American Notes: A Tragic Difference

Somehow, American outrage at the My Lai massacre seemed slow to gather. It took time, as the images and confessions multiplied, for the horror to sink in, the pain and revulsion to spread. Has the national consciousness been so bludgeoned by public deaths and political astonishments, so amazed by the impossible triumphs of technology, that it has developed some kind of natural defense against surprise? Against powerful emotion?

That is undoubtedly part of it. "The price of eternal vigilance," says Marshall McLuhan, "is indifference." In the same way, the cost of constant excitement, of a persistent and violent rearrangement of...

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