Monday, September 13, 2010

Virgin on the Absurd

Nine years ago today, we saw the world stand still. We saw the innocence of a nation crumble to the ground. We saw the face of evil form in plumes of smoke and ash. It was Sept. 11, 2001---NY Times columnist Charles M. Blow

A Jewish mother is sending her frail son off to war. “Don’t over exert,” she admonishes. “Kill an Arab and then take it easy." “But mom," he answers,“what if they kill me?" “Why should they,” she asks, “what have you done to them?”--from Uri Avnery, wise old Israeli politician and writer

One of the differences between human beings and the United States of America is that humans lose their innocence only once. America’s innocence, like the remote that falls between the sofa cushions, is forever getting lost and refound.
My father’s generation was taught that America lost its innocence when Prohibition engendered lawlessness and dissipation. My cohort was said to have misplaced its virginity in Dallas and Danang. Then, says Blow, it got misplaced yet again in the rubble of the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
I guess it’s marvelous that we Americans think so highly of ourselves that whatever screwing we give and get only temporarily deprives us of our purity. Now if we could only make the other 95 percent of the world who see us as Tony Sopranos only fatter rub their eyes and perceive Cinderella instead.
Were we a cosmopolitan and adult people, we would have treated 9/11 with the same stoicism with which the Brits suffered the Blitz or the IRA bombings. We would have calmly regarded that attack as yet another battle in our long see-saw war to control the Middle East and its resources. We might have remembered the USS New Jersey hurling 2,700 pound shells dubbed “flying Volkswagens” into the perched villages of the Levant. Or the tens of thousands killed by the chemical weapons we supplied to our then pal Saddam Hussein for our joint war on Iran. Or Israel’s wars of punitive annihilation that we provisioned.
We would have reckoned that we got in our shots, and with 9/11 they got in one of theirs. So let’s bind our wounds and head back into battle. If we Americans want global leadership and cheap gas we have to pay some price, don’t we? Instead, the politicians and the bullshit mills of the media churned out yet another version of the virgin being assailed. Evil ravaged goodness merely because it was good. “They hate us for our freedom,” as Bush endlessly intoned. So we must destroy evil lest it rob of our innocence yet again. And not just any evil, but the one that resides east of Suez, bows to Mecca, and sits on oil deposits.
Back in World War II, Harry Truman made a national reputation by heading a Senate investigation into war profiteering (it was considered a crime rather than a smart career choice back then). During Vietnam, Senator Fulbright held revelatory hearings on how we got into that war. Our Iran-Contra adventure raised questions for which congress sought answers. Interestingly, no one in power today seems interested in investigating the Allah awful mess we have gotten ourselves into between Baghdad and Kabul. Few even want to hear about the subject: Obama’s speech on replacing combat in Iraq with a euphemism for same was rated one of the dullest and least listened to of his presidency.
Ground Zero has become the cross on our shield and we are settling into a new round of crusades. The last series of such endeavors went on for two centuries. The fact that we're insolvent shouldn’t slow us down. After all, Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless led several thousand paupers in the first Crusade. They looted Belgrade as if they were CIA contractors in Kabul before the Seljuk Turks cut them to pieces.