It should be obvious by now that we are drowning in bullshit, as politicians, partisans, spooks, alleged journalists try to turn what happened a week ago in Paris into an all-purpose 9/11 part II.
My son pointed out to me that the one-step-away-from-not-breathing language we’re hearing is exactly like what we heard as the reaction to 9/11 morphed from grief, shock, anger and resolve into something worse. “This time it’s different” is a phrase uttered in haste, regretted for a generation.
So language counts, a lot. And this paragraph, from a longer, angry piece by George Packer in The New Yorker is worth doing the digital equivalent of cutting out and pasting on the bathroom mirror.
A lot of people in this country are disgracing themselves this week. They include politicians of both parties—though many more Republicans than Democrats—and all regions. Their motives vary: deep-seated bigotry, unreasoning fear, spinelessness, opportunism, or some unholy mix of them all. During the House hearings, Republicans kept demanding guarantees of absolute security. “I haven’t heard a single one of you say there’s no risk,” Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told Administration witnesses. There’s no such thing as no risk. Parisians could stop going out to cafés, Germans could turn back every single Syrian at the border, Americans could stop admitting anyone as a refugee, and there would still be risks. It’s absurd, and infantilizing, to demand that our officials promise to keep us absolutely safe. We don’t live that way, nor should we. Instead, we have to find the balance between safety and a decent life in a free society during an age of terror. Like every compromise, it will leave us unsatisfied. But the alternative is unfreedom and injustice.
Yes, exactly. In a sea of bull, pieces like Packer’s are life rafts. (Paul Krugman had a good one too.)