Setting out to prove a thesis statement
It’s not like he didn’t warn us. Lilek’s writes:
Iâ€™ll tell you why I havenâ€™t written more about this lately â€“ itâ€™s because there are others who do it so much better, have more to say, and have first-hand experience.
And just to prove his point, he writes:
Time magazine had a Brad-Holland-style cover illo of the prisoner in the Klan hat, and over the magazineâ€™s logo the editors deployed this plaintive cry: How did it come to this?
The crucial word in that sentence is â€œIt.â€ What is â€œit,â€ exactly? The Iraqi campaign? The world birthed on 9/11? The American experience? Us? Them? I suspect itâ€™s intended to be all of the above. It is the promise and glory of America that took a horrid wrong turn and ended up with â€œthis.â€ Thatâ€™s the sum total of the planet, right there, a man in a pointy hood. The potential: it. The result: this. The postlapsarian dialectic, as the academics might say, if they wanted to impress their tenured peers.
The story of the prison abuse might have had a different impact if the media had chosen a different tack. The only news that hits the front page is bad news; the innumerable small fragments of good news donâ€™t make A1 because papers have their standards, you see. We are expected to repair Iraqâ€™s dilapidated electrical grid, so replacing an old generator and turning on the power to a neighborhood thatâ€™s had brown-outs for ten years is not news. Two Marines dead in an ambush is news because A) death leads, and B) that â€œmission accomplishedâ€ aircraft carrier photo op needs to be debunked, however subtly, as often as possible. The media has come to believe that reporting more good than bad somehow makes them suspect; it goes contrary to The Mission, which is to find out whatâ€™s wrong. I had the idea before Jarvis, but he was first to float it: a rebuilding beat. Every day, a story about whatâ€™s being accomplished large and small. Iâ€™d also pump for the occasional story of heroism, but I suspect that this would make editors uncomfortable. It might be true but itâ€™s not . . . helpful. It would seem like cheerleading.
And we canâ€™t have that.
This smothering gloom, this suppurating corrosion â€“ this isnâ€™t us. This isnâ€™t who we are. If it is, well, weâ€™re lost, because it contains such potent self-hatred that weâ€™ll shrink from defending ourselves, because what we have built isnâ€™t worth defending. Thanks for the push, al Qaeda! Weâ€™ll take it from here.
And with that, James gives credence to the Lilek Family Motto:
The unexamined life is probably a pretty good idea.