The American Heritage dictionary defines bread
and circuses as “Offerings, such as benefits or entertainments,
intended to placate discontent or distract attention from a policy
or situation.” The term was used by the ancient Romans to describe
how their rulers kept the population in the dark at politically
The Romans have been outdone by 21st century America. The distractions
are becoming more numerous and substantive issues are addressed
less often, just as the truth has become more and more frightening.
We don’t have a circus maximus with gladiators
fighting to the death or animals killing human beings for the
enjoyment of blood
thirsty crowds. Instead we have a corporate media and a corrupt
government. They point us in the direction of information that
is useless, tasteless, or simply stupid. That is on a good day.
On a bad day they cover up the very grave danger that America poses
to the entire world.
The corporate media make sure that Michael
Jackson’s pajama clad
appearance in court was known to anyone not living under a rock.
On the other hand, very few Americans know that their government
is now responsible for kidnapping terror suspects and sending them
to countries that routinely engage in torture. In one instance
a German national was kidnapped in Europe and sent to Afghanistan
where he was tortured not
by vicious foreigners but by Americans. The tactics used by Chile
under Pinochet or Argentina during its dirty war are now routinely
used by the U.S. government.
The United States Congress has no interest in investigating any
of these crimes. While the U.S. government conducts mafia-like
kidnappings, Congress is concerned about bulky baseball players.
Of course there is a gossipy amusement factor at work in debating
whether Barry Bonds is now or has ever been a steroid user. It
is acceptable for sports talk shows to pose that question but it
is unconscionable for Congress to use our time on this issue when
our government conducts extrajudicial kidnappings like the worst
dictatorships in human history.
When celebrity crime or juiced up athletes
don’t provide enough
distraction, the corrupt government and their media side kicks
return to the old standbys of fear and paranoia. There have been
recent false alarms about anthrax in
Washington and a report on the consequences of hypothetical terror
attacks. After giving the public a laundry list of frightening
scenarios and body count estimates we were told that the report
was released by mistake.
What a coincidence. As the anniversary of the Iraq occupation
brings annual protests and renewed questions from a skeptical public
we are given new reasons to fear, keep our mouths shut, and put
our faith in Dubya and his team.
Congressional Republicans are completely shameless. No sooner
had they brought former baseball star Mark McGwire to tears over
questions of steroid use than they used the tragedy of a Florida
family for political gain.
Terry Schiavo has been suffering from severe brain
damage for 15 years. Her husband, her next of kin, has been
trying to let her die with some dignity. Her parents disagree
with his decision and a legal battle has ensued. The controversy
should have remained between the family members and their lawyers
but Florida Governor Jeb Bush couldn’t resist earning his right
wing bona fides by using this woman’s family to placate right
After years of legal wrangling Congressional Republicans involved
themselves and reached a nadir in usefulness and a high point in
stupidity when they subpoenaed Terry Schiavo to appear at a hearing.
If she had gone to Congress she would not have been the only brain
damaged person in attendance. She would have been the only one
who came by the condition honestly, however.
Finally, the presidential ringmaster himself, Dubya, theatrically
rushed back to Washington to sign the Schiavo bill cobbled together
by his congressional clowns.
While tearful sluggers and brain damaged women
who can’t speak
are dragged before the cameras, the architects of American terror
are getting away with their crimes. The trumped up reasons for
occupying Iraq were obviously lies from the very beginning. It
has recently been revealed that the crime is even worse than originally
The Bushmen planned a coup in Iraq from their first
days in office. The attacks of September 11 gave them an
out. They didn’t need a coup, they just said over and over for
a year and a half that Saddam was a terrorist. Because of media
non-reporting and official malfeasance the Iraqi people are now
suffering in their third year of occupation.
They are being killed by trigger happy troops at check points.
They are being killed when bombs fall on their homes and they are
being killed in custody. The government admits to
108 such deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. If they admit to 108,
how many murders have actually been committed?
If our leaders take the time to find out they
will have to put steroids on the back burner. Not to worry. Congress
will find another
Terry Schiavo or sports scandal to investigate. If they don’t,
the public would focus on them and then the circus would be over.