This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.
Excuse the gloom in the holiday season, but I feel like we’re all locked inside a malign version of the movie Groundhog Day. You remember, the one in which the characters are forced to relive the same twenty-four hours endlessly. Put more personally, TomDispatch started in November 2001 as an e-mail to friends in response to the first moments of our latest Afghan War. More than eight years later… well, you know the story.
Worse yet, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that a startling 58 percent of Americans, otherwise in a mighty gloomy mood, support the president’s latest “surge” in Afghanistan, which will extend that war into the dismal future. And worse than that, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, from the point of view of official Washington, next year won’t really count for much. The crucial decisions on both wars will evidently leapfrog 2010. So, on that score, we might as well just mark the year off on our calendars now.
Two thousand ten: pure loss. But before I go into the details, let me try this another way.
In his 1937 short story with an unforgettable title–“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities”–Delmore Schwartz’s unnamed narrator imagines himself “as if” in a “motion picture theatre.” He’s watching a silent film–already then a long-gone form–“an old Biograph one, in which the actors are dressed in ridiculously old-fashioned clothes, and one flash succeeds another with sudden jumps.” It’s not any movie, however, but one about his parents’ awkward, uncertain courtship, and there comes a moment when his character suddenly leaps up in the crowded theater of his dream life and shouts at the flickering images of his still undecided (future) parents: “Don’t do it. It’s not too late to change your minds, both of you. Nothing good will come of it, only remorse, hatred, scandal, and two children whose characters are monstrous.”
For just an instant, that is, he’s willing to obliterate himself, his very being, in order to stop a nightmare he knows will otherwise occur.
This unnerving fictional moment, which I want you to hold in abeyance for a while, came to my mind recently–in the context of TomDispatch.
Bombing Afghanistan Back to the Stone Age
Our endless wars are nightmares. Few enough would disagree with that, even, I suspect, among the supportive 58 percent in that poll or the 54 percent who “approve of the president’s performance as commander-in-chief.” If only we could wake up.
I was reminded of our strange dream-state recently when I reread the article that sparked the creation of what became TomDispatch. I first stumbled across it in the fall of 2001, after the Towers came down in my hometown, after that acrid smell of burning made its way to my neighborhood and into everything, after I traveled to “Ground Zero” (as it was already being called) to view those vast otherworldly shards of destruction via nearby side streets, after I spent weeks reading the ever narrower, ever more war-oriented news coverage in this country, and after I watched George W. Bush and Company mainlining fear directly into the American bloodstream, selling the eternal terror of terror and the president’s “Global War on Terror” that so conveniently went with it.