Friday, Nov. 30, 42 A.B.
What's Expected Of Us
According to a TV commercial that's been airing every night lately during the national news broadcasts I watch, Americans are asking, "What is expected of us?"
President Bush has the answer.
As near as I can tell, it goes like this:
- We are expected to spend money we don't have on things we don't need and call it patriotism instead of gluttonous self-indulgence.
- We are expected to travel, eat out, and have a good time exactly as if war was an occasion for celebration rather than a time for somber reflection.
- We are expected to engage in our usual holiday season spending spree instead of pondering the summary execution of unarmed POWs and other war crimes apparently being committed by forces our government is funding, supplying, advising, and cheering on.
- We are expected to forget the fact that the last time these people controlled a capital city, some 50,000 people died there.
- We are expected to avert our gaze and move along without noticing the fact that our government is rounding up many unnamed people and holding them indefinitely without any charges being filed.
- We are expected to believe that secret military tribunals with the power to condemn unknown people to death on the basis of information kept secret even from the condemned is the best means possible to protect the American Way and not just the Latin American Junta Way.
- We are suddenly expected to trust the military and its ways to be superior to all others even though "the military way" has long been recognized as the punch line to a joke rather than an ideal to aspire to.
- We are expected to believe that a government which DNA testing often reveals has convicted the wrong person of murder after a lengthy trial is a government that's wise enough to drop bombs on the right people thousands of miles away.
- We are expected to believe that Benjamin Franklin got it wrong when he said "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security" and that people who say "If you don't have anything to hide, you don't have anything to fear from secret home searches" got it right.
- We are expected to believe that someone who lost a national election by over 500,000 votes yet unapologetically took power anyway is the best person to define, protect, and defend the ways and ideals of democracy.
- Although we've long been taught to believe that all men are created equal and we're all equally children of God, we are now expected to believe that the death of a single American combatant is entitled to more coverage, regret, and tears than the deaths of hundreds of innocent foreign civilians.
- Although thousands of Americans suffer tragic, agonizing, premature deaths every day, we are expected to believe that those who died at the WTC and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 are uniquely entitled to our attention, outrage, sorrow, and tears.
- Whatever assumptions rest behind my newspaper's decision to devote more space to one victim of the WTC attacks than to a recent study revealing that 7000 Americans die every year from easily preventible prescription drug errors, we are expected to let those assumptions pass by, unacknowledged and unexamined.
- We are expected to pray, even though our cemeteries are full of people who prayed and were prayed for.
- Above all else, we are expected to believe that the best way to teach others that callous, murderous behavior is always wrong, unacceptable, inexcusable, against all religious precepts, and downright evil is to engage in callous, murderous behavior ourselves.
That, as near as I can tell, is what's expected of us.
I can only hope against hope that, for once in my life, we Americans manage to exceed the expectations set for us.
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(©Now by DJ Birtcher in memory of Kafka, Fran & Orwell)