The Ugly Little Man in the Closet

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I had to remind myself today why it is that Bush cuts so deeply into my soul. It felt as if I had almost forgotten. The zoetrope of news images, flickering by so quickly that one outrage blends into another cause the colors to mash into a sickly brown that no longer has any distinction. If you look back on the last four years, though, you have to ask how it is possible that so many American people could have systematically and so quickly forgotten something as stark and irrefutable (yes, I know nothing is irrefutable in political spin) as the torture in Abu Ghraib. It is as if nothing happened. No one of any consequence was held accountable. Like oily slivers of rope the leaders most responsible slipped away into forgetfulness, like so many other things they slipped out of. If you are at all a decent human being and sincerely believe in all the hype about American ideals and greatness how can you possibly turn your eyes away from this, or to even let it sink into oblivion, and then smugly go ahead and vote for the people most responsible for it?

I visited The Memory Hole again and sat for a long, long time whispering prayers to myself and for the victims in the pictures. I couldn’t turn on the news for fear of being presented with those images of Bush and his wife strolling about like royalty. I wanted to be sure that I was grounded in the reality of my outrage for Bush and to keep reminding myself why I can’t loosen my grip on the armrest. So many people tell me to relax and not let these things bother me, because there is nothing I can do about it. I just wish there had been someone there to tell that to people like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, or Aung San Suu Kyi, or even Jesus Christ.

As a non-American living far away on the other side of the world the elections were more of a sticker shock value than a potential reordering of the universe. It was sobering and enlightening to report to work earlier this evening and have not one of my Japanese co-workers so much as mention the elections. It was sobering because the true place that America has in the world and in the hearts of people around the world was made abundantly clear: America figures not much in most people’s lives and the elections were nothing more than an enormous fiasco of people blathering to themselves. My sense, in the Japanese silence, was that Americans tend to take themselves entirely too seriously, raising themselves upon media pedestals all out of proportion to the honest reception that most people in the world are willing to give them. “Yeah? So what is new,” could have been the reaction here. It was simply perplexing to see this glittering pageant, like some kind of coronation, over-running the airwaves. Let no one say that the Americans have abandoned the monarchy or subservience to the overlord.

Perhaps it is the very desire to find conflict in every little discussion or statement that twirls Americans around with such contention. Even blogs, like this one, seem to survive on contrasts, and little stories behind the back. The entire Bush strategy resides within a bubble of inflated fear and controversy. In this climate it will always remain impossible for communities to flourish and nurture one another, or for diversity to strew an odd mix of seeds among the roots.

Let no one forget Abu Ghraib. Let no one render it merely an anecdote or a behavioral anomaly. When you find yourself wavering in the effort to nurture peace and understanding, or grow weary of the unrelenting madness of Bush, go back to the pictures of the tortures and remember how it all started. That should jump start the old cables and fire up that engine again.

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