Friday, December 01, 2006

1968 - Redux

My son read my most recent post and felt that a line near the end of it: "It couldn't be much worse" is a bit of an over-statement, or as he put it "too heavy handed."

He's right of course. Things could be a lot worse. I should rein in my penchant for hyperbole. I'll give a 110% effort to curb my enthusiasm in the future.

We Americans are still living pretty comfortably as compared to say, the Iraqis. We do have the on-going threat of terrorist violence, but Americans are not being blown into a pink mist on a daily basis (excepting those of us who are in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan.) People are not taking bets on whether someone will survive the drive to the local airport, or if a trip to the market might be our last. Most of us are not starving or homeless. Most of us have food on the table in homes made possible by the jobs that most of us have. All in all, things remain pretty good on our native soil.

When I came of age in the mid 1960s, America's future seemed to me, boundless. We were still the good guys, the knights on the white horses. True, the book The Ugly American had been published to some acclaim which dealt with our budding and meddlesome involvement in Southeast Asia. The seeds of doubt had been sown, but few of us paid any heed.

The White House was in the hands of Jack & Jackie, the golden age of Camelot on the Potomac.
But then, Jack was gone. Camelot disappeared with the squeeze of a trigger in Dallas. I heard about it while sitting in study hall during my junior year of high school. Kids began to cry. Mostly, the girls at first, but that kind of thing is infectious. Many of us were sniveling before the period ended, myself included. We hadn't even heard whether he was dead. We just knew he had been shot. It was surreal. This kind of thing didn't happen in Camelot. Did it? Could it?

Well, yes, it could, and it did.

As I stated in the previous post, Americans effectively got bitch slapped over and over again during the next few years. The war in Vietnam became pervasive with no end in sight. The concomitant anti-war movement was in full swing by the late '60s. The Civil Rights movement was steaming along, and the feminist movement was also gaining traction. It was a crazy time. It was either hellish or exciting depending upon one's perspective - say whether you were smoking dope and throwing frisbees in the Sheep Meadow of Manhattan's Central Park, or smoking dope and dodging bullets in a rice paddy in Vietnam.

We have endured Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, more Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Clinton again, and whoa!, another damn Bush (or who Molly Ivins refers to as "Shrub") since those days. (It would be only just if we could manage to inflict the world with another Clinton in 2008.)

What prompted me to make my admitted overstatement? It was my looking back to where we once were, or at least where we thought we were before it all began going down the tubes, and measuring that against where we are now.

By comparison, the years of the Cold War were relatively stable. It was basically one super power against another, each knowing a single misstep could render the world uninhabitable. The powers that be on both sides actually seemed to care about our earthly future.

Now we are faced with a significant number of religious radicals of every stripe who believe that what happens on this world is of little consequence. These people would be more than happy to blow everyone to smithereens, themselves included, all for the glory of their god. Reason has left the building.

Osama and company must have been overjoyed when Bush and his boys (and girl) chose to invade Iraq. How fortuitous? We squandered what good karma we might have gained post 9/11 as much of the rest of the world watched in dismay at our arrogance and stupidity. We played right into Al Qaida's hands. Within days we were no longer victims, but instead, aggressors. We were attacking a sovereign muslim nation, despoiling muslim land, killing muslims. Nevermind that Saddam was hated in the muslim world about as much as they hated us. Saddam's government was wholly secular and horribly oppressive. That didn't matter. We were the infidel invading holy ground.

The whole situation in Iraq has deteriorated to what, by almost any reasonable measure (except Bush's, of course,) is a civil war. It is chaos. Hundreds of Iraqis are dying every week, sometimes every day. The Iraqi government has virtually no control anywhere in the country that matters. The various police organizations are rife with corruption and insurgant infiltration. Recruits are routinely killed by suicide bombers. The Iraqi army remains largely a joke with little ability to oversee the nation's security without US troops at their backs. We have effectively painted ourselves into a corner. There is no graceful means of extracting ourselves from this mess. For Bush to do anything but "stay the course" would make us even more despised and render us a laughing stock. But, "staying the course" has its own serious problems - generally involving additional and significant losses of American lives.

Bush's expectation, or perhaps now only his hope, that the situation will change for the better in Iraq is unrealistic at best. Meanwhile, terrorists are having a heyday both recruiting and shedding new blood as they continue to work quietly toward further and more spectacular attacks against the west, especially the US.

"Things" could certainly get worse. Let's hope that they don't.



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tina said...

Yep, and now we are showing our military muscle to Iran. That scares me. Bush is the most egotistical person.

R Nicolas said...

It is indeed a scarier world than in the days of "duck and cover" drills.

Well written post.

Terry S said...

r n,

I grew up during the Cold War as it seems perhaps you did as well. Those drills were about the biggest joke one could imagine. Of course, we had no idea. Basically, the drills just provided a break from the daily routine.

Do you recall an addition to the drills? We were told to bring a single page of a newspaper and keep it in our desks. During the drills, we were told that when the "duck and cover" order was made, we were to cover ourselves as best we could with the paper. I think the reasoning was that the lead in the newsprint would somehow block the radiation given off by an atomic blast. We were led to believe that we would be rendered safe from an atomic blast by crawling under our wood desks and covering ourselves with a single page from the newspaper.

Some people, mostly those older than I - probably young adults at the time - remember the 1950s as a fearsome time.

I remember no such thing. Those were the glory years following WWII. Life was, for the most part, good. I never worried about being blown to bits. Such a thing was just never real to me or my friends if memory serves.

But, you never know. Maybe I should start carrying a page of the newspaper with me wherever I go. You can't be too careful.


Terry S said...

r n,

I just visited your site. I see that you were not raised in the 1950s, so you wouldn't remember the times I referred to. Nevertheless, it was nuts.