Just say no to totalitarianism
Guest post by Betty Cracker
As George Orwell foretold, aspiring totalitarians need endless war to justify their hold on power. In Orwell's prescient novel, 1984, Big Brother relentlessly promotes this motto: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
Bush, somewhat more subtle, enjoins us to wage war to spread democracy since "democracies don’t attack their neighbors" (while simultaneously proving that premise false). He asks us to surrender liberties for the sake of freedom. He excoriates the New York Times for reporting on domestic surveillance and snooping on bank records because, after all, ignorance (ours) gives us strength to fight the terrorists.
We have to trust Big Brother, you see, because we’re in mortal peril from Islamofascists every second of our lives, and only Big Brother can protect us. And if you don’t have anything to hide, why would you worry about Big Brother listening in on your phone calls, perusing your banking transactions and reading your emails?
Flip that coin over, remove the subtlety and add an even bigger heaping helping of godbaggery, and you have bin Laden. Another pious aspiring totalitarian who claims the mantle of freedom fighter, bin Laden enabled and participated in the Talibanization of Afghanistan and called the sterile, oppressive result an ideal society. With bin Laden’s avid encouragement and approval, the rulers of this ideal society replaced women with furtive lumps of cloth, outlawed music and beardlessness and the belief in anything other than a fanatical interpretation of Islam.
Big Brother bin Laden tells the Islamic world that they have to trust him because they’re in mortal peril from the forces of godlessness and Crusaders. He tells them that war is peace (god grants martyrs eternal serenity – and virgins to boot!), freedom is slavery (to a medieval ideology), and ignorance is strength (girls don’t need to know how to read; it might make them get uppity with their husbands with disastrous consequences for society).
Bush and bin Laden need each other, just as surely as Orwell’s Oceania and Eurasia/Eastasia needed each other. It’s no coincidence that bin Laden pipes up when Bush’s hold on power is imperiled. It’s no coincidence that Bush & Co. inflate the credentials of bin Laden’s minor representatives in whichever theater of war we’re currently engaged (see Zubaydah and Zarqawi). Bin Laden’s latest missives seemed designed to bolster the Bushrovian "cut and run" meme, and Bush’s words and deeds vis-a-vis the War on Terra give the imprimatur of truth to bin Laden’s lies.
So given the success of the aspirants to totalitarianism to date, are we doomed, like Orwell's luckless characters, to endless war with shifting alliances and enemies? Perhaps not. Bush and bin Laden are both tanking in the polls. There seems to be an unprecedented air of introspection in the Muslim world – a new willingness to see that despite the very real wrongs they suffered at the hands of colonizers, there are problems in their own societies that are holding them back. There appears to be a dawning realization in the US that the atrocities committed against innocent civilians on 9/11 don’t justify open-ended conflict and unchecked executive power.
Tomorrow is Independence Day. How fitting it would be if this Fourth of July heralded a new rejection of tyranny for freedom. How magnificent it would be if both sides in the trumped up Clash of Civilizations rejected the Orwellian machinations of the power grabbers and said enough is enough. How appropriate if Americans reconnected with the true tenets of liberty we once espoused and aspired again to be a beacon of freedom to banish totalitarian darkness. Just say no to totalitarianism. It's the patriotic thing to do.