American Anniversaries from Hell

March 31st, 2013

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You – Published on ZNet (first on TomDispatch), by Tom Engelhardt, March 29, 2013.

It’s true that, last week, few in Congress cared to discuss, no less memorialize, the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Nonetheless, two anniversaries of American disasters and crimes abroad — the “mission accomplished” debacle of 2003 and the 45th anniversary of the My Lai massacre — were at least noted in passing in our world. In my hometown paper, the New York Times, the Iraq anniversary was memorialized with a lead op-ed by a former advisor to General David Petraeus who, amid the rubble, went in search of all-American “silver linings” … //

… A Hidden History Waiting to Be Written:

When I was a boy, I loved a CBS TV series  called “You Are There,” “anchored” by Walter Cronkite. It took you into history — whether of Joan of Arc’s burning at the stake, the fall of the Aztec ruler Montezuma, or the end of the U.S. Civil War — and “reported” it as if modern journalists had been on the spot. (For years, I used to joke that the typical moment went like this: “General Lee, General Lee, rumor has it you’re about to surrender to Grant at Appomattox!” “No comment.”)  The show had a signature tagline delivered in one of those authoritative male voices of the era that still rings in my head. It went: “What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times… all things are as they were then, and you were there.”

If such a show were made about the post-9/11 years, it might have to be called “You Weren’t There.” Our days, instead of being filled with “those events that alter and illuminate our times,” would be enshrouded in a penumbra of secrecy that could — as with Bradley Manning, CIA agent John Kiriakou, or other whistleblowers — only be broken by those ready to spend years, or even a lifetime in prison. If the National Security Complex and the White House had their way, we Americans would be left to celebrate a heavily cleansed and censored version of our own recent history in which the anniversaries that should really matter would be squirreled away in the files of the state apparatus. There can be no question that a hidden history of our American moment is still waiting to be uncovered and written.

And yet, despite the best efforts of the last two administrations, secrecy has its limits. We should already know more than enough to be horrified by the state of our American world. It should disturb us deeply that a government of, by, and for the war-makers, intelligence operatives, bureaucrats, privatizing mercenary corporations, surveillers, torturers, and assassins is thriving in Washington. As for the people — that’s us — in these last years, we largely weren’t there, even as the very idea of a government of, by, and for us bit the dust, and our leaders felt increasingly unconstrained when committing acts of shame in our name.

So perhaps the last overlooked anniversary of these years might be the 12th anniversary of American cowardice. You can choose the exact date yourself; anytime this fall will do. At that moment, Americans should feel free to celebrate a time when, for our “safety,” and in a state of anger and paralyzing fear, we gave up the democratic ghost.

The brave thing, of course, would have been to gamble just a little of our safety — as we do any day when we get into a car — for the kind of world whose anniversaries we would actually be proud to mark on a calendar and celebrate.

Among the many truths in that still-to-be-written secret history of our American world would be this: we the people have no idea just how, in these years, we’ve hurt ourselves.
(full text including many hyperlinks).

Links:

Chicago School Closings Spark Wildfire of Protest, on LaborNotes, by Samantha Winslow, March 27, 2013;

SXSW: Don’t Fight City Hall—Hack It, on Time/Science and Space, by Brian Walsh, March 12, 2013;

South by Southwest SXSW is a set of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring (usually in March) in Austin, Texas, United States. SXSW began in 1987, and has continued to grow in size every year. In 2011, the conference lasted for 10 days, with SXSW Interactive lasting for five, Music for six, and Film running concurrently for nine days. South by Southwest is run by a company, called SXSW Inc., that plans and executes conferences, trade shows, festivals and other events.[1] In addition to the three main South by Southwest festivals, the company runs two other conferences, both also in Austin: SXSWedu, a conference on educational innovation,[2] and SXSW Eco, an environmental conference, both since 2011.[3] …; Official Website;

Amazon defends use of swear word in ad as light-hearted, on The Guardian, by Mark Sweney, March 28, 2013.

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