A Nightmare of Naivete: The Lulling of a Nation

Sleep-walking Through the President’s Daily Briefing

Sometimes you wake up dead. Sometimes you wake up and wish you were. That’s how it must have been for the Germans morning after gray morning, decade after decade, following the long, filthy, deadly nightmare of World War Two. A national narcosis swam behind their eyeballs, dissociative episodes brought on by feelings of guilt, and the trauma of worthless denials and feigned naivete. No one heeded the few who warned that while one hand of the Fatherland was cradling its swastika’d lemmings warmly, the other hand was waging an icy, unfeeling war on social outcasts and the most easily vilified. Those who questioned became outcasts and enemies themselves .

The German campaign against decency began in 1933 and lasted twelve years. We are only six years into our own national nightmare, lulled to sleep by lullaby lies that spin cotton candy dreams of conspicuous consumption. Some say that September 11, 2001 was our wake-up call, but it was just another opportunity to hit the snooze button. Just roll over and go shopping and everything will all be alright.

The alarm actually went off on August 6, with the now infamous “Bin Laden Determined to Attack” Presidential Daily Briefing. Yes, I know there were other warning signs over a period of years, but none were dismissed as easily as the Bush administration choosing to ignore the threat from al-Qaeda. (There was no angle there for them to play. Iraq has an angle or two: revenge and oil come to mind.)

Before I go any farther, I have to say that I’m not comparing the Bush/Cheney administration to the Nazis, though many of my compatriots do not share my hesitation to do so. My comparison is with our apparent complacency while the integrity of the United States’ stand on civil rights and justice are damaged by allowing rendition, condoning torture, suspending habeas corpus, and collecting data on any of us without a warrant. The problem is them, but as long as we don’t say something about it, it is also us. Just like a cobbler in Munich may have ignored the winds of death from Dachau, it seems that not enough of us are willing to come out of this deep sleep where our government wants to keep us.

Eventually, this will all end, and when it does, the great respect and position into which America was vaulted after WWII will be gone. Someone else will stand in our place. I am sad to say I think it is inevitable. In the next year, if we don’t close down Guantanamo Bay and stop renditions and at least begin to leave Iraq, someone will come in and make us, and they won’t be alone. By the time it’s all over, in six years or so, we will be sleepwalking through our own dawn of denial, remembering this foreign policy disaster as the kind of bad dream that won’t fade away until long after the sun creeps under our eyelids.

The nostalgia for an America that the world respects and wants to be a part of is just that – a fond and faded memory. To that end, we must begin rebuilding a country we can live in first. We can do that by holding our incumbents responsible for their votes. Who are they trying to impress by giving Bush his warrantless wiretapping and data mining program? Does the party leadership really think this will help them next year? Congress has become the dark forest in which the administration monster hides, and from which he can attack with impunity. If we are to walk into tomorrow’s daylight aware, then we must not let this forest stand. There will be plenty of time for sleep later.


Posted in PDB

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