The Moment of Truth — October 6, 2001

Slap a Baby Awake Month

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen, and welcome to the Moment of Truth, the bee that stings the hand that rocks the cradle.

Hey, kids, let’s talk about safety! And if we’re gonna talk about safety, we’ve gotta talk about the people of the US, who apparently, up until you-know-when, were the safest non-Scandinavian people in the world. Let’s face it, our carefree lifestyle is at an end. “I don’t feel safe anymore,” said a worried upper-middle-class white woman holding her toddler. Her carefree existence in the gated community protected by alarms connected directly to the police and armed-response units will never be the same.

Lemme ask you something, lady: why did you decide to live in a gated community if you felt so goddam safe before? What’s with all the protection? The giant tank of an SUV? The insurance policies covering every conceivable eventuality? Oh, and the video monitors and motion detectors?

I guess for a lot of what is being called “The American Public,” the tragedy of September 11 was like getting broken into. You just never think it can happen to you. Well, you think about it when deciding how much to invest in security against it. I mean, these gated community people, they obviously believe the outside world is horribly dangerous and god forbid it should ever get into view, never mind gain ingress. It really seems like the so-called American People are a lot of overgrown babies who have finally been slapped in the face for no reason. So of course they look for other forms of safety, safety in numbers for example. And if anyone should fall out of line with the America is United rule, that person is sure to be called out on the carpet by Bill O’Reilly.

What’s really fascinating is that the insulting view of the American People that I’ve described above is not original with me. Every newscaster and journalist seems to think of them that way. Even when they say “we” as in “Are we going to see our civil liberties erode?” – even then the media voice excludes itself from the American People, as in “Do we all have our pencils ready, class?” The media voice separates itself from the timid, xenophobic, formerly happy-go-lucky American People. When they describe a people stunned by how someone could hate them so much, they of course mean the American People, not the American Press. Nor the American Government, the American Military, the American Intelligence Community – all of those organizations have known that the rest of the world hates them for at least three or four decades. But they imagine that others outside those organizations, i.e. The American People, have lived in blissful innocence all this time. Perhaps it’s because those organizations have spent so much time lying to The American People about the actual state of affairs.

But let’s not forget something, here. The American People do have a say in all this. They prefer to purchase news that doesn’t tell them too much truth about their government, and in any case they voted for that government, to an extent, and they’re certainly not about to believe anything bad about the CIA, except that it doesn’t have enough money and freedom to do its job, and the military, well, that’s like the home team, rah rah rah, so we can’t really change that too much. These four forces in the US: the press, the government, the military and the intelligence community, let’s call them the Paternal Four. Not to be confuse with Our Forefathers.

Now, these Paternal Four, they’re like the gated community and the alarm system and the motion detectors and so forth. The American People play a part in keeping these forces in place. They’re not entirely complicit, but they are at least so in that their right hands don’t know what their left hands are doing. I think these so-called American People have a certain stake in maintaining a relationship with these forces that allows them to say, Well, we just didn’t know. We didn’t see it coming. We didn’t know people hated us. We didn’t know something like this could happen. Just ask our media if we knew. Just ask our government if we knew.

Three things, among others, happened on September 11: one, a lot of innocent people were killed by a few really ambitious and angry and dedicated militant radicals; two, a powerful apocalyptic event occurred and was presented as an image on TV, an image that, until then, could only have appeared in the mind or in art, and which has divided time, for many people, and certainly for US history, into that which came before that image and that which follows; and, three, a nation of babies living in a crib of self-imposed ignorance had the all-day-sucker of presumed invincibility slapped out of their fat little faces.

Now the first two things, the people being killed and the apocalyptic event and its presentation, are pretty heavy, and I’m not surprised that people didn’t laugh when I said Cristo did it or Now’s the time to get an apartment in Manhattan. I wasn’t trying to lighten the mood. I understood why the heart was stilled into reflection. I just don’t like being confined by things, even by the seriousness of a tragedy. And I think I was also rebelling against what I knew would come, and which did come, which was the tyranny of group-think in many forms, and the tyranny of Stars and Stripes sentimentality that would use the apocalypse and the mourning of the deaths of thousands to squelch criticism of the whining babies and their Paternal Four. Well, not on my watch.

Just how large a percentage of residents of the US are included under the rubric “The American People” is almost impossible to gauge. Truth be told, I don’t think it’s really that many. I think the US is home to a lot of people who are quite aware of the world beyond the nation’s borders. Driving across the US several times in the past twenty years, I have often seen signs that say, “Get US out of the UN.” This indicates to me that even those living on farms in Kansas, whose only source of news analysis is Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, and G. Gordon Liddy, have long understood the antagonism of the rest of the world toward the geopolitical aims of the US. So the nutty rightwingers are accounted for, and from my experience dealing with military people, skilled and unskilled laborers, truckers, office workers – let’s just say a huge cross-section of what supposedly makes up the majority of the US population – nutty rightwingers constitute at least fifty percent of the white Christian majority and Jews and atheists who are diplomatic enough to assimilate.

So the nutty rightwingers aren’t the babies. They aren’t the American People the Paternal Four are in place to protect and coddle. And it isn’t anyone with a critical international mind on the left, especially not the nutty leftwingers, which adds another twenty-four percent to the mix. So I’d say we’ve got about sixty percent of the population we can count on as not surprised that some foreigners hated us enough to kill a bunch of us in a catastrophically dramatic way.

Out of the remaining forty percent we can discount right away the richest one percent, because they sure as hell didn’t get there by being naÔve. And we can forget about really poor minorities, because they never feel safe anyway. And then there are recent immigrants who may have a more worldly view or perhaps haven’t felt safe themselves prior to or since arriving. So I’m thinking, and purposely overestimating, that only about nineteen percent of US citizens and residents, at most, can be members of what the US mainstream media are calling “The American People.”

Evidence that even the Paternal Four are waking up to the dwindling number of the American People is that Bush just agreed to pay a good chunk of our back dues to the UN. He’s also gonna send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, although it puzzles me just who is gonna get it and how it’s gonna be distributed. But these gestures, they indicate an awareness on the part of this administration that the rest of the world is a force to be reckoned with, which is not how they’ve advertised themselves up to this point. And this is good and bad. It’s bad, because it means the Powers That Be are smarter than we thought. But it’s also good in the same way it’s good that the government doesn’t think it can just wipe out protesters at gatherings of international economic power-players; they know they have to lie and manipulate and infiltrate and provoke. And that’s easier to live with than being massacred, in my opinion.

I think this in the end will be the thing that keeps terrorism, the state terror perpetrated by governments like our own, and the freelance kind like that employed on September 11, from bringing down what many of us prize as progressive civilization. Ruling bodies are pragmatic, and I’d like to believe that they’re progressing, albeit slowly, toward the realization that it is in fact most practical and most efficient to conduct the business of ruling without having to go to all the trouble of oppressing people. Now, we are far from seeing such pragmatic niceness realized on a large scale, but in spite of being on the other side of the dividing moment between the post-apocalyptic world and that which came before, I really believe I sense a certain maturation in discourse, especially from outside the US, but from within as well. I’ve decided not to watch TV news in order to count up and catalogue their distortions. They only represent about 19 percent of the US population anyway, and an even smaller percentage of the world’s. And don’t forget, this 19 percent of spoonfed babies are complaining of having been slapped into the reality beyond the playpen. So maybe they won’t lag too far behind if and when humanity matures enough to agree on ways to stop torturing itself.

So I’m declaring October “Slap an Overgrown Baby Awake” month.

And I mean that in a beautiful way. I’m mejeffdorchen, and this has been the Moment of Truth.