We were on the highway again, squinting at the sun as it flatlined at midday on the shortest day of the year.
“Looks like the sun is just up the road,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Why don’t you crash into it before it dips under the horizon. Better to burn out than to fade away.”
He gets the blues on workdays, especially when he drinks bourbon the night before. I told him we’ve reached the winter solstice. We’ll all feel better as the days grow longer, even though winter just started, according to the calendar.
“You don’t believe that,” he said. “I read what you wrote last week about how history don’t make no sense. You’re a real downer, don’t you know?”
I tried to explain to him that history isn’t to blame; that the only reason it doesn’t make sense to most people is because they don’t read and learn the right lessons from it.
“You take for example that big story about the Afghanistan war, which has been going on for eighteen years now, ” I said.
I told him to call up the story on his phone and read a passage about the government agency that tried to piece together what went wrong:
Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.
I asked Swamp Rabbit to recall the mood of the country shortly after 9/11, when Afghanistan was invaded. The yellow ribbons. The calls for revenge against Osama bin Laden. The Bush gang trotting out blowhards like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to dazzle reporters with double-talk and patriotic blather. (And, not long afterwards, the same blowhards lying all over again about Iraq.)
“Anybody with an ounce of sense who knew the history of what happened a half-century ago in Vietnam could have — should have — smelled disaster up ahead,” I said.
Some people did smell disaster, I reminded him, but not enough to offset the war fever generated by the Bush gang and the poor performance of the mainstream media, which helped spread the fever by dutifully presenting government lies as truths.
“Quit pretending you don’t remember, rabbit. The Afghan war was exactly what bin Laden wanted. So far, it’s cost us thousands of lives and a trillion dollars. Do you know how long it would take you to count to a trillion?”
“How long will it take you to shut up?” he asked.
It wasn’t even 5 o’clock when the sun went down. But the daylight would last more than a minute longer each day forward. “Things are looking up,” I said.
“We’ll see about that,” he groaned. “Do you think the next rest stop sells beer?”