Sunday, May 11, 2003

The Card Game

It's not clear who in Don Rumsfeld's shop came up with playing cards depicting the most wanted, but I was flabbergasted by the very notion when a General announced it in the $2Million briefing theater in Qatar. Since then, not a day passes without me being offered an authentic deck or three along with my other unending spam. The Pentagon is outraged by these fakes. What were they expecting? More important, what were they thinking at the outset? What's obnoxious about these cards is that they trivialize war, suggesting it's all a game. It is as if war were only a made for TV reality show, lot's of drama and bruised egos for losers but no one really gets hurt. Well I don't think the parents, husbands, wives or children of the fallen, the majority of them barely in their twenties, see it as a game. Nor do Iraqi's who have lost loved ones and homes, whose health care system has collapsed, who still have no electricity and little (if any) safe drinking water, who are still the victims of looting and lawlessness and who are wondering what today, much less tomorrow, will bring. Nor should we.

But there is something even darker in these cards. Last week, the Senate released heretofore secret transcripts from the McCarthy era hearings. Many Americans are too young to remember the 1950s, but I was in High School during that period and coming from a family of Liberals and intellectuals I remember vividly the impact they had on all of us. It was a time of fear and black lists — a black time. But you don't have to reach back to McCarthy. The cards also evoke memories of Richard Nixon's enemies list. Perhaps you think I'm over reacting here, but sure enough yesterday's batch of junk included an offer to buy a "Deck of Weasels playing cards", sporting the photos of dissenting Americans like Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Barbara Streisand. Perhaps Rumsfeld's minions didn't dream that one up, but it's a logical witch hunt extension of the Iraqi's most wanted deck and clearly cut from the same mentality cloth. The Bush, Nixon and McCarthy eras brook no criticism with the patriotism of those express contrary views put in doubt during what they like to remind us is "a time of War."

It's hard to say which is worse, trivialization or black lists, but there is little question as to which is the more insidious. Black lists are horrible but transparent. In contrast, trivialization, because it is slickly packaged as something else, appears benign. John Dean saw Nixon's tactics as "a cancer growing on the Presidency." Far from being benign, I think trivialization is a cancer growing on our society. Look at how the media cover serious, often tragic events. Is it any wonder that viewers think it's a game when war is presented like a mini-series complete with specially composed music and catchy titles like Carnage in Iraq? While the trivial may not have destroyed all journalists, it has all but destroyed journalism, certainly its credibility.

A card game. What next?

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