Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The greatest outrage: That so few care

To those of us who abhor the recent descent of our country into a kind of nihilistic, profoundly anti-intellectual, materialistic madness – as long as I’ve got a new SUV and a fancy new cell phone every couple of years, I don’t give a rat’s ass about anything else! I steadfastly refuse to educate myself about what’s really going on in the world! – there is perhaps no greater outrage than the significant lack of outrage over the crimes our government has committed in our name.

Most Americans, we are forced to admit, really don’t care that much that we launched a war of aggression against a country that didn’t attack us. Dazed and dazzled by video games and reality TV, many people only dimly remember that there was a guy named Osama bin Laden who supposedly was the real culprit in 9-11. We never caught him, but at least we got the other guy, Saddam Hussein, and, since he looks almost equally swarthy, he’s probably almost equally guilty, right? I mean, wasn’t Saddam hiding some kind of weaponry over there in Iraq? No? Oh well, it’s over and done with now. No point in getting worked up about it. At least we provided a lesson for anybody else in the Middle East who might decide to screw with us: We will not hesitate to bomb you even further into the Stone Age, so you better watch yourselves.

The Red Cross estimates that we – and by “we,” I mean exactly that, since the government has acted using our tax money, and in our name – may have killed 100,000 civilians in Iraq. Most of these people were relatively poor, people who had already been victimized by Saddam Hussein’s regime. We went in there and we blew up their houses, killed their livestock, destroyed whatever fragile livelihood they had, maimed and killed them by the tens of thousands – FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER. Well, except to provide an excellent business opportunity for Halliburton and other U.S. companies, which I believe was the real reason for this war. And very, very few Americans care.

To get a better sense of how great an obscenity this is, imagine a scenario in which we in the U.S. are the victims of such an invasion. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this, and it’s hardly a comforting thing to envision. Imagine that here in suburban Massachusetts, suddenly one day, paper flyers rain down out of the sky, informing us that in 48 hours, the bombing will begin. My husband has been conscripted into the army, so I am left to confront this situation on my own. How am I supposed to make it out of the neighborhood before the bombs fall? If I’m lucky, I’ll still have our car, and it will be working, and I’ll have money for gas. If not, I’ll have to somehow get out of here on foot – carrying a five-month-old child and whatever food and other personal articles I can manage to drag with me. How far would I get, lugging the baby, several canisters of formula, diapers, bottles, bottled water, and some snack items for me? Could I possibly carry our wedding album as well? What about clothing and blankets? And where would I go? Who would shelter us from the coming carnage? If my husband managed to make it out of the army alive, how would he find us after the battle? What would we do if our house were destroyed in the bombing – where would we go? What if our workplaces were destroyed – where would we work?

There are no answers to these questions. That so few Americans have bothered to ask them speaks volumes about our values. This is the thing that I find it hardest to get over. Most people simply don’t care that we have done this to innocent civilians. Can we doubt that in the coming years, we will suffer the consequences of our apathy and hard-heartedness when terrorist attacks against Americans increase?

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