How Can America Ever Be Debamboozled?

That lovely word, "debamboozled" I got from Murray N. Rothbard's inspiriting essay, "The Case for Revisionism (and Against A Priori History)," which was recently a von Mises Institute Daily E-Mailing. It was first published in The Libertarian Forum in 1976, but it is as fresh and pertinent as anything that turns up on LRC.

I picked up on the word because of two weeks I had just spent (offline) in New York, Pennsylvania, and New England. Everywhere I went I kept feeling that the people I met, however amiable, and most were, were evidently bamboozled as to politics (and to a considerable extent that meant, as far as I was concerned, also to life in general today in these states); and they were therefore very much in need of debamboozlement.

There seemed to me to be, among the relations and friends and business associates I met along the way, a pious but unrealistic hope that, no matter what, Kerry will be better than Bush, that solutions to whatever problems there are will come, must come, from government, and anyway, life is basically good in America, that things go forward, despite all, in the best possible way, in the best possible of all countries, in the best possible of all worlds, with the only negative in the overall scene being a nagging note of unpleasantness struck by the words, unfortunately not entirely avoidable: "Iraq," "Bush," "war." But a resolute direction of the gaze away from these to family, sport, food, and weekend trips to shore or mountains, could keep those bad words and others they bring in train from spoiling one's day.

I hasten to say – and perhaps you won't believe me – that I take on no lofty airs because I see how unsatisfactory this stance is; I think they all do too, but as they see it, it is all that offers, so they stick with it. It's just that I do not choose to stop there, and in that I feel like a visitor from another planet. What I felt most strongly going back to the scenes of my earlier years and traveling about and having many pleasant encounters and viewing much beautiful scenery and handsome old towns, especially in New Hampshire and Vermont, was the ever-presence of the "ubiquitous shade of Nemesis," to borrow a phrase from George Santayana, who used it in describing Sybaris, a place of beauty, pleasure, and wealth, which was nonetheless doomed. (I forget why.)

I have today seen Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. I have not seen his earlier films nor read his books, but this surely is his masterpiece? He has done what the major media should have done a long time ago, namely, punctured the balloon of one GWB. You may not know what to do when the final frame comes up telling you to "Do something," but you certainly know at last that we have been wrecked by a certified pipsqueak and his shady handlers.

I have read at least one critic who complains that Moore's is a narcissistic personality. Perhaps. On the basis of the old saw that it takes one to know one, Moore has got our Führer just right. There is one direct plug for the Democrats and the overall sense that the leftist trip is the way to go, but the massive impact of the film comes from the footage of Bush and war and the grossly narcissistic personalities that are involved in both. In my view a move to Kerry would be to involve us in just more of the same, but even I can feel the appeal of unBush at this point, and no other alternatives seem to be offering.

So I say compliments to Mr. Moore; may he make further millions; and may he continue to help with the debamboozlement of the citizenry. He has done a great work already.

But I do not sense any lifting of the shadow of Nemesis as the result of one mere film. In one terrific scene a matronly Iraq women calls down God's vengeance on the attackers who killed some of her family and are destroying her country. Precisely. But we sophisticated people know better than to take such stuff seriously. God is on the side of power. The lady cries in vain. As does the Flint, Michigan, mother of a slain soldier who weeps in front of the fenced-off White House.

One wonders how differently we would have to react to the news in general or this film in particular to arrive by the millions in Washington or even by the thousands in our local Court House square to register that we the people beg to differ and wish the whole batch of jobbers and killers and smilers to be gone for good. Is there any hope of getting to that point? I feel the need to keep thinking so.

June 28, 2004