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An essay by E. L. Doctorow

 

Edgar Lawrence Doctorow occupies a central position in the history of American literature. He is generally considered to be among the most talented, ambitious, and admired novelists of the second half of the twentieth century. Doctorow has received the National Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howell Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the residentially conferred National Humanities Medal. Doctorow was born in New York City on January 6, 1931. After graduating with honors from Kenyon College in 1952, he did graduate work at Columbia University and served in the U.S. Army. Doctorow was senior editor for New American Library from 1959 to 1964 and then served as editor in chief at Dial Press until 1969. Since then, he has devoted his time to writing and teaching. He holds the Glucksman Chair in American Letters at New York University and over the years has taught at several institutions, including Yale University Drama School, Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the University of California, Irvine.

 

"I fault this president (George W. Bush) for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our twenty-one year olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

 

"But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the WMDs he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man. He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the thousand dead young men and women who wanted be what they could be.

 

"They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life.... They come to his desk as a political liability which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.

 

"How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing. He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret that rather than controlling terrorism his war in Iraq has licensed it. So he never mourns for the dead and crippled youngsters who have fought this war of his choice. He wanted to go to war and he did.

 

"He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options, but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to. This president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much.

 

"This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing --- to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends. A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children.

 

"He is the President who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of the dead; he does not feel for the thirty five million of us who live in poverty; he does not feel for the forty percent who cannot afford health insurance; he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills -- it is amazing for how many people in this country this President does not feel.

 

"But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest one percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the safety regulations for coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a- half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class. And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.

 

"But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember the millions of people here and around the world who marched against the war in Iraq. It was extraordinary, that spontaneously aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over the world most of the time. But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.

 

"The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

 

"Finally the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail: How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves."

 

E.L. Doctorow

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We went to war.  Nearly two thousand of our children are dead.

 

Isn't that the number which actually died the day the towers fell?

 

I think a LOT of people are forgetting why we are really there.

 

I saw an email of late which made fun of what 'could be' if the 'war on terrorism' failed.  It showed McDonalds made over as a Fallafel house, playboy models wearing long dresses and veils.  It really missed the point.

 

To understand what America will look like if the war on terrorism is lost, just look at the pictures of the towers on 9/12.  That is what America will look like if we don't take control of these extremist Muslem countries.

 

It's ugly, and I don't deny that.  What it really comes down to is this planet may prove too small for Christanity and Muslem faith to co-exist.  One of them is probably going to have to go.

 

So you say the president doesn't understand death, and can't comprehend the severity of the individual loss.  At least he seems to understand the greater picture.  It is us or them.  It is not when, but where the fight will be.  We can sit back and fight them here, and sweep up the broken buildings and broken bodies, or we can take the fight to them.

 

Them or us.  I choose us.

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I have seen first hand what the peace mongers have to offer, and it didn't work in Oct of 1983 and it won't work now.

 

When I went to help out my brothers in NYC in 2001, it was not so different than digging out my brothers in Beirut, lots of rubble, parts of bodies that are almost unrecognizible as human, sometimes just a piece of cloth that let you know some one was there, but the main difference was this time they did it in my backyard, they brought their war and their tactics to my home.

 

This radical extreamism won't go away, we can't wave a magic wand and make the world get along, those that think so are ignorate of the past, and will damn us to repete it.

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Dr. Bob,

 

 I very much agree with Mr. Doctorow and I thank you so much for having the guts to post it on this forum. I'm sure that your nuts will be toasted by the blind followers of the Bushies that visit this forum who use the Karl Rove logic that the right wing uses to justify everything it does.

 

 Take heart...someday George W. Bush will also be on the scrap heap of history.

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This radical extreamism won't go away, we can't wave a magic wand and make the world get along, those that think so are ignorate of the past, and will damn us to repete it.

 

And radical extremism goes away as we invade,occupy and democratize Iraq and Afghanistan? .....and Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc. etc.?  Hope you troopies are ready to mobilize again.

 

Talk about drinkin the kool-aid. ???

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Yep, too bad we do not have a leader more along the lines of Neville Chamberlain or a world organization like the League of Nations. Then that Chamberlain like leader and the UN could have come up with something along the lines of the Munich Accord. Then the world would be a better place.

lol

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I don't believe this has anything to do with Islam, Christianity, democracy or d: All of the above.

 

The root cause is oil.

 

The terrorists, dictators, and warlords, etc in the middle east claim their actions are in the name of Islam...we claim our actions are to free the people of the middle east from the terrorists, dictators, and warlords, and to keep them from committing terrorist acts or outright war on our people and our lands.

 

However, we wouldn't have much interest in what the dictators/terrorists in the middle east were doing to the people there, or how they ran their countries if there was no oil.....look at how often we mobilize our armed forces to save African people from their dictators.

 

and the dictators and terrorists of the middle east wouldn't be attacking us if we pretty much ignored them and let them have a free reign in the middle east, as in the African countries where their counterparts operate without much interference.

 

Islam is a tool that they use to get others in their countries to kill and die for their "cause", but I do not believe that the terrorist leaders are fighting for Islam, they are fighting to have a free reign to exploit the people of their part of the world.

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:I-Agree[1]:

 

that it's about oil...not religion.  It's always about wealth & power, whether in the middle east..or here in the good ole USA.

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Dr. Bob,

 

 I very much agree with Mr. Doctorow and I thank you so much for having the guts to post it on this forum. I'm sure that your nuts will be toasted by the blind followers of the Bushies that visit this forum who use the Karl Rove logic that the right wing uses to justify everything it does.

 

 Take heart...someday George W. Bush will also be on the scrap heap of history.

and someday the lefties will succeed in taking our guns.

 

Then the invasion will come.

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Those of you that don't think this is about religion don't understand the other side.

 

Those of you that don't think this is about oil don't understand this side.

 

Those of you that think the President is sending children to die don't understand why men and women serve in the armed forces and are belittling their sacrifice for your freedom.

 

Those of you that think that this can be handled by people talking their way through it fail to understand the strength in actions and the underlying duplicity of words.

 

Those of you that think you have the freedom to do as you wish in this nation and have never paid for it with sacrifice, will have no idea what you are missing when it is gone.

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