Saturday, June 06, 2009


It comes out now that in January’s superbly executed plane-ditching in the Hudson, it was not a passenger but a crew member who opened the rear exit and allowed water to pour into the cabin of the aircraft that was – predictably – ‘down’ by the tail.

The original story from the rear crew-member was that Gosh, while trying to move passengers forward, she was brushed aside by a panicked passenger who opened the hatch and let the water in.

Now passengers are reported as having all along held that it was the crew-member herself who opened the hatch.

This is a story with some significance for larger affairs.

The flight attendant is not a habitual criminal. Probably not a habitual liar (or at least, no more than any of the rest of Us). She may well have been following standard procedure, the ‘book’. Or perhaps in the vast upset of the moment she didn’t quite take everything in the plane’s particular situation into account.

But if so, then it opens up the company to potential lawsuits. Her own job might be in jeopardy, indeed her career. For all We know, the company’s own bosses, upon advice of the company’s own attorneys, put their rather hefty two-cents in.

You can see how easily pressures combine to make a person consider ways of not-quite-telling the truth.

Two things come to me.

First, you can’t simply ‘accept’ anything these days without either kicking the tires or expecting that things might not be what they seem. This is a burden: it takes a certain amount of psychic energy to maintain a certain level of distance from what is ‘reported’, especially if it is to be a continuous, habitual stance. After all, feeling a certain amount of ‘security’ is something everybody likes – and can certainly use nowadays. If you can’t trust the newspapers … well, once it was assumed that you could always trust your banker and ‘the banks’. (Although, anyone familiar with the character of the absconding bank president in John Ford’s 1939 “Stagecoach” would realize that ‘trusting bankers’ is a regression induced by postwar material ‘success’, a falling-away from a healthy skepticism earned at great cost by earlier generations.)

Second, imagine what happens in the Beltway, when even ‘elites’ and ‘experts’ and ‘professionals’ – civilian and military – feel such pressures. And to those pressures is added ‘patriotism’ and ‘loyalty’, even though those two concepts must always be judged by their content, and not by their appearance. After all, the SS motto was “Loyalty is our honor” and many of those gentlefolk considered themselves both patriotic and honorable up to and beyond the end in 1945.

Closer to home, an admiral – Isaac Kidd – and a ranking military lawyer – Ward Boston – both kept quiet about the actual reality of the USS Liberty matter, as did another admiral – Geis – who had actually been the one chewed out by McNamara and LBJ on the radiotelephone that awful day for trying to send rescue planes to the battered and bloodied ship’s aid. Lawyer Boston held his peace until 2004, when, faced with his own imminent prospect of Judgment, filed a sworn statement finally revealing the truth. (By the by, all of these naval worthies – all honorable men – took their orders from one Admiral John McCain – the four-star father of a certain unruly junior naval aviator of the era.)*

One can always seek to install in the Beltway gentlefolk of integrity and honor. But politics is a murky business; much like the splendidly-furnished Titanic, things get messy as hell when you go down to the engine room and see what it actually takes to keep her slicing through the water.

The Framers were not so trusting of Virtue – much as they respected the ideal. They constructed a machine that would provide checks-and-balances, not only among the Branches, but also grounded in The People. The People were not envisioned as the ‘bottom’ of the ladder, but rather as the fount and origin of the whole shooting-match: it was The People who constituted the source of government’s authority and its legitimacy. “Mr. President” was not known as His Serene Excellency precisely because the holder of that office was simply a government employee, an employee of The People; as were the Members of Congress.

The increasing centralization of the Industrial and the Corporate Ages, the manipulativeness of the Advertising Age, the shallowness of Consumerism, and the baaaad examples of Marxism, Leninism, and Nazi propaganda … all these have taken their cumulative toll upon Us: We don’t easily see Ourselves in the role that is absolutely essential for the Constitution and the Republic to function.

We need to do something about that.


*Once again, as We approach the June 8th anniversary, you can go to to review things.

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