Now yours, truly does not want to trivialize the Cold War. He believes he is serious when he says he has respect for warfare, as sincere a respect as one can have from a distance (and from a significant distance is the impression yrs., truly evinces). But it is easier to imagine him as a detective—Marlowe or Spade or Gittes or Holmes or McClane—and anyway, tasteful critics agree that Cold War cloak-and-dagger films are preferable to ensemble storming-the-beach-type productions.
Beyond cinema, another tangential benefit of the Cold War is that it could be said to have inspired some larger notions of conformity that no longer seem to be necessary, and the recent lack of needing to find a way to believe decent things about each other, at least in comparison to people in the rest of the world—while perhaps a bit artificial—has sown a fertile soil for rancorous malcontents like the Tea Party. The haters. Now, before thoughts of McCarthy and race riots and hippies and plenty else rise to mind, think about it another way. We Americans need an enemy, and it has to be grand. The respective wars on drugs and terrorism are not the answer.
When external problems don’t exist, Americans find internal ones. Itching for some roughhousing—it had been more than thirty years since we kicked the British out again in 1815, and Mexico rolled over too easily when we tangled over lands better governed from the East Coast—and for a breathless instance lacking any obvious enemies, we embroiled ourselves in the bloodiest, most destructive war in our nation’s history, one that still carries more weight for some of us than the mundanity of the present day.
Yours, truly has already commented on this year’s secession fad, but he can’t help but draw another comparison between 2013 and 1863. In fact, he feels that, as an employee of the State of Virginia, it is his constitutional duty to observe that one hundred and fifty years ago, this country declared war on its own people, and today, comrades, we find ourselves under siege once more. Our privacy has been stripped away. Torture supersedes due process. Groundless searches and wire-taps are the order of the day—it can be assumed that they are coming for yrs., truly’s non-existent guns.
Except that they’re not (coming for our guns, they are spying on us and torturing foreigners, or rather, citizens of the world), and it is the Tea Party’s general insistence on fabricating issues and resentments out of smoke and petty prejudice that is exactly the sort of nonsense a serious threat tends to discourage.
Could an obstructionist fringe possibly have been allowed to fruitlessly shut down the government with the threat of the Red Menace hanging over all our heads? They would have been excommunicated. Another reminder that without a sacred enemy, there can be no sacred cause. As the Crusaders halted their petty feuding to retake Jerusalem (temporarily, and excepting the gutless Sheriff of Nottingham/referee/Home Guard/Chief Accountant of Outer Station types that not even a holy war can inspire) so the Iron Curtain united Iowa and New York in holy opposition (and manufacture and distribution). And is really much of a stretch to think that we might benefit from our enemies in the same ways we benefit from goals? What is an enemy but a target to exceed?
But, like other bubbles, this one has burst (thanks, Gorby). A sensible but antithetically grand war on the wealthy is already underway—my pitchfork is sharp, my solar powered torch at the ready, to bring to order those smarmy scumbags, that loathsome 1% that has taken home more than 95% of income gains since 2008—but rather than pitch an entirely conceivable overthrow of the super-wealthy[i], and then a follow-up period of some awkward looking around where probably even guys like yours, truly have to swallow hard, what about something grander, something like an alien invasion—fabricated if we don’t have time to wait for the real deal.
How better to get everyone—Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Commis, Soccer Moms, Bankers, Cartels, Pimps, Hipsters, Warlords, the Red Cross, the Iroquois Nation, the Kiwis, the Slavs, the Pope, the Chinese—on board than with a unified opposition to an enormously threatening but not ultimately completely overwhelming alien invasion. And we can do this. Kepler, looking at just a sliver of the Cygnus constellation, itself a mere handful of Milky Way sand, found ten Earth-sized planet candidates located in the habitable zone around stars—even timid extrapolation leaves a wealth of worlds for science-fiction-writers-turned-DOD-contractors to imagine.
[i] Let’s get serious about this: the nation’s largest bank by some measures, the Bank of America, paid no federal taxes in 2010, but in fact got a 1.9 billion dollar rebate from the IRS, in addition to whatever portion of the 1.34 trillion they were still receiving from the bailout. The Greeks had ostracism, the Romans had the crucifix, we’ve got reality TV. Bankers should have to work their jobs on reality television, so that we can watch how they screw us.