The Shoddy & the Dead

This is probably going to come out all wrong & make it sound like I’m pining for some savory violence that I can suck up from the safety of my home, but since warfare seems an inherent part of human history, I’m sorry I have to live in the era where our technological advances plus Washington’s willingness to only pick on paper tigers like Noriega & Hussein have turned battles into such one-sided, quickly resolved affairs. Part of the joy & glory of being alive at all resides in bearing witness to the momentous events that happen in your lifetimepeople who live through something like the Civil War or the Depression (or the Crusades or the Black Plague or 9/11, for that matter) have a claim no other generation can make. And the epicor rather, the collection of epicscalled “World War II” seems like it would’ve been, on one level & one level only, an absolutely exhilarating thing to live through (especially when it became clear that the Nazis & Japanese were about to get a right royal wedgie), regardless of the “Greatest Generation” blarney it would give rise to 50 years later. So many of the dramas that made up that epicthe Battle of Britain, Leningrad, Stalingrad, Midway, the Normandy invasionhad a satisfying shape precisely because the numbers & technology were roughly balanced on both sides, & the higher loss of life & greater length of time it took to conclude them gave them a greatness the storming of Panama City Beach can’t even get a whiff of. I should probably thank my lucky stars that the Bush dynasty contents itself w/such tawdry outbursts of aggression, but it still makes me feel like something is missing.

Elsewhere, the administration’s continuing freakout about the pictures of flag-draped coffins continues w/unabated silliness—do they really think nobody knows the bodies are coming home, or in what form? The ban, though, isn’t revealing only of official paranoia, but also of America’s denial about the cost of political decisions, the price of patriotism, & the very fact of death itself. The Pentagon insists it’s all about the families’ privacy, blah blah blah, as if the dead soldiers’ dogtags & mutilated body-parts are visible in the pictures, when of course the military has expertly handled the remains of fallen soldiers for decades, if not centuries, w/some basic, dignified rituals—the blowing of “Taps,” the manicured lawns lined w/rows of white crosses, &, yeah, the flag-shrouded coffin. Anyway, I guess the White House realizes that doublethink is hard enough to accomplish under the best of circumstances, & right now the American public needs all the help it can get.

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