Monday, March 24, 2008

4000

NOW can we stop with the cheery mistaken exuberance?
The wrong-headed and simple-minded mistranslation of "patriotism"?
How did we acquire the skill of shrugging our shoulders and waving the flag at the same moment, in the same motion?
What logic switch gets toggled to allow us to say "Sure there's destruction, sure there's deaths, sure, there's some giving up of rights... IT'S A WAR!"

This perceived inevitability of death and mayhem leads us, as a people, to a field of moral bankruptcy, where we have abdicated the right to declare our nation's authority in anything.
Except our obvious, regressive, bestial, rapacious and insatiable lust for destruction.
"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war," wrote John Adams to his wife, 220 years ago. And we wonder who bothers to assume the guilt intrinsic to the current conflict.
I'm sure Adams will be quoted widely, wildly, and inaccurately (since Tom Hanks' HBO miniseries is getting raves), so let me start the parade. This is the same John Adams who wrote to his wife years earlier, "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."
Do not misinterpret Adams. Adams was not saying that he must start a war in order to give his sons the opportunity to go to war and learn about war and have their sons pay for war ad infinitum. The current war profiteers might use this quote as justification for generations of violence and bloodshed and destruction and fear. As proof of the inevitability of "necessary conflict. "
But that's what they always do.
Adams understood his duty to posterity in ways that "The Decider" does not. I wonder if W, like many Americans with cable, will sit and watch Paul "The Guy Who Doesn't Like Merlot" Giamatti's portrayal of our second president in much the same way they watched for that 4000: a faraway fiction with little effect or consequence. An entertainment to keep our minds off the price of gas and milk and mortgages. A reason we can both shrug our shoulders at and wave our flags.
It is very fitting that the Dalai Lama is also in the news these days, slandered and misrepresented as he is.
He calls war "unacceptable."

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