Jonathan Lethem Now Has My Vote

Late to this, but if you haven’t seen it, Jonathan Lethem’s Times Op-Ed is both moving and spot-on. Not just because he had the same reaction that I did to the latest Batman, that this is a defense of the current war on terror (though he phrases it much better: “The Dark Knight, with its taciturn and self-pitying vigilante, its scenes of torture, rendition and interrogation, its elaborately leveraged choices between principles and human lives, might offer a defense of the present administration’s cursory regard for human rights abroad and civil rights at home, in the cause of reply to attacks from an irrational and inhuman evil. Poor Batman, forced again and again to violate the ethics that define him, to destroy the world to save it.”), but because it’s one of the most elloquent summations of the state we currently find ourselves in:

If, like me, you’d hoped, distantly, vaguely, probably idiotically, that the 2008 presidential contest might be a referendum on truths documented since the previous presidential election, guess again. That our Iraqi invasion was founded on opportunistic lies, that it was hungered for by its planners in advance of the enabling excuse of 9/11, is a well-delineated blot on American history. But for those of us interested in a conversation about accountability it was always declared to be too soon — we remained unsure of the evidence, or too traumatized to risk fraying the national morale — until the moment when it was abruptly too late, when it became old news.

Yet I suspect it is still the news. While both candidates run on the premise that Washington Is Broken, I’m disinclined to disagree, only to add: our good faith with ourselves is broken, too, a cost of silencing or at best mumbling the most crucial truths. Among these, pre-eminently, is the fact that torture evaporates our every rational claim to justice, and will likely be the signature national crime of our generation — a matter in which we are, by the very definition of democracy, complicit. (Perhaps some unconsciously hope that electing a man who was himself tortured will provide moral cover, just as Batman’s losing his parents to violent crime forever renews his revenger’s passport.)

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