Myths and Disasters: Cruising through the Ice Floes

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American Mythology: A Prescription for Disaster
by Jack Random
Nothing symbolizes the American archetype more than a Hollywood thriller. We are inevitably the good guys and everyone from the hotel maid to a clerk at Shop & Rob is out to get us. As the archetypal hero/heroine, we are justified in all our actions.  
Our enemies are determined to destroy all that is good and virtuous, so it is of little consequence than an innocent or a few innocents or even a few hundred or hundreds of thousands of innocents are sacrificed to the cause.
 

 
JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY
 
 
We justified the displacement and genocide of the indigenous population of North America by the manifest will of a light-skinned, European god. We employed the liberation of Cuba from Spanish occupation to justify the occupation of the Philippines. We entered a European war of territorial entitlement on the pretext of a war to end all wars. We annihilated two Japanese cities because there was no other way to end the war against fascism. We heated up the Cold War in Korea and Vietnam to prevent falling dominoes from enslaving the world. We replaced lawful and democratic governments with military dictators to promote the cause of freedom. We sponsored radical Islamic militants to fight back the Soviet threat.
 
We are Americans. We cannot be held responsible for unintended consequences and all consequences that are not consistent with our heroic self image are unintended. We are bold, confident and determined so we cannot be expected to act with caution or discretion. We act. We do not deliberate. It is our cultural birthright to act. 
 
So we act and if our actions precipitate a chain reaction, leading to mass casualties and international crises, the world is obliged to remember that our intentions were always and invariably virtuous. To doubt that core virtue is to declare oneself an enemy of state and therefore deserving of any number of unintended consequences.
 
Our leaders and those who aspire to lead us must always adhere to American mythology. America is right even when we launch war against nations that pose no threat and have committed no offense.
 
America is right though our actions have compounded twelve fold the volatility of the world’s most volatile regions.
 
America is honorable and good no matter how many lies and deceptions were employed to dazzle the voting public and coerce reluctant allies to support the cause of war.
 
A recent opinion poll revealed the unthinkable. A majority of Americans, despite a canyon of evidence, despite widespread acknowledgement of our criminal behavior by mainstream media, have returned to the mythology that made this war possible and popular. A majority of Americans have decided that we were justified in going to war with Iraq. Having sacrificed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives against three thousand, six hundred of our own, America stakes claim to the righteous cause of our archetypal hero.
 
There is a construct in personality theory that explains this kind of irrational belief. It is known as cognitive dissonance. It holds that the human mind cannot long be occupied by incompatible thoughts.  Thus, if we betray a friend for personal gain, over time we come to believe that our friend was not a friend and was in fact deserving of betrayal all along. Rather than reformulate our perceptions of self to account for despicable or irresponsible behavior, we demonize the innocent.
 
This is how it is possible for Americans to believe that Iraqis are responsible for the destruction we have delivered. Democrat and Republican leaders alike are eager to place blame on the Iraqi people for not choosing a responsible government, for not accepting American dictates, and for not capitalizing on the good will and determination of our fighting forces.
 
After experiencing the worst leadership in modern if not all of history, this is how the American people seem determined to elect a new president that is muted in criticism of catastrophic policies. This is how we have come to blame powerless illegal immigrants for the pending disaster of our economy when in fact we are suffering for the trade policies of the last several presidents compounded by the elitism of the Bush years.
 
This is how many of us can come to blame the poor black people of New Orleans for not possessing sufficient initiative in the face of adversity rather than blaming the government for its blatant indifference to the suffering of the poor.
 
This is how our leaders can convince us that the economy is strong, the war is worth fighting, our health and medical care systems are the envy of the world and anyone would gladly trade places with us.
 
We are Americans. We are the chosen people. We can only do good.
 
We are Americans and we take care of our own.
 
As any psychologist will attest, the first step in reversing pathology is acceptance of reality. If our mythological self-image will not allow us to accept that we are on the precipice of catastrophic failures in economy, environmental protection and international affairs, then we are doomed to proceed over the edge where we will descend to the lower depths of despair.
 
It is a good thing to have ideals. It is good to hold values and governing principles of conduct but if our ideals and values preclude us from accepting responsibility for our lapses, then they are empty and useless. If our self perception prevents us from correcting course, then our ideals become counter-productive.
 
As Americans, we need to uphold our ideals by holding our leaders and ourselves fully responsible when we betray them. We need to earn our mythology, not assume it.
 
Jazz.
 
 
 
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). HIS COMMENTARIES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON THE ALBION MONITOR, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE HIS BLOG: WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM
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