Friday, May 14, 2010

A Trailer for the Dark Ages

Trailers are misnamed—because they’re really previews. Having just recently noted virginal Miranda under assault by our AG, today the New York Times leads a front page story (bottom left corner) with: “The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes…”

“Killing” is a refreshingly direct expression—and shorter than “assassination.” Now I sort of wonder when, precisely, it became a shrug-off to kill or assassinate non-citizens? When, precisely, did “regime change” become a legitimate enterprise, used almost with the same causally neutral tonality as “changing my underwear”? When Saddam Hussein decided on “regime change” in Kuwait, why the global uproar? Or is “regime change” only the prerogative of the most powerful?

When and how did the concept of human rights morph into a more nuanced, delicate, shall we say sophisticated distinction between citizen rights and those of “lesser people”? And only briefly. Because our concept of citizenship is itself involved in an eye-blurringly rapid transformation, under which citizenship is in the eye of the beholder, namely the eye of the cop on the beat, say in the State of Arizona or in a CIA-eye staring at a screen in one of the Carolinas as it directs a drone over the wastes of Yemen.

But if the trailer thrills you—be assured that there is much, much more to come. To a theater near you. Or even right at you, right through the door, unannounced, innocently cybernetic, unaware of its own explosive nose.

Trailers were named that because, although previews of coming attractions, they were spliced to the tail of movies.

Added Later:

Brigitte points out, having read the above, that these matters are calmly, seriously, learnedly, analytically discussed on C-Span and PBS with nary a sign of emotion. Sometimes the measured, scholarly tone is jarringly out of place. All this is madness. Really. This is not a case of developing the “policy implications,” the “international reactions,” the “political consequences” of the obvious and scary incoherence of slashing amorality everywhere. These matters are actually and seriously dangerous. They are.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I was shocked and completely horrified when I saw that headline, days late. Busy this past weekend I never got around to reading the papers until Sunday evening. When I opened Friday's NYT and saw that headline, I just didn't have the heart to read any more (I'll admit I read the first two paragraphs just to see if I had somehow misunderstood the headline itself. Sadly, no.)

    I fear that those reading history in the future will look at us in much the same way we look at the British during their horrible occupation of India... so arrogant, so thoughtless, so immoral, so sophisticatedly explaining why it is ok, and yet so unaware.


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