Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ignorance Abroad

We seem to be spending a great deal of time and trouble to turn central and southwest Asia in Framingham, Mass. only with more goat kebabs. Just looking at the benefit to the U.S. public this would seem to be quixotic at best and MOronic at worst.

So - why DO we fight?

To this I can only perceive two explanations. They aren't "reasons", in that they are hardly reasonable to any hominid possessing a living brain. They don't really make sense, in the meaning of the term of making a coherent and logical case for a course of action. But they do explain the otherwise inexplicable passivity of the American electorate in the face of this obscenely expensive and moronic debacle so valueless to the body of the American public.

The first is IGNORANCE.And, by this, I don't mean stupidity. I don't think that Americans, on the whole, are any more or less intelligent than any other residents of any country on Earth. We certainly have our share of dummies - any listen to the call-ins to a Rush Limbaugh radio show will prove that - but no more than we deserve. We send our kids to decent schools - although I do wish that they spent more time learning HOW to think rather than WHAT to think - and we have unparalleled exposure to ideas and opinions.No, I mean ignorance. Lack of experience, vision, applied knowledge of the world, the people and places in it, and ideas about it.

Americans are, by and large, ignorant of the world around them. We can afford to be; in fact, our geography dictates that we are almost bound to be, unless we take the effort to transcend our limits. Perhaps only an Australian, a Chinese or a Russian are as isolated. A European, a Middle Easterner, a South or Central American, and most Asians can't drive or ride a train more than a day without being Somewhere Else. a place where the people speak at least a different dialect, if not a completely different language. Dress a little differently. Listen to different music, like different foods, play different sports. The closeness of these differences forces people in these places to pay closer attention to those who aren't like them. They may not like them - in fact, this proximity may contribute to cherished old loathings - but they can't act as if they are something in a TV war movie. No matter how far we go, we can't escape our Americanness. IT's vast, it's all around us. I think this is a huge factor in explaining, for instance, why we're still farting around in the Afghan Kush. The people driving the bus have their own agenda. But the rest of us, the plain, simple, ordinary Americans who aren't writing to their Congresscritter asking why the hell we're fighting over the fucking Korengal Valley...we just don't GET how really, truly, genuinely, fundamentally different a Hazara tribesman is from Jay Leno. We don't. We, a lot of us, subconsciously think that the whole world is like America - after all, OUR whole world is, isn't it? - and that all those "other" people are like Americans (only a little dirtier and smellier). We want peace and a nice lawn and Viagra and Angelina Jolie in buttless chaps...he does too, right? So, like the cartoon American tourists, if we just speak English LOUD enough and SLOW enough they'll "get" it and BE like us, right?We're also ignorant, pig-ignorant, criminally ignorant, of war and the effects of war. We were ignorant enough back in the Eighties, but by now the draft era has so far receded that only a handful of us have Seen the Elephant. And none of us, not even our Greatest Generation moms and dads or grandparents, really understand war the way the Europeans who lived through or were raised by the generations that survived the First and Second World Wars.

I chuckle bitterly when I hear some war-porn addict mocking the French for their pusillanimity. You just don't get it, do you, jackhole? You're talking about the fiercest beasts of a bestial continent, the Butchers of Europe, the blood-gluttons of History, who carved a gory trail of corpses from Tours to Verdun before the horrific nightmare of the Western Front knocked the savagery right out of them. Try offering some Freedom Fries to a sunken-eyed man-at-arms of Rocroi, a loot-burdened old grognard of Smolensk, a filthy poilu of Chemin-des-Dames and see what that gets you. No; we can warble along to "Iraq and I Roll" because we don't have a Dresden or a Verdun or a Somme or a Coventry or a Stalingrad in our memories of war, just idiotic Mel Gibson films and bad country music.

The second is SLOTH.We're just lazy.Our Framers handed us down a nation they intended to be run by the rich and the well-born. Men and women worked and fought hard, from 1789 until 1968 (When the Civil Rights Act was signed into law), to roll back the privilege and entitlement of the wealthy and the well-connected. Since the 1960's we could have taken the warning we were given by the example of Mister Nixon and his cronies, whose intention it was (and is) to return the power to the hands of the powerful, and continued the fight, continued to hold the wealthy, the famous and the powerful at arm's length with the skepticism of a born republican.

Instead, we, most of us, have chosen to abandon the public fora to the malefactors of great wealth, their corporate enablers and the bathtub scum they have purchased to do their legislating for them. We have more interest in the doings of Jon and Kate (and bad cess to me for even knowing who these worthless idiots are) than in compelling our own rulers to tell us the truth. We choose to be comforted by lies rather than be shamed by the truth.We are truly well on our way to becoming subjects rather than citizens.


Are we monsters? Savages? Bloody-handed Huns rampaging throughout the weaker world around us because......we glory in slaughter and conquest, lust to crush our enemies, drive them before us, to hear the lamentations of their women?

No.We are, most of us, luxury- and trivia-loving lotos-eaters, slothful and ignorant followers along for the ride that the real rulers of our country are taking us on.

That doesn't call for much fire and brimstone, perhaps.But it doesn't say much praiseworthy about us, either.

(Cross-posted with full version over at Graphic Firing Table)


  1. Good God, Chief. We're supposed to respond to this? Especially the full-blown version over at the Graphic Firing Table? I look like to guy in the old MTV commercial, staring at the screen with my (remaining) hair blown back.

    I've got a lot of thoughts on the subject but none are coherent enough yet to inflict them on you guys. All I can say for now is that this is a hell of a post and I don't envy the poor person who tries to follow it.

  2. Chief,


    Simply wow. And well said!

    Thucydides said nations fight wars over Fear, Honor and Interests. I'd say you've also identified some complementary reasons here.

    Personally, I long a return to simply fighting as a last resot and only in defense of a vital national interest.