Another response to Terrorism: "Good" vs. "Evil":
How to feel calmly patriotic and yet not the slightest bit reassured by Bush & Co.
By Mark Morford,
San Francisco Chronicle Columnist
Friday, October 19, 2001
This much is true: It really is possible to love your country and value your freedoms and still believe the government is full of fools and prevaricators and BS artists and Dick Cheney. Really.
It is still possible to feel warmly patriotic in personal and important ways and yet believe the military and the generals and the war machine do not have your best interests at heart and really couldn't care less what those interests are anyway but thank you for sharing now please sit down and do as we tell you and by the way, thanks for all the flags and the money.
And it is still possible to feel unified and spiritually connected to all that is good and righteous about your generally nonviolent Americanism — you know, wine and sex and good music, large dogs and literature and clean water and tongue kissing in the streets -- and still be depressed when our famously nonintellectual president talks to the country like we're all five years old and heavily dosed on Ritalin.
When Bush employs phrases like "bring the evildoers to justice" over and over, 17 times in one speech alone, and he furrows his brow like a serious Muppet and offers carefully scripted reassurances deliberately lacking in polysyllabism and detailed explanation because that would be, you know, complicated.
When he repeats primitive little maxims like "There are no negotiations" and responds to press-conference questions about the vitriolic anti-US hatred that has blossomed around the globe by saying, "I'm amazed. I just can't believe it because I know how good we are," thus causing a giant global spasm of multinational cringing and openly insulting the intelligence of anyone who can walk and breathe at the same time.
When he delivers very earnest speeches he had no part in writing, and when he is forced to speak extemporaneously, sans script or TelePrompTer, and is reduced to simplistic good-guy/bad-guy platitudes and flustered, rapid blinking, and who cannot for the life of him articulate a complex idea, some sort of nuanced elucidation of our nation's motives and positioning, that contains more than one possible level of meaning.
But perhaps that's too harsh. Unfair. He's the president, after all. He is a Good Man. He's our leader right now, he's doing his best and he's all we've got. This is our rallying cry, our motto: He's all we've got. There's your bumper sticker. And there he is.
Except for Cheney, which isn't exactly reassuring. No one has ever seen this man's mouth actually move. No one can take one look at his oddly spiritless and wan figure and not think, oh dear God, that man is running on fumes. From a bunker. With ropes and pulleys.
But you're not supposed to. In fact, you really aren't allowed to criticize the president or the veep right now, not supposed to feel strangely leaderless and adrift, not permitted to look upon the events of the past weeks with much wariness or bitterness or a disquieting sense that we're setting things in motion that have no predictable outcome — ugly, subterranean, hateful things that could last years and will surely cost billions and will deeply entrench the nation in a bizarre and poisonous shell game with shadowy opponents of largely unknown capability and do you hear that? That soft roaring? That's the sound of the GOP-stroked military machine, quietly cheering.
Never mind the staggering multibillion-dollar political mess in Saudi Arabia that fueled bin Laden's network for years, or the enormous oil fields that are desperately vulnerable to terrorist attack at any moment. Never mind the US government's outright rejection of new advancements in alternative fuels to get us away from oil and out of the Gulf entirely.
Instead we get: Evildoers. Air strikes. Hundreds of dead civilians. Rumsfeld denials. And Bush, squinting, saying things only small children and GasMaskExpress.com shoppers find comforting and manly.
It is, Bush tells us, a war on terrorism. We will eradicate terrorism through largely violent and aggressive means, because that is what we must do and what we always do and everything else takes too damn long. We have to do something. This is the common wisdom. Bush said so. Mr. Rumsfeld told him so, with his black and shiny hawk eyes all a-glimmer. Disagree? You traitorous whiner.
This war, it will be just like the War on Drugs. It will be potent and effective and our objectives will be clear. The nation had a nasty drug problem and we declared a war on drugs and spent billions over many years and now you can't buy drugs anymore. It will be just like that.
There is more than one way to respond to the horror of Sept. 11. And there is more than one kind of patriotism. We forget this. You do not have to rally around Bush and tolerate Cheney's chthonic creepiness and wave a frantic flag and believe every scripted half-truth that drizzles out of the Pentagon, applaud the nonstop attacks on an already demolished nation. Pro-America does not mean pro-war. Or pro-Bush. Or anti-Afghanistan. Or pro-little-flags-on-SUV-antennas.
It means thinking independently and getting better informed and filtering your news very carefully and realizing that just because one version of the American aggro attitude is currently being ramrodded down society's throat doesn't mean you have to swallow.
It means you don't have to find Tomahawk missiles really cool or think all those tens of thousands of Europeans and Egyptians and world citizens protesting the US bombings must be commie jerks, or feel sad and morally depleted when you can't seem to draw any intellectual nourishment whatsoever when Bush declaims, "Terrorists want us to stop our lives, stop our flying, stop our buying. But this nation will not be intimidated by evildoers." You don't have to buy into that infantile hokum for a moment.
After all, this is America.
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