By Caitlin Hall
Illustration by Cody Angell
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday April 10, 2003
There was once a time, or so we're told ÷ most of us aren't old enough to know from personal experience ÷ when war got people thinking. Ah, the '60s ÷ McCarthyism had retreated back into its hole for the time being, world geography was common knowledge and everyone was young and righteous. It was the Golden Age of the conscientious objector.
Now war has got us un-thinking. We've got virulent patriotic fever, and it's reaching epidemic proportions. It's a disease that infects the brain and impairs mental function, leading the inflicted to say things like: "It's impossible to support the troops without supporting the war." "There's no trouble with embedded reporters staying objective." "Of course the interim government will have to be run by Americans."
Not only are we not thinking critically about the war, though; we're not thinking critically about anything at all. War and patriotism have become excuses for the vilest sort of behavior: a complete lack of rationality, both in our own arguments and in those we accept from others.
The effects are all around us. Take, for example, the Tucson City Council's recent decision to permanently paint the "A" on A Mountain red, white and blue. Never mind the fact that the "A" was always white until Sept. 11; someone decided it would be unpatriotic not to keep the new hues indefinitely, and once the word "unpatriotic" starts getting thrown around, politicians are quick to fall in line.
Those who feel the need to deck everything in sight with the national colors (and Gulf War I memorabilia) because doing so is "patriotic" should ask themselves, "In what way?" Does slapping a fresh coat of paint on a Tucson landmark ÷ or anything else, for that matter ÷ make that landmark more patriotic? How about the city council? The residents of Tucson?
Equally unfounded is UA's self-enforced edict that no event can take place on the Mall after 10:30 p.m. It is difficult to see how the administration's claim ÷ that the measure is necessary due to the increased national terror threat as a result of the war ÷ really even makes sense, let alone how it can justify a blanket ban on activities on the campus of a public university.
In reality, the measure was never meant to deter potential terrorists, just potential protesters. Of course, the powers that be can't admit that, though the omission hasn't kept them out of hot water with the ACLU.
Instead, the decree has had the opposite effect of that which was probably intended: Rather than permitting campus life to carry on as usual, it has hampered student activities and forced the cancellation of the English department's much-anticipated annual read-a-thon.
As is usually the case, however, the Arizona Legislature has trumped both the school and the city in the contest for the most inept leadership.
As reported in yesterday's Wildcat, prospective state employees ÷ including UA staff and faculty ÷ will now have to sign a pledge "not to use weapons of mass destruction or act like terrorists." A new loyalty oath for a new age ÷ a better, more productive, more hopeful age, not at all like the old age fraught with leaders who inspired undue fear and paranoid delusion in their denizens ·
One might wonder what, exactly, could possibly be the point of such a pledge.
Is it to discourage would-be terrorists ("Well, I was going to develop weapons of mass destruction, but I really want that assistant manager position at the U-Mart.")? Or would-be state employees ("The pay just isn't enough to make me abandon my plans for world domination.")?
Or is it simply to warn future employees that if they're caught engaging in terrorist activities, they could really get in trouble, even lose their jobs?
This recent string of events is merely indicative of a more troubling trend ÷ the slow, painful descent into nationwide dementia.
Though we may be as isolated from the action as people intravenously fed with streaming war footage possibly can be, it nonetheless seems we're all experiencing shell shock that has rendered us unable to draw distinctions between logic and panic.
These latest assaults on reason are merely symptoms of the plague of patriotism that is quickly consuming our nation and which long ago surpassed SARS in terms of virulence and communicability.
We had better find a cure quickly, before patriotic fever causes permanent damage to our increasingly collective brain.