Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This is How It Was: The Pre-War Years in Suburban Middle America

As part of my job I used to travel quite a bit. In the three years I’ve worked in San Diego, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and now Kansas City. I lived in all these places at least 4 days a week for many months at a time.

Regardless of the client or consultants I worked with I found that people are the same. From Californians to Puerto Ricans to Virginians. From school district executives to telephone company employees to directors of large financial corporations. People are the same. They wrap themselves in the same blanket of willful ignorance and wallow in the same trivial distractions. In Suburban Middle America, the September 10 mindset reigns.

One particular episode is iconic for me in this regard. During the early days of the invasion of Iraq I took the red-eye from San Diego every Thursday. I would get to the airport a little early, saddle up to the one bar and order a tall Bass. Like most airport bars this one had several TV sets behind and above the bar. It was March. I had been captivated by the invasion since it started. My productivity had plummeted. I couldn’t stand to be away from the news to take a whiz. I remember being particularly gripped by the CNN footage from atop a tank; the TankCam so to speak, beaming back stunning, live images of the Iraqi dessert.

So here I was in a bar in the San Diego airport, drinking a beer and watching live images from atop a moving tank racing through the desert as our military invaded another country. (I’m still stunned by that.) I looked around the bar for someone to share my abject amazement with. I found no one. The bar was full but everyone else was watching college basketball on the other three TVs. No one bothered to watch the TankCam. To a person the crowd preferred college basketball to live images from a moving tank in a war zone. (I’m still stunned by that.) That single moment has stretched out now for nearly three years.

Most people are willfully ignorant of what is happening. The rest are only vaguely informed. They find the details confusing and obscure:

  • Hizbullah is a Shi’a terror group/political party in Lebanon but Hamas is a Sunni terror group/political party in the Palestinian territories.
  • Syria is a Sunni Arab country run by Alawites, considered heretics by the Sunnis, and supported by Iranians who are Persians and Shi’as. The Iranians harbor Al Qaeda figures who are Sunni Arabs but who are killing Shi’as in Iraq who are Arabs and not Persians.
  • The centrifuge plant in Natanz, based on Pakistani designs, enriches uranium to make fuel for nuclear warheads to put on missiles supplied by North Korea that may reach Vienna, the headquarters for the IAEA charged with monitoring the treaty that North Korea dropped out of and Pakistan never signed.
  • Most Jordanians are Palestinian but Jordan is not Palestine, although it used to control the West Bank where most “Palestinians” live, except those who are in Jordan where they are bombed by Al Qaeda which supports the “Palestinian cause”.
Most people don’t have a scorecard for this stuff. Only blog geeks know of these matters or care about such distinctions.

Most Americans, including smart people I work with, including my own family, don’t have any idea what the cartoon riots were about. There are many reasons for that. For one thing they didn’t see the cartoons. But just as importantly, they don’t understand the situation of Muslims in Europe. Americans, in their naivety, imagine Europe like something out of a 1950s movie or a tourist brochure. Most have no clue about the seething jihadists and the radical imams, or the demographic implosion of native Europeans. When I mention to people that 10% of France is Muslim they are stunned, unable to process such a fact.

Like the crowd in the airport bar, Americans have turned their eyes from world events and anesthetized themselves with sports and celebrities and political nonsense. Cheney’s hunting accident received far more detailed coverage than the Iranian nuclear program. Jessica Simpson’s divorce is on the cover of a dozen magazines a week and on a dozen more tabloid shows but you have to be dedicated to search out a single scrap of information on Iran’s missile capacity. This may shock foreigners but it’s true. Pitiful for a superpower, but true none the less.

Average Americans, for example my own beloved mother, know more about the ins and outs of the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie relationship than about Ahmadinejad’s mad plans.

Not that Americans are stupid. We just have short attention spans and are a bit self-centered. Mostly, to use a very 9/11 phrase, we fail to imagine. Even those who pay some attention don’t connect the Cartoon Jihad to the Iranian nuke program to the French-Muslim riots to the London bombings to the van Gogh assassination. People are aware of each individual event but simply do not imagine that something connects them. They do not allow themselves to think such thoughts. Part of this is that Americans are basically good hearted people who don’t spend their time dwelling on tragic events.

We are a land of optimists. This is normally a very good trait. But we do not live in optimistic times. We simply do not think that people who build nukes and say they want to kill Jews really mean it.

We are living, quite unaware, in the Pre-War Years. For some of us this is a time of anxiety, nervously awaiting the end of an era. But for most, it is an unappreciated Golden Age. We will look back on it with nostalgia.

That’s how it was in my beige, anonymous suburb in early 2006, in the years Before The War. People drove to work, cheered at their kids’ soccer games, mowed their lawns, and went about their business, assuming that the future would be like the past.

I imagine this is very much like life was in Paris or London in 1912. Everyone was vaguely aware that war with Germany was inevitable, but only in an abstract academic sense. No one, not those paying the closest attention to events, not the most far-sighted artists and thinkers and strategic planners, no one ever imagined what the future held for them.

In the spring of 1912 Parisians filled the cafes and gossiped about which minor aristocrat attended the opening of which opera. The women talked of the season’s fashion. In British pubs men discussed cricket or the latest political maneuvers of Labor. The spirit of the late Queen Victoria still suffused life in Europe. Her blood relatives were scattered around European capitals. The Kaiser was her grandson; her granddaughter the wife of the Czar. European life continued as it had for generations.

Six years later 10 million people were dead. Whole villages in England and Wales lost every grown man under thirty. A wasteland of utter devastation stretched from the English Channel through France all the way to Italy. Three centuries-old empires were gone. Revolution seized Russia. The Sultan had been deposed and the caliphate abolished. The Kaiser had abdicated and fled into exile. The czar, his wife and children were prisoners of the Bolsheviks, waiting to be murdered. A generation destroyed in a military meat grinder. A way of life blasted out of existence.

Afterward, no one cared about the aristocracy or opera stars. People were amazed that they ever did.


John Sobieski said...

Since the cartoons, I do find people want to know more. Yes, they are shocked are the statistics for Europe. Unless Europe confronts Islam, I don't think Europe stands a chance. Of course, you could say the same thing about the US given the reaction by our leaders to the cartoons.

Krishna109 said...

It seems to me that a major contributing factor in this ignorance is the MSM (mainstream media).

True, there are many people who only want to be involved in their own lives without caring about world events. However, I believe many are misinformed due to the media-- in many cases its not even due to reporting untruths, but rather omitting many stories-- or focusing on unimportant ones.

Also, their overall coverage of Islam is quite distorted and misleading.

There is definitely a need for an alternative source of information-- "push button blogging" (making it easy for non-techie types to create a blog) came along just in time.

I wonder if the media realizes the significance of this: they published stories about the cartoon situation, but never let people see the cartoons-- so many people had to look elsewhere (weblogs). Perhaps as a result of this, many people who previously relied exclusively on the MSM for their news will begin to consult the MSM less and will begin to turn more and more to blogs for information.

By not publishing the cartoons when many people wanted to see them, the MSM may have inadverantly given a "wake up call" to the masses-- further decreasing their already declining readership/viewership.

Oscar in Kansas said...

All true but that's how it was. The media are weasels and our leaders hide the truth from us and all the rest. But people aren't making that much of an effort. I don't blame them. It's just the way things are.

Jason Pappas said...

Great comparison to pre-WWI. Let me add that even when the war started most thought it would be over in a few months. They imagined something more of the order of the Franco-Prussian War.

I believe they think that the Jihadists are just a small Islamic-mafia group called Al Qaeda. Once Osama is gone, most believe it will be over. They have no idea that the Islamic Revival is just in the initial stages. And Europe has a ticking time bomb that only a few of us hear!

I also agree that people need leadership: intellectual and political. Right now our leaders have let us down.

Amillennialist said...

That’s how it was in my beige, anonymous suburb in early 2006, in the years Before The War. People drove to work, cheered at their kids’ soccer games, mowed their lawns, and went about their business, assuming that the future would be like the past.

That is exactly the feeling that's been nagging me lately. I keep waiting to finally hear the news I've been expecting; I keep waiting for the blinding white flash in the sky along the horizon.

The Anti-Jihadist said...

If the flash is only on the horizon (assuming it is but one flash), you'll be the fortunate one indeed.

Excellent essay. It captures the feeling of this time so well. The same can also be largely said of Malaysia--the ignorance, the denial--it's also present here.

Christine said...

On one hand Charles, I agree with you. It would be more comforting though if most of them were not in a state of ignorant bliss.

At this point, we still have so many people from the top down who appear to have no clue. Not only has that hurt the effort to fight the was so far, it could very well force us to wait until something rather extreme happens, before the fight is taken seriously.

I am a firm believer in education being half the battle. You still have to fight the hard fight, but with knowledge that fight can be made easier.

Always On Watch said...

Great essay!

They wrap themselves in the same blanket of willful ignorance and wallow in the same trivial distractions....

People are aware of each individual event but simply do not imagine that something connects them. They do not allow themselves to think such thoughts....

I see these willfully blind people on a regular basis.

My own family (adults, all, as my husband and I have no children) gets tired of hearing me warn, over and over again, of what's coming, of what is happening as Islamification spreads its tentacles within all of Western society.

For some of us this is a time of anxiety, nervously awaiting the end of an era....

Sometimes I think I'm obsessed. And for the majority of my waking hours, I can barely get my mind on something else. I can barely keep my mind on a novel, and I used to love to read fiction. For a while, I had trouble sleeping at night; a bedtime brandy helped on that one.

Several times a day, especially when I'm out and about, I look around and think, "How long will this be here? What will a nuclear wasteland here look like? Will the strike be somewhere else? And even if there is not a nuclear strike, how long can the Western civilization I so love withstand the subversion of Islamification?" It's a burden, all right.

I'm glad that my husband and I have no children. But as I posted earlier here at IBA, I am a teacher, and I have to see the faces of my students. Not easy to watch.

But I will not go down without a fight--even if the fight is limited to my efforts to get the truth out. The media won't publish cartoons--much less the bald and terrifying truth.

The blogosphere keeps me sane!

But, truly, I'm starting to believe that it's already too late. I'm starting to believe that Western civilization doesn't have what it takes to stand up to the threat we're under. There have been at least two generations brainwashed by pc and multi-culti.

Still, I slog on. I can't do anything else!

Cubed © said...


Many of us have maintained that it will take another "incident" to awaken the Living Dead to the historical paradigm shift that is soon to be upon us.

If the port sellout actually succeeds, it is a prime candidate for the button that will be pushed to cause the shift.

Dubai Ports International has contracts on every continent except North America. If the sellout goes through, we - including Canada (the port that is targeted there is Vancouver, B.C.) - will be providing access to the enemy too.

It's been a matter of weeks since bin Laden and Co. insisted that before long, the U.S. would experience an event that would make the Twin Towers look like child's play.

If you harbored such goals, and you had friends who could place containers in major ports all over the world, including North America, wouldn't you begin to think about the possibilities?

Cubed © said...


We're with you; I don't think there's a poster on this site who will go down without a fight - and while it may not do us old folks much good, if the Muslims are successful in pulling off another stunt, they will find that they have gotten their message through even to the Great Unaware.

That will release the energy of an awful lot of people. Mme. Reality has been knocking on the door for 1400 years, but she may be about to knock it down, and when she bursts through, our enemy will recognize that they have made a grave miscalculation.

Even the Cartoon Fiasco (buy Danish!) is beginning to wake up a few. Just think what would happen if bin Laden's threat were to prove true.

Anonymous said...

Thomas, you saddle a horse, and sidle up to a bar. Aside from that, people want to be entertained..