November 10, 2012

For the Death-Worshippers

Tomorrow, we will mark the end of one year of slaughter, mayhem, suffering and death -- and the beginning of yet another. Americans will celebrate Veterans Day once again. Oh, no, they will cry: We don't celebrate Veterans Day. We solemnly honor those who have served to make us free, who dedicate their lives to bringing liberty to the oppressed peoples of the world, who bravely sacrifice their personal happiness so that a future of peace will be assured.

The capacity of Americans to believe an unending series of staggering lies may have been equalled during exceptionally bleak periods in history, but it has certainly never been surpassed.

For the occasion, I direct your attention to four articles, for any who may be interested. The first, of which I confess I am inordinately fond, is "Against Annihilation of the Spirit: Let Us All Become Cowards." A major part of the essay is an appreciation of a remarkable and astonishing film, Paddy Chayefsky's The Americanization of Emily. The film is as powerful today as when it was first released, almost half a century ago. I cannot imagine a major studio making a similar film now. If you've never seen it, I urge you to do so. The excerpts from the movie in my essay will doubtless encourage you in that direction.

At the conclusion of that article, I wrote:
So the myths prevail. Our wars are always noble, fought for the purest of motives. Our warriors are similarly noble, engaged in a high-minded crusade. They butcher and slaughter, and are butchered and slaughtered themselves, so that "civilization" might be preserved. Never mind that many of the warriors themselves would not agree. Never mind that the front-line soldiers know that war is insanity, and only insanity. Never mind the overwhelming, senseless, futile, endless horror of what actually happens in combat, and the details that never reach the public.

Chayefsky rejects the myths in their totality. He implores us to embrace cowardice. I beg you to follow his advice. You can be certain the cries for war will rise again, if not against Iran, then against North Korea, or in ten years' time against China, or against a country not now in the news, but which will fill the role required by the vast machinery of war. And when those cries overwhelm all facts and make reasonable argument impossible, and when they are amplified once again by an ever-compliant, always docile and obedient media, plead cowardice. If you value the sanctity of a single life, it is the only sane course to take, and the bravest.
The second article is, "No, I Do Not Support 'The Troops.'" The title makes further description superfluous.

The third piece is, "Hear, and Understand, the Veterans Themselves: 'Shotvarfet.'" The strange word in the title comes from Pat Barker's The Ghost Road, an unusually powerful novel about World War I. The post explains the devastating meaning of the word.

Finally, there is an essay I wrote when I felt my limits for dealing with the deadly lies accepted and advanced by most Americans had been exceeded for good. The article is titled, "On Veterans Day: Fuck that Shit." It is rude, vulgar and suffused with anger. As good Americans, we all recognize that such failings are far, far worse than the nonstop murder and slaughter of innocent human beings. I am saddened to note that my own sins of rudeness, vulgarity and anger are beyond counting.

These days, when I contemplate the spectacle of contemporary America and the horrors it visits on the peoples of the world as well as its own inhabitants, I often think that it isn't possible that the world has ever seen such a hideously pathetic example of humanity's worst impulses. Certainly, other societies have matched our dedication to destruction, plunder and murder. But America's particular combination of the vicious eagerness to kill, a predilection for inflicting cruelty in an endless variety of forms, an absolute refusal to examine any and all issues with the slightest degree of honesty and self-reflection, the monumental hypocrisy, the hugely inflated, crude and bombastic self-righteousness, and a gross stupidity of awe-inspiring proportions ... I think we may claim that as uniquely our own. Perhaps it is an achievement of sorts.

Well, happy, or unhappy, reading, as the case may be.