Defense and Other Lies
When you lie too much, you may end by forgetting how to tell the truth.
I just read that Chinas defense spending has increased alarmingly. So whats the problem, you may ask. If theyre only defending themselves, why should we worry?
But you know the answer: nowadays defense really means war. After World War II the United States Government renamed its Department of War the Department of Defense, and military spending became defense spending, and we kept defending ourselves around the world in war after war, until we had military bases in a hundred countries, plus enough nuclear weapons to kill the entire worlds population several times over. Defense.
Then in late 2001, when it looked as if we might actually have to defend ourselves at home for a change, we had to come up with a new name for this unforeseen novelty: homeland security.
So now, when an enemy (or as we prefer to call it, a potential adversary) likewise beefs up its military for mass extermination of civilian populations, we call that defense too. Its a roundabout way of acknowledging that they are pretty much the same as we are. If we lie about ourselves, we sort of have to lie about them too, dont we? Fair is fair.
This kind of talk makes it very confusing to follow the news. We didnt invade and conquer Iraq, heaven forbid; we overthrew a dictator and brought democracy there, because he had terrible weapons which, in his case, werent defensive as ours are. Besides, he was supporting terrorists.
Now, if you say that using the tacit threat of nuclear annihilation is morally hard to distinguish from terrorism, well, that just shows youre overdue for some semantic updating. In former times, nations were more candid about their interests and bragged with honest pride about their power and conquests; youve heard of Spains noted conquistadores?
Conquistadores! The word is refreshingly quaint, isnt it? No hypocritical nonsense about spreading peace and self-government, or ridding the earth of tyranny, or any of that stuff. Just good old conquest. It was only when a country acquired really apocalyptic power, the power to annihilate whole cities in a brilliant flash, roasting thousands of helpless people to death before they knew what was hitting them, that war suddenly became defense.
Sure, our fighting men (and women, of course) are still heroic, whereas the enemy is always cowardly, and anyway, when planes and missiles do so much of the actual fighting, not much room remains for stuff like courage and chivalry. Its not like Achilles meeting Hector in single combat. Even big muscles are obsolete, unless you want to be a movie star or a governor. And single combat, though it retains sentimental mass appeal, is now confined to prizefights, movies, and elections.
This is the age of equality, so the more unequal the fight, the more we need euphemisms. The word euphemism itself is usually a euphemism: for lie.
The most unequal fight of all is the fight to the death between the abortionist and his tiny quarry. The abortionist usually wins. But it isnt polite to say he kills anyone, or anything, no matter how it looks; he terminates a pregnancy, or gives a woman reproductive freedom, or choice, or a certain procedure, or whatever. Its regarded as especially poor taste to show pictures of the result, which might give the impression that baby-killing is an accurate term for it.
Liberals lie about abortion the way conservatives lie about war. If you lie about both, youre considered a moderate, like Senator Lieberman; if you tell the truth about both, an extremist, like Senator Hagel.
The way habitual lying can corrode mind, soul, and even simple good sense is vividly shown in President Bushs speech at the dedication of the new Victims of Communism Memorial. Most of the speech was very good; but the last third suddenly veered off into an awesomely fatuous analogy between Communism and violent Islamic radicalism. It was like comparing Al Capone to Genghis Khan.
I didnt think Bush could ever outdo his own second inaugural address, but this brainless, tasteless, shameless performance set a new low in the sorry annals of Bushery. (Who wrote it? Im tired of cursing the dummy; now Id like a few words with the ventriloquist.)
Anyway, my sympathy to my old friend Lee Edwards, who has worked heroically for decades to honor the memory of Communisms countless victims with this monument, only to have the occasion spoiled by a peerlessly boorish politician.
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