No public - no person - does that. The earnest desire, almost the desperation, to avoid dwelling on our own sins, our failings, and our crimes is hardwired into the human brain. It takes a much bigger person than most of us can or want to be to stop and really stare into our own abyss. For when the abyss stares back it frightens us with the depths of...let's call them what they are; the evils...that we're capable of.
Not bound to.
Not defined by.
But capable of; able, and even willing, to do if it means that it gains us something we strongly desire or allows us to avoid something we greatly fear. We're all capable of these things, these horrible things; the degree to which we can resist them is the measure of our decency, not the absence of them.
One of the best reasons for looking squarely at the disaster that was and is Iraq is that the Third Gulf War is a perfect storm of what a people and a nation led by grifters and thugs, advised by naifs and fools, and populated by the panicked purblind can do. The human wreckage that the war has left behind in southwest Asia will be to our eternal discredit. We should not allow ourselves to shove that lesson written so painfully atop a mountain of treasure and across a lake of blood - most of it not our own - down the memory hole.
Instead we seem willing, almost eager, to do so.
Today's editorials in the Portland Oregonian lead off with "Portland arts tax 'flaw' is no surprise." and follow up with "Lawmakers should kill this tax credit". Yesterday the Oregonian staff breathlessly informed us that "Lawmakers should not ban beer and wine from the self-checkout area of grocery stores."
Imagine! The horror; no booze on the self-check line? The mind fucking reels!
Not willing. Not even eager. We simply ARE doing so.
Mike Cohen over at Foreign Policy has a good summary of why refusing to "look forward, not back" is a good idea:
"Don't fight stupid wars" is perhaps the most enduring lesson of the past 10 years in American foreign policy -- and it's pretty good advice for the future. But refusing to fight dumb wars begins with understanding how the United States found itself fighting two of them back to back. It's not enough to simply recognize that Iraq was a strategic error; we must understand the many reasons why. And that begins with recognizing that America lost the war in Iraq before a single shot was ever fired."And I will be the second to say; given what we're hearing today about places like Syria, Iran, and Mali...yes. Absofuckinglylutely.
Perhaps the thing about today that has most had me in a glum, gray mood all day is the almost-certain likelihood that we WILL turn our backs on this, that we will, like an abused lover, be seduced again when the same abusers ask us which we'll believe; them, or our lying eyes. We will forget the lesson so painfully applied and be shocked, shocked when the liars lie and the vampires suck. Because we want to believe their whispered tale of how special we are, how wonderful, how...shining.
William Fulbright described our sorry codependent asses perfectly nearly fifty years ago:
"The causes of the malady are not entirely clear but its recurrence is one of the uniformities of history: power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations -- to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image."So, no; we will not learn from this.
We will not even reflect on it, or stop to regret it. Or punish those who started it.
Instead we will continue to dance fecklessly along the edge of the abyss with the small, snarling incubus of self-delusion, of the foolishness that we've fashioned from our own weakness and fear, furiously rending our trousers.