American Samizdat

Monday, January 26, 2009. *
Irony was now out.

Naiveté, translated into "hope," was now in.

Innocence, even when it looked like ignorance, was now prized.

Partisanship could now be appropriately expressed by consumerism.

I couldn't count the number of snapshots I got e-mailed showing people's babies dressed in Obama gear.

I couldn't count the number of times I heard the words "transformational" or "inspirational," or heard the 1960s evoked by people with no apparent memory that what drove the social revolution of the 1960s was not babies in cute T-shirts but the kind of resistance to that decade's war that in the case of our current wars, unmotivated by a draft, we have yet to see. It became increasingly clear that we were gearing up for another close encounter with militant idealism—by which I mean the convenient but dangerous redefinition of political or pragmatic questions as moral questions—"convenient" because such redefinition makes those questions seem easier to answer, "dangerous" because this was a time when the nation was least prepared to afford easy answers.

Some who were troubled by this redefinition referred to those who remained untroubled by a code phrase. This phrase, which referred back to a previous encounter with militant idealism, the one that ended at the Jonestown encampment in Guyana in 1978, was "drinking the Kool-Aid."

No one ever suggested that the candidate himself was drinking the Kool-Aid—if there had been any doubt about this, his initial appointments laid them to rest.... Yet. The expectations got fueled. The spirit of a cargo cult was loose in the land. I heard it said breathlessly on one channel that the United States, on the basis of having carried off this presidential election, now had "the congratulations of all the nations." "They want to be with us," another commentator said. Imagining in 2008 that all the world's people wanted to be with us did not seem entirely different in kind from imagining in 2003 that we would be greeted with flowers when we invaded Iraq, but in the irony-free zone that the nation had chosen to become, this was not the preferred way of looking at it.

A great Buddhist saying stipulates that Meditation is not what you think. Wishful thinking happens when you refuse to see how painful things are.
posted by Uncle $cam at 11:18 PM
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