Monday, March 07, 2005

Conditioned to Silence

Tom Watson questions why America as a nation seems to have such difficulty with mourning, and concludes that it is largely due to a lack of the slightest compassion in our leadership: "What we don't have to accept is the national silence that greets the dead from an administration that doesn't want photographs taken of the coffins arriving Stateside. Why don't we mourn as a nation? The reason is simple and shocking and damning: because our leaders don't care."

A part of this is also that for Americans anything other than an attitude of rah-rah happy-happy jingoism towards the military is deeply taboo. Deaths caused or suffered by the military lead to cognitive dissonance raising its ugly head. "How can we wear the white hat if our nation is at times indisciminately killing innocents?" The easiest way to deal with that dissonance is, of course, to simply ignore the charges, which manifests itself as a silence that is deafening to those who notice.

I don't blame the any particular group for this, except perhaps the Pentagon's PR department. But it is pervasive to the point of being a "fish in water" phenomenon: so prevalent that it is hardly noticed. Many (almost certainly most) Americans hate to even consider the notion that the military may at times use tactics that are morally indefensible. Americans judge how patriotic a person is by how much they love the military. Those who question the official Pentagon line are immediately and energetically labelled as traitors, hated "fifth columnists", and etc. Any reporter who asserts military criminality is zealously vilified by all "good" Americans, for such a notion is to be neither discussed nor can it even be remotely accurate.

I fully agree with Tom that the leadership does not care about the deaths of the troops or innocent civilians, and in fact they take active steps to decrease the visibility of wartime horrors. Anything that lessens American bloodlust is to be actively eschewed, and the administration certainly has its allies to help it in that wicked task. But this has been true since World War II, when the "military industrial complex" that Eisenhower so presciently warned us about came into ascendancy. But the American people, after years of conditioning, are culpable in their own right. The causes of this silence are debatable, the silence itself is not.


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