David Brooks, the widely-read columnist of the New York Times tells us in a column titled The Age of Skepticism, that we are confused and unsteadied and all at sea about everything from government institutions to the stock market . . . and he’s dead wrong.
Check out his column if you have a computer handy, the link is (http://select.nytimes.com/2005/12/01/opinion/01brooks.html) but you have to be a member of Times Select to read it. The New York Times has withdrawn such luminaries as David and Maureen Dowd behind a $40 annual screen.
Be that as it may, David’s thesis is that war is a cultural event and this particular war has presaged a decline in political confidence, that we are all wearied and despondent.
Well, we are certainly that.
I spent the earlier part of this evening catching up on a November 14th New Yorker article titled “A Deadly Interrogation” that details the aftermath (or lack thereof) of the CIA murder of Manadel al-Jamadi. He had the bad luck to be a prisoner of the United States. I came upstairs to our mutual office and told my wife I was absolutely heartsick to continue to read about my country’s unending moral lapses. My wife is Czech. Her country’s immoralities covered forty years of communism, so she knows something of the subject.
The New Yorker article, juxtaposed against Bush’s “we don’t torture” statement, contiguous to Dick Cheney pleading with John McCain to allow the CIA to continue to torture, sized up against our Attorney General’s having written the memo allowing all this and overlaid by Don Rumsfeld’s smearing a once-proud military in his personal brand of dishonor . . . these are the reasons, David, why we’re not having all that great a time of it.
But skepticism it is not. Being skeptical is something allied to the raised eyebrow, a mild form of critical attention given to an ambitious insurance salesman. Our nation is in far too deeply to allow mere skeptics to take a curtain-call.
If this administration were standing in the dock at The Hague, lengthy prison terms would be the least they might expect. I nearly said Nuremberg, but people are so flinchy about Nazi references. Still in all, it seems more accurate as these are the high crimes and misdemeanors that qualify for impeachment. It’s not a crisis in confidence, David, it’s a crisis in government gone off the rails, a Wizard of Oz in which our president claims an unfettered (by Congress or Constitution) dictatorial claim to whatever he determines to be in your and my best interest. Laws be damned. He is the law.
No one dares look behind the curtain. No one calls ‘liar’ to his face as he indentures our grandchildren to poverty, destroys the reputation of what had been (perhaps) the world’s most envied nation, casts our constitutional foundations to the winds, sullies the honor of our servicemen and women and boasts of all this as his personal ‘conversations with God.’
Abetted in this by an acquiescent Congress, bought off and wallowing in lobby money, too distracted, poll-terrified and fearful of indictment to find their ass with either hand, we are adrift. Our long relied upon national press and the TV that has substantially replaced that press (without its history of journalistic fervor) is paralyzed by circumstances so bizarre they are speechless inside the freedom of speech. Suddenly they are veritable children, unable to do adult work in a suddenly, schemingly, horribly dangerous coup d’etat against which half the country is acquiescent.
But we are not skeptical, David. We are a nation heartsick. We should be in the streets demanding the impeachment of both Bush and Cheney. Following that, civil indictment for crimes against the state. Treason is not too strong a word. My God, it sounds like an eighties Communist Eastern European charge, but that’s how far from the reality of our nation’s constitutional foundations these people have dragged us.
All in the name of fighting terrorism. All beneath the banner of national fear, we have become what we set out to fight. George Bush says it’s either them or us. John McCain says it’s not about them and who they are, it’s about us and who we are.
No, David Brooks, you’ve got it wrong. You call attention to Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman’s observation that Americans begin social reforms when they are feeling confident, not when they are weary and insecure. Well, we may be weary and we may be insecure as well, but I pray this country of ours to pour into the streets to demand the present government step down. There is not a day goes by but what another lie is found out another sleazy piece of business laid bare, another breaking of faith with this magnificent nation come to our attention.
You say in your last paragraph, “What’s at stake in Iraq is not only the future of that country, but the future of American self-confidence.” That’s an outrageously materialistic statement that equates our present constitutional attack with a mere blip in the stock market; that makes the treasonous actions of a half dozen in the White House analogous to a minor slip in the national self-esteem.
We will indeed get through this, because we are a great and enduring nation. But where it once was a given, we now have to prove our greatness, reassert the principles upon which this country stands, for all people.
Honesty is what’s needed and honesty in government is in very short supply at the moment.