Don't Feed the War Machine

"His sympathies were for race—too lofty to descend to persons," a wit once said of the abolitionist Senator Sumner. For how else could a man countenance the slaughter of his countrymen, not only rebel Southerners but noble Robert Gould Shaw and Berkshires boys, too?

The most dangerous people—the ones who will kill you for your own good—are those who subordinate the individual to abstractions; the class, the master race, the efficient economy. They gain power because they are willing to perform the sleazy and degrading acts necessary to its achievement. You see them on television, their flickering lair: the Senator once arrested outside the South African embassy, oozing righteousness, who daily browbeat his staff with his crazed Richie Rich rantings; the slovenly obese comedienne, self-styled champion of the working class, who mistreats elevator operators and hotel clerks; the striding purposeful men—from Bill Clinton to William Simon—who make a great show of their religious faith yet are known as squalling martinets who abuse underlings.

Influential men, their days a blur of movement, retainers at beck and call, unable even to dial a car phone by themselves, come to see others as toadies or supplicants (with the toothsome few laid aside as bed partners). In their eyes we are all expendable. Why was anyone surprised when Ted Kennedy swam away, leaving Mary Jo Kopechne to scream in...

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