[percy-l] U.S. : Terrorist SuperPower?
karey at kareyperkins.com
Wed Aug 24 15:22:08 EDT 2005
As you all know, Percy, in his younger days, visited Germany - in the early 1930's I believe? Correct me on this if I'm wrong - (a simple check in Tolson or Samway would tell me, but I'm much too comfortably ensconced at my desk to get up right now!) At any rate, as you also all know, while he was there, Percy met and was much enamored of the "Hitler Youth" for their loyalty, devotion, sense of purpose, sense of meaning and direction in life. And Percy was an intelligent, clear-thinking man - he must have had a real reason to feel that way - real concrete evidence that these youth had something that stood out. Then WWII happened, and one can only imagine what he felt inside about his earlier misguided admiration for the Hitler Youth.
The Iraq war has been declared by the Pope to be an unjust war according to Catholic Just War doctrine. (A guideline used not just by the church, but by the government and the military as well, by the way). Jimmy Carter declared it an unjust war - right up into the night before we attacked, when he reneged in a front page article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, I can only imagine due to political pressure. What makes it unjust? On almost every point of the doctrine, including what Julio Rivas-Pita states below: The United States was an aggressor - and, worse, it was an aggression built on lies. Today, it is not only extreme leftists such as Michael Moore who will question whether WMD were in Iraq. Evidence continues to be uncovered- that the Karl Rove political genius-machine was extremely effectively at manipulating public perception and spinning the message to hide the real situation... that in itself is a dissertation too lengthy to document here, but articles such as "Follow the Uranium" in the July 17, 2005, New York Times only begin to scratch the surface of it. In fact, most people acknowledge that a false link was made between 9/11 and Iraq - the only question up for debate was how knowingly false (on the administration's side) was it? In fact, the Iraq war has sidetracked us from the real 9/11 cause (the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan) and increased terrorist activity, as well as further incited hard feelings towards American - even our allies are starting to hate us! Since when did France become a country to despise? Hence, I find Julio Rivas-Pita's e-mail not at all unusual, rather, it is very much the norm overseas, and rather than asking him to take a drink of Early Times, I think a far better course of action is for Americans to put down their own bottles of Early Times and take a close look at themselves and the actions of their government and think very carefully before they cast their vote in the next election.
Then we have the Abu Ghraib prison scandal - a gross and unapologetic abandonment of the Geneva Convention - and while scapegoats are being used (the MP reservists involved) to take the blame, in fact, it was not an isolated incident, it was sanctioned from above (how far above?), and these enlisted reservists were merely part-timers whose real career was something far different - they learned such torture techniques because they were trained (by the CIA and the military) in such techniques, and the higher ups have said what to this and to similar practices in Guatanamo Bay (and who knows where else)? That the Geneva Convention is "antiquated." This by the way is just what we know - we were never shown the "worst" abuses; those pictures were withheld from us, and do you think that just because playful digital cameras have not caught other events, they do not exist?
By contrast, I am incredibly impressed with Anthony Principi, Chairman of the Military Base Realignment and Closing Commission (www.brac.gov). He was on C-SPAN last night. The integrity shone - with Principi vowing (and delivering) "honesty and transparency" in all the commission's deliberations and decisions. By the way, Rumsfeld's recommended base closings more than doubled the recommended closings in 4 previous rounds of base closings - combined. Why? Financial reasons. The Iraq War has not strengthened the United States from future attacks, it has weakened us - and our economic and military strength - considerably.
The American people accept this because of they are being "spun" - the logical fallacy "appeal to fear" - which by the way, is a characteristics of fascist states - the building up of nationalism and military fervor through inciting fear in the people. In fact, terrorism has gotten worse since and because of the Iraqui war. You get what you give. But, as part of the package and by necessity to accomplish the objective, a sense of loyalty and group camaraderie (patriotism) is incited - but not one that is examined carefully, logically or critically. We are swept along with the emotions of the moment, like a winning crowd at a college football game or the Hitler Youth. (Ahh, Percy's "totemism" no less.) We don't even WANT to think critically about it, for it satisfies a deep need inside of us - but insidiously so.
The answer to Percy's Hitler Youth question can be found in Ernest Becker's Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death. What compels us most, what determines our actions and motivations and neuroses and desires most, is our sublimated terror of death - our individual deaths - which we all know is coming, yet rarely think about consciously (or most of us rarely think about). So one answer is to find a "causa-sui" - a cause larger than ourselves for which to live. To quote Becker: "it is a world-view, some kind of affirmative collective ideology in which the person can perform the living drama of his acceptance as a creature. Only in this way can the neurotic come out of his isolation to become part of such a larger and higher wholeness as religion has always represented" (Becker, 198-1999). Out of this, comes meaning, purpose, comfort, identity, self-actualization. The problem is this - if the purpose for which we live is not transcendent (and not even religion is transcendent; religion, as in religious denominations - Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, etc.,- is not, only God is), then we must logically be on the other side of something else - we have enemies. (The defeat of our enemies gives us meaning and purpose.)
But, more importantly, if we devote ourselves, find our meaning in life, to a non-transcendent cause, our cause is false. Just like the Hitler Youth. Has anyone noticed the great purpose and conviction with which Bush and his cronies proceed forward? Little reflection, lots of purpose. That has been spun as positive - in fact, it's quite insidious. Kerry's globalism (a foreign wife no less) and thoughtful reflections were spun as a detriment, when it was just what America needed.
Today, even our friends (allies) are becoming enemies - (even our own citizens are "enemies" to the administration - we are closely monitored and have lost many of our rights to privacy). Nationalism, most obviously, is never transcendent. The patriotism in America today - at the expense of others' (yes, even prisoners') rights and humanity - smacks of that. Julio Rivas-Pita is on the money, in my opinion. We Americans can't see it.
But whether anything I've said here is true or not, we would do well to act with humility, to not pompously scoff - to pay careful attention to what others - Europeans, Middle-Easterners, South Americans, Asians - feel and think about our country. In a global economy, to act as though we are cowboys from Texas - claiming what we want through might and force - is to act as though we are brutes and boors. It is also to eventually fail because the might and force we think we have is, quite simply, not there. Our days of global supremacy are coming to an end - the Euro is now higher than the dollar, Japan is more economically successful than the U.S., China's economic growth and promise has been compared to America's in the 19th century. The Bush administration has done nothing to consider any of that - it is not a forward thinking administration, it is a backward one.
Gas prices are $3 a gallon in Atlanta - I've heard they're $5 in California (any Californians care to comment?) Has no one made the connection?
----- Original Message -----
From: J Rivas-Pita
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 6:36 AM
Subject: [percy-l] U.S. : Terrorist SuperPower?
In a quite Percy-vein, let me ask those of you (the majority, I
suppose) who live in the U.S.: Do you realize that you may be living
in a terrorist superpower, by now?
Not only in the sense that Mr. Bush, à la Hitler, invades countries
using fake arguments, but also in that people like this
"televangelist" Pat Robertson -who clearly belongs into some nuts
asylum- can get away with TV appeals to assassinate Venezuela's
President without even blushing, saying that Venezuelans supossedly
are within U.S.'s "sphere of influence"?
And all Mr. Rumsfeld and the State Department can say is that
Robertson is "a private citizen" entitled to his views... Owning a
large fundamentalist "Christian" TV network that reaches a vast
audience, by the way (which both Rumsfeld and the State Department
What would you say, for instance, if someone here in Caracas ventured
a similar proposal to "take out" Mr. Bush -assuredly a far greater
risk for all of us than President Chávez, if only because he has
control over thousands of nuclear warheads?
With all best wishes,
PS. Not a Chávez fan, by the way...
Be Happy! (Fr. Benito Ballesteros, OSB, 1924-1996)
Sé feliz! (P. Benito Ballesteros, OSB, 1924-1996)
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