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06/06/2007 Archived Entry: "Signs of the times"

NOW HERE ARE A COUPLE OF SAD, SORRY SIGNS of the times. Both happened to me while working this week.

First, I'm giving a critique of someone's first novel. It's not a "libertarian novel," per se. But it's a promising thriller with a political plot. A big part of the story's "bang" comes from a hidden cache of documents -- documents that have the potential to expose deadly government misdeeds. I'm telling the poor, beleagured author that his documents aren't "hot" enough -- that the secrets they contain aren't explosive enough to topple a head of state or shake the system to its foundations, which they must be to create drama. Then I try to offer examples of the kind of scandalous revelations that might get the reader's blood racing and present a real threat to those in power.

And I can't. I can't think of a single thing anyone could reveal about the U.S. government in these cynical days that would rattle any cages.

The president's fortune comes from Nazi connections? Ho hum. The CIA plots to assassinate world leaders, including, perhaps, one of our own? Yawn. Powerful men lied us into a war solely to increase their own fortunes and powers? Old, old news. What's on the other channel, Ma?

Thirty-some years ago, a lousy, insignificant burglary and its coverup brought down a president and caused us, briefly, to question the virtues of political might. Today? Our Glorious Leaders could be caught rolling naked in heaps of opium poppies with Osama bin Laden and (as long as Our Glorious Leader didn't actually fornicate with Their Vile Spawn of Satan Leader, which might upset the religious right) nobody would give a damn.

Second, I'm writing an article about a gun ban. I'm trying to give readers a picture of what it would be like to live in a culture that considered banning firearms as unthinkable as banning ...

And I sat there, staring at the screen, unable to think of anything it would be "unthinkable" to ban. Free speech? But all kinds of people, no doubt including many readers of my article, want to limit that. Religion? But only my religion deserves protection; your religion is dangerous fanaticism, involves wearing funny clothes, or is just an excuse for getting away with taking drugs! Apple pie? But OMG, the stuff's full of sugar. And maybe even transfats. And does anybody remember the Alar hysteria? Dogs? But cities all over the country have yielded to various anti-breed hysterias, and in some places have even sent minions door-to-door to round up the designated dog-Jews of the moment. Yogurt? But that's a dairy product, an exploitation of animals! Model rockets? But they can be terrorist weapons!

I sat and sat and sat and couldn't think of a single item that somebody, in some legislature somewhere in the U.S. doesn't already want to ban or regulate or limit.

I finally settled on "as unthinkable as banning newspapers," only because the one thing the media never supports regulating is itself.

But as with the blinding moment earlier in the week, I was dumbstruck by how low we've sunk. Is any kind of corruption bad enough to be intolerable? Is any degree of control permissible in the Land Formerly Known as That of the Free?

Posted by Claire @ 03:01 PM CST

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