The abridgement of America

Sako points to this stinging op-ed piece on the incarcerations at Guantanamo Bay by the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen (the WP unfortunately requires registration but it’s worth it to read this for yourself).

A tiny excerpt:

The revelations coming out of Guantanamo are hideous. The ordinary abuse of prisoners, the madness instilled by gruesome incarcerations, the incessant lying of the authorities, plus the mock interrogations staged for the media, in which detainees and their interrogators share milkshakes — all this soils us as a nation. It’s as if the government is ahistorical, unaware of how communists and fascists also strained language and ushered the world into torture chambers made pretty for the occasion. We now keep some pretty bad company.

The whole thing is damning, especially the parallels drawn to other totalitarian systems of the past the US has always so smugly and self-righteously denounced. Reminded me of another powerful piece of writing I re-read last week by the late Susan Sontag, who wrote (and not surprisingly, was subsequently villified for doing so) in the wake of 9/11:

The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.

It’s hard to say exactly being so far away and cut off from the US body politic as I am (and more or less cut off from much of it’s mainstream media, though I think this is generally a blessing), but it seems to me that there isn’t a hue and cry about Gitmo commensurate with this clear-as-day travesty of justice and human rights that the Bush administration is perpetrating. Am I wrong about this? Do people not see the self-evident nonsense of a policy that insists that 9/11 was an “act of war” and so consequently the US is fighting a “war on terrorism,” yet the prisoners at Gitmo are NOT “prisoners of war” but rather “enemy combatants” (and therefore not subject to the Geneva conventions regarding torture and inhumane treatment)?

And this week, fresh on the heels of allegations of prisoner (er, “detainee”) abuse at Gitmo, are stories about long-term considerations with respect to what to do with these folks, most egregious among them the idea that these detainees will be held for life. Since I don’t comment much anymore on politics and such around here, let me make the most of the opportunity and tell my fellow American citizens who might still be on the fence on this one, GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF YOUR FUCKING ASSES and wake up and smell the real shithole Bush, Rove, and Gonzales, Inc. is making out of our country. They are re-writing, literally, the laws of the land to suit their totalitarian interests, and with them, re-writing everything good and decent about America. Soon those hallowed Amendments will be worth less than the proverbial paper they were written on: perfect fodder for the much needed toilet paper. It will not be the only pulp laying around though.

As Cohen writes in his piece, Orwell and Kafka are looking on. And if 50-plus years from now “Owellian” is replaced with “Bushian,” and “Newspeak” has become “Bushspeak,” it will be regrettable. But the tragedy will be when the dictionaries of the future asterisk the meanings as we now know them of words like “awe,” “coward,” and “rendition,” with ARCHAIC. Merriam Webster: The abridged Big Brother version. As George Orwell himself wrote, “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

4 Replies to “The abridgement of America”

  1. an excerpt from The Future Dictionary of America.

    guantanamo [gwahn-tahn’-uh-mo] 1. v. [Origin uncertain, but likely a remnant of the Hispanic-WASP patois of the late-21st-century northeastern United States: from the Spanish aguantar, to bear, endure, put up with + the early-21st-century Anglo-suburban colloquial no mo’, no more, nothing else.] to be unable to bear; to find unacceptable, to refuse to endure for even one second longer. 2. n. [Origin uncertain, but in common use in Arabic-, Dari-, Pashto-, and Urdu-speaking regions; likely a borrowing from one of those tongues.] a. a purgatory. An intermediate floor of hell. b. the mythical final place of confinement of the last president, vice president, and cabinet of the United States of America, immediately following the Great Upheaval but prior to the Grand Awakening and the Glorious Final Making Amends and Mellowing the Fuck Out Forever After of that nation. 3. n. a vast butterfly-and-wildflower preserve on the Caribbean island of Cuba.

  2. “It’s as if the government is ahistorical, unaware of how communists and fascists also strained language and ushered the world into torture chambers made pretty for the occasion.”

    Believe it, they’re perfectly aware.

  3. I appreciated this article. Its good to know that the point of view of those living on the “outside” is the same as many of us here in the states.
    It has become alarming, disturbing, upsetting, and maddening the direction the Bush administration has turned this country. Since his election, every day citizens have become,(justifiably, in their own minds,) more aggressive, vehement, intollerant and selfish.
    While I agree that our current foreign policy and domestic rewritting our our laws won’t topple the US from the world forum, it certainly does NOT leave us on top for being a roll model democracy. I mean, for chrisakes, our own voting system doesn’t even meet the demands of a democratic system by UN standards! Yet, here our administration is preaching about democracy. Funny.
    My apologies for the rant, but we have become a divided nation. My wife and I have begun the search for a new home in the coming years. We’ve often dreamed of Japan. Hope to see you there.
    Thanks for your thoughts,

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