Sunday, September 10, 2006

Our vast obliviousness


The face of fear?

The Canadian Globe and Mail has marked the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a list of "50 Changes, 5 Years After." This item grabbed me:

56 per cent
U.S. voters in a recent poll who picked the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as a historical event more significant than the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Our notorious national historical amnesia strikes again. Apparently out rulers have convinced a majority of us that a bunch of smart religious fanatics who managed a theatrical murder of thousands are more dangerous than Hitler's Germany and the expansionist Japanese empire that killed millions. We don't remember fears past.

We don't remember that anyone over 25 lived much of their life in a world in which we had to fear nuclear annihilation by the thousands of warheads of unimaginable power aimed at us by the Soviet Union -- and aimed by our government at them in turn. We don't remember fears past.

And we have no consciousness that twice in its short history, this nation almost didn't make it at all. Anyone looking at the balance of forces in 1776 would have expected Washington and friends to be hanged as criminal insurgents. In 1860, there was no certainty at all that there would be a single Union five years later. (Maybe there wasn't?) We don't remember fears past.

We live within a "vast American obliviousness that shrouds in a kind of Gothic mist everything that happened before last Tuesday," according to social commentator Katha Pollit. This insistent ignorant innocence might be charming, if corrupt leaders didn't use it to warp us into a nation that tromps though the world like a petulant rogue child. Are we capable of adulthood? It won't come easily. It is very comfortable to live as spoiled children.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Just new and love the blog. Since cats getting more interest than obliviousness thought I would note that we seem to be becoming a society of spectators - worse than being oblivious to the fears of the past is being oblivious to the fact of our obliviousness.

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