Dear Dirty America


Dudleys in the Mist: Apologetics, Torture, and the American Djinn

September 05
01:12 2011

Greetings, fellow Dirty Americans!  As 11 September wends its way to the top of the daily desktop calendar, compatriots everywhere are undoubtedly reminded of those events ten years ago we shall collectively remember as 9/11.  Ten years ago today, 9/11 would have been an odd way to say 9-1-1, a meaningless bit of drivel likely spouted as not by motor-heads or proponents of the metric system.
And now “9/11” comes fully loaded with imagery, with weighty political prejudice and vague xenophobic fears.  A ten-year onslaught of America tightening down and lashing out, a frustrated triumph of our collective will against a distillated and somewhat homogenized easy-to-reference Enemy.  It was a war against AK-47s, burqas, beards, brown, and an unfamiliar propensity to pray five times a day.
Yet what a way we’ve come!  A ten-year evolution from the sordid street fighting and messy bombing runs of the Clinton years to our ultra-modern era of green zones and drone strikes.  Up from the trenches, lads, and back to the bases, fight our wars from yence like.  And the definitions we’ve updated, bringing Webster up from beyond dusty archaeity!  Rendition and water-boarding were terms once only applicable respectively to the theatre and to beachside entertainment.  Post-9/11, they have a previously unimaginable new depth of meaning, a reflection of these grand times.  And torture!  Why torture is nearly eradicated from the world, being redefined as… well, hmm.
Stepping away from the obnoxious whimsy, as we collectively approach the ten year anniversary of 9/11 there are plenty of editorials about, plenty of perspectives.  In a Mark Mardell interview with Phil Mudd (assistant director of the CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis for much of the last decade), Mr. Mudd defended his actions with a mildly acerbic cynicism.  Every example given effectively rationalized as an act “to save a child’s life” someplace in America.  Most any act, whether it be the aforementioned water-boarding or the plexi-wall push he describes in the interview, to advanced sleep deprivation or monstering prisoners.  So long as it doesn’t inflict a proscribed amount of pain, it’s fine.  Questionable but above board, according to the Memos‘ law of word.
Former VP Dick Cheney has recently released a memoir, In My Time.  Although I haven’t read it yet (I’ve heard it’s fairly dry and impersonable… like its author?  But the political scientist in me bids me do.) I have read some excerpts; anecdotal, defensive prattlings that put the defense of the nation foremost in the former VP’s mind.  Values cast not to the side per se, but unconscionably warped to fit the actions of the time.  Making a sort of double entendre out of the buzzwords every American is taught from infancy to hold dear (and eventually shrug off and scoff later as being mere, empty words).  Freedom.  Et cetera; turn on the FOX News and listen in for five minutes, taking them down as they go.  You’ll know which by the emotional discomfort they trigger, revitalizing either patriotic derring-do or a vague revulsion.
In either case, thinking back to 9/11 and the decade that followed I suppose the thing I regret most (as an American, with his coin in the pot) is the collective loss of temper and reason.  Falling prey to jingoism and slogans, damning dissent and plowing on into two wars and numerous embarrassing subplots.  Of failing to see ourselves for what we’d become, or perhaps seeing but not shouting so loudly as we ought.  Of blaming the ‘other people’ in government, the Snidely Whiplashes that somehow conjured themselves into power, like a sort of malignant djinn.
I know, I know.  I need a scanner… and some real drawing paper.
Mebbe some lessons…

That was the pull of the last election, Change and Hope and so forth.  It was a mass resignation from blame for the past seven years, a sort of moral hand-wash of the whole mess.  If not we, why they then?  Why expect men like Cheney and Bush and Mr. Mudd (and innumerable other players on that sordid bureaucratic, military jumble) to see themselves as the ‘bad guys,’ having the law and personal opinion on their side?  After all, it was our system they worked within (albeit at times around the edges).

The fact (or at least, gut-feeling) of the matter in all this is that, as in daily life, people refuse to see themselves as the ‘bad guy,’ the ‘black hat,’ or the villain.  Or even wrong, as some cases go.  Tying our enemies and fears and ill-wished to the track, the Snidely in us can’t quite shake the thought that we’re rather Dudley, by day’s end.  And even if we’ve had a few bad moments, there’s always tomorrow to begin anew.  As Mr. Mudd says in his interview,

“If I were in the system, and I’m not anymore… I would say, ‘look, we’ve been there’. I don’t think this would ever happen again, by the way, not the event, but the reaction.”

Thinking back on this whole mess of a decade, I sometimes doubt there’s a one among us that might have the imagination to see the blame spread so thickly about.  Not simply the torture or the wars, but the economy; the lifestyles we lead even still.  9/11 was less an awakener than a loss of inhibition in our post-Cold War state, a loss of our erstwhile brinkmanshippy reserve and a surge of that spirit of ’84 that supposedly drives us forward.

Thinking back on 9/11, we are all basically good. But looking over the track record, I think that’s simply shit.

*      *      *      *      *

Dan Rudy is a writer and lackaday currently based out of Portland.  Short stories and other articles are generally updated  on his blog, Rudian Days.

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  1. Austin Wayne Luebke
    Austin Wayne Luebke September 05, 09:42

    Hey! Great Article man. And, of course, I am digging the djinn reference. You know I just heard news that the apartment complex about 3 buildings up from mine has a djinn problem. Apparently, the problem exists in a specific room and the cleaning lady now refuses to enter it.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Dan Rudy
    Dan Rudy September 05, 10:02

    Thanks, man! Not to be one to take joy in the misery of others, but I can’t stress enough how awesome your neighbor’s problem is. Is there a local custom for dealing with such things, a sort of Jordanian equivalent to Western exorcisms?

    Reply to this comment
  3. Austin Wayne Luebke
    Austin Wayne Luebke September 05, 18:51

    Hey miseries are facts of life i guess, including the djinn. But yeah I heard the owners hung anti-djinn verses of the Quran on the walls of the house. I know there are certain verses and things to do with the Quran for djinn things as well. So I imagine that will be the protocol. Though who knows? I hope I hear the results.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Austin Wayne Luebke
    Austin Wayne Luebke September 05, 18:52

    I found this website. Though it is more than a bit bombastic as you might suspect from the address alone.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Dan Rudy
    Dan Rudy September 06, 01:08

    Good lord! That’s quite a mouthful. I can’t wait to see the adverts on t.v.

    Reply to this comment

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