The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns … instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.

– George Orwell, whose birthday is today.

A cuttlefish looks like this.

I use the quote above to shoehorn my thoughts onto blog topic, but my favorite quote from Orwell is this passage from 1984:

To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone — to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink — greetings!

I sit here tonight look at those words again, amazed at how much Truth there is in them, and wondering if we have finally come to live in that age of doublethink.

Slavery is freedom. The climate is not changing. Guns keep us safe. Rich people create jobs. War is Peace. Immigration is hurting the economy. Iraq is Obama’s fault. Ignorance is strength.

I’ve been watching World War Z. It’s interesting to see what that silly zombie fad looks like with a big budget. …It is a metaphor of American politics, right?

“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” So for us, a zombie apocalypse is more likely than attaining government or, by, or for the people.

As Memories Go

There’s an interesting thing that happens with early childhood memory. It becomes infused and confused with memories of later events, with family photos and home movies, with other media. Memory can be heavily influenced.

I think that’s what’s happened with my memories of the day John F. Kennedy was murdered. I couldn’t really remember it, right? I was only two years old.

What I think I remember is being with my Mom in the little den or “TV room” of our house, and that the room was full of a heavy and palpable sorrow.

That’s pretty vague, as memories go. But it has always seemed like the best first reaction and it has served me well as years have gone by. It was right to grieve because a lot was lost, most poignantly not just a president; two men died that day, both fathers.

For the record, there’s no way Oswald shot Kennedy from the sixth floor of that building. An impossible shot, and Kennedy was hit from the opposite direction. Oswald killed the policeman, and took the fall for killing the president.

I’ve heard it said that the nation’s innocence died that day, but I wouldn’t say that. This nation has never been innocent. Naive maybe. I would say the murder of our president was a serious blow to our self-image, and that what followed was a crisis of identity. A kind of schism, not unlike the personality disorder we’re experiencing now. But I digress.

The single image of those days that has remained with me for fifty years is not the First Lady on the trunk of the car, or Johnson taking the oath on the plane, or the cortege in the streets of Washington.


It serves to remind us that presidents don’t belong to us, they work for us. They belong to their families, just like everyone else. John Jr. was only six months older than me, you understand. I got to grow up with a loving Dad. And while I was let outside to play in just a little while, I have to imagine he never was.


to kill an american

This is one of those countless “pass this on to everyone you know” things that circumambulate in the internets and just won’t die. But when it came around again this time, it struck a chord. It speaks to the best of what we are as Americans. If someone had grafted this into Bush’s brain in the fall of 2001, we’d be so much better off. Because the best we can be is so much more peaceable than we’ve been.

To Kill an American

You probably missed this in the rush of news, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper, an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American.

So an Australian dentist wrote an editorial the following day to let everyone know what an American is . So they would know when they found one. (Good one, mate!!!!)

“An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani or Afghan.

An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as native Americans.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan . The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world.

The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence , which recognizes the God given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return.

When Afghanistan was over-run by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country!

As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan . Americans welcome the best of everything…the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services. But they also welcome the least.

The national symbol of America , The Statue of Liberty , welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America .

Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2001 earning a better life for their families. It’s been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.

So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself . Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.