Charades are party games in which you attempt to get your team to guess a word or phrase by gestures. That is, you try to let people know what you are pretending to do.
I never cared much for party games. I prefer to get to know people by talking to them. Games often interfere with this objective. But if artificial games can hinder social interaction, how much more can they hinder us from achieving our national objectives.
Isn’t that precisely what we have been doing? Haven’t we been avoiding reality by playing national charades?
For a generation we have been watering down religion with New Age and leftist ideas. In many cases, the result has become so diluted that it no longer can nourish the spirit. Like watered-down soup, much modern religion only seems like nourishment.
“Modern” Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish services are filled with nice-sounding advice to “love all humanity.” But they offer little help in judging who is right when part of “humanity” is killing another part. That would be too “judgmental.” The rich liturgy and beautiful hymns that inspired and comforted our grandparents are rarely heard, replaced by vapid ceremonies and insipid songs.
If you doubt this, go to a “liberal” religious service. Close your eyes and listen to the sermon. You will have to open them again to reassure yourself that you are not at a Democratic Party rally.
Nevertheless, we have become adept at feigning the outward signs of religion. President Clinton often was photographed coming from church carrying a huge Bible under his arm. But even the staunchest advocates of church-state separation didn’t object, because they sensed he was insincere.
In contrast, President Trump doesn’t pretend to be especially religious. Instead, he supports measures that many religious people favor, including defunding Planned Parenthood and allowing religious exemption from some regulations. For this reason, many Evangelicals, practicing Catholics, and observant Jews voted for him.
Many of us pretend to be religious, but the pretense is hollow, and real religion affects our daily lives hardly at all. So we cheat on our spouses, steal from our partners, “cook” the books, defraud our investors, abuse our parishioners ‒ and still pretend.
Membership in “modern” denominations is falling, while Evangelical Protestants, traditional Catholics, and Orthodox Jews are flourishing. Not everyone enjoys charades.
For a generation, SAT scores have been falling. Did we upgrade our teaching of English and math? Did we enrich our science classes? Did we fix the problem? No, we concealed the problem. We “re-normed” the test to hide the falling scores.
But we didn’t stop there. We replaced civics and American history with “social studies,” which emphasizes other cultures while belittling our own. Many high-school seniors cannot place the Civil War in the right century and don’t know who Grant was, other than the man on the $50 bill. They can’t name even one of the 16 recent recipients of the Medal of Honor. Can you?
They never heard of Alvin York, Audie Murphy, or “Chesty” Puller. They may use the Nimitz Freeway, MacArthur Boulevard, or Basilone Road, but they have no idea what these names represent ‒ and no curiosity to ask. No wonder they don’t know the price of freedom. We robbed them of their inheritance.
Even worse, kids learn that America’s values are no better than the values of other nations. Presumably this includes nations that abuse women, oppress ethnic and religious minorities, and even practice slavery. That is, kids are taught no values at all.
We do, however, teach “self-esteem.” So American kids rate high in their opinion of their math knowledge, but much lower in actual math knowledge.
We pretend to teach, and our kids pretend to learn. But not everyone is fooled by our pretense, as revealed by the growing enrollment in private, charter, and parochial schools, and home schooling. Not everyone enjoys charades.
In 1993 a truck bomb was detonated by terrorists who hoped to collapse one of the Twin Towers onto the other. Six people were killed and hundreds injured. The matter was treated as a criminal investigation. Those directly responsible were sent to prison. But the people and motives behind the attack were ignored, opening the way for 9/11.
In 1996 our Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia was bombed, killing 19 U.S. service personnel and injuring others. Again, the matter was treated as a criminal investigation. The Saudis arrested low-level terrorists, but the people behind the attack can only be guessed at.
In 1998 our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed, which represented acts of war. At least 224 Africans were killed and over 1000 injured, while 12 Americans were killed and others injured.
President Clinton responded by lobbing cruise missiles at a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan and at presumed terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Some rocks were bounced and donkeys frightened, but those responsible were neither hurt nor frightened.
Again, we pretended to do something. Again, we played charades.
In 2000 the USS Cole was bombed in the harbor at Aden, killing 17 U.S. personnel, injuring others, and almost sinking the ship. But instead of even pretending to act militarily, the FBI was sent to the scene. If it had not been on water, yellow tape would have been placed. The Yemenis arrested those presumably responsible, and the incident vanished down the media’s memory hole.
In these attacks, hundreds of Americans were killed and injured, and millions of dollars-worth of American property was destroyed. At best, we only pretended to do something. At worst, we didn’t even pretend.
And what message do you suppose this sent the terrorists? In effect, we said, “Go right ahead, guys, kill more Americans. We won’t hurt you. We’ll only pretend to.” And they got the message. Some people do enjoy charades.
Why do President Trump’s plans to strengthen our military and secure our borders elicit such passionate opposition? Precisely because he really means it ‒ that unlike his opponents, he isn’t just playing charades.
Since 9/11 we have subjected airline passengers to maddeningly long lines. We search old ladies in wheelchairs, small children, decorated veterans, and military personnel in uniform. We gleefully confiscate nail clippers and toothpaste. Meanwhile, Middle Eastern-appearing young men often pass through freely.
We pretend that all religious, ethnic, age, and gender groups are equally likely to be terrorists. We condemn “profiling.” But we don’t really mean it.
We don’t expect police searching for a rapist to stop equal numbers of men and women. We don’t expect police chasing an armed robber to stop children and old people. We don’t expect police investigating a drive-by shooting to stop equal numbers of gang members and Bible students.
For ordinary crimes, we sometimes ‒ sometimes ‒ use a bit of common sense. But when we’re really frightened, when mass murder and terrorism threaten us, we lose our wits. We insist on looking in the wrong places.
And we do the wrong things. We hesitate to arm pilots, in the exaggerated fear that a stray bullet may injure a passenger or damage the plane. But then we scramble jet fighters in case we have to shoot the plane down. The colossal contradiction escapes us.
Yes, air marshals on most flights would make arming pilots unnecessary. But there are over 37,000 commercial flights daily. The current number of air marshals is probably around 3500. They need days off and often work in pairs. So only a small fraction of flights can have marshals.
For the vast majority of flights, the real choice is not between arming pilots and air marshals ‒ it is between arming pilots and nothing. We chose nothing.
We pretend to busy ourselves searching for terrorists. But much of what we are doing is a charade. We content ourselves with looking like we’re doing something. We content ourselves with inconveniencing travelers.
We have become so used to pretense ‒ to fooling others ‒ that we are now fooling ourselves. We continue these make-believe practices even when millions of lives are at stake, perhaps even our own.
I never liked charades at parties. They are a waste of time. I like national charades even less. They can waste lives. They already have.
Contact: email@example.com. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.