Gnawing at our innards

I woke up thinking about termites this morning. The Bush/Cheney cabal is really more like an army of termites, gnawing away at our national government in secret, than a hive of busy bees. The only problem I have with this metaphor is that I actually consider termites to be useful creatures that work to turn cellulose into its constituent parts.

But, it’s the secrecy, stupid. Secrecy is what’s destroying this country from the inside out. Whence does it come from? Is secrecy the handmaiden of fear? Or is it the other way around?

I’ve really been struck by the fact that the argument over the extension of FISA has accepted, as a given, that spying is good, as long as some court has given the go-ahead. In my book, spying is bad and asking a court for permission doesn’t make it right. And why should spying on foreigners be morally superior to spying on Americans? This us versus them mentality can’t serve us well.

The Republican party has become the party of secrets–not just the dispenser of secret benefits to cronies, but the collector of personal pecadillos that can be used to blackmail the members and keep them in line. And, it extends to the rank and file. So, for example, the vociferous opposition to the premature termination of pregnancy seems more motivated by a desire to keep the procedure secret and shameful, than any real opposition to a surgical intervention.

The same interest in keeping secrets seems to have prompted the “don’t ask; don’t tell” requirement concerning sexual inclinations. It’s one thing to respect personal privacy by not being inquisitive; it’s another to prohibit someone from discussing his or her personal reality.

Perhaps that’s just how the authoritarian impulse is manifest on the most basic level. If people can be made to feel ashamed of their very essence, then individual autonomy is effectively stymied.

I think one of the things that prompted the thoughts about secrets was an ad in National Journal for more stealth aircraft. When the stealth bomber was first produced, I was led to wonder why delivering something in secret that would certainly not go unnoticed was supposed to be a good thing. Never mind that these machines have to be kept in air conditioned hangars to protect them from the elements.

Now I’m led to wonder if these secret weapons are evidence of magical thinking. Is our country being run by people who never outgrew their love for decoder rings and genies in bottles and the tooth fairy leaving presents in the dead of night? Is their “faith” just a variant of the belief in magic they are ashamed to admit to?

Old Europe knows full well that Americans are immature. Now the Middle East knows it too. The American Dream, as often as not, is a nightmare with which Americans frighten themselves. For what purpose, is uncertain. Is it because when one imagines the worst, reality isn’t so bad?

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