By Jack Random
Schizo: Split, irrational, bizarre.
Scherzo: A playful movement in a symphony.
The psychological theory of cognitive dissonance holds that two incompatible thoughts cannot be held in one mind simultaneously – or rather, they cannot be held without damage to the psyche.
For example, if you believe that good people do not do bad things and that Joe is a good person and then learn that Joe hit his wife, you are confronted with a dilemma: Either Joe is not a good person or good people do bad things. Something must give.
A recent poll suggested that nearly 70% of Americans no longer support the war in Iraq. They do not believe that the war was necessary, justified or worth the cost. A subsequent poll suggested that fully 60% of the people believe we must stay in Iraq to a successful conclusion.
Curiously, these polls mirror the position of the mainstream Democrats and support the current policy of the Bush White House (though they object to certain administrative details). It is a portrait of two parties in spasmodic harmony, waltzing in blissful ignorance while the flames of war rage just beyond the sight and sound of our fearless patriotic leaders. It is the portrait of a mythology-pathology designed for cinematic rendition and set to the tune of Schizo Scherzo in B flat major. It is strangely reassuring and hauntingly stimulating but it is not founded in reality. Something must give.
With all due respect, the consensus position is a hybrid of incompatible beliefs. We are in effect saying we oppose the war but support the occupation. It is like acknowledging that we raided the wrong house but we might as well finish the search. More accurately, it is like slaughtering half a village only to learn that the victims are innocent. Rather than acknowledge our mistake, apologize and make amends, we wipe out the survivors so that no one lives to tell the tale.
This is the American pathology and it has never been more dangerous than it is today. To us, Iraq is like a walk in the park – even if the park is a little risky at night. To the Iraqis, having lost over a million people, more than half a million children, to the western liberators over the last decade, it is an endless nightmare. Not only do we destroy and occupy their country, laying contractual claim to their bountiful resources, but we expect them to be grateful as well: Schizo Scherzo.
It is time we confronted our own dark truths. We have been allowed to shelter ourselves from responsibility by pretending that we have faith in our leaders. We are not to blame if our leaders deceived us. We were told Iraq was the enemy. We were told they posed a threat to the world. We were told they conspired to knock down the Twin Towers. We were ill equipped to distinguish between the lies, the deceptions and the ultimate truth.
The truth is the polls do not tell the story they pretend to tell. They pretend to be a snapshot of public opinion at a given time. They are no such things. We have taken our cues from our leaders. It is not what we believe but what we say we believe that matters. The polls are nothing but a façade, a masquerade, so much puff and stuff.
We Americans are neither stupid nor ignorant. We did not believe in the weapons of mass destruction fantasy. We did not believe even for an instant that Saddam Hussein knocked down those towers. We did not believe that diplomacy was played out at the United Nations. Rather, we simply required something to tell our children and grandchildren now and in the future. Our leaders gave us the lies so that we could hand them down through the decades like Manifest Destiny and absolve ourselves of blame.
The fact is, like Cheney and Wolfowitz and all the president’s men, we believed it would be a cakewalk. We believed that no matter how many Iraqis died in Shock and Awe, they would be grateful and no more than a handful of our soldiers would pay the price. We believed it would be a long weekend in the desert (like the first Gulf War) and when it was over there would be parades and parties and medals of distinction.
We believed that the world would salute in awe and allow us to play the Cowboy King one more time. Just another episode of Duke Wayne, the Lone Ranger, 20 Mule Team Borax and How the West Was Won. We’re the best and the brightest. We’ve earned our stripes. When the chips were down and all the cards were on the table, we picked ourselves up by our own bootstraps, summoning every last ounce of courage and willpower, gave it one last college try, and won one for the Gipper. Why?
Cue music (Queen):
We are champions, my friend!
We’ll keep on fighting ‘til the end!
No time for losers ‘cause we are the champions … of the world!
What a shame it is not a movie. We could demand a better ending. As it is, we are saddled with the reality we have helped to create. There is no more pretending. As we stand with the president and his vision of endless war, we will find no redemption. The blood is on our hands now and all the waters of the Tigres and Euphrates will not wash the stain from our collective soul.
We have lost our senses. We have gone mad. What is the world to do when its most powerful member has wandered over the rainbow to the dark side of the moon?
It’s a waltz and we’re spinning our way through history like Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler, pretending that the war is about honor and not slavery, like Charlotte Corday with a dagger to the heart of Jean Paul Marat, convinced that Marat is the source of all evil, like brave Colonel Custer at the Little Big Horn, Chivington at Sand Creek and the eighteen recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor for the slaughter of 350 unarmed Lakota at Wounded Knee.
It’s Schizo Scherzo and we all have our parts, dancing continuously in the flames of war and bathing in the waters of penitence.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE APPEARED ON THE ALBION MONITOR, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE & OTHER SITES. SEE JACKRANDOM.COM.