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Sunday, September 12, 2004

INFANT NATION 

FROM THE WAR CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.

By Jack Random


What could be more pathetic than the incessant lament of privileged white men condemning preferential treatment on the basis of race, if not the lament of successful black men and women who appear to have severed themselves from their cultural and ancestral roots?

It is symptomatic of a greater problem shared by all of America and consistently exploited by its congressional, judicial and executive leadership: Americans have pathologically short memories.

From an historical perspective it is undeniable: In the great expanse of recorded time, America is but an infant nation. Given this simple and unquestionable observation our behavior in the world suddenly comes into focus. As an infant nation our behavior is as predictable as the salivation of Pavlov’s dogs.

Consider the psychological profile of an infant: An infant knows only the moment. Yesterday is ancient history. An infant remembers only the blow that struck, never the blow that preceded it. An infant believes that the universe revolves around her and only her. An infant’s emotions run no deeper than unconditional love and uncompromised rage. When an infant is harmed he strikes back. He is incapable of understanding the complexities of circumstance. To the infant there is no history. There is only now. The infant seeks immediate gratification and blind vengeance. There can be no middle ground. The infant believes that the soft stroke of the moment is eternal love and a terse rebuke cannot be differentiated from utter hatred. The infant relies on simple labels in place of a reasoned response to interpret events. In the voice of her parents “bad” becomes a moral imperative.

I submit that we are an infant nation. We believe what we are told. We rely on push button logic in place of reason. Our leaders create and offer labels that become the triggers to a guttural response. In the McCarthy era, those labels related to the Cold War enemy: communist, socialist, Marxist, red. In the era of mass media we are given a broader array of push button triggers: radical, liberal, Hollywood left, conspiracy theorist, tree hugger, anarchist, actor, extremist. The purpose of these labels is to short circuit the logical process and supplant it with a conditioned reaction based on raw emotion. Thus, when the environmentalist is called a tree hugger, the conditioned response labels her un-American. When the activist is called an extremist, he is labeled unpatriotic.

Our leaders rely on the assumption that Americans have short memories and, to a large extent, the assumption is correct. On the matter of Vietnam, Americans tend to consider it ancient history though the world will tell us it was only yesterday. When we consider it at all, we lament that our soldiers were not well received or that we lost the war. Any reasoned analysis of that tragic, misbegotten war must conclude that the patriots were those who fought against an unjust war. It was the massive protests of the left – not the passive submission of a silent majority – that shortened the war and saved countless American and Vietnamese lives. Yet our leaders would have us believe that protest in a time of war is unpatriotic. Nothing could be more infantile.

Though history tells us that our leaders have habitually misled us when war or military action was involved, we continue to believe that they tell us only the truth. When our president proclaims that he has proof positive of the cause for war yet refuses to reveal it, we are expected to accede. We are expected to go along. We are told that our forces fight only for democracy when, in fact, our government has always preferred to support military dictatorships and right wing despotism. Yet we are expected to accede. We are told that we have always fought for peace though we have planted the seeds of war, creating circles of violence all over the world, with the intent of overthrowing and replacing the governments of sovereign nations. There is no corner of the planet where American interests have not attempted to exploit internal conflict.

I submit we are an infant nation. Once a year we are pledged to remember our soldiers who have died in war but we have never acknowledged the dead of our adversaries: four million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, four to five thousand Afghanis, one million Iraqis, uncounted thousands of Nicaraguans, Argentineans, Salvadorans, Columbians, Panamanians, Indonesians, on and on. We have given a solemn oath never to forget the three thousand Americans who died in a horribly misguided act of terror yet we are blind to the horrors we have wrought in nations less powerful than our own. We cry out for vengeance yet we fail to see that we are creating an endless cycle of violence that was, in fact, instigated by our own intervention in foreign affairs.

Does it matter that Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attack? If this is about creating a model of democracy for the region, let us not forget that we have already conquered, occupied and promptly forgotten a nation in the region. If we wish to create a model of democracy let us do so in Afghanistan. Let us rebuild a country we have devastated. If this is about weapons of mass destruction, let us first look to our own stockpiles. Let us next look to North Korea and Pakistan. Without oil in the equation it defies reason to attack a nation already defeated in war.

But we are an infant nation. We cannot be expected to find the path of peace. It is difficult to make peace. It requires true compassion built on a foundation of knowledge, tolerance and understanding. It requires digging deeper than hatred and characterizing those who oppose us as evil beings devoted to evil deeds. It is much easier to cry vengeance, to paint everything in black and white, to raise the flag and set the blinders: God, country, rock and roll! It is much easier to make war – unless you are chosen to fight it. It is a crime against humanity that those who must fight and die in war are those least capable of understanding why: the poor, disadvantaged and poorly educated.

I submit we are an infant nation and infants never see the faults of their parents. George W. Bush is the perfect president for this endless “war” on terror. He has little knowledge of world history. He has little understanding of world dynamics. He is incapable of compassion because he clearly believes his own platitudes. He believes that Osama bin Laden and his followers were born hating America. He believes in the Holy War. He believes in the Crusades. He believes that “evil doers” hate us because we are free, because we have McDonalds and Sunday football and wealthy oil companies that hand deliver the American dream to the sons of CIA directors. He does not know what his father did in the Middle East when he was in charge of intelligence. He does not know what his father bargained to make his son Commander In Chief.

I submit we are an infant nation led by an infant king. Jeb had the brains but W had the attributes that counted. He does not ask questions. He does not need nor can he profit from lengthy explanations. He is a “bottom line man.” He was never trained to think for himself. He had no interest in history or international affairs. Point him the way, tell him what to say, watch him swagger, wink and stammer. George W is the man of the hour. George W is the answer to the question: Why didn’t anyone notice when Ronald Reagan’s mind slipped away? The answer: He was not necessary to the policy-making government.

I submit we are an infant nation and nothing is more dangerous than a child who believes he can bend the world to its knees.

I submit we are an infant nation but we are showing signs of growing up. There are times when even a child can rise to the occasion. We are no longer so easily fooled. We are slowly finding the courage and independence required to question our elders, to question the policies of our government. Even now, only two years after the tragedy of September 11, many of us have found our voices. We demand a concrete reason before we destroy another country in the name of democracy. We question the validity of a policy of preemptive strike. We question the doctrine of perpetual world supremacy. We question the motives of a government dominated by oil interests. We question the need for innocent civilian deaths. We question the need for sending our soldiers to war – perhaps to die in combat, perhaps to die from chemical, biological or plutonium poisoning. We wonder why we have lost the trail of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. We wonder why we no longer seem to care.

It may well be that we as a people are growing up faster than our leaders thought possible. In the Enron scandal, the energy crisis, the election frauds, the tax relief scam, the deregulation schemes and so many other disturbing events, we have peeked behind the curtain that hides the real workings of our government. The more you say it is not about oil, the more we are certain it is.

It is the enduring shame of our government that a popular uprising of unprecedented proportions could not stop the relentless march to war but it will be our shame if we do not stop the march to empire. They lied to justify this war just as they lied to justify Vietnam. If the people do not heed the lesson, they will surely lie again. Ultimately, our leaders must have our consent to continue on the path of destruction.

There will likely be an election between Iraq and the next invasion. If we fail to defeat this president, we will have sanctioned the Bush push to empire. Only a small child could believe that this cause is truly righteous. Let us not be fooled again. Let 2004 be the year America grew up.


Jazz.

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