The Unthinkable Goodness of America
In an interview the other day, Donald Rumsfeld spoke of his concern that, as in the 1930’s, we are in a “gathering storm.” Just as then, we may be victimized by a failure of imagination, as decent people tend not to want to -- or be able to -- imagine how evil our enemies are. Who, in the 1930’s, could imagine that there were people so evil that they would systematically round up all the members of a particular religion and exterminate them in gas chambers? Even now, it is beyond the imagination. Yes, we know that it happened, but on another level it didn’t happen, because it’s too inconceivable. Our minds won’t go there. We cannot imagine the mentality of a person who would herd women and children like cattle into gas chambers. Being charitable, one wonders if this isn’t the cognitive “point of entry” for certain Holocaust deniers -- it’s too evil to have happened, so it didn’t happen.
I am quite sure that the same mentality applies to Hamas, or Fatah, or Hezb'Allah, who are every bit as evil as the Nazis. They are so evil, that many people just don’t see it. Or they make excuses for it, and imagine that there is something that can justify their twisted theology. Many particularly morally loathsome individuals on the left, such as Jimmy Carter, actually sympathize with them.
Grotesquely, the same people who cannot imagine how evil our enemies are, fantasize that people on our side -- decent and selfless public servants such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney -- are in fact evil. How often does one hear the scurrilous charge that Vice President Cheney’s motives are entirely pecuniary, and that he just wants to enrich his friends at Haliburton or in the oil industry? If he is motivated by greed, how bizarre that he would step down as an executive at Haliburton -- where I am sure he received a seven figure income -- in order become vice president, for which he receives what, $150,000 a year? When you actually stop to analyze the simplistic but overpowering fantasies of the left, they are so silly that one can only marvel at the very real traction they have in their minds.
In the recent interview with Rumsfeld, he spoke of meeting with the Sultan of Oman shortly after September 11. The Sultan said that perhaps “this terrible thing that’s happened might be a blessing in disguise. It may be the thing that will wake up the world to the danger these extremists pose, before those people get their hands on chemical or biological or nuclear weapons where they could kill many multiples of what they were able to kill on September 11.”
I have treated many cases of psychological trauma, and one thing that is common to all of them is that the traumatized individual is, to a certain extent, not out of touch with reality, but more in contact with it. In other words, in order to get through life, we all routinely engage in denial. No one who gets behind the wheel of their car thinks of the 40 or 50,000 Americans per year who die in auto accidents, or that, barring illness, this is perhaps the most likely way they will die.
But a traumatic event temporarily breaks through our denial, so that the traumatized individual -- usually temporarily -- feels an extremely heightened sense of danger about the world. Not only do they imagine their own demise, but the fear extends to family members, as they constantly brood about how dangerous the world is for their children and loved ones. Which it is. But you just can’t think about it, or you wouldn’t be able to function. So you eventually go back into denial -- back to "normality."
My sister-in-law died four years ago this month at the age of 39, due to a freaking infection. No, not a burst appendix, or pneumonia, or HIV, but a simple staph infection. Our bodies are covered with this bacteria, and occasionally -- completely randomly, as far as anyone knows -- the bacteria will enter the blood stream through so banal a mechanism as a scratch or a hangnail. That’s what happened to my sister-in-law. Despite the finest medical care the world has to offer in Manhattan, she was gone in 16 days, leaving behind her son on his second birthday. I try not to dwell on this nightmare -- my denial has been shored up again -- but as you might imagine, I can never see a scratch in quite the same way. Nor am I looking forward to my son’s second birthday, when I will not be able to help myself from thinking the unthinkable, “what if today I were snatched from his life, at this very moment?”
Anyway, after a trauma, most people reconstitute and get their denial back. I am quite sure that this is what happened collectively within weeks of September 11. As Rumsfeld says, the threat “diminished in their minds, whereas it not only has not diminished in reality -- it has grown because of the advances in technologies. Look at the Johns Hopkins exercise with smallpox called Dark Winter. It was put in three airports in America. Something between 800,000 and 1 million people ‘died’ in some number of months, or a year, from a disease people are no longer vaccinated against."
Rumsfeld is obviously correct that the Bush administration has been a victim of it’s success. In the unimaginative mind of the moonbat, they can only think of our 3,000 men and women who have died in Iraq, but cannot imagine how many Americans will not die if we succeed in Iraq. They cannot imagine it in part because no one can imagine it. If the British had lost 3,000 men in the course of successfully toppling Hitler in 1938, I can guarantee you that no leftist historian would have said, “thank God, we just avoided 60 million deaths!” No, like today’s barking moonbats, they would have only focussed on the “needless” deaths of the 3,000.
So Rumsfeld and the entire Bush administration are also being punished because of their refusal to go back into “denial mode.” Obviously, talk of the threat makes people uncomfortable, as they would prefer to imagine that we live in a safe world governed by reasonable agents. Rumsfeld is absolutely correct that “there’s a tendency for a lot of people to be dismissive of [the threat] and to ridicule it. Churchill’s phrase about the gathering storm -- there was a storm gathering, but there were people in Europe who didn’t believe it and who didn’t take the periodic storm clouds and the squalls as a real threat. They thought they were transitory and, of course, paid an enormous penalty in treasure and life for their failure to understand the nature of that threat. I worry we are in a gathering storm and we do not, as a society, accept it. Many of the elites of our society, the key opinion leaders, are unwilling or unable to accept what an awful lot of people believe to be the case. The penalty for being wrong can be enormous.”
Again, they do not see it because they cannot imagine how evil our enemies are. I was thinking about my son playing at the park with the other children. There are millions of people all over the world who would enjoy nothing more than to put a bullet in his head -- to mow the children down with a machine gun or suicide bomb, just because they are Jewish or “infidels.”
The idea that started this post occurred to me last night. My wife and I were talking about our son’s temperament. He seems very bright, but all parents no doubt think that of their children. I haven’t been around too many babies, but he also seems to have a highly developed sense of humor. But perhaps even more than that, he seems unusually daring and brave -- even a bit of a thrill seeker. My wife was speculating that perhaps he could channel this daring into something truly great -- like being an army ranger or navy seal.
That’s when the irony dawned on me. My son putting his life on the line to try to help a part of the world where many of the inhabitants would kill him in his cradle if they could, so that some day they might have the type of society that produces decent people who don't want to exterminate Jews and other infidels -- who just want to raise their children in peace.
But let’s be honest. In your wildest dreams, can you imagine ever creating another country on earth -- let alone a Muslim country -- so decent that its citizens would be willing to die for your freedom?
America is a victim of its unimaginable goodness.
Speaking of daring thrill-seekers, here's another photo of Ben. Yes, his innocent mug looks benign enough, but....
.... here he is ferociously attacking a man's foot with just his bare face!