Monday, October 22, 2007

Under the Thin Veneer of Civilization

I opened my Internet browser to my home page, (some adolescent version of aol) and today, like many other days in the last few years, was a headline about Brittany Spears. In today's episode of the continuing saga of "Kill Brittany", she was spotted at an ice cream shop, and under the headline "Not the Best Way to Drop Pounds", was a very unflattering picture, probably taken during her pregnancy. If by chance, Brittany had declined the ice cream, and had ordered carrot sticks and tofu instead, the headline would have been just as nasty, maybe saying something like "Way to Diet Fatso!" It reminds me of when I was very young, like maybe 5, and I would get together with kids in the neighborhood and make fun of some poor schmuck who spoke with a lisp, or stuttered, or I don't know, there was that kid we called Bugger Boy, because he always had a runny nose, and his parents didn't really bathe him very frequently. There was always someone to gang up on, but I thankfully outgrew the need to torment people, maybe because at some point someone tormented me, and I realized how crappy it felt, or maybe because Bugger Boy beat the shit out of me one day. In any case, learning to be a kind person has served me well, and don't most of us leave behind the childish cruelty when we reach adulthood?

I read Bruce's post today, Politics and Torture, and I felt something sort of click in my head. It's as if the whole country, mainly in government, the Republicans, and in the media, the liberals, have become a pack of alpha girls, those high-school cheerleaders who decided the fate of the rest of student body, who would be ostracized, who would be accepted into the clubs, who would get the crap kicked out of him after school...all the mean stuff that we were happy to leave behind when we actually became human, that moment when we looked out of our own selves, and discovered that there were other humans there, who had feelings just like ours. The Republicans are like the bullies on the baseball team, those guys who ganged up on the weakest and most powerless, and beat them until they got what they wanted. Maybe they wanted the cool lunch box, or the secret decoder ring, or maybe they just wanted to see the weak boy cry, maybe it made them feel stronger. In school, there were grown-ups who would stop the bad behavior before it got out of control.

Today, there are no grown-ups. We are the most powerful nation in the world, and there is no one who can make us stop torturing, no country who will make us leave Iraq, no one, not even the Democratic Party, who can prevent us from expanding the war into Iran. It's like that book they made us read in 8th grade, The Lord of the Flies, where a bunch of sweet school boys, marooned on an island without any adults, reverted to the most primitive and base sort of society without the rule of law. When the highest branch of government in the country scorns acceptable behavior, and common decency in the treatment of prisoners, in the acts of war, who exactly will stop them? When the entire country reverts back to childhood and torments a troubled young person, where is the grown-up who will tell us that this is wrong? What religious leader has spoken out against the hazing of Brittany Spears? Don't you feel a little ashamed of yourselves that you have joined in the all of the bashing, or that you haven't spoken out against it?

Isn't it all just sort of mean?

When did being mean become okay?

posted at 4:02:00 PM by Tankwoman

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"It is the logic of our times
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."

-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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