Hello, Modern World

Hello to This Modern World readers, and many thanks to Mr. Tomorrow for the opportunity to contribute here. My name is Jon Schwarz, and my own website is called A Tiny Revolution. It’s named after something George Orwell wrote in an essay titled “Funny But Not Vulgar”:

A thing is funny when it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution.

For anyone curious, on my site you can find more about me, as well as more about the Orwell essay.

I’m looking forward to sharing with everyone here my voluminous diatribes, manifestos, Pentagon-subsidized disinformation, and so on. In particular I enjoy tracing weird throughlines in American history: certain alarming attitudes and even specific words that keep popping up over and over again, long after you think we’d driven a stake through their dark hearts. It’s truly, deeply creepy. As William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Here’s a relevant example. In George W. Bush biggest pre-war speech about Iraq and democracy, he explained:

America’s interests in security, and America’s belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq…

[Iraqis’] lives and their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein—but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us…

If we must use force, the United States and our coalition stand ready to help the citizens of a liberated Iraq.

For most Americans, this sounded pretty good. We’re just being helpful! When you put it like that, we’re almost obligated to invade!

It might have been useful if we’d remembered the first Great Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The seal was part of the charter granted to British settlers in 1629 by Charles I. And the charter was where America began—with Pilgrims, Thanksgiving, etc.

Now, look closely. Can you tell what the American Indian on the seal is saying?

That’s right! He’s asking the settlers to “come over and help us.”

The settlers, of course, did help the Indians…to be dead.

This formula recurs over and over again throughout American history. We go somewhere because we HAVE TO HELP PEOPLE. Then they all somehow—perhaps because of a 400-year streak of bad luck on our part?—end up dead. In 1966, the editor of U.S. News and World Report wrote:

What the United States is doing in Vietnam is the most significant example of philanthropy extended by one people to another that we have witessed in our times.

True, we killed an estimated two million people in Indochina. But when you get down to it, aren’t philanthropy and napalm essentially the same thing?

Now, none of this history necessarily means exactly the same thing is happening in Iraq. Maybe this time we really are going to help! You never know!

But probably not. One of the (two) books on Bush’s Christmas reading list was Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan.

Kaplan’s book explains that A) the War on Terror is very similar to America’s Indian Wars; B) the WoT is “really about taming the frontier”; and C) most of the earth is now “Injun country.”

Look at all those people out there saying, “come over and help us.” How can we possibly refuse?

COMING UP: Previous appearances in U.S. history of “shock and awe.”