The I Word

10/11/2007 12:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In recent years, Americans have expressed disapproval first of the F word, then of the N word and now of the B word. I would like to propose a new candidate for denunciation -- the I word. The Latin for I is Ego, and there is no question that some monstrous new form of egoism is driving American behavior today. Celebrity magazines are populated with Icons, many of them convinced (and they are probably right) that the public has no interests other than how often rock stars pop their drugs or film stars drop their panties. Self-centered politicians and actors are obsessed with their Images, and employ huge staffs to burnish and buff them. Virtually everyone on the street has an IPhone pressed to her head or an IPod plugged in his ear. The Me Generation has turned into the I Society, living on an Island of Ego even though, as Donne has told us, No Manne is an Islande sufficient unto himself.

You're hardly on an island when you're near those ubiquitous IPhones, not to mention the other cellular models provided by Motorola, Verizon, AT&T, Nextel, and Sprint. Portable media players, thank heaven, are designed for the listener alone (unless, of course, you are being passed by a SUV with the window wise open and the radio tuned to ear-blasting music). The mobile phone, on the other hand, turns the entire neighborhood into a telephone booth. If you spend enough time outdoors, you can, in the course of a single day, listen in on at least 500 private conversations.

By contrast, you won't be privy to any of the private conversations being conducted in the Oval office by the current political administration. The man who says "I am the decider" refuses, on the basis of "Executive privilege" -- or, shall we say, I dispensation? -- to divulge any evidence suggesting possible criminal behavior, which is to say any public material at all. As the leading figure in the I Generation, George W. Bush ordered the mess in Iraq from his own personal IPhone, afterwards text-messaging other breaches of the Constitution regarding torture, eavesdropping, illegal incarceration, privatized security infractions, distribution of funds, corruption, and the like. In this President's I-Adminstration, as Stephen Colbert has famously described it, "The facts don't lead to the decisions; the decisions lead to the facts."

And now this Supreme I-Executive and his Vice-Decider Dick Cheney are contemplating dropping a few IBombs on Iran, while the Congress and the public sit by in self-imposed helplessness. One can imagine the I-word mantra that Bush will be forced to write on the blackboard a hundred times when he is back in Crawford, Texas after the coming election -- "The country went to IRaq and IRuin because Iran amok."