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 Mark Twain and the Sins of Our Race

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PostSubject: Mark Twain and the Sins of Our Race   Mon 5 Oct - 21:14

Mark
Twain and the Sins of Our Race


6/21/2007
- Political - Article Ref: IV0706-3303


By:
Ramzy Baroud








War
Foretold





When
I resorted to Mark Twain's writings I attempted to escape, at least temporarily
from my often distressing readings on war, politics and terror. But his
"The Mysterious Stranger", although published 1916, still left me
with an eerie feel. The imaginative story calls into question beliefs that we
hold as a "matter of course" - a favorite phrase of his. It summons the
awful tendencies of "our race": our irrational drive for violence, be
it burning 'witches' at the stake or engaging in wars that only serve the
"little monarchs and the nobilities."






As
the Iraq
war rages on, Twain's words ring truer by the day. "The loud little
handful will shout for war...Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men
on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen,
and at first will have hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long;
those others will out shout them and presently the anti-war audiences will thin
and lose popularity. Before long you will see the most curious thing: the
speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of
furious men. And now the whole nation will take up the war-cry, and shout
itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and
presently such mouths will cease to open.









"Next the statesmen will invent cheap
lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be
glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them and
refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince
himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys
after the process of grotesque self-deception."





Twain,
whose genius undoubtedly surpasses time and space, wrote the above passages
nine decades before the world's leading statesmen, President George Bush and
Prime Minister Tony Blair forged their case for war, based on falsities and
refused to examine any refutations; they rallied millions, investing on their
ignorance and blind patriotism to carry out a war whose outcome is akin to
genocide. The text was also written long before the thousands who stood for
human rights, rallied and organized against the war, defended the constitution
and civil liberties were "shouted out" and "stoned from the
platform"; thousands of those "fair men" and women have endured
such a fate, the latest being Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved American mother who
lost her son, Casey, in Bush's war for oil, strategic repositioning of the
empire and the neoconservatives' ceaseless hunt for Israel's illusive
'security'. She too was shouted out, and in a heart-wrenching letter, she
reached the conclusion, most difficult for any mother to reach, that her son,
Casey died for nothing.





But
Bush is adamant to carry on with his costly endeavor that has espoused so many
new chasms within his country, and in the world at large: religious contentions
and political turmoil, damage that neither Mr. Bush, nor his most luminous
advisors have the will nor the brains to remedy.





"But what does it amount to?"
says Twain, using one of his story's characters, an angel to convey the idea:
"nothing at all. You gain nothing. You always come out where you went in.
For a million years the race has gone on monotonously propagating itself and
monotonously re-performing this dull nonsense - to what end? No wisdom can
guess! Who gets a profit out of it? Nobody but a parcel of usurping little
monarchs and nobilities who despise you; would feel defiled if you touches
them; would shut the door in your face if you proposed to call; whom you slave
for, fight for, die for, and are not shamed of it, but proud."





Sheehan
couldn't get an answer for why Casey was killed; many more might want to live
with the illusion that their loss didn't go in vain; but dead American bodies
continue to arrive back to US soil only at night; the wounded are maltreated
and hidden from the public eye, only occasional courageous reports manage to
break the silence and the perfected propaganda. In Iraq, the sheer number of
dead and dying defies belief; the entire country is now gripped in an endless
strife that shall define the cultural and social disposition of future
generations; it's often easy to comprehend and come to terms with a total
number of deaths when they are presented in a neatly packaged chart or a
website, no matter how harrowing; but once you learn of the individual stories,
you wonder whether the days of burning witches at the stake were better times:
a young girl raped before her own family and later killed with her own baby;
entire families massacred in broad daylight; militants chopping off limbs and
ears and noses under the watchful eye of the Iraqi police, for their victims
belonged to the wrong sect and stood on the wrong side of the war.





"The Mysterious Stranger" ended
up being a figment of a little boy's imagination - or was it? - its meaning is
overreaching and very much real. The war is real and frightening and hurtful;
it's not an intellectual argument; it cannot be reduced to a few images and
captions and editorials; nothing can ever capture a moment where a mother
receives the corpse of a son or the scene of a father kneeling before the shattered
body of a daughter. It's all real, and it's all our own doing, whether by
supporting, financing and fighting the war, or by staying silent as it rages
on.
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Mark Twain and the Sins of Our Race

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