Can a good citizen agonize over the policy but love the country and still believe in its future? The hardest test this country went through in recent times was Vietnam. It was
demoralizing to see the machinery of war grinding on for years when everyone, including
the President, was trying to stop it. It revealed a great weakness in the vaunted modern
world and initiated an anti-technology, anti-modern, and certainly anti-American phase
of development that is still evident in the culture.
What many fail to understand is that a lot of criticism is a kind of premonition that the nation will not escape the fate of other nations; even empires. That America starts to follow the dead track of 18th-19th century Europe with its hollow sentiments and brute confidence.
It is, I suppose, when one looks at leadership in all fields and finds nothing but hollowness; nothing but bits of straw with bits of flame dangling at the end.
Nationalism was seen as a provincial sentiment that allowed for the sport of phony redemption promised by politicians.
The land itself; the great and profound geography that moves in all living space is what is loved. Along with that space are great gestures of the past and the genuine kindness of the people.
But in a pensive mood, one has the perception that it has to break so many molds to attain a kind of fruition. And what would the result be?
What is a freedom that simply demonstrates what people have always done in various ways, various times under adverse conditions? Is it possible for a people to get caught in a myth of freedom so nothing of any substance gets done?
The baby-boom generation turned off completely to geopolitics and adapted whatever
was available in terms of a world view. Most of it resembled the Children's Crusade that led
the innocent into the very maw of evil.
We live in a nation-state system. The U.N. is the good friend who will listen to both
sides but the good friend will not stop earnest hatred or naked ambition on the part of
leaders in the world. The focal point is on the executive in charge of putting armies
on the field, either with or without consent from Congress. The people actively involved
in the geo-political battle in the world number very few. They would not, taken together,
make up a small metropolitan area. That's not to say they are in some conspiratorial mode
and fixing the world nice and pretty for themselves. In truth, most people including leaders
contain in them the same seeds of conflict that break out in the general population. This
natural condition of conflict makes it very unlikely that leaders of rival nations can conspire against the whole world.
Three images remain from the Vietnam conflict. The little naked girl running down the road
screaming after a napalm bombing, the shooting of the Viet Cong prisoner in the streets
of Saigon, and the release of hundreds and hundreds of bombs from the bellies of B-52
The punishment did come home to the U.S., in the aftermath. There was a horrific
self-vivisection of the culture, a crude release of crazy energies, and the end of
an era that had started at the end of World War II.
It created a reaction without a doubt. And here we stand today, half in red, half
The greatest joy in a democratic culture is that it learns, grows, accepts its shadow,
makes peace with its polar opposite, stands up and admits the good, bad, and ugly and dedicates itself to creating a better future. We are for the culture
and its beneficence.
We just don't believe everything it does is right.
Posted November 12, 2003
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March 27, 2003