Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Real Time Inverted Along A Faultline

Addendum to obituaries of George Carlin: it is still impossible to have an honest conversation about the wars in which our country is engaged. Most people have something to protect, and it isn't always what it might seem. Case in point: in the days following Hurricane Katrina, my co-worker Ellen asked if I thought the rescue missions were taking a bit long to launch. This interested me because her son is an Air Force pilot who has been involved in rescue missions all over the globe; he advised patience. Generally, I don't discuss politics in my office unless someone else raises a topic, but then I'll blurt what's on my mind.

Tata: They're letting people drown in the streets of a major American city because they're poor.

Ellen was a flight attendant in the sixties and has traveled the globe. Her eyes are open to a great many sights you and I will never lay eyes on.

Ellen: That can't be. I don't believe that.
Tata: We'll see.

And we did. Most of us now act as if it never happened because it is simply too monstrous to imagine that the United States did not mobilize Heaven and Earth to save its people, and we watched it on television. Remember how we used to hear that an astounding percentage of the populace believed everything on TV was real? I'm betting Katrina finally laid that problem to rest, along with 1836 real people who got voted off the Bayou. As the days passed, Ellen looked more shaken but said little, and gradually, we've found other, safer things to discuss. So I was surprised when she raised the topic of my cousin Tony, who shipped out to Iraq a couple of weeks ago.

Tata: I don't want to talk about it.
Ellen: You don't? My niece is going in November.
Tata: No, I don't want to talk about it. My family's lost its mind.
Ellen: It's 120 degrees and the wind is terrible. The conditions aren't good but the people want peace there.
Tata: What? There's a civil war going on there we know very little about, and we're eternally one pronouncement by Sadr away from total war on our people who, I'm sorry, don't stand a chance.
Ellen: The Iraqis - the people, they don't want -
Tata: If someone invaded your country, you'd be out in the streets throwing bombs, so why should you expect anything different because we did the invading?
Ellen: No, I wouldn't throw bombs. We wouldn't do that. The people -
Tata: Ellen, if someone invaded where you live, you would do something. You wouldn't just take it, would you?
Ellen: No, no. We aren't -
Tata: You're from Boston. Do the words THE BRITISH ARE COMING! ring a bell?

There you have it. Good people are paralyzed and mumbling; people who ought to know better want to believe we fight on the side of the angels, and that our cause is just. The trouble is that if we focus on the troops we lose sight of the generals, and the instigators behind them, who risk nothing, who will lose nothing, not even a night's sleep. For them, business is good, and, in post-Carlin America, it's still rude to talk about money.



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