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Archive for May 14th, 2012

Hiroshima after the Bomb

I have been amazed, time and again, when I have written something satirical and have been taken seriously. Granted, like all good satire, I begin with something believable, something someone either really did or said, or that at least sounds like something they would do or say. Then, I segue into the absurd. But over and over, folks accept that what to me is blatantly ridiculous is a straight story.

Then something happens in the real world that is so crazy that I realize absurdity is pretty much the norm. Take the recent Republican primary races. Please.

The latest insanity was the news story last week that a Colonel Matthew Dooley, a professor at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, was teaching a class that portrayed Islam in general, not a minority of fanatic Muslims, as the Enemy, and that the solution to this is total war. He invoked Hiroshima and argued that the Geneva accords were out of date. He actually proposed nuking Mecca.

If you had presented this as a satirical story I would have told you that it was really bad satire, too over the top. Good satire, you see, must begin with something believable.

The official narrative that is forming seems to be that this was Colonel Dooley’s doing, that no one was aware of this horrible class. Sort of like the story that the atrocities at Abu Ghraib were solely the work of a handful of rogue hillbillies.

There are several problems with The Official Story.

First, how likely is it that a class originates with a lone teacher, who completely independently, without overview, comes up with the syllabus? Would not the class have to be outlined, and proposed, and approved?

Secondly, how likely is it that a class could present a worldview that was wholly contrary to the prevailing culture of the school? Could Bill Ayers have taught a class in The Dynamics of Marxian Class Struggle? Or Colman McCarthy have presented one on The History of Nonviolence as a Strategy in the Struggle Against War and Oppression?

I rather think not.

This whole story is so troubling on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start. Not least, around 800 officers took this class. One would think that the first time such outrageous things were taught that someone, if not several someones, would stand up and say “WTF!?! THIS IS GODDAMNED INSANE!!!” But apparently these 800 or so officers studiously took notes without objecting. It would be interesting to follow the careers of those who took Col Dooley’s class. One wonders if any of them were involved in the burning of Qur’ans that so outraged Muslims a few months ago, or any of the other atrocities that have so effectively damaged America’s reputation around the world.

Ideas, as they say, have consequences.

The American military has long held that it does everything possible to avoid civilian casualties. I had figured that this was mostly PR, as so many civilians in fact are still killed in our far-flung wars. But I surely did not dream that such bloodthirsty things were being taught in our military schools.

I thought I was cynical. But I was really naive.

Lord have mercy.

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Speaking of Satire

I am not overly fond of Garrison Keillor these days. The real tipping point came when I picked up one of his novels, thinking it would be light and amusing. Instead I found it depressing, not least because Mr Keillor seemed to believe that the only liberation for humans is sexual gratification. Or at least that is what I got from the thin plot. Granted, he does profess to be a Lutheran Christian, but this, like the religion of most Americans, seems to be entirely a matter of sentiment.

But I once listened every Saturday night to A Prairie Home Companion, long ago, in the 80s, when it was fresh. Now I listen if I happen to be in the car when it is being broadcast.

And he still is sometimes very funny. On Saturday I worked late and the show was airing on my ride home, and I caught this hilarious bit of satire, which only goes overboard toward the end. Of course, Newt Gingrich makes the satirist’s job extremely easy:

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