I was sitting around with my friends one night, and we were listening to a recording of Democracy Now that Hannah had downloaded the day before. The entire clip was of a speech that Howard Zinn had given a few years before about the need to withdraw completely from Iraq and the futility of the war. Becky and Hannah were nodding along, adding comments of support periodically. At the end, they both said how right Zinn's stance was. I felt rather uncomfortable, and I said that I wasn't so sure I agreed. Becky stared at me as if I'd grown a second head - she was one of the participants in the antiwar rally I organized in Hot Springs in March 2003, and I know that's what she was thinking of. I found myself trying to explain my position, that for better or for worse, we broke Iraq and that we can't let it get worse than it already is. As I kept talking, trying to explain that it looks a little different when you're staring at a tour in Iraq in the next few years, I could see them trade glances and shut down - right, we forgot, she works for the government now. She's One Of Them.
It's a strange feeling. Did I sell out, have I swallowed the company line that effectively? Or are they the ones who are out of touch, the ones who put ideology over pragmatism? I've been thinking about it ever since then, and I'm still not sure I know who has the right of it, or at least the greater share.
Anyway, imagine me now making my way through the cool Shanghai night to the old railway station, preparing for my overnight ride to Beijing. I'll be departing from an international city of banking and consumerism, heading towards the heart of inescapably Communist China.