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War and Culture 26 April 2006

Posted by Todd in Cultural Critique, Politics.

From October 1969, an eerily familiar question, but unfamiliar outrage. What has happened to America these past 35 years?



1. Phoebe - 27 April 2006

Jean Racine, who wrote the play “Phaedre,” wrote about those who advise leaders:

May Heaven with justice pay you out! And may
Your punishment for ever terrify
All those like you who with base craft and guile
Feed the infirmities of Princes; push
Them down that slope to which their heart inclines,
And smooth for their poor feet the path of crime.
Oh filthy flatterers! Most fatal gift
That angry Heaven can bestow on Kings!

What went wrong? It started with Reagen and his sound-bite coaches. Followed by:

Karl Rove
Dick Cheney
Donald Rumsfeld

2. J. Todd Ormsbee - 27 April 2006

I love Phaedre. I read it in my first French course after my mission and fell in love with the rhythm and structure of 18th century french. One of the things I find to be a tragedy is that our modern media/visual culture has sidelined the beauty and complexity of language as a form of art and expression.

As for the politics of the passage, thank you for sharing that. I only with I believed in Providence, God, or Divine Retribution. But I don’t. So I just think that we as a society are to blame for allowing our leaders to free reign, as long as we can go to the mall. “America is open for business” indeed.

3. Phoebe - 27 April 2006

“One of the things I find to be a tragedy is that our modern media/visual culture has sidelined the beauty and complexity of language as a form of art and expression.”

I’ve had first-hand experience with that in my journalism internship. We are constantly told “we are not the New Yorker,” and that we need to make our writing simple so that the simplest simpleton can read it. I know that journalism exists solely to sell advertising to make money for the companies that own it. So yeah — mass media gets people to go to the malls. I also know that when politicians deign to speak to journalists, it is to push their agendas.
Beautiful and complex language is then only to be found in literature, if one digs deeply enough.

I am glad to know you enjoyed Phaedre too. It was such a find!

4. Anonymous - 28 April 2006

Well, honestly, the date here is 1969. We’d been in Vietnam at that point since 1963-64. It took us 6 years to work up this much outrage.

Also, the media actually covered the outrage back in the those days. You can add Rupert Murdoch, Laurence Tisch, the faceless owners of media conglomerates and their many minions to Phoebe’s list of villains.

I think the outrage has been there and has been expressed–far more quickly than it was in Vietnam. A great quote I heard at the beginning of the war (I forget who said it) was the Iraq is “Vietnam on crack.” Everything is insanely accelerated. The other thing is that you had the huge demographic bulge that was JUST at the age to be personally affected by the war and you had conscription. So, while that doesn’t say much for our overall morals (we weren’t outraged so much over the Vietnamese themselves), it does give a reason why the outrage was more openly expressed.

I think if conscription were reintroduced there’d be a massive explosion of outrage. (My spur-of-the-moment $.02.)

5. belaja - 28 April 2006

Woops. That last one was me–Bel.

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