Monday, April 23, 2007

What do we do now? (part 1)

What do we do now?

It’s happened. It’s done.

They didn’t do it in the night, in secret. They didn’t fire a shot. They boiled the frog in front of all of us and we never said a thing.

We laughed and joked and played on our way to the gas chambers, thanking them the whole time for defending our freedom over there so that we didn’t have to do it here.

From time to time a nation is tested. A crisis comes and reality intrudes, pushing through the carefully constructed façade of command and control we’ve build all around us. Sometimes, the bubble bursts, if only for a few seconds.

And there we stand, naked, staring out at reality as harsh sunlight spills in for the first time in years and we see, really see, how pathetic and small and fragile we all really are.

How we respond to death is at least as important as how we respond to life. It says something fundamental about a person’s maturity, their character, their strength of conviction and their love of goodness and liberty.

Individually, we each responded in our own ways, but collectively, as a nation, we failed this test. Instead of learning from the mistakes that lead to our wound, we blew a thicker bubble, ignoring the shameful weakness of our leader’s real reaction to the crisis in favor of his staged political theatre, a dramatically lit stage built from the rubble and bloody remains of our old dream world. A photo op in place of a plan. A speech in place of leadership.

In so doing, we found out who we really are. As individuals, we have different capacities, competencies, abilities. As a nation, we are weak minded children playing with toys we don’t understand. We ignore substance and focus on style, preferring comforting words about decisive action without the sacrifices that the action would entail. We pour buckets of the superficial onto our heads, covering us in a thick film of lies, so that we can ignore the truth that stands bare and apparent all around us.

The individuals who died on September 11th did not deserve their fate, but we as a nation needed it. We still do. We need the shock therapy of reality to pierce our world of McMansions and Super-sized sodas, our world where we drink a product originally meant as a dessert with every meal and then pretend we don’t know why we’ve all gotten so fat. We need someone, something from outside ourselves to keep delivering shocks to our system until we can’t hide anymore. We need grandpa to get the belt and give us enough licks to sink that all important lesson into our minds: reality is not subjective, its objective, and it doesn’t give a damn what happens to us.

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