Lincoln Was Wrong
Lincoln had it wrong. You can fool all the people all the time. The use of old maps, we are told, caused the destruction of China's embassy in Belgrade.
In 1961, my wife and I watched a German television documentary about the capabilities of the U.S. Air Force. Among other things, they showed footage of a parking lot outside Cologne Cathedral, photographed from the stratosphere through fairly thick clouds. You could clearly distinguish a Volkswagen Beetle from an Opel or a Mercedes.
That was reality as the space program had just gotten under way, well before all the astonishing breakthroughs of the 1960's, the 1970's, the 1980's, the 1990's.
That was reality before "star wars," satellites, unmanned flying cameras, laser-guided this-that-and-the-other.
And now they tell us that they are bombing Belgrade using "old maps."
And we believe it.
Actually, we probably don't, but it makes no difference. High officials of the United States government give us their version day and night of "what is happening," "why it is happening," and how we should feel about it.
I do not recall the last time I heard a statement both credible and rational.
Comeuppance can be swift. We are now getting ours for sins committed very recently. We stood by, our gaze fixed on the Dow Jones, while the United States Senate declared "it is all right to lie in high office."
In fairness, some officials might just be in an altered mental state, stuck in a groove not unlike old records, mechanically repeating the same nonsense about "the heart of Europe," World War II, or "America's interests and duties."
But many are simply lying. And who can blame all those serving the president to assume the position: If it's all right for him, why not for the rest of us?
In fact, it may even be a requirement of high office these days to do as the boss.
Lying is possible only as long as the rest of us accept it. For sure, some journalists have tried to challenge the verbiage. But there is no persistence, no protest, no hunter's lust.
There is no protection for America.
It is almost as if the ever-increasing profusion and brazenness of the lying has come to paralyze us.
Deer caught in the headlights of a roaring diesel engine?
We have to take stock of whence we came, and where we might be headed.
It began with the 1992 presidential campaign. Before, political campaigns would exaggerate an opponent's shortcomings and amplify a candidate's attractiveness. In 1992, a carefully constructed package of sheer fabrications formed the core of the Clinton-Gore campaign, and the other side froze. How do you counter a daily avalanche of blatant disinformation?
What followed was a pattern of flagrant denials any time serious charges surfaced. There was worse to come. By now, there is simply no response. Even the original "so what?" has been replaced with the simple "no comment." Simultaneously, actions which affect the entire nation and its future are initiated with not a shred of regard for the law, and in the certain belief that no one will stand in the way. True, the healthcare scam of 1994 was stopped, but its lessons were quickly assimilated.
We have come to be ruled by a pair that will say or do virtually anything it pleases.
If we are honest, we must confess that they have no reason to do otherwise.
When was the last time a legislature, a court, a national preference prevailed against the first couple's will? When was the last time - was there ever a time? - when America said to them, "No. This you cannot sell."
And therein lies the uncertain future.
To a great extent, the process of growing up is a series of lessons through which we learn the boundaries that are in our best interest to observe. Touching the stove burns. Eating spoiled food makes you ill. Cheating gets you in trouble.
The rest is the building of a self-regulating morality and character.
What happens when someone grows up with no lessons imparted, when nothing gets one in trouble, when cause does not result in effect?
Temptation - that's what happens. Temptation to believe there are no boundaries. Temptation so great as to render the subject impervious to the limitations of mortals. And history is full of mortals who thought themselves impervious.
Why would someone who, in reality, has been consistently encouraged to disregard the law suddenly develop respect for it? Why would someone whose power has grown steadily greater throughout an entire lifetime suddenly give it up, just when it begins to exceed all expectations?
Verily, that would require morality and character.
Since neither is available at the top, America needs to engage in some serious thinking.