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From: X
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 23:05:46 -0700
Subject: Susan Sontag's essay from The New Yorker

The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the
self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public
figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed
to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to
infantalize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "
cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free
world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken
as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many
citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word
"cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill
from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those
willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage
(a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of
Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards.
Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America
is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will
live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And
this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that
America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of
office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by
this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they
stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and
perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of
American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to
American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what
constitutes a smart program of military defense. But the public is not
being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously
applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed
contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing
rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent
days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.
Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task
to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management.
Politics, the politics of a democracy -- which entails disagreement, which
promotes candor -- has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let's by all means
grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of
historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and
what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we are told again and
again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that
America is strong? But that's not all America has to be.

Susan Sontag

Email Date:Tue, 25 Sep 2001

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