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Oct 12 2008

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So long Charley

Dear editor:

Molly Ivins is long gone and Charley Reese has thrown in the towel.  All we’re left with now are the sanitized opinions of neocon apologists like Rich Lowrey, who just happens to be editor of the arch-conservative National Review.  There are still a few good writers out there but you’ll have to scour the Internet to find them — they are rapidly disappearing from the landscape of American journalism.  If it is truth ye seek, and the freedom to which it sets you, eschew the Orwellian broadcasts of television and radio.  Behind their facade of waving flags and lipstick, there is nothing but propaganda and misinformation masquerading as patriotism.

If it is truth ye seek, look instead to the likes of Robert Fisk, one of the last of a breed of reporters who still believe “What journalism is really about is to monitor power and the centres of power.”  Fisk writes for The Independent — http://www.independent.co.uk/author/robert-fisk — an aptly named British newspaper.  Last month he revisited the horrors of our first “great” world war, quoting Jean Giono’s “Le Grand Troupeau” (The Grand Herd)…

“The rats, with red eyes, march delicately along the trench,” Giono writes of the creatures with whom he shared the war.  “All life had disappeared down there except for that of the rats and the lice … The rats were coming to sniff the bodies … They chose the young men without beards on the cheeks … rolled up into a ball and began to eat the flesh between the nose and the mouth up to the edge of the lips … from time to time they would wash their whiskers to stay clean. Then the eyes, they took them out with their claws, licked the eyelids, and would then bite into the eye as if it was a small egg …”

Fisk’s conclusion is that nothing has really changed over these last hundred years.  Today’s insulated, comfortable leaders rarely confront the obscene realities of sending our children off to war.  Just last month, with great fanfare on the coincidence of our collective recollections of the terrors of September 11, Sarah Palin sent her soldier son off to Babylon in a cloud of rhetoric that intentionally obfuscated any distinction between that infamous day, now seven years past, and the ongoing tragedy of our merry adventures in Iraq.

Robert Fisk may be among the last to openly challenge our gods of nationalism, but there were others once upon a time.  In 1905, Mark Twain’s “War Prayer” mocked America’s romantic notions about faraway wars (http://levantium.com/the-war-prayer/) and in 1933, from the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York City, Harry Emerson Fosdick delivered a fearless sermon to “The Unknown Soldier” (http://levantium.com/the-unknown-soldier/).

Where is that kind of bravery when we need it now?  Still, still we march each new generation of doomed youth to their Gallipoli and Verdun and Somme, while here in the bosom of homeland’s security we extol the virtues of aged warriors and pageant-queen consorts who promise only more of the same.  God help us all…

Jacques d’Nalgar
Hot Springs, Arkansas

Permanent link to this article: http://levantium.com/2008/10/12/so-long-charley/

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