It was the sort of story that news organizations want their viewers to see as a silver lining in the worst of situations. That’s when I lost it. FUCK YOU, MR. BUSH! I screamed at the television set, much to my wife’s dismay as I hardly ever curse, much less use the F word.
Here was the story of an American GI who died in a war of choice by the president of the United States based on lies, fabrications, and falsehoods. This young boy would have to grow up without his father and be asked to live his life from only the words in a journal to support him.
That’s when I thought about Hannah Arendt and her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), which I had read many years ago as an undergraduate. She coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe Adolph Eichmann, who was on trial in Israel for the murder of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of innocent Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe during the time of the Nazis. Throughout his trial, Eichmann showed no remorse, no understanding of why he was on trial, and maintained his innocence with “I was only doing my duty” as his defense.
Hannah Arendt raised the question of “whether ‘evil’ is radical or simply a function of banality—the tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without critically thinking about the results of their action or inaction.” See Wikipedia link. Evil, she insisted, arises from an unwillingness to understand the human condition and the consequences of one’s decisions — especially to understand a person’s responsibility in promoting evil.
George W. Bush is a banal man who probably doesn’t distinguish between “I’m just doing my duty” and his doing evil, much in the same way professor Arendt reported on Adolph Eichmann so many years ago.
How, you ask, could the commander in chief of the army and navy just be doing his duty? Well, when you’re not very smart and you don’t think through the implications of your responsibilities, especially as the president of the United States, and you only want to throw your power around in arrogantly divisive ways, egged on by the likes of the neo-cons and Dick Cheney, George W. Bush would, and probably will, tell us that he was only doing what he thought his duty was in starting a pre-emptive war to, ironically, wipe out evil.
So, Jordan, like so many other children of victims of this war, Iraqi and Americans, will grow up without his father. He will have to live his life mostly through the words of a journal. Thank you, Mr. President! And, thank you Hannah Arendt for providing us with the insights into the ‘banality of evil’ which George W. Bush has practiced almost every day of his presidency. Is there no greater evil than the banality which creates evil in the first place? I think not!