Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gotta Have Something If You Want To Be

Mr. Hitchens, you are having a little problem with expectations.
The disgusting video of Saddam Hussein's last moments on the planet is more than a reminder of the inescapable barbarity of capital punishment and of the intelligible and conventional reasons why it should always be opposed. The zoolike scenes in that dank, filthy shed (it seems that those attending were not even asked to turn off their cell phones or forbidden to use them to record souvenir film) were more like a lynching than an execution. At one point, one of the attending magistrates can be heard appealing for decency and calm, but otherwise the fact must be faced: In spite of his mad invective against "the Persians" and other traitors, the only character with a rag of dignity in the whole scene is the father of all hangmen, Saddam Hussein himself.

How could it have come to this?

I am happy to help.

Everyone has funny pictures in their brains. This is called imagination. It's good for us! Using our imaginations, we can think and plan and consider how other people feel. I'm using mine to imagine how a guy as smart as you used to be could confuse someone else's Oedipal complex for a feasible war plan. I mean, come now. You didn't actually imagine make-believe "democracy" could be imposed on a volatile MidEast country by an invading superpower ignorant of complex, delicate and centuries-old tribal relationships and rivalries, did you? That's just silly!

We are all subject to flights of fancy now and then. I pretend my rump will remain adorable with the passage of time but that's not going to happen, which is more or less predictable. Likewise, the utterly tasteless and pathetic execution of some ordinary bloody dictator convicted in court proceeding so surreal we should have expected duck noses, because we handed said dictator over to the really annoyed opposing tribe right before a big, touchy religious celebration of peace was as predictable as eventual sagging. 1 - 2 - 3. Here's why.

Sometimes people tell you the truth. It's very bad manners, but it does happen. When you hear the truth, it should change what you imagine because like facts the truth tends to interact significantly with reality. Here're some truth-based bad manners now, which you might remember.
In the week before [Karla Faye Tucker's] execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. "Did you meet with any of them?" I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet with any of them," he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. "I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' "

"What was her answer?" I wonder.

"Please," Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don't kill me."

This 1999 interview can tell you a lot about our current administration if you let it. I certainly heard the message loud and clear. Give it a try. I'll wait.

Tappity tappity...I love the new OPI colors...feelings, nothing more than feelings...

Oh, hey. You're back. Love what you've done with the, um, thinking. I think we can see you're listing just a little bit to starboard, sailor:
The shabby, tawdry scene of Muqtada Sadr's riffraff taunting their defenseless former tyrant evokes exactly this quality of hysterical falsity and bravado. While Saddam Hussein was alive, they cringed. Now, they find their lost courage, and meanwhile take the drill and the razor blade and the blowtorch to their fellow Iraqis. To watch this abysmal spectacle as a neutral would be bad enough. To know that the U. S. government had even a silent, shamefaced part in it is to feel something well beyond embarrassment.

We're making progress. Sort of. You're using your imagination.

Now use it to imagine the part you played in making the last six disastrous years happen.


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