world for even Megan McArdle to get away with such an obvious lie she must make up reasons to justify it.
She is a tofu-loving vegetarian. Well, she said tofu interfered with one of her medical conditions and she couldn't eat it and therefore had to stop being a vegetarian, although when her readers reassured her she could still be a vegetarian who avoids soy she ignored them. But she's still a tofu-loving vegetarian. Okay, she eats meat but she's still a vegetarian because she only eats animals that were fattened up and killed "humanely." And it's so hard to find that kind of meat that she might as well be a vegetarian, right? (And yes, we all know that she shops at Trader Joe's, which sells humanely raised meat, but surely she has very good reasons for saying she can't find humane meat?) And she was a vegetarian at the time, so it's okay to say she's a vegetarian now, right? Same diff.!
Sure, she was wrong about Iraq but stuff is hard and people never know and hindsight is 20/20 and we learn from failure and failure leads to success and success is systemic and hard to figure out and nobody died and made you perfect did they???
McArdle never tried to join the military. If she did, she would not have fought no matter what her state of health. If she were rejected, joining the State Department was not her only other option. She chose to eat meat and then incredibly but inevitably felt comfortable claiming that she was a vegetarian despite the fact she just said she ate meat. Just as a chickenhawk is comfortable claiming that she would have joined up.
Denial was so important to her that she went to great trouble to exhaustively argue that not nearly as many people had been killed in Iraq as everyone said. She erased her blog from that time from public view. She shrilly defended her "reasoning skills" regarding her decisions. Her need to avoid her mistakes and inadequacies is so incredibly strong that she actually tells everyone that nobody can do anything and nobody can know anything ever. No responsibility, no error, no analysis--no pain.
This is what we do. Our parents do everything for our own good. Our president wants to take care of us. God loves us. We are a force for good in the world.
Living hurts so much. I don't have to tell you that. But we can't let the pain keep us from telling the truth and standing up for what is right.
Why did everyone let Bill Cosby slide? Why did liberals say that the message was the problem, and not the liberal establishment's failure to live up to that message? Why do Christians want to eliminate any voices that state there are no gods or goddesses? Why are the huge numbers of sexual violence victims ignored?
First, we are confronted by stimuli. Then we react. Immediately, we react to that reaction. The initial reaction might be pain. If it is, we immediately decide to accept or avoid that pain. If we decide to avoid it, we then think up reasons why we are perfectly justified in ignoring that pain and whatever caused it.
If we are able to convince enough people to accept our excuses we are a leader and have developed an ideology.
And we spend the rest of our lives wondering why despite all our fine ethics and morals, our intellect and conscience, our plans and dreams and ideas, we still fail to do what is right and necessary.