How dark a day?

I’m still reeling from the emotional impact the Habeas Corpus bill, or torture bill, or whatever you want to call it, had on our little corner of the Internet this week. The shock and grief was just like the day after the 2004 election, a sense of loneliness, of being in a minority that shouldn’t be a minority. And the impact was all the greater because it was largely unreported, and the great majority of people you saw had no idea, or just a vague one, about what had happened. I was trying this out yesterday, asking people what they thought with only vague references, seeing what they actually knew without my telling them: not much. It’s occurred to me that this is the way it has always been. The country as a whole does not have epiphanies without really dramatic events, televised events. And even then, until a narrative is imposed, there are as many and as varied reactions as there are people.  What happened after McCarthy, after Vietnam, was that the country turned its attention elsewhere, turned away.  The idea large numbers of people will have an experience, will suddenly realize that they’ve been wrong, seems very unlikely to me.   As time passes, those who look back may wonder if they even remember their positions, but most will not think of it one way or the other.

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5 Responses to “How dark a day?”

  1. CharleyCarp Says:

    I think I disagree a little. I look at my parents’ experience with the Japanese internment — they were in single digits at Pearl Harbor, teens at V-J Day — and literally had never heard of it until the early 70s when they met some contemporaries of Japanese descent. Once they got over the shock, they were pretty embarrassed about the whole thing, and still are.

    People know we have prisoners in Guantanamo, and know that there’s plenty of controversy about how they’re being handled. Ten years from now, when everyone involved has written his/her book and the full enormity of the thing has become apparent, plenty of people are going to be embarrassed. Especially as it becomes clearer that the negative PR from denying due process was worse, in any sense you can imagine except shoring up fragile Southern manhood, then the marginal benefit of having this or that ordinary guy ‘off the battlefield.’

  2. CharleyCarp Says:

    As you might imagine, I find myself in conversations about detainee policy fairly often. My experience has been that people know more than the simple basics, are more interested than I expected, and when I explain the situation and what we are doing a bit more, are quite supportive.

  3. I don't pay Says:

    I agree with that, actually. A lot of people will never think about it, as I said. Others will not much think about what they knew or did at the time, while coming to deplore “what was done.” But the number of people who will feel it, as your parents, is not negligible. Those like us who know right away is a very small number, but the number who will learn about it more slowly is much bigger. It’s why opposition to wars takes time. I remember hearing Noam Chomsky, so consider the source but this was interesting and may be true, say that a substantial number of Americans, asked a few years ago what was wrong with Vietnam, said that it was morally wrong for us to have been there fighting as we did. The interesting thing, as Chomsky observed, is that that conclusion is one the media have never told anyone. The story has never been presented in that way, so this not-insubstantial portion of the public reached that conclusion on their own

  4. m. leblanc Says:

    On Thursday afternoon, I was running around in a panic, almost in tears, and people kept asking me what was wrong and I tried to explain, and no one had any idea what was happening except my friends that I’d been emailing all morning giving them the play-by-play.

    And this is at a law school.

  5. dagger aleph Says:

    And this is at a law school.

    Yikes.

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