From Inside this Enfolding Heart

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

The final night of the Republican National Convention set forth a vision of America and its emotional center.  Two videos, along with the nominee’s acceptance speech, portrayed in a soft but clear light the prime mover by which people are attracted to the party.  The emotional center, the prime mover, the heart, beats with a sentimental militarism.  

The attraction is undeniable.  The promise is of a kind of warm embrace, a belonging, into both a family and a story.  Inside this enfolding heart, all that surrounds you is home.  

Please hit play on this video, narrated by Robert Duval and titled “Peace,” which also played on the Thursday night of the convention.  If you’re at work or otherwise unable to watch it, it is a slide show set to a gentle piano.  

Duval narrates slowly and with a loving tone of voice:

You can’t really touch your country.  But you can serve it.  You can’t really see your country.  But you can love it.  America is a love story.  A love all Americans share.  And from our midst rise extraordinary men and women who lead her to greatness.  Americans who found their love of country so profound that it naturally came first in their lives. Before work, before friendship, before self, through war, through peace, despair and success.  Our country is here, we are here, because of their belief in all of us.  My name is Robert Duval.

There are thirty-four images in the slide show.  Fourteen are of people in military uniform.  Three are of firefighters or police officers.  Four display military funerals or cemetaries.  Most of the rest are of children holding flags, or of adults and children at play, or of people holding their hands to their hearts.  Fourteen, as I say, are of people in military uniform, but it is not as though the other twenty are of something else.  The show, which is to say America, melts into military air.  

Now, do not ask, “Why does that attract?”  To ask “Why does that attract?” is to forget, I think, the feel of the Jane’s Fighting Ships that you checked out of the elementary school library.  It’s to forget games of tag in the field by the woods and it’s to forget the way you learned to stand bravely at the plate while a clumsy twelve-year-old threw baseballs for all the world right at your nose.  It’s to forget your dad showing you how to swing a hammer in one hard swift stroke or your mom fixing your ponytail before a game of middle-school hoops.  It’s to forget the living room carpet and — my God! — the movies, the movies, the movies of Americans finding their story in war; to find it recapitulated and affirmed.  It’s to forget the all whole everything and to forget, in the first place, the enfolding heart.


“But why” — I can hear the question — “why militarism?  I get the nostalgia part.  I don’t see why it has to be so warlike.”

To which I respond: No.  No, you don’t get the nostaligia part.  Nostalgia is warlike.

From inside this enfolding heart, what you call “nostalgia” is called “love and hope.”  That it isn’t quite real — that “nostagia” is the name of love for something that was never quite there to begin with — makes no difference at all, or if it does make a difference, it is only to make the love and hope stronger.  As Duval said, “You can’t really see your country, but you can love it.”  Nostaliga, after all, is love, not for what was, but for what should have been.

Well.  Here is John McCain:

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s….I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s.

Let me ask you a question.  How do you defend something that isn’t here anymore?  Worse, how do you defend something that was never here to begin with?  You do your best to wipe out what is going to be (later in his acceptance speech, in the ending call to arms, McCain yelled, “Nothing is inevitable here”), in favor of what should have been.  That this is impossible — because in this particular case the “what should have been” is just a distorted and perfected memory of childhood — well, that just means you’re gonna need a bigger gun.

But, still, why militarism?

Why does the Republican love of the past have to end up in so many dead people abroad?  People who never threatened us, never told us we couldn’t have our own past, if that’s what we wanted, who never gave such matters a thought in their lives?

Because, I think, from inside this enfolding heart the present day looks like a goblin.  It does not matter what other name it goes by — one day the Ruskies, the next day the Terrorists — it only matters that it is today, and today is not yesterday, and yesterday is closer to what should have been.

You cannot touch your country, Duval said, but you can serve it.

The enfolding heart is what Freud called the death instinct, and that is why it has to kill.


But what are we to do about this?  Thanks for the tour, I guess, but so what?  

I don’t know.  All I am pretty sure of is that, in the mind of the typical Republican the desire to bomb Iran is at least 4/5ths a desire that has nothing whatsoever to do with Iran.  Iran is just a pissant military power that couldn’t even beat Iraq and spends about the same on its military as Kuwait: less than 1/5th Saudi Arabia’s budget.

The desire has to do with something else, and until we find a way to talk to that something else, we will not have peace.


Skip to comment form

  1. Also at DailyKos.

    • Edger on September 9, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Some people are just not introspective enough to comprehend that their own happiness has to come from within themselves and can never come from outside themselves, and they will always fall for the militarism. They are the same people who are convinced that they can shop their way to happiness (which isn’t fundamentally different from bombing and stealing their way to happiness), wondering all the while while why the happiness they seek continually recedes like a time horizon. They miss the fact that whatever they do to others they do to themselves, even though their bible told them so.

    I think… therefore I am not a republican?

    • Robyn on September 9, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    That question apparently came up at an on-campus discussion which I decided to avoid yesterday, suspecting that most people would not be all that interested in my point of view.

    Thinking about it throughout thi morning however, I’ve come up with an answer, however not-well-thought-out it may be.

    Conquest.  A boy must conquer something or, as is more likely the case, someone.  Get laid.  Beat someone into submission.  Win…at something.

    Kill:  the ultimate proof of manhood.  Kill for your country.

    Remember the days when killing for your country was honored?  That’s nostalgia.  

    • US Blues on September 10, 2008 at 1:00 am

    “…when every Christmas come,

    you buy the youth a fancy toy gun,

    when every Christmas come,

    you buy the youth a fancy toy gun

    You can’t blame the youth,

    you can’t fool the youth,

    you can’t blame the youth of today…”

    – Peter Tosh

  2. and I think they take us to the edge of seeing something important.

    The word that comes to my mind as I read this is “belonging.” I don’t know why – only that it seems to be a deep need we all feel that too often gets distorted into ugly shapes.

  3. glorified violence historically. As a kid I watched old movies about how we ‘won’ the west from savage Indians. I watched as we saved the world from the original Axis of evil via Ronnie and John Wayne. My brother played with GI Joes. I have watched as the media and the right turned Veit Nam from a disgraceful  piece of our history into some sort of noble lost cause. It’s been excellerated in the last eight years to the point where we’ve been softened to accept the unacceptable all for what? Oil, geopolitical power these are not enough so people need to feel that they are killing and bombing and torturing for a good reason. They need to believe that they are threatened that their mythical life styles are threatened that their lust for blood is good. McCain yesterday compared himself to Jack on 24hours. Hero’s in white hats is much more preferable then fascist torturers hell bent on domination.

    When a society gets to a point where a dead sicky POW and a moose skinner who collects dead wolves legs are considered not only acceptable but heroic were screwed. The TV shows us nothing of what our violence does to real people it just justifies and satisfies the lust for death and carnage under the name of patriotic, What to do? There is one thing you can burst their bubble with the truth. Humoring this wanting to belong seems to normalize it.

    We all right and left dance to the notion of killing is necessary and no one refutes the necessity for ‘strong on defense’, ‘tough on terror’ or ever questions the notion of keeping us safe by military aggression. As long as both sides play to this and the machine of propaganda acts like black is white were stuck. A good German is a good German and no one is willing to call even the Bushies what they are. McCain is called honorable by Obama.  Sad when people who speak the truth are branded traitors. When people who protest are told not to be extremists, and rock the political boat by the Democratic rank and file. Cultural differences are one thing this is another altogether. Both parties feed the beast, and today I see no hope at all.  

  4. by Chris Hedges. Though I’ve found Hedges in interviews to be a self-important prig, this book is important for understanding why many Americans — perhaps even a majority — will “cling” to their love of the grand, glorious spectacle of militarism.  

    • BruceMcF on September 10, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    (copied from dKos, but without that critical qualifier)

    And since direct confrontation with a meme …

    … nestled so deep in the core of the current conventional wisdom is clearly impossible …

    … the question is, how to jujitsu?

    Energy Independence. There is so much fucking World War II nostalgic Greatest Generation in the fight for Energy Independence, its incredible. Hell, they even made posters during World War II for us to use without modification today.

    That is why Drill Drill Drill.

    Its pure Rove: attack the enemy at their strength, their weaknesses take care of themselves.

    And what is McCain’s Strength? POW, country above self, Maverick.

    Attacking his strength: Prisoner of the Past, Big Oil above Country, Flaky and Unreliable.

  5. a greater awareness of, a closer connection to the earth.  Maybe it will take cataclysmic storms, famine, drought, the full wrath of Mother Earth – but it would be nice to think that at a slower pace, returning to small scale gardening and really paying attention to nature, seeing things grow, the cycle of life, season to season, we could find that something else.  We really are all one here on Earth, we just have to come to that realization, each one individually.

  6. Adrenaline is the ultimate high. It took a very heavy dose of some really good acid, before I realized why I liked to ride bulls in rodeos so much (at a younger age), I got really high everytime I rode. I wasn’t into “getting high” at the time, I was as red necked as they come, but that didn’t stop the effect.

    Wars, and confrontation, are natural adrenaline inducers. The R’s leadership uses this unknowingly, to a degree, to get the rabid loyality of people that don’t think. The old adage, “Count to ten…” is anti adrenaline, it is THINKING. The less educated, the less likely to use rational thought, and the more easily influenced, the more easily moved to the fight or flight syndrome which is one of nature’s prime survival manifestations, if not the most important.

    Add the concept of tribe (nation) as a means of surviving, and the rabid right (RR) will scream “love it or leave it” everytime a new idea comes up. The RR can only see in reverse, they only look to the past to see their survival mechanisms. Because of their illiteracy they don’t use the rational skills also available to them, to search for a better way. I can’t remember which RR candidate said it, I believe it was Dino Rossi (running for Gov. in Wa), but when asked what Department of Goverment should be cut, the answer was Dept of Education. Sick, in the old school definition.

    Just sick, sick, sick.





Comments have been disabled.