I’m reading Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. I’ve known of Katyn for decades, but only now learned it was just one of a number of sites. Snyder lists Kurapaty, near Minsk, Bykivnia, near Kiev, and Kharkiv in addition to Katyn. Kharkiv had also been one of the main killing centers of Poles during Stalin’s Great Terror.
Truth, it is said, is war’s first casualty. Memory is its second.
Tom Hayden, Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 17.
This morning I’m thinking about the video of Dr David Dao being dragged off a United plane in Chicago. There’s been worldwide press evaluating and condemning the actions of United Airlines and the Chicago police, but what strikes me is the action, or rather lack of action, of the other passengers on the aircraft. There are cries of anxiety, “oh my god, oh my god,” entreaties of “c’mon, c’mon” and “look at what you’re doing,” but in none of the footage do we see passengers saying “No! You may not bloody my fellow passenger. Stop!” or any version of that. The aisle of an aircraft is quite narrow, and it would only have taken a passenger or two to interfere with the police dragging Dao off but we see no one attempt to intervene. Numerous cellphones are held up; the phones’ owners remain seated. Do Americans see themselves as capable only of passively observing state violence?
Earlier this year I heard Norman Solomon here in San Francisco. In talking about resistance to the Trump administration Solomon commented on the naïvety of “speaking truth to power” with the goal of accomplishing anything. Telling Rex Tillerson that Exxon is polluting is absurd. He knows. When seeing a Chicago policeman dragging a bloodied doctor rather than saying “look at what you’re doing” we need to say “Stop!” and mean it.
Robert Parry’s piece on the mainstream media reminds us: “The evidence he [Powell] presented to the United Nations – some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail – had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them,” wrote Post columnist Richard Cohen. “Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman – could conclude otherwise.”
I remember those days. How is it that so many Americans seem to have forgotten?
Trevor Timm has a piece on Michael Hayden in the Columbia Journalism Review. It reminds me of how the country’s attention seems absolutely off Iraq, Bush, and Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld’s war crimes. I haven’t forgotten.
How is the national consciousness affected when the US president sounds like a lout? How can we recover from decades of national discourse which is increasingly image-driven and verbally barren?
There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
—Joseph Brodsky, Library of Congress Information Bulletin, 1991, p. 225