Monday, November 27, 2006

Oh yeah, I had a blog

Happy belated Thanksgiving, people.

I spent the holiday in Somerset, Kentucky, with a buddy of mine and his family who graciously invited me to have the Turkey Day meal with them. It was a nice break -- we ate well, and Saturday hiked around Cumberland Falls for a few hours.

Now it's back into the last throes of the 2006 working year. I'm planning on taking a couple weeks off for Christmas, which means I'll be heading home to New York for even more R&R.

This was the fifth (and last, hopefully) Thanksgiving I spent in the Army, and the fifth I've been away from home. It's funny the way holidays take on a different character when you're away from family -- really, Thanksgiving has always been "just another day." Since it's a day off, historically I've used it as an opportunity to go out drinking the night before, since there's nobody expecting any conversation out of you when you go the the "Thanksgiving Dinner" at the post dining facility, and gravy is good for hangovers.

Instead, this year I just enjoyed taking it easy. I really must be softening up -- I mean, read this sentimental dreck I concocted for last week's paper.

On the U.S. politics side, once Bush announced that SECDEF Rumsfeld was being "asked to leave," I decided to revisit Bob Woodward's "State of Denial," which I'd picked up when it came out but never really got into.

While I was away for Thanksgiving, a woman noticed it while I was carrying it outside to read. She said, "Oh, I wouldn't read that. I used to like Bob Woodward, but this book is all untrue."

Apparently, she enjoyed Woodward's two previous Bush books, "Bush at War" and "Plan of Attack," which were widely considered to be at least sympathetic to the current administration. In "State of Denial," that is not the case.

In college, I took a survey course in psychology as an elective, since I switched majors too late to get into any journalism classes my freshman year. I remember reading something about "ego defense mechanisms," and while I understood the concept in the class however many years ago, I hadn't seen one jump out at me quite so blatantly and advertise itself.

Then again, I guess I have -- it's a pandemic across the country, and you can see it in that tenacious minority that still clings to the idea of George W. Bush being the saviour of the American way of life and the stalwart defender of freedom and apple pie he's painted himself as. If Mr. Bush says we need to go to war to beat bad guys who want to steal our babies and keep us from voting, then, by God, that's the way it has to be. Besides, what better way to restore our faith in the American youth than by having a couple thousand of them die in the desert, defending "freedom"?

In psychology, it's called creating ego defense mechanisms -- those ideas you construct so you can keep from believing that something awful or unacceptable is actually true. In art -- movies and literature, usually -- it's called suspension of disbelief. When you watch a movie, you need to temporarily ignore the knowledge that what's going on on the screen is fake; that way, you can become involved with the story line and experience the thrill ride the director is trying to take you on.

But in both ego defense and suspension of disbelief, there can come a time where the burden of evidence becomes so great that these are shattered, and the real world is left there unadorned, staring brutely back at you.

Many conservatives in America have been able to maintain their suspension of disbelief through a series of fantastic events -- the absence of weapons of mass destruction, the U.S.' s utter failure to rebuild Iraq, the thieving and war-profiteering going on in Washington, just to name a few -- and one wonders what exactly it will take to bring them all crashing back down to reality.

When they do, it'll be a good day, and those of us who have already left Candyland should welcome them with open arms. It won't be until then that we can actually make any real progress.