Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ars Oblivionalis: A play in 3 acts of conscience

Ars Oblivionalis, the Art of Forgetting, is a term coined by Umberto Eco. He claimed it did not exist because active forgetting was impossible.

Despite the presumed impossibility of that feat, this administration and its apologists practice the Art of Forgetting on a daily basis. While they may have convinced themselves they create their own reality, the fact is they do not. Unfortunately, they will continue deluding themselves and those around them into thinking that is true as long as we remain quiet. That is why we have to actively remember, to hold up the mirror of reality and force them to confront the consequences of their madness. Ironically, this is where the dead truly find their voice. Speaking of the dead sets the stage for the first act.


Act I: Today's newspaper.

Pat's Story
A congressional investigation into how the Bush administration handled the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman "was frustrated by a near universal lack of recall" from top White House and Pentagon officials, a House committee's staff report concluded Monday.

You would think folks who championed the poster-boy for Serving Your Country might remember when they learned of his death, the aftermath and the impact. You would think that after several previous investigations, including seven conducted by the military, that showed top officers misled Tillman's family and the public about his death someone might remember how the White House reacted to this. It would be reasonable to expect that somewhere in more than 1,500 pages of e-mails and other documents about Tillman generated by the White House one would find at least one mention of friendly-fire as the cause of death. If you were expecting to find anything there, you can forget about that.

Fortunately, the committee was able to interview several White House officials, including communications chiefs Scott McClellan and Dan Bartlett and speechwriter Michael Gerson. Surprisingly, none could recall when they or Bush learned about the fratricide. When you consider McClellan's recent book, chock full of details, this spectacular display of Ars Oblivionalis is more than notable, it is breathtaking.

The issue of who knew what and when did they know it matters because Bush was publicly lauding Tillman's sacrifice while making completely unsubstantiated claims about him, even after Major Gen. Stanley McChrystal told higher-ups in a memo that friendly fire was "highly possible" in Tillman's death, and specifically warned that Bush and others should be careful in any speeches they made about the incident. Like so many other warnings from commanders in the field, this warning was ignored. After all, it would have marred a perfectly choreographed nationally televised memorial service and the message of the day. You can forget about this president allowing that to happen. Speaking of public memorial services for dead soldiers brings us to the next act.


Act II: Arlington National Cemetery

Gina's Story

Unlike Pat Tillman, Gina Gray was not a Ranger. She was a mere Staff Sargeant in the Army. However, Gina believed in adhering to the seven virtues essential for effective soldiering - loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honour, integrity, and personal courage. Like Pat, Gina believed she was serving the nation by upholding the constitution.

As the public affairs director at Arlington National Cemetery ... she discovered that cemetery officials were attempting to impose new limits on media coverage of funerals of the Iraq war dead -- even after the fallen warriors' families granted permission for the coverage.

Gray attempted to honor the wishes of the families of the dead soldiers and permit media coverage of the funerals. Because she would not allow us to forget, Gray was fired. Of course that was not the official reason she was fired. According to her termination memo, Gray was informed by her supervisor, Phyllis White, that Gray was being fired because she "failed to act in an inappropriate manner." Wow. As the ever-snarky Dana Milbank noted, "Only at Arlington National Cemetery could it be considered a firing offense to act appropriately." Speaking of appropriate behavior brings us to the final act.


Act III: A stage that no longer exists

George's Story

Unlike Pat and Gina, George Carlin never served in the Army. He served in the Air Force. Ever the truth-teller, Carlin was no stranger to controversy. He thought it very appropriate to point out the foibles and lies we hide behind when we want to paint rosy pictures over blighted landscapes. But now he is gone and no longer able to defend himself so you can expect the "angry" George to disappear from memory. He will be replaced with the cartoon of a mildly quirky but affable wordsmith famous for seven words from decades past. The reality is his latter works centered around a different set of words:

The table is tilted folks. The game is rigged.

And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care.

Good, honest, hard working people. Blue collar, white collar, doesn't matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hard working people continue... these are people of modest means... continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don't give a fuck about them. They don't give a fuck about you. They don't care about you. At all. At all. At all.

And nobody seems to notice. And nobody seems to care.

That's what the owners count on, the fact that Americans will remain wilfully ignorant about the big red, white and blue dick that is being shoved up their ass every day. Because the owners know the truth. It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.

If that is more reality than you are used to seeing on your TV, don't let it bother you. You can do what everyone else does; change the channel and forget about it.