“There was an exodus of birds in the trees
’cause they didn’t know we were only pretending
and the people all looked up and looked pleased
and the birds flew around like the whole world was ending.”
-Ani DiFranco, “Independence Day”
People like to tell themselves stories about themselves. A big priority is put in our society on one’s ability to sleep at night, and thus people have to imbed fiction in their own minds in order to get to sleep. After all, the only person we really ever have to permanently live with is ourself. Why not make oneself a cooler, more moral, more reasonable person than one actually is? As Oscar Wilde said, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
Countries like to tell themselves stories about themselves, too. They like the citizens of their country to be able to bed down for the night with cozy thoughts of jingoist pride. Wrapped up in beseeching their deity of choice for a new television should be thanking said entity for plopping them between these particular borders, no matter what actually happens there. Why not make it a cooler, more moral, more reasonable country than it actually is? As Adolf Hitler said, “The great mass of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.”
The United States has led the world in a lot of things, but instilling this sense of jingoistic pride on an ongoing basis is perhaps its most sustained accomplishment. It is hard to imagine imperial Romans or Spanish or British believing in themselves this sincerely, fervently, holistically – not just as superior people, but as a superior set of ideals. And surely the disconnect between espoused ideals and actual actions has never been so great: indeed, this is the grand invention of the American enterprise. The Romans made no bones about the barbarians being expendable. Spain and Britain cared little for heathens, except occasionally as servants or objects of conversion. Even Hitler’s propaganda state made it pretty clear how they felt about their chosen scapegoats. But America cares. Really. Believe them. They do.
And thus, whenever America has had (“had”, mind you, not “chosen”) to use violence to defend its freedom (can you imagine more pejorative language?), it’s always been able to paint itself as a hapless but powerful victim whose choices are to take a beating or stumble up and hit back. And yet, of course, careful examination of these events reveals a track-record of pathological dishonesty. The Maine. The Zimmermann Telegram. Pearl Harbor. The Gulf of Tonkin. 9/11. All events claimed as catalytic and unprovoked attacks. All done with the knowledge and/or complicity of the United States government.
This phenomenon, recently labeled as the “false flag” scenario, is as old as the hills. Yes, even Hitler employed this one too, dressing up some Germans in Polish uniforms and having them attack a farmhouse on the German side of the border. What’s so great about these events is that control can be complete, since it happens on your own territory. There’s no mess. And the country is so blinded in its outrage at this unprovoked aggression that it will lash out, just as an individual punched in the solar plexus without warning will knee-jerk into swinging their fist right back.
But these events never make any sense. History finds ways to try to explain or give a context for why small countries (Spain, Vietnam, the Taliban) or empires barely scraping by (Germany in 1917, Japan in 1941) would want to go up to the baddest, meanest, most powerful guy on the block and punch him in the solar plexus once. But no matter how much spin goes on it, it never really quite makes sense, does it? They hate us? Really? Do they hate themselves more? Because they know what’s going to happen when they do this… unending death and destruction. The full force and destruction of the United States government. Are people really continually this stupid?
But we believe it, don’t we? Despite the evidence and the logic, most Americans go around thinking that America just keeps getting stronger, more powerful, more justified, and pipsqueaks keep trying to bonk us on the head for no reason.
Well insanity is oft defined as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. So, kids, when the economy is slouching toward depression, the last couple wars aren’t going so peachily, the administration is death-defyingly unpopular, and unemployment is skyrocketing…
What would you expect?
Given the history, what do you think is coming?
And what better day or season to renew our jingoism with the blood of self-inflicted victimhood than on our already chosen anniversary? Two-hundred and thirty-two years of learning how to better manipulate its own people that they will never again get so angry over a little taxation. Iran is already playing its part in this little play: standing up and talking trash to the bully, defiantly thumbing their nose at the tough guy just to save face, praying all the while that they don’t actually swing.
But something has changed since the so-called American century, part of it in the wake of the stinging defeat in Vietnam. American force and capacity to conquer has been steadily diminished in the ensuing infeasibility of a draft and unpopularity of killing. The US hasn’t actually managed to win a war outside of the Caribbean in some time.
Knowing this, it would have to be something so massive as to reinstate old questions long since cast off. Could we have a draft again? Could we fight six wars at a time? Could we suspend the election?
People have been predicting this, on and off, for a year. There are always prior rumblings. The Lusitania. “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States”.
If you need me on July fourth, I’ll be under the bed.