Wittingly, or, as seems increasingly likely, unwittingly, Trump is gearing up to start a war that his advisor Steve Bannon hopes will decide the fate of the world in a conflagration between Christian Capitalism and Islam.
Now it might seem absurd, imagining that Trump, Bannon, and Co could conjure a war out of nowhere, but our last two major wars were made exactly that way, sui generis. We experienced a terror attack on 9/11, yes, but we didn’t invade Saudi Arabia, where the attackers were from and from where they received much of their funding. Instead, we attacked first Afghanistan and then Iraq, neither of which had launched 9/11. The Taliban had hosted al-Qaeda, sure, but so had, to a greater extent, Pakistan, and a goodly number of other countries. Iraq, meanwhile, had no connection, and we’ve still got troops there 14 years later. I don’t want to re-litigate the Bush wars, but just to point out that even on September 12th, 2001, a foreign war, let alone two, and against those particular countries, would have sounded just as nuts as it does now.
“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the Unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you.”
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
I want to talk about alternate realities. Not the multiverse kind or the virtual kind, but the kind that exist all around us. I watched Spotlight recently and none of us have been able to look away from that train-wreck of an election or this early administration, so hopefully enough of us have seen enough of all three of them to tie this post together.
We’re All in this Alone
Everybody, and I mean everybody, lives in their own reality. From the time you pop out of the womb, you begin aggregating a set of facts, or what seem to you to be facts, about the world around you. And that set of facts makes up your reality. The differences in our realities range from the sacred to the very mundane. Maybe I believe in God and you don’t, maybe you thought that dress was yellow and I thought it was blue. There may be some ultimate arbiter of what’s real—Plato’s realm of the forms or an Abrahamic God or a grand unifying theory of physics—but until one of those things speaks up, we’re each left with our own discrete perceptions of the world. When our differences are small, like that dress, they don’t impede our getting along. When they get bigger, they trip us up in proportion to the magnitude of the difference.
Almost nobody in the 15th century really thought the world was flat (and it may be a very long time since anybody’s actually thought that), but if we imagine, for the sake of argument, that Ferdinand and Isabella, the King and Queen of Spain in 1492, did think the Earth was flat, we can see how they and Christopher Columbus would have a difficult time plotting a new route to India.
So the podcast has been out for about twelve weeks now, and I’ve gotten a couple of scattered comments and responses on two different subjects that I think, in the end, come to the same thing.
And I think they’re valid and I think they’re important.
So I’m going to talk about them.
The first suggestion is that I ought to make an effort, in the podcast, to avoid offending listeners who might come from somewhere further to the right on the political spectrum. And the second is that I ought to be getting more into why all this happened, why the government of the United States was somehow invested in these terrible goings-on in Guatemala. It’ll take a while for my responses to come back around and meet each other, but bear with me.
In response to the first thing, I guess I’d ask a question. Is it that the show is partisan? Or could it be that listeners are coming to the show with a pre-existing and implicitly partisan complaint?
Because the only way that the show could immediately turn you off is if you were under the impression that the US could do literally no wrong.
I could try to emphasize at the beginning of every episode that Democratic presidents were just as culpable as Republican ones or vice-versa, but that would put the show in the “fairness” business, and it’s not in the fairness business. It’s in the history business.