Friday, December 17, 2004

Someone else sums it up perfectly

The political situation is so warped and dire it's hard for me to write anything these days. Sometimes I just don't care, it's all so out of whack. I came across this wonderful essay on Democratic Underground, and I am presenting it for my handful of readers.

December 17, 2004
By Laurie Stone

There's a game I play these days. It's called "Remote Fear Factor." The object of the game is to see how long I can watch the nightly news before picking up the remote and turning the television off, either in disgust or horror. I win when I can actually stomach the entire broadcast. The remote wins when I turn off the show halfway through and many times, sooner. Unfortunately, more and more these days, the remote seems to be winning.

The other day, the game lasted eight minutes. That's when NBC Nightly News was showing the aftermath of the "Battle for Falluja."Horrible images of bloated, fly-specked corpses lined the streets; wild, starving dogs roamed the empty vistas that used to be teeming with people. Beautiful mosques which had been standing a month ago lay in ruins, only identified by their mosaic tiled roofs, now in a crumbled heap. Hospitals, schools, homes, all gone, all destroyed.

I held the remote in my hand, ready to push "off" but couldn't do it quite yet. I had to see how this network would sum up all this carnage, how they were going to wrap it up with a red ribbon and sell it to the American people.

I didn't have to wait long. After giving us this grisly footage, Brian Williams looked sincerely into the camera and said, "And now the question remains, as Falluja's citizens come back to their city, their bombed-out homes, their devastated mosques, their school and hospitals in ruins... will they be bitter or see this as a new beginning?"

Click. That was it. Score another for the remote.

Well Brian, call me crazy but I bet it's a little of both. Yes, I'd be a tad bitter if someone just destroyed my home and killed a few family members, and yes, I bet they view this very much as a new beginning. Even those Fallujans who merely tolerated us before probably hate us now with a passion we can only imagine.

I feel like I'm living in an alternate universe. While I see images of happy consumers in this country lining up to buy DVD players at Wal-Mart, or Oprah's audience in a rabid frenzy over the next shiny trinket she throws at them, or Laura Bush giving a tour of her White House Christmas decorating, it's like watching a strange Stephen King movie. The clown face painted on a death mask.

I wonder if anyone else shares this strange sense of disconnect. How things aren't quite what they seem. It's ironic that reality shows have become such a hit in America. Most of our citizens seem to prefer a manufactured reality to that going on across the world, in our name.

As I get my children off to school in the morning or shop for groceries in a store teeming with every food imaginable, I can't help thinking of those Iraqi women four thousand miles away, trying to feed their families on whatever scraps can be had in their war-torn, ravaged country. What did these people do to deserve this? Was their only crime living in an oil-rich part of the world?

I know I'm supposed to be grateful they're feeling the pain instead of me. After all, if it wasn't happening there, it would be happening here, or so I'm told by conservative friends... but are things that simple? If there's any karmic justice, how can this possibly bode well?

And so it goes, night after night. What's most telling about the evening news is not what it shows but what it doesn't show. Since the election, there's little talk of Halliburton or Abu Ghraib or depleted uranium. Instead, we're told everything is fine. The Iraqi people can't wait to get to those polls (providing they live that long) and vote in a fair, legal, binding election. You know, an election just like we had here, right? All is well, folks. Just keep shopping at Wal-Mart and watching "The Apprentice."

And what else can I do night after night, but keep watching in frustration and sadness? Before the election, stories of such atrocities gave me a strange sense of hope. With each one, I was sure this would definitely turn the tide, change people's minds, steer the fate of this country away from the abyss.

Now that hope is gone. We're stuck. Like so many Americans, the only feeling of control left lies in that tiny black apparatus resting in my hand. When the lies get too deep, the insanity too much, I push the button and make it all go away. If only the Iraqis could do the same.


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