Monday, May 5, 2008

Left and Right on the Wings of Wonder

by Dan Carpenter

The crazy things some folks in America believe.

That the government has foisted AIDS on the black community.

That the CIA controls the drug trade in the inner city.
That the Bush administration was behind 9/11.

It's not just a few YouTube lightning rods who'll assert such outlandishness. Walk into any bar or barbershop in the 'hood and you're likely to hear somebody say things that nobody across town or in the know can believe he believes.

It gets easier to believe, however, when we consider the likewise unbelievable things that happen to be reality.

The AIDS story? How about the Tuskegee experiments, in which the government systematically infected black men with syphilis as a research project.

Drugs? Please. While the degree of our involvement remains in dispute, it's no secret that narcotics traffic funded the CIA-backed forces making covert war on Nicaragua in the 1980s. Our policy has been to just say yes to that industry in friendly countries from Panama to Afghanistan, and guess where the market is.

9/11? Certainly a horrible reach, even under Cheneyism. But remember the Maine, and Tonkin Gulf. We've had our ways of getting our wars.
In short, pernicious myths, if that's what they are, tend to have some root in pernicious deeds, particularly against people who have not had a benign relationship with their rulers over the years.

Call it irrationality, but concede that it's conditioned irrationality. Before condemning those who vocalize it, know the history from which they speak.

Know, furthermore, that their lore is, in essence, hardly unique in a nation where a majority or near-majority still believes that Iraq was behind 9/11; that the Clintons are criminals, maybe even murderers; and that evolution is a liberal fantasy.

We are, as wiser people than I have noted, a society that lives on superstition. Even our faith in technology flies against a mountain of broken promises. We keep asking science and God to save us from ourselves while we turn to brute force and God to save us from everybody else. We like to think of ourselves as a confederacy of tough-minded scoffers, yet we reserve our scoffing for the angels and devils we don't know.

If a minister who says his people have been categorically victimized is to be called loony and malicious, what do we say of a minister who proclaims his nation God's choice to win the war?
Is it any crazier to propose a 9/11 conspiracy than it is to declare, as Indiana legislators have done, that homosexuals are out to snatch your children?

Is it any more naive to give carte blanche to nuclear power, whose complexities and dangers we cannot even imagine, than it is to join a Rapture cult?

Paranoia and a penchant for belief in magic. Like opinions, they're something we've all got. Indeed, if you'll pardon the reopening of a sore subject, we darn well cling to them.
In that spirit, here's to peace in our time, here's to the power of words to change the world, and I'll see you in heaven.

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1 comment:

focusedfemalegem said...

"That the government has foisted AIDS on the black community."

This is true...end of story.

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