The day-to-day reminders of our calamitous Iraq War have backed off the front pages as the fight for freedom and the American Way intensifies on the home-front. Beginning now, the nation’s attention will be drawn more to the fusillade of words discharged by John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.
Whether or not Iraq is sidelined in this political debate, this presidential election is, in large part, between those Americans who have begun to assimilate the reality of our horrendous self-defeat in Iraq and those evolutionary stragglers who adamantly refuse to do so.
Even if the Iraq War lurches along in a tense standoff, it would still be an American defeat because it has made us more enemies and left us weaker. The debacle is worse than a simple defeat on the field of battle. The idea of invading Iraq was sheer perversion from the moment of its budding erection in that lower chakra where neo-con consciousness breeds. Predictably, the war has become our great self-defeat. Many Americans, notably supporters of George W. Bush, refuse to come to terms with this notion of self-defeat and their role in it. McCain, an invasion fist-pumper from the beginning, is one of them.
The financial cost alone—$2 trillion and climbing—is an overdose of insanity being dumped on our children. Are we too dysfunctional ourselves to know madness when we see it?
Many Americans, notably right-wingers, totally refuse to recognize the extent of our folly and to grieve for our loss and to feel our shame. They have, for starters, ensnared themselves in an Orwellian world where passivity is freedom, ignorance is innocence, and denial a starry-eyed patriotism. They also refuse to relinquish their greatest strategic “strength”—their ability to distort the truth.
“You can’t handle the truth!” said Jack Nicholson, famously, in A Few Good Men. In fact, the character portrayed by Nicholson in that 1992 film—the ruthless right-wing Col. Jessup—was wrong. The colonel was the one who couldn’t handle the truth of how his paranoid worldview was shaped by the hateful, evil character he was.
Truth is the enemy of illusions, and the biggest illusion among fervent right-wingers is the faith in their innocence and the purity of their intentions. These evolutionary stragglers have a faith-based perception of themselves that spills over to our intelligence agencies and the military. The church-state divide is threadbare when the imperatives of national security are mythologized as state religion.
Shock and Awe, the American gods of war, glide over the Potomac, cloaked like Stealth bombers, roaring out battle hymns of profane ferocity. Down below, heads bowed, eyes closed, our politicians float weightless in their own non-being, compulsive appeasers of the Great Destroyers.
Right wingers are happy under Bush, as they would be under Putin. It makes no difference. All that matters is that they can make a claim, however overdrawn, to be honorable and noble in their own little square foot of self-absorption. John McCain is a fan of the words “honorable” and “noble,” and he uses them as guiding principles. The prefix “The Honorable” or “The Hon.” is often of necessity applied to politicians as linguistic deodorant.
“These people have honorable records, and they’re honorable people,” McCain said last month, defending the lobbyists who are part of his election team. Indeed, corporate lobbying is one of the most honorable of professions.
Honor, nobility, and loyalty are lesser human virtues, and they offer, like a trio of minor bards, unstable plot twists by which to guide one’s life. (The human refinements of integrity, compassion, and wisdom are stronger virtues.)
The lesser virtues are easily converted into illusions of innocence, or made to serve as props for a grandiose self-image, or erected as forms of self-defense against a harsh inner conscience, or (as in the case of loyalty) employed as a reciprocal arrangement for the protection and advancement of one’s own person.
When guided principally by notions of honor, nobility, and loyalty, we can’t see evil for what it is. Evolutionary stragglers who might wish to come to terms with the evil they have unleashed in Iraq have to begin to develop integrity. This means they take moral responsibility for whatever is done in their name. Start by contemplating the word “atonement.” The buck doesn’t just stop at the president’s desk. If we’re authentic and mature, even a buck touched by a lobbyist stops at the kitchen table for our stamp of ownership.
Evolutionary stragglers wishing to keep pace in the human race must first die to the old ego, the old identity. This process usually involves disorientation, confusion, and anxiety. If they can weather the passage with a sense of trust and purpose, they’ll be born again into their selfhood. Compassion is awakened as an expansion of the self, and truth is discerned out of one’s own goodness. We discover that it’s a blessing to feel grief for our misadventure in Iraq, as opposed to being dead to our deeds and thus to ourselves.