I’m an easy mark for those who want to approach me emotionally. My own life, with the normal tragedies of living seven decades, has let me be attuned to others pain and to view that pain with an empathy born of my own suffering. Working out my own problems via years of therapy in my twenties and thirties, allowed me to finally let myself cry at the early death of my parent’s years before. I had put a “bottleneck” on tears since a teenager, choking sad emotions by constricting my throat and being in intellectual denial of the mourning I felt at my parents loss. This is not to say that I had no emotional outlets in my years prior to therapy, but they were limited to events far outside the ken of my life. Thus I could identify with wronged characters in movies and could cry at the death of Marin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. In my personal life though, I acted out the role ascribed to me in my High School Yearbook “Mike thinks that life is just a snap of his fingers”. Therapy changed that and allowed me to let myself be aware of and be guided by my emotions.
Emotionally, I am as patriotic an American as you might find. I love this country and I love the fact that I’m a citizen of it. My tears well up at the playing of our National Anthem. The Constitution is a sacred document to me and the aspirations of our “Founding Fathers” seem noble and just. In sports I often find myself moved to tears when athletes or teams overcome adversity and triumph. My family knows this emotional side of me since I cry at movies like “The Little Mermaid”. In personal relationships I am also ruled by emotion. People who treat me with kindness are not only repaid in kind, but I find myself rooting for their happiness and sad at their sadness. It is therefore quite easy to become someone I consider to be a friend and difficult for me to note imperfections in the friendships I’ve made. However, that is on an emotional level and as all humans, I am far more than just my emotions. Intellect and experience play important roles in shaping who we are. On a personal level I have experienced betrayal by “friends” and lovers. In my career I’ve experienced betrayal by those I thought of as friends and co-workers. However, I think those “let downs” are merely a normal part of the human experience. We humans learn and grow from our social interactions, allowing them to inform our interactions with each other.
We humans co-exist though in a larger context than mere personal interactions and that is a society known as “country”. Through the norms and mores of that society we find that our emotions are stimulated by the commonality of our existence as part of a whole. We rely on that society to protect us from predators and from those from other society’s that would do us harm. We unite emotionally in times of crisis and we feel warmth and comfort from being part of the whole. The most emotionally jarring event of the past five decades was the attack on 9/11 that galvanized this country almost as one entity. We commemorated the anniversary of this overwhelmingly sad event each year.
I need not describe the effect of this event on all of us, since I know that we all have sharp personal memories of that day and the days of anger, fear and confusion that followed. The reactions politically that followed 9/11 have personally scarred those who lived through it and have done great harm to our country. People from all sides of the political spectrum feel betrayed by the events that followed 9/11. Some feel betrayed because the majority of the country no longer supports the military interventions that ensued. Others feel betrayed because there is clear evidence that our government “lied” us into a costly war against a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. We have become then a nation of cynics when it comes to our government and I will explore why this can be either good or bad for the future of our country.
Back on September 10, 2013 President Obama spoke on intervention in Syria. I remember sneering as the cleverly written propaganda came forth from his lips with the sound of great sincerity. Could he really believe this crap I thought? Was it just his foisting of political propaganda to save face in light of the overwhelming evidence that the people of this country don’t support his “targeted air strike” as a panacea for the use of gas in the Syrian Civil War? Does it really matter? He explained that we Americans are war weary from more than a decade of fighting wars. These wars in the end were colossal failures and more importantly seem to have been fought for no real reason, save for the enrichment of the Corporate Military Industrial Complex (CMIC) and most specifically the multinational oil industry. The President, even if obliquely, acknowledged the futility of this century’s military interventions and the cost borne by this nation’s troops and people:
“I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.
This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.
Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular. After all, I’ve spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them. Our troops are out of Iraq. Our troops are coming home from Afghanistan. And I know Americans want all of us in Washington
— especially me — to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home: putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class.”
To me, the most glaring inconsistency in the then President’s speech was that while making the case for intervention to stop the use of Sarin Gas, promising that no U.S. Troops would be used on the ground, describing Assad’s government as implacable, our President nevertheless contended that one “targeted air strike” would somehow make things better. The entire proposition seemed nonsensical to me and I therefore distrusted its sincerity, or as a fallback, the sanity of those who would pursue it.
75% of the deaths in Afghanistan occurred after Obama became President. Here. This was of course the man who the country elected in 2008 to end the two wars. While it appears that the Iraq War has ended since most American Forces have been removed, we note that the Iraqi situation has continually deteriorated over the past number of years.As of January 31, 2012. 4,487 US Soldiers were Killed in Iraq and 32,223 were Seriously Wounded. This does not encompass the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s who died in that war.
The rationale for the Iraq War was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he had been somehow involved in the 9/11 attack. Both of those premises have proven to be untrue. We have spent about a Trillion Dollars on Iraq as shown by the following which gives a breakdown of the human/financial costs of that war. http://usliberals.about.com/od/homelandsecurit1/a/IraqNumbers.htm. Is it any wonder then that the majority of the country distrusts our government and is suspicious of any suggestion that there is yet another country where we MUST intervene? Wasn’t a large part of Trump’s election his promises to end foreign entanglements. Our attack on Afghanistan was not only premised on the belief that the 9/11 attack was executed by Al Qaeda leaders within the country, but was also meant to destroy the power of the Afghani allies the Taliban. We see though that the Taliban still has great power in Afghanistan and that our “greatest 9/11 enemy” Osama Bin Laden was living in Pakistan all along. The truth is that the U.S. originally armed Al Qaeda and the Taliban to fight against the USSR in the 1980’s, as that “great power” was driven from the country, as have been all Afghanistan’s invaders from time immemorial. Both these wars have been unnecessary debacles executed by the manipulation of American emotions stemming from 9/11.
How much a debacle those wars were was highlighted by two actions (admissions) by George W. Bush who bears the responsibility for them and consequently for the horrors that ensued. The first was his skit at The National Press Club where he pretended to look for “weapons of mass destruction” in a mocking manner. He was mocking those of us who believed the lies of his administration that caused us to attack Iraq. The second action was when he was asked if the U.S. knew where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. His response was that Osama Bin Laden was no longer important to him. If this was so, then why the hell did we attack Afghanistan under the pretense that we were seeking revenge against Osama Bin Laden? Despite the beliefs of those who would rule us, the entire country is not at all stupid and in the light of Bush’s and Obama continuing some of his policies, should we wonder why people are so turned off to government and so cynical about it, that millions voted for an inarticulate mountebank?
The germ of this piece has been gestating for years in my mind, but it came to the foreground in a reprise article from Russ Baker’s http://whowhatwhy.com investigative website. The article was from 2011 and investigated the probable involvement of powers within Saudi Arabia in funding and supporting the 9/11 attack. http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/09/11/classic-why-suppressed-saudi-911-story/ The background it supplies and the premise of Saudi involvement seems credible to me and fits in with the close ties of George W. Bush and his family to the powers that be in Saudi Arabia. Our current concern with Syria mirrors the Saudi’s constant efforts to attain hegemony in the Muslim world, where they are competing with Iran. Entwined in this is of course Oil, which has been for more than a Century the greatest motivating factor in international relations. Now with the Trump attempt to ban the entry of purportedly terrorist inclined Muslims from 8 countries, is it not peculiar that Saudi Arabia, who supplied almost all the money for the terrorists of 9/11, is not among the banned countries?
What all of this endless warfare has done has been to unite the majority of the American people, myself included, into a cynical view of our government and its entire doings. How can we trust government if it lies us into wars and wastes trillions of dollars? This cynicism leaks over into all areas of government endeavor. It unites those on both the left and the right of the political spectrum and it could lead to the ultimate destruction of our Constitution and even our country as we know it. Yet how can we argue against this cynicism? The truth is that in the experience of my lifetime government can’t be trusted. With this concept I find myself in unison with the “Tea Party” and simultaneously with “Progressives” in distrusting just about everything government does. Most of the many guest blogs I’ve written here through the years reveal this cynicism in one form or the other. While I am united with many on both the Right and the Left in distrusting the government and politics in general, my analysis of the problem of government is not as uniform.
The corruption of our political system and the failure of government to do its job is not the result in the inherent flaw of any government as the Libertarians and Tea Party suspect. Government doesn’t work because it is corrupted by those seeking power and wealth. Our Constitution is ignored by those who would manipulate the rest of us for their own personal gains. The “Isms” we are presented with as solutions to the vastness of human misery are merely the tools to distract us from the real “game of thrones” being played with us as pawns. My cynicism is well-deserved, as is yours because our shared experiences have proven it to be correct.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” As Cassius laments in “Julius Caesar” this is the state of humans and humanity. It is the constant struggle for dominance engaged in by a few, that disrupts and distracts government from its role as the manifestation of the ideals of our society. Whenever those who would see a different world try to change it, they must recognize that it is human flaws, rather than political systems, that distract the care and protection of the populace. Humanity, born of mutual cooperation in our pre-history, still also bears within it the residue of our predatory past. Therefore, even as we of good will who would seek to turn this world into the Utopia that is within humanity’s powers; we must use the cynicism of our intellect to distrust those who would offer simplistic solutions appealing to our emotions to get us to do their bidding.
I remain a political cynic and often despair at the doings of the world around me. Yet I will not and the collective we should not, let ourselves give into that despair. In that direction lays the darkness of all the horrors of human history. We must fight on to remake ourselves and humanity into caring and compassionate beings, interacting with each other in harmony. Yet to continue that fight we must recognize the propaganda and mythology that leads us astray. We must view all calls for action through a cynical, skeptical eye, while maintaining our idealistic hope for a better future. It is a hard task, yet for those of us who were not to the manor born it is essential, or else we will continue to be pawns in the hands of the powerful that would destroy us and those we love without conscience or constraint.