Thursday, April 10, 2003

Explanation, Celebration, and Condemnation

Over the course of the last year, my brother has become increasingly obsessed with starting his own business.

He's already tried it, on a limited basis, a few times before, with reasonable success. This has increased his confidence in his abilities, but the rest of the family has been less sure, as his previous efforts were on a very limited scale (cell phone reselling and a local two person web-design outfit) with little collateral at risk.

However, since roughly this time last year, he has been focusing his efforts on building an actual business, with employees, clients, assets, and all.

Unfortunately, a close inspection of the specifics of this endeavor revealed that it was more than a little risky; there were a lot of unknown factors, and if things went wrong, or the economy refused to pick up, or one of a whole lot of other potential problems occurred, my brother stood to lose a lot of money.

Lacking both funds and the credit to secure the necessary startup loans, he approached my grandparents, trying to get them to lend him the money to start his business. When they hesitated, unsure that it was a good idea and afraid that he was going to lose his shirt, he became petulant, and said some things he shouldn't have. My mother has been desperately trying to mend the falling out they had ever since. But my brother became increasingly determined to start this business.

I don't need a car where I am currently living, and so my car has been sitting at my parents' house for several months now. A few months ago, without my knowledge, my brother took the car and sold it, and used the cash for collateral on a startup loan.

Because he knows my social security number and various other pieces of personal information about me, he was able to use me as a co-signer on the loan (it's complicated).

The end result was that he got the money, started the business despite all the risks and over the objections of most of our family, and put my personal finances in just as much danger as his own.

But then, last week, due mostly to the skill and hard work of the people my brother employs, the business landed a huge contract. Absolutely huge. And suddenly, there is enough money to not only repay the loans, but to make both my brother and I a lot of money. Suddenly, I don't have to worry about tuition, no matter how much more education I decide on getting. I can also buy a new car whenever it becomes necessary.

In other words, his risk paid off. One of the best possible scenarios has come to pass.

There are still significant dangers ahead; for instance, if something happens to the company that gave us that big contract, we're screwed. I'm not going to stop trying to force him to get us onto more stable ground by investing wisely, and I'm still going to scream my head off if he looks like he's about to do something stupid with the business.

There is also the issue of the relationship with my grandparents. I am afraid that it is going to take a long time for him to patch things up with them; the relationship became so rancorous that I'm afraid some of the damage might be permanent.

But, right now, things are looking promising. My brother and I could potentially, depending on how we conduct ourselves from here on in, make a great deal more money.

So how do I feel about the whole thing right now?

I am still extraordinarily angry at him for his treatment of our grandparents. They do not deserve the bile he has been spewing at them for months. Beyond that, the way in which he brought the business into existence was inexcusable. He lied, he cheated, and he put me at great risk. I am still angry about that, and am not going to let him forget it for a long, long time. I am also still cautious, and nervous about the future, because we are, after all, still on somewhat shaky ground.

But right now, things are looking pretty damn good, and I am overjoyed at our good fortune.

Today is a day for celebration.


In case you haven't figured it out yet, none of this is true.

I still have my car, but unfortunately, I do not have sudden piles of cash lying around the house.

My brother is in high school and, while he does have an amazing ability to accumulate funds, he has no immediate plans to start a business.

And, aside from my grandmother's slightly annoying refusal to accept that her hearing is less than perfect, things are just fine with my grandparents.

But I think this story provides a fairly accurate depiction of, and explanation for, the way I feel about the war in Iraq right now. Just substitute the administration for my brother, the war for the business, our allies opposed to the war for my grandparents, and the celebrations in Iraq and the cautious approval seen in various parts of the Arab world for the big contract.

I don't think that it is too presumptuous to say that my feelings are shared by a majority of the anti-war contingent.

Looking around at some of the prominent war-supporters, I see that they have gotten it into their heads that victory in Iraq is somehow a defeat for everyone who did not actively support the war. Haughty "I-told-you-so"s are currently streaming forth from the likes of Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, and virtually the entire staff of the National Review- each one of them more venomous than the last, and each one promoting the dishonest and divisive notion that those who opposed the war are made unhappy by the images of Iraqis dancing on Saddam's fallen statues.

They say these things as if we had less to lose than they did if things went poorly in Iraq, or that we somehow gain less than they do from the fall of Saddam.

I reject this idea, and I condemn the politically motivated liars who advocate it. Regardless of how we feel about this war and its prosecution, we are all American citizens, and we all stand to gain or lose equally from our actions in Iraq.

We who were against this war disapproved, for various reasons, of the risk the administration took, but because our well-being was just as much at risk as those who approved, we have every reason -- and every right -- to celebrate the fact that it has apparently gone well, even as we acknowledge the dangers and hardships that lie ahead.

And damn what the liars say.

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