The Dangers of Myth

I grew up on Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Italian Folktales. Story telling and the making of myth can often help reveal deeper aspects of humanity and ingrain moral precepts in a way that straight out preaching cannot. But story telling and myth making can also serve a more pernicious purpose, the obscuring of truth and reality and the creation of delusions. While such delusions may make life more palatable, they also tend to exacerbate problems and obscure needed solutions. These myths harm instead of teach: an ignored infection can blossom into a mortal illness.

The Bush Administration has indulged this deceptive mythmaking and harmed the country in the process. The House hearings this last week on the death of Pat Tillman by friendly fire are just one symptom of this disease. When Corporal Tillman’s death was first reported, the Bush Administration portrayed it as the brave death of an American Hero, killed while fighting the evil hordes. But Mr. Tillman died at the hands of his own men for a cause he no longer believed in.

Instead of letting the tragedy pass as an unfortunate incident of war, which it truly was, the Bush Administration could not help but use it as yet more fodder for their myth of the glorious battle of good versus evil. The Bush Administration has never been truthful about its military aims or planning and the myth they spun in the days and years after September 11th has entrenched us in a brutal conflict with no end in sight. For years there was no substantive debate about the consequences of our actions; you were either ‘with us or against us.’ The current debate about Iraq and the broader war on terror is still poisoned by the venomous myths and deceit of the Bush Administration. But platitudes about democracy in the Middle East or good vs. evil will not extricate us from our current situation. In order to fix the very real problems facing us we must break out of the myth of the last six years and confront reality. Story telling cannot help us now.

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