Happy birthday, Bob.
Happy birthday, Bob.
Like most of us, then or now, Binkley and Portnoy in the cartoon below are looking back at the previous year and pondering the year to come. Nineteen eighty-four had been on the way, ominously, since 1948 when Orwell published the book and, for lack of a better title, transposed ’48 into ’84. It worked for a while, seemingly far into the future, but the title lost its impact when the year finally came and nothing much happened except for Reagan getting re-elected. The book remains however one of the best prophecies against totalitarian government because what lurks within its pages can certainly happen—and already has in various countries.
The final line in the cartoon, “Let’s…be careful out there,” refers to Sgt. Phil Esterhaus’s daily benediction to his cops on Hill Street after he’d brief them and give assignments at the beginning of each episode. The actor, Michael Conrad, died mid-season 1983 and was written out of the show in a death that made his character’s legend live on bravely in the hearts of his cops.
But the “Let’s be careful out there” can also refer to the oncoming of 1984, a year of foreboding and altogether too much hype. As it turned out, it could have been a lot worse.
Let’s be careful out there anyway.
In early 2003, while the president beat his drums for Regime Change in Iraq, and made his case by citing Weapons of Mass Destruction, a friend dropped by in the evening while the news was on TV. He asked me, “What’s your take on all this?” I said that I had come to the conclusion that either the president is insane or I am.
I still have hope that it was I who was insane, in order to give that president a passing grade in history, but it’s ten years later, a different president, and the drum of war is beating again—and the drug of war is about to be injected. I don’t think I was the madman then. I may be now.
From George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, a book that may never out-date (sadly, and in spite of its unfortunate title) until Jesus comes again. Winston Smith is reading here from the banned Emmanuel Goldstein:
‘In past ages, a war, almost by definition, was something that sooner or later came to an end, usually in unmistakable victory or defeat. In the past, also, war was one of the main instruments by which human societies were kept in touch with physical reality. All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers, but they could not afford to encourage any illusion that tended to impair military efficiency. …
Moreover, to be efficient it was necessary to be able to learn from the past…
But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous. When war is continuous there is no such thing as military necessity. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word ‘war’, therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist. … A peace that was truly permanent would be the same as a permanent war. This – although the vast majority of Party members understand it only in a shallower sense – is the inner meaning of the Party slogan: War is Peace.’
Winston stopped reading for a moment. Somewhere in remote distance a rocket bomb thundered. The blissful feeling of being alone with the forbidden book, in a room with no telescreen, had not worn off.
‘Julia, are you awake?’
No answer. She was asleep. He shut the book, put it carefully on the floor, lay down, and pulled the coverlet over both of them.
…[A]fter reading it he knew better than before that he was not mad. Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”
Write to your U.S. senators and representatives. A quick Google search will take you to the homepage of each of them. On their Contact page, a short message and a click of the “Submit” button is all it takes. Phone numbers and mailing addresses are provided too.
This week has been a wreck with bombings, manhunts, lockdowns, factory explosions, the Senate caving to the NRA. I have behaved myself and not posted anything, but this cartoon just landed in front of me and it goes up without delay.
The tax deadline doesn’t line up with Good Friday this year, but …
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” — John 11:49-50