Yesterday morning, when the whole British terror plot foiling thing seemed like a bigger deal than it was, there was an interview on NPR with a representative from Homeland Security, discussing airport security. There was a question about how prepared the U.S. is to detect liquid explosives and the answer went something like this: Well, we are not as prepared as we should be, but we are taking strong measures. A few years ago, we caught a lot of flack for inspecting a woman who was carrying baby formula, but now you see how necessary that really was. This got me thinking that, whatever else this British terror plot foiling thing might be, it is a useful tool for the subtle re-writing of history and collective memory, the kind that this administration engages in all the time. Oh, did we say we are going into the war looking for weapons of mass destruction? We meant bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. Did you think that we were going overboard making mothers drink their own breast milk at airport security checkpoints instead of dealing with the deep global issues surrounding war and terrorism? Now you see how dangerous liquids are!
Yesterday evening, I watched a documentary on the Tiananmen Square Massacre. I watched Deng Xiaoping declare marshal law and order the soldiers of the People's Liberation Army to shoot to kill students and fellow citizens. And I had a thought-killing hundreds or thousands of peaceful protestors didn't accomplish Deng's goals of clamping down on revolt nearly as well as his policy of opening the door to capitalism in China. Guns and tanks don't stop people protesting as much as being distracted by the latest cars and electronic goods you have to purchase, and having your belly full of mind-numbing McDonalds and Kentuky Fried Chicken. In other words, Deng's greatest accomplishment in rendering protesters impotent was to give them the goodies of capitalism, to make them more like us Americans. After all, when is the last time you saw 1.2 million Americans gathering together, demanding changes in our government and its policies? We have credit card bills to pay and new cell phones to shop for and crappy food to eat.