Friday, September 22, 2006

Seems Like Old Times

Lately I've been catching myself making references that a dwindling number of people get. Like "Mr. Tooth Decay." I gather that Mr. Tooth Decay makes something of a comeback in kid circles from time to time, but the basic reference is to beloved old Colgate toothpaste commercials that ran on Howdy Doody, and you have to be way way old to remember those.

In a recent theatre review I mentioned that the only Latin phrase I remembered from school was from a cartoon in which a police officer has pulled over a driver and asks him "Ubi ignus est?" That people wouldn't understand the Latin was part of the joke, because I thought (as the creator of the cartoon did) that the context would suggest it. However, I hadn't realized that cops pulling over speeders and asking them, "Where's the fire?" is no longer a well-known cliche. (Nothing as pathetic as an unknown cliche, is there?) The editor actually looked up the Latin, got the phrase, then asked me what it all meant--could the cop have pulled over a firetruck? I cut the joke, pronto. (That means, right away. Cowboys used to say it in...well, never mind.)

But just when I was ready to put all that ancient history behind me, I read something like this in Dan Froomkin's Washington Post blog, and damn if 1968 doesn't come back as big as life:

On the dominant issue of our time, the president is in denial. By most reliable accounts, three and a half years into the U.S. occupation, Iraq is in chaos -- if not in a state of civil war, then awfully close. But President Bush insists it's not so. He says the people he talks to assure him that the press coverage about how bad things are in Iraq is not to be trusted.

You might think that the enormous gulf between Bush's perceptions and reality on such a life-and-death topic would be, well, newsworthy. But if members of the Washington press corps consider it news at all, apparently it's old news. They report Bush's assertions about Iraq without noting that his fundamental assessment of the situation is dramatically contradicted by the reporting from their own colleagues on the ground.

I call it Iraqnam, and this is why. We've already destroyed it in order to save it, and people keep dying and getting maimed in horrible ways there, because a lot of people have forgotten 40 years.