5/10/13

Benghazi

It seems to us that the mere recitation of a small Libyan city’s name is enough these days to bring listeners to a complete halt and to empty their minds of any other topic.

That it’s being used by the Republicans as a blunt object with which to beat the Democratically aligned State Department, and by extension, the entire Democratic party, into a bloody pulp comes as no surprise.

What does come as a surprise is the amount of time and space multimedia are giving to this regurgitated tragedy.

This is one of the few instances we can remember where the miserable statement, “Mistakes were made,” actually has value.

There are some important points to be made in discussing readiness to combat terrorism abroad as well as here at home. Failure to imagine or anticipate, or even to have an inkling of probable trouble, as apparently was the case with the CIA, was complete. Making adequate preparations to defend an American outpost was totally lacking. Failure to protect American citizens on American property was calamitous and fatal. Communication between governmental institutions devoted to our security is as non-existent as it was before 9/11.

One has a certain sympathy for former Secretary of Defense Clinton as she exploded at a Senate hearing saying, in effect, that that was then, this is now, we have to move forward.

At a time in our history when every safeguard and standard rule of behavior seems to be disappearing, all we can legitimately do is learn from a horrible scenario and hope that in the future we can do better.

It is neither healthy nor sensible to force the nation to focus backwards to the exclusion of all else.

Of course, that is not what the Republicans are doing. What they’re doing is setting up the elections of 2014 and 2016 to be referenda on Ms. Clinton and Department of State, not, of course, to mention President Obama. Give pride of place to attacking Mrs. Clinton, just in case she decides to you know what.

All this attention to a disaster of nine months ago forces attention away from other political problems the country faces, and at which the Republicans are not quite so adept.

What would those problems be? We can all recite. Immigration, gun control, unemployment, Medicare, the sequester and its damage to millions of undeserving people. And those are just the icing on a cake that could explode in the oven at any time.

What you are hearing today is an admission of change of heart. As a writer, one believes in as much freedom as possible. Yet one begins to think censorship and behavioral governorship may in fact be necessary if we are to maintain even the outlines of a society of which we have long been proud.

We know and admit happily that the American is an emotional person. We begin to suspect alas that the American is also neither reasonable nor marginally sane. And we are convinced that today’s American has lost sight of the many values and good instincts needed to live and work safely and productively and happily.

What are we to make, for example, of media gurus who enthusiastically endorse civil disobedience, or even revolution? What are we to make of the growing numbers of people who profess a belief in the Second Amendment to the exclusion of the rest of the Constitution?  What makes millions of people agitated over the latest crime scene to the point where their radio, television and newspaper exposure purposely excludes trying to solve problems of the poor, or the young, or the elderly?

What has happened to what was once called public morality? Our films, our popular music, our very language, and many of our politicians focus nearly exclusively on violence of one sort or another. Sing along with me: “You dirty mother-Benghazi! Benghazi you! Benghazi me!”

And if present day Benghazidom isn’t enough, let’s focus on the children of Benghazi and then, why not, their grandchildren, all of whom will cost the American taxpayer trillions of dollars, send the national debt sky-rocketing, debase our currency, bankrupt Wall Street, weaken both our national defense and our oil-based economy.

God knows there’s energy enough in this country to try to frighten citizens on any number of fronts. But who is trying to really solve problems, improve education, shelter the homeless?

Ah, you say, but that’s all in the future. Right now all that matters is Benghazi. To which we cordially say, “Benghazi you!”

Boston has its marathon, Cleveland has its kidnappers, California has wild fires, Texas has its borders, and your parents face retirement with trepidation and empty 401K’s.

Absolutely, that is unpleasant to think about. It’s lots more fun to worry about Benghazi last September. But doing so gets us nowhere.

But how exactly do we set out to get somewhere? Corruption in government, especially as seen lately in New York State, is rampant. Corruption in education, see Atlanta, is equally out-of-control. Wall Street is at its highest level ever, for those who were not forced to sell off their assets during the years 2007 until today, pushed by that very crowd in downtown Manhattan who now sweep up the remainder of hard-earned pensions and investments, and continue to give birth to schemes that defraud the needy and unsuspecting.

BP tells us they’re sorry but everything’s been fixed…”Come on down.” Oil spills in the Midwest are ruining drinking water, land values, and citizens’ health. And individual citizens are daily concocting scams and computer frauds with total impunity because Congress allows this, and so do the courts.

Congress tries to exempt itself from a few onerous rules by which the rest of us have to live. Hit-and-runs are epidemic. And the murder capital of the country shifts nearly daily, from Chicago to D.C. to Las Vegas.

The man in the street believes he can maim and kill his neighbors because so few people are ever caught or brought to justice. Besides, it’s all in self-defense. Copycat killers, copycat hackers, copycat publicity hounds write best-selling books and are interviewed as though they were heroes on cable news.

Reveling in all this are the cable networks, now down to two particular camps, liberal and conservative, MSNBC and FoxNews, daily slugging it out for ratings and “influence.”

We realize we now begin to sound like the typical old fogey, left behind by progress, who cannot understand or get comfortable with the kinds of changes taking place all around him.

Well, we guess it turns out we are.

In such a reputedly religious country, we want to know where kindness and assistance and thoughfulness have gone. We want to know where good manners and civility have gone. We want to know how language and action have been corrupted to such an extent that the national news nightly reserves only a one and a half minute slot for Good News, for news that’s uplifting and human. The kind of news and action that over two hundred years has kept this country safe, sane, solid, yet managed to come up with medical breakthroughs, discoveries that enhance our health, explored the heavens.

We know one thing. All that isn’t alive and well in Benghazi.

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