I rather liked the MoveOn ad from the Times. It was crass, but these are crass times. It was simplistic, but these are simplistic problems, basic ones -- after all -- the American people have been treated as foolish consumers of a product -- in this case a war -- by an administration that hovers in a bipolar helix between hapless fervor and rank cynicism. Depending on the day. I wrote MoveOn a check, like a lot of people did -- back when we were going to war in Iraq -- for the first ads. There should have been ads and protests and actions every single day from then on.
And I liked the ad a lot more than the posturing of the senators who decried it -- amongst them at least one psychosexual hysteric with a jones for hookers. But hey, this is the circus, this is a Golgotha, and if the Barbarians are at the gates -- at least they're putting on a show. Some time ago a mogul told me he thought the six month test Bush proposed was 'fair and dead on'. This is a man who controls and has made billions of dollars and is hipper than anyone in the room, and smarter too. So what can you say? Now let's face it. We're in Iraq for the next decade. We are in Iraq for the next decade. At least. No way out. This is how America crumbles; at the hands of the most misguided ideologues since the Crusades. Men who led America to catastrophe, who betrayed all the promise we had left -- and for what? The naive and arrogant expectation that a grateful culture would be democratized magically, instantly, and with no ambivalence. I often think that Mr. Rove would not have lasted two rounds with the boys at CAA or any decent studio head -- they'd have swallowed him and his woozy hucksterism with a glass of water -- if only he'd been a schlepper out of Burbank, instead of our very own minor-league Talleyrand. Mr. Draper in an interview regarding his book on Bush says that the fatal flaw in this most likable of men, is a kind of frightened, defensive lack of curiosity. That seems right. In the Atlantic Monthly, one of the ex-speech writers for the administration turns on one of his own with the ferocity of a cartoon pirate turning on another pirate after the treasure is all gone. This is how it goes down, folks. They're not conservatives. They're not even Republicans. They are de-regulating cynics who pray that capitalism works like the glorious God-Powered Rube Goldberg machine it is. Just add self-reliance and a few days in Aspen. This crowd? They make one long for the intellectual rigor of a Nixon, and they don't deserve to even speak the name Goldwater. I liked the MoveOn ad, because it was probably true, in the Freudian sense, even if it is a little shrill. We have been betrayed. "Weapons of mass destruction" was always a guess -- and a wrong guess that calcified into a frightened and incurious dogma (the reasons for the war have changed), is going to do us in.
And not one of the viable candidates for the presidency is going to be able to save us.
The general didn't betray us. His bosses did. How will America survive the cold brutality of the neo-con pillage? And what if America has not had enough cheap patriotism and actually decides that a Romney or Thompson or a (wow!) Rudy administration is a righteous notion? I liked the ad, because the people who loudly decried it as an outrage are as blind as moles to the true outrage of what it means to be an American now; of civilians and young soldiers dying in the dusty and terrifying streets and fields of a bitterly divided and shattered state thousands and thousands of miles away.
I liked the ad because it was cheap and street, and true in spirit. I think tonight that America is shuddering, is in spasm, and she is losing blood. Christians -- real ones -- steeped in compassion and gentleness -- are impotent abdicators to sharpies and megalomaniacs who see God as a vicious cop on their beat.
Why do i feel this way tonight? Because six years ago I saw and heard in ways I'll not share here -- the end of one world -- and the start of another. Six years ago today, amidst the gore and dying and murder -- there were the stirrings of a world united with this country. "We are all Americans today!" -- you heard it from France and England and almost everywhere else --
but for three days after -- a shell-shocked and incompetent president flew hither and yon -- in a hapless prelude to the years of dark buffoonery to come. And the mythology that the president "found his voice" at Ground Zero days later -- is pablum from a Capra out-take.
I walked through Tribeca, where I then lived, days later. Past the National Guard. Past the fliers and into the smoke of lower Manhattan.
That smoke has spread across the nation, and instead of uniting us, has become a dark cloak, one used by liars and zealots, one used to gull a frightened polity, and to seize power. Our individual rights are almost as precarious as our bridges.
Now, six years after the worst day in modern memory for this writer -- the day of the dead --
the only thing I have left is personal -- holding the people I love -- and acting with a desperate and flailing and imperfect personal decency in the hopes that others around me are doing the same. Not enough, not enough, not nearly enough.
It is about to be September 12th. I want to paraphrase Auden and silence the clocks and the noise and pray in the silence to a a god I don't trust or even know how to believe in -- for a way to help my country -- and everyone in it -- find a way through the dark toxic cloud that was conjured up six years ago at the tip of Manhattan.
It is almost September 12th, and still people are dying.