Waldlaw Blog

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Does This Guy Have Any Idea How Scary He Is??

My partner was leafing through the New Yorker earlier this week, and came across an ad for the new movie "Thank You For Smoking." In the ad, they list four "great moments in spin." She started to read them to us: "But I didn't inhale" (Bill Clinton); "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" (the NRA); "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit" (Johnny Cochran). I recognized them all, but our 10 year old son was lost. Then she came to the fourth "great moment in spin." "Okay, buddy" she said to our 10-year-old, "this one's for you." And she read the fourth great moment in spin: "I just want you to know that when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace." Without hesitation, our 10-year-old named the source of the quote: George W. Bush. As our 10-year-old put it, "who else would say something as stupid as that?!" But, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered: "Who else would say something as scary as that?!" I mean, do you think George W. Bush has even read George Orwell's 1984?? Here's an exerpt: "The day was still cold and clear. Somewhere far away a rocket bomb exploded with a dull, reverberating roar. About twenty or thirty of them a week were falling on London at present. "Down in the street the wind flapped [a] torn poster to and fro, and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ingsoc. The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past. He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure for ever? Like an answer, the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back to him: WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH" One would hope that our President would be embarassed to be quoted saying something that sounds so completely like it was written by George Orwell. "When we talk about war, we're really talking about peace" is the absolute stuff of which "newspeak," "doublethink" and 1984 were made. But this President doesn't embarass easy, folks. He seems to be downright proud of his ignorance, as if it is proof that he's really "all-American." And that's the saddest part, to me. In the vocabulary of a certain portion of our populace, at this moment in history, it seems that "educated" and "all-American" have become antonyms. It is better not to be educated. It is better not to speak a foreign language; not to know too much about art and music and literature. Apparently, "real" Americans are supposed to be satisfied with knowing their own family histories and cultures, and not ask too many questions about other ways of being. So here's my commitment to myself: I will never stop trying to educate myself. Ever. Which makes me think of my beloved father, who always said that the smartest people are the ones who ask the right questions, not the ones who know the right answers. Which brings me to one more funny thing about the George W. Bush quote. When I went to "fact check" it -- which my partner reminded me it was important to do, before deriding our President on my blog -- I ended up on a site called thinkexist.com (http://en.thinkexist.com). They had the quote I was looking for, and also a bunch of other quotes by George W. Bush. I scrolled through them, always happy to read more stupid things our President has said over the past (endless) 6 years he's been in office. Then I came to the end of the "George W. Bush" section and was amazed to see that the next listing in thinkexist's data bank was for "George Wald." That's my dad!! He was a relatively famous scientist and peace activist during the Vietnam War era and beyond, and he pops up in unexpected places from time to time. His best quote, on thinkexist, was "A physicist is an atom's way of knowing about atoms." Now that's a perfect "George Wald" quote. He also said: "We already know enough to begin to cope with all the major problems that are now threatening human life and much of the rest of life on earth. Our crisis is not a crisis of information; it is a crisis of decision, of policy and action." "A crisis of decision, of policy and action." Well, I guess that describes the situation we're in now fairly well, doesn't it....


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