Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this
was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor.
We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out
of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by the Administration apparently feel free to say
nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being
done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available
to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense.
But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory
bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric
spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democrary.
Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief
management. Politics, the politics of a democracy -- which entails disagreement, which promotes candor -- has been replaced
by psychotherapy. Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness
might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we are
told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all
America has to be.