Pinpricks And The Elephant

Copyright © by Len Holman, 4/29/13


  The recriminations, outrage, second-guessing, speculation, diaphanous fantasizing, and just plain wrong “facts,” continue in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, and the American viewing public is once again being subjected to the noise machine which is called “media news coverage.”  This putative coverage is never-ending, with a Russian connection being explored, and the horrified commentary of the Fox News pundits that this is the tip of a big conspiracy to blow up New York. 

  One thing is certain: media coverage helps get the juices flowing, and flowing juices help ratings, and good ratings entice more sponsors, more ads, and all that is just as American as football or sex.  Every second of the bombers’ lives is being dissected, and between finding out what they had for breakfast that morning, and learning which shelf Jodi Arias stepped on to get the gun which she used to shoot her boyfriend, there is no end of amusement for the viewer.  Aside from a comparatively minor mention of Sarin gas possibly being used in Syria, we are getting a non-stop look at the horrors or being picked on by crazy Jihadis.  We are getting outraged accusations that the FBI “dropped the ball” in tracking the older Tsarnaev brother.  We are getting reports of how crude the bombs were, but later, how sophisticated there were. 

  The whole event is reminiscent of an elephant being worried about a couple of pinpricks, the U.S. being the elephant.  Of course, if the elephant gets enough pinpricks, it eventually bleeds to death, and this—at some subconscious level, some primal, need-to-survive level, is what the subtext of all this is.  We have a military which exceeds the firepower of the next 10 countries combined, which exceeds the firepower of all of history’s ruling empires together, and we cannot prevent two kids from setting off bombs in an American city.  We are angry, surprised, fearful, and very worried.  In fact, we look around the world and we see we are no longer the Absolute Rulers, but rather, the Main Rulers, with many pretenders, in an asymmetrical, on-going war in which our inferiors persist in the delusion that they can inflict damage on us, that they have a RIGHT to inflict this damage, and in which they tirelessly TRY to do so. 

  Our political leaders seem to think that if they get every minute detail of the bombers , their weapons, their families, where they were “radicalized,” who did the radicalization, and which government agency failed to prevent all this, that THEN we will be safer—but this is a chimera, an illusion the elephant has that if it just can figure out where it got all those small wounds, it will be magically cured.  We can do a lot to protect our safety, but our primary “dog in the manger” stance does not endear us to many.  Our inconsistent approach to Iran’s nuclear program seems hypocritical to them, since they are allowed to HAVE a “program” (versus weapons); our boycott of Cuba must seem ridiculous to many, since we allow free travel to China and Myanmar, which are certainly NOT “free” (of course, the Myanmar voting bloc in the U.S. is invisible); our “leaning into” the Syrian conflict, inch by inch, looks ominous to the Arab and Muslim world, and our general swagger of “exceptionalism” is a rubbing of salt in some very old wounds. 

  It’s entirely imaginable that the world cringes at the elephant’s refusal to put up with an imperfect jungle, which will result in a wild, murderous thrashing about of this behemoth and the subsequent destruction of plants and small life which gets in the way.  Even as this is written, the “D-word” is being used more frequently:  drones to patrol American “soft” events to prevent something like Boston—which sounds like yet another justification for tightening the reins on a populace which—so far—is passive (except for the conservatives in general, though many of them are complicit in this Big Brotherism—for our own good, naturally).  The only way this war, these little, hurtful, messy wars, can be won is…well, they can’t.  We live in a world of interconnected parts, so that the FBI isn’t chasing Bonnie and Clyde through the heartland anymore, it’s going to Chechnya; the Lady in Red is carrying a backpack full of C-4; and bank robbers are less menacing than a dusty young man in Pakistan whose family was obliterated by a Hellfire missile. 

  The elephant is big, but not unassailable or immortal.  The more it thrashes, the more damage it causes, the warier everyone is around it and the warier they are, the more they talk of putting it down, and the more they talk and radicalize themselves, the more danger the elephant is in.  What should the elephant do?  There is an old saying within Daoism which, paraphrased, says that the tighter one grips something, the easier it is to drop.  We are clinging so very tightly to a concept which cannot serve us very well.  The little pinpricks have started and the big animal is bleeding, disbelieving and VERY angry.  The world needs to watch out.  It could get very messy.


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