|The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and
the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public
figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed
to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize
the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly"
attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world"
but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as
a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens
are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly"
is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond
the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die
themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally
neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's
slaughter, they were not cowards.
Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America
is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that
will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not
O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who
assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public
figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies
being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to
say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush.
A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington
and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence,
about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in
the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military
defense. But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden
of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides
of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the
sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials
and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature
Those in public office have let us
know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building
and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy which entails
disagreement, which promotes candor‹has been replaced by psychotherapy.
Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together.
A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has
just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong,"
we are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling.
Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all America has to