Published on Thursday, February 25, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
War Politics: Numb and Number
Playwright Lillian Hellman said: "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions."
The statement was in a letter to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The year was 1952. We tell ourselves that the McCarthy era was vastly different than our own -- but what about the political fashions of 2010?
This year's fashions cut mean figures on
While the escalating disaster of war in
In 2010, this is what the warfare state looks like: a largely numbed state, mainlining anesthetics that induce routine torpor. In that context, the conformity of mild dissent is apt to be mistaken for outspoken moral acuity.
On the back of an envelope, or anywhere else, check this math:
$1,000,000 x 100,000 = $100,000,000,000
In round flat numbers, that's the cost of deploying 100,000
In a numbed process, filtered through media and political buzz phrases, we talk about one number, then another. Numb and number.
For domestic acceptance, a far-off war depends on the pumped-up anesthetics of verbal abstractions and hollow numbers, permeating news media and political discourse. Wooden words and figures, bolted together; every number a lie when wrenched into claiming to tell a human truth.
The number we get, the farther from warfare's human consequences. While more lives are being shattered elsewhere, conscience hems and haws to fit this year's fashions.
When Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "Beyond
At the podium of
Dr. King noted that the human spirit has "great difficulty" moving against "all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world."
In his own way, King was saying what Hellman had said 15 years earlier -- when she declared herself unwilling to "cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions."
This year, with the escalating occupation of
A dozen years after Hellman defied HUAC, a senator defied the fearful conformity of 1964. Seeing the escalation of the Vietnam War on the near horizon, Wayne Morse spoke truth to -- and about -- power. The contrast with today's liberal baseline on Capitol Hill is painfully evident if you watch footage of Senator Morse for two minutes.
Norman Solomon is national co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death ." For more information, go to: www.normansolomon.com 
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/02/25-2
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs