Friday, December 23, 2005

It's Because Of Narrative

The true criterion for rightness and goodness:
It's no accident that there is no American literature celebrating imperial presidential powers, celebrating a president operating in secret to expand his powers while citing national security threats, celebrating, in short, demagoguery. No great American literature or Hollywood movie has rewarded trampling on the Constitution. No celebrations of the US waterboarding detainees. What is our whole national literature about? ...It's about doing the right thing. Not only that - it's about the right thing prevailing, being rewarded. It's about justice prevailing over injustice. It's about abuses -- deception, corruption, violence, racism -- being ratted out. It's about those who deceive, who seek to grab power, who become corrupted by power, who go on witch hunts, who appeal always to fear as a form of political manipulation -- ultimately being exposed and falling, being censured by a system that is more powerful than they are. In particular, our national literature has celebrated one thing: the individual - the ordinary public servant, the small town lawyer, the ordinary citizen -- who labors to make justice prevail (to kill a mockingbird, sinclair lewis, a civil action, three days of the condor), and has been especially harsh on one thing: the political leader who deceives and who seeks to expand his power. The Watergate break-in is not celebrated in our national literature -- it's those who expose it. The McCarthy witchhunts aren't celebrated in our Hollywood movies -- it's those who finally exposed McCarthy for what he was. No popular movies celebrating the Reagan administration's secret selling of TOW missiles to the mullahs in Iran and diverting the proceeds to the Contras. Americans have a fundamental distrust of government conducted in secret, of those leaders who would seek to expand their powers in secret, appealing always to fear. We know what would happen in the movies. The demagogue would fall. The system, we would be assured, works. It would retract back to normalcy.

1 comment:

Carol Gee said...

Thanks so much for this post. Laura Rozen's piece is very grounding for me, and went a long ways towards restoring my hope that our system will eventually right itself.