July 2005


I am consistently shocked at the level of denial that otherwise intelligent people can operate under, especially our neo-con brethren.

It always amazes me how people can, when in possession of an allegedly common set of facts, come to such wildly different conclusions, that are theoretically based upon the same information. I have to conclude that this is an expression of the human capacity for denial.

For example, I was critiquing Mr. Bush's recent remarks following the bombings in London:

"And the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill -- those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks."

Paraphrasing Mr. Bush, I said, "On the one hand, you have people who care deeply about human rights and human dignity, who kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and on the other, you have those who have got such evil in their hearts that they kill hundreds of innocent people." I tend to judge people in government not by their fair-sounding words, but by the deeds that their administrations commit.

Up pops this guy, whom I will call Mike, and he says, "we didn't kill anywhere near that many Iraqis." I protested that this was a fairly conservative assessment of the people we killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Who says so," asked Mike. I replied that the figures came from various sources like the UN, Red Cross, Amnesty International and Oxfam. "Well, you can't rely on those figures. Those UN guys are all crooks -- and anyway, we were at war with Iraq for 12 years and they had it coming anyway."

We were at war with Iraq for 12 years? This was news to me. I asked Mike who he'd like figures from, "the Heritage Institute?" He dismissed me with a wave of his hand. "You liberals never complained while Saddam was killing tens of thousands of Kurds and Sand Arabs." I failed to point out that while Saddam was thus engaged, he was our ally and we gave him the weapons to accomplish those actions. I said that I did, in fact, complain. He continued, "We should do in Iraq what we did in the Philippines and bury dead (quote fingers) Insurgents (quote fingers) in pig skins. That'd end their terrorism in a hurry. The Iraqi people are getting really sick and tired of people who bomb markets and kill women and children." I replied, "yeah, that's why they have just asked us to leave their country, again. And I don't think our record in the Philippines is anything that any sane person would wish to emulate, just consult Mark Twain."

We debated back and forth about the role of the US in global politics, past and present, getting further and further from our original point, naturally. Finally, in response to my comment about the Turks having killed many more Kurds than the Iraqis, Mike concluded, "Even though Stalin killed 20 million of his own people in WWII, sometimes you've got to ally with a Stalin to get a Hitler. What would you want, World Communism?"

Like Sam Gamgee, I felt that this comment needed a week's worth of answer or none, so I gave it none. Mike and I share a common chronology that is composed of completely different facts. How can that be? Isn't there something called "truth" and isn't it supposed to be a common consensus based upon a shared objective reality? Mike knows for a fact that all those bad guys (communists, Sandanistas and other liberals) always lie and are always implacably corrupt, whereas the good guys (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and other neocons) are honest, moral leaders who only bend the truth a little when they need to and for a really good reason, so it's not really lying. And despite their all being millionaires, not a one of them is in the least tiny bit corrupt.

It reminds me of a time I argued with my 14-year-old niece about the necessity of taking birth control precautions (at least) if she was going to be sexually active (someday). Round and round we went, always coming back to her refrain of "but I won't get pregnant." People will believe what they want to believe, I guess, and what they want to believe is pretty closely related to those things that let them do what they want to do with a "clear conscience." Reverse engineering your conscience has got to be anti-ethical, doesn't it? It is certainly immoral.

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