Monday, June 05, 2006

The Suspension of Disbelief

Okay, Bush, I have another confession to make. I'm blushing again, if only you could see. I admit it: I went to see "The Da Vinci Code."

Well, my excuse is that people had been telling me thyat the movie was a whole lot better than the book. I'd also heard it wasn't nearly as bad as the critics said it was; that it was really quite a good thriller. So I went.

Big mistake. It is a dreadful movie. The kind of movie where you find yourself laughing out loud at what are supposed to be the most dramatic or tender moments because the plot is so patently absurd or the dialogue is so ridiculous.

All of which got me thinking about the willing suspension of disbelief--Coleridge's term, if you recall, for our ability to set the everyday logic of reality aside and be swept into the fictional world of literature. It can happen with the most implausible of plots, so long as the language is right, or the characters, or their dialogue. It's a kind of magic. We can suspend our disbelief simply because the speed of the action (think "24") whisks our brain along to the next plot point before it has time to analyze the last. We can suspend our disbelief simply because we trust the narrator enough not to mislead us, or because the main character is seductive enough to charm us into spellbound assent.

Which got me thinking once again, Bush, about you, and about the current erosion of that "willing suspension of disbelief" that allowed you to seduce the American public into electing you, to reward the already wealthy corporations and the superrich with escalating wealth and power, and to lead us into this dreadful quagmire of a war. (More hideous deaths in Iraq yesterday, Bush: more beheadings, more bombs--and still no appointments to key ministries in the new "government." Is there no end?) It was all based on misplaced trust. Your Rove--along with his political hacks and his cohorts in the media--managed to persuade enough voters to trust you, despite clear evidence that your policies ran counter to their interests on almost every front. They managed to persuade enough of us that true was false and, conversely, that false was true.

It was, I suppose, the appearance of piety that persuaded many of those who voted for you to suspend the common sense and practical analysis that could have told them that you shared the bully's pathological need for power, that in the interests of self promotion you favored the rich and powerful--and certainly not the average voter himself. If properly analyzed in the light of your actions, that piety too turns out to be a sham. True Christians, in my view, are made of more compassionate stuff. Yet we were sold, apparently, as a nation, on the persuasive fiction of that one neat, disingenuous phrase: compassionate conservatism, and people willingly ignored the obvious in favor of the saleable.

It's all falling apart now, though. Once we have seen the foolish little man behind the curtain, the great Oz has lost his magic. Oh, there are still those willing enough to suspend their rational judgment--or perhaps those who have none--to allow the charade to continue. But largely speaking the trust is gone. Whatever it was that persuaded us that the fiction offered by your spin doctors was real is now eroded. Sometimes, it seems, reality is just too powerful. It just jumps up and slaps you in the face.

Even so, as T.S.Eliot famously observed, mankind cannot bear too much reality. The danger now is that your fictioneers on the right will once again drive enough fear into the hearts of enough Americans that they will find it preferable to keep living in the fictional world they have helped create rather than face a truth that is truly frightening: that we are betraying not only our country's values and its reputation in the world, but very possibly the future of the world itself. Such is the terrible power of the willing suspension of disbelief.

3 comments:

David said...

Yet we were sold, apparently, as a nation, on the persuasive fiction of that one neat, disingenuous phrase: compassionate conservatism...

That's due to the high rate of alliteracy in this country :)

PeterAtLarge said...

Nice play, David. Accurate, too.

Anonymous said...

I must hang my head in shame that I voted for this evil idiot in 2000. The main reason I did so was due to this quote during the Presidential Debates,

"If we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road." George W Bush.

All I wanted was for our military to get out of ALL other countries and look what I have done. I also did not like Clintons behavior towards his wife and thought Bush would bring back more integrity to things, now I wish someone would just give him a blow##b, he needs it.

This action on my part has caused untold terror and death to humans around the world. Amazing what a vote can unleash. I apologize to humans around the world.