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Cynicism, and How We Sink in It


 why so many of us love war,

"shock & awe" bombing, and more war, more war


              This past month I attended a rally on the massive air and ground war we and Israel were then unleashing on Lebanon.  I attended because it appalled me that this war targeted civilian centers, with hundreds of deaths of women and children, and thousands of homes, bridges, power plants, roads, ports, and airport facilities destroyed.  I attended also because it agonized me how we, the U.S., were again the ones keying the violence.  Billions of our dollars funded the fighter jets, combat bulldozers, tanks, and guided missiles we put to Israel's use.  For more than a year we two had planned this attack, awaiting but slightest provocation for more of the violence which has been the main foreign policy of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their fellow "Christians" and neo-cons.

              The trouble is, most Americans love militarism as do our trigger-happy leaders.  That's why our corporate media so often collapse complexities of to trumpet on to us their simpler talk of foreign threats and "evil-doers."  Easy suckers as we are for the clichéd scripts from either Hollywood or Washington, we reserve for ourselves the roles of innocents.  If we get blowback for supporting the cruelest dictatorial regimes in the world (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan), the blowback arrives as if, we think, we have done nothing to provoke it.  Only "evil-doers" terrorize.  They deserve only our best massive death-&-destruction.

              After I attended the rally, someone wrote to the local San Francisco Chronicle indignant and incredulous that so many San Francisco liberals now seemed turning against our fellow innocent, Israel.  Like those in the Bush ideology and the "Christian" far-right, this letter writer saw his Zionist state as victim-only.  He held Israel a western-style culture like ours, a democracy whose people only wanted to be left alone, in peace.

              The trouble is, Israel, like the U.S., has long committed itself to a permanent state of aggressive war.  Every day it, with our tax funds, sends more settlers to occupy West Bank land.  Every day it extends more walls its further-confiscated Palestinian land.  Every day it forces humiliations on thousands of Palestinians at road blocks keeping all their settlements divided.  Even when it finally pulled its 7,000 settlers out of Gaza, Israel simply assigned them and thousands more elsewhere in the Occupied Territories.  These systematic provocations of course incur deep anger in the Palestinians – as our support for the world's worst dictators similarly banks hatreds and desires for revenge against us.

              The fellow who wrote the San Francisco Chronicle claimed he was "dumbfounded" his liberal friends seemed to be turning against his Israel.  So I wrote:


I sympathize with Alan Segal's being "dumbfounded"
by his fellow liberals who seem to support groups like Hezbollah and
Hamas ("Hateful radicals hijack peace protest," Aug. 15).  As one who was at that rally –  apparently on the Arabic or  Islamic side – I'd like to say I have no Arabic or Muslim friends.  But I have great distress over the policies of our U.S. government.


It distresses me that we massively subsidize Israel as it steals
 more Palestinian land every year – ever expanding its settlements on that land,
 now also walling off the indigenous "Injuns."  These cruelties might not matter so much, except that in humiliating the locals as we help to do, we forget how we also anger many millions more by our propping up the worst dictatorships of that region.  U.S. support to the regimes of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia may benefit our corporate rich, but it insults our own best principles (and brings brutal blowback).  Thus I side
not just with Hezbollah and Hamas, but with whomever necessary
to protest our worst American cruelties and injustice.


              This letter, which I copied to many of my friends and some of the far-right "Christians" in my extended family, got lots of anger in response.  Speaking out against our and Israel's militarism signified to several friends and family that I'd become a lover of terrorism.  It didn't occur to them that for years we and Israel have had no peace process, only war readiness.  It didn't occur to them that our policies almost always side with the world's cruelest dictatorships, and that we thus turn millions of good people against us – for how we fund the sybaritic lifestyles they hate to see in their dictators' families, how we train their secret police in "disappearing" and torture techniques, and how we militarily equip their dictators to continue their cruelties and suppressions.

              Damages we do to "others" don't occur to us as reality when we learn to exclude whole ranges of reference to "others."  Our schools do this for us.  For them – for their impersonality conceits and mutually-isolated specializations – we learn to settle to settle in corporate imagination:  all withdrawn in our flow chart places, as in consumer culture we're all primed to do our buying in our properly-marketed demographic niches.

              So in America we have a culture of class separation and division every bit as thorough now as was our racial segregation fifty years ago.  For diversion, we have war and massacre – all run by those in Washington who cry wolf, exploit fear, and sing for war and more war by the clichés that trained simpletons and simpleton media can hum.

              This was the month, too, of the anniversaries of our nuclear terror bombings on the hundreds of thousands of civilians at Nagasaki and Hiroshima – the world's first uses of the atom bomb – uses which Eisenhower opposed, MacArthur opposed, the commander of the U.S. Navy opposed, and our Department of War even cited as unnecessary, given that Japan was then trying to surrender, that the Japanese home islands were cut off from re-supply, and that their armies could not long fight.

Those in power then, however, like those in power now (often the very same family lines) ignored the reality on the ground of their time, as their likes do today.  But the rest of us are no better:  none can see idiocy when we all inhabit the same mutual isolations our corporate culture teaches us to fit.  Our corporate marketing and advertising together parallel the same values we get in corporate academe.  The former may seem to be a game.  The latter, however, is not, run by souls as deadly serious as those who'd fallen to the same impersonal proprieties as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.   Thus we learn cynicism, trained are we are not to inquire much of or link much to "others."  We have, instead, cycles of permanent war, always fueled by most-recent excuses for hatreds whose origins lay so much deeper in our nice, proper institutions seemingly so much above and beyond it all.

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