Thursday, July 24, 2008

Klavan: We're a country of the imagination

Andrew Klavan on the imagination deficit:

Okay, so the Army isn’t Universal Studios. But the failures here are symptomatic of a larger imaginative deficit. From its tongue-tied commander in chief to its “information operations”—which even the military admits are regularly outdone by al-Qaida propagandists—down to the public-affairs people who deal with the local press, the military has so far been incapable of putting its urgent mission into narrative form. An insulated culture of taciturn heroism may work against them here, but there’s also the usual governmental cluelessness about dealing with the public. Even at Fort Bragg, when a sympathetic journalist—namely me—tried to get permission to join the training, I was at first given the sort of stone-faced runaround you usually associate with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Now you may say that capturing the imagination isn’t the job of our fighting forces. But this is America, remember: we’re a country of the imagination, a living state of mind. We’re not connected to one another by bloodlines or any depth of native memory. We’re the descendants of an idea that every generation has to learn to hold in its collective consciousness. More than in any other country, it matters in America who we think we are and what we believe we’re doing.

Our academies, the news media that train in the academies, and the entertainment industry that’s informed by the news media have become, to my thinking, a sort of alternative state of the imagination, a kingdom of lies founded in the muck of hysterical guilt, historical distortion, and philosophical solipsism. In their fantastic and labyrinthine narrative, our fascist foes are Nemesis, the emanation of our own sins, and therefore our military can only be the mad or foolish servants of evil.

The real story is simpler, and it should be simple enough to tell: we’re up against another generation of the ever-present enemies of the American idea, and they have to be stopped by the sort of men and women who are training at Fort Bragg.

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