We all know it's true on an individual level: A lie, an
injustice, a memory buried or unacknowledged warps us, pains us, keeps us
off-course and unconscious, as we maneuver around it, rationalize it, avoid it.
Until we confront it, remember it, embrace it, forgive it, let it go, apologize
for it, whatever, it twists and reduces us.
And so it is for a group of us, including a country.
I never really confronted slavery or gave it a serious thought until quite late in life, when I happened to see Steven Spielberg's film , Amistad. It opened with some graphic scenes of captive Africans on a slave ship, which suddenly catapulted me into a long-overdue attempt to understand slavery, which has stuck with me since -- and for which I am very thankful.
Slavery image from Wikipedia by Wikipedia Commons
It is an endless task to try to fathom the degradation of being a powerless captive, under threat of death and rape and family break-up for centuries, and I marvel at the strength and resilience of the people who survived with their egos and capabilities and humor and humanity intact. Fortunately there are many narratives and slave journals to allow us to appreciate the enormity of the terror and injustice of slavery.
Unfortunately, there are many adults who have never made that leap, never faced that terror, and who still justify or brush off slavery and its legacy. And there is a large industry of pundits and politicians who encourage this infantile, self-centered, "I am the one who is persecuted" view, a very easy sell, unfortunately.
(I'm skipping over Ghost 1.5 for now, just for brevity: The American native experience of losing your land, your hunting grounds, your sovereignty, your traditions and most of your population to invasion and theft.)
So, likewise for Ghost number two, selected at random from more recent history, because I'm familiar with it:
Starting around 2002, a group of insiders who had long lusted after power, oil, their idea of "stability" in the Mideast, or the head of Saddam Hussein (a tyrant, but no more so than a dozen others), made a concerted effort to convince the world that Saddam had weapons and intentions to attack the US, despite all evidence to the contrary. As Hitler and Goering noted, a fearful populace will believe anything -- and most of their elected representatives will go right along (as they did).
So "we" invaded Iraq on totally false and fabricated pretenses, with the result of over 4000 Americans dead, many more wounded and traumatized, half a million Iraqis dead and many more displaced, over three trillion dollars down the toilet, and much-increased chaos and misery and anti-US hatred and terrorism.
And where are the perpetrators of this cruel hoax? Walking free in Texas, Wyoming, DC and Taos, enjoying life, collecting huge speaking fees for sharing their wisdom, and in much demand as talking heads on news shows, telling us what's good for the country!
Not in jail, in the company of other criminals who committed crimes of much smaller magnitude. It's a distortion, a lie we all live with, adding to our cognitive dissonance and our dysfunction as a society and a self-governing and world-governing entity.
Former US Representative Dennis Kucinich has said that whether we approach it with vengeance and criminal prosecution or not, this Iraq hoax is the "elephant in the room" (I don't think he used that cliche) which distorts everything. Just like ignoring the fact that much or our economic foundation and existence was built on slavery and pure theft and genocide.
Putting up with lies and delusion (let alone encouraging them) is a bad habit which promotes -- and in fact requires -- more lies and delusions. It is not good for anyone or for everyone. And it hastens our collapse, which will not be good for the children we claim to love.