THE ORIGINAL BIG LIE
To Most of Us, Colin Powell Was Not Who You Are Eulogizing Him To Be
The older I get the more clear it becomes to me that most of how we think about world events is rooted in our unique point-of-view, our specific vantage point, the cultural and political context in which we were raised. This is not a mind-blowing realization. It is one of those discoveries that continues to surprise me daily, though, because it calls on me — on all of us, now, almost minute-by-minute — to question what we perceive to be “the truth” and to make that distinct, consciously, from “the truth as I see it.” Of course, that exact distinction is what has been weaponized in our post-truth society, where facts and objectivity no longer win the day up against cleverly crafted narratives or outright manipulative spin.
And so, as I read the various and rather generous eulogies of Colin Powell yesterday, whether they be the statement from President Barack Obama here on Medium or the tweets from everyone from Joy Reid to Stacey Abrams to Dan Rather, I had to pause to fully process how I really felt about Colin Powell. And I had to consider this: what is the truth about Colin Powell? Was Colin Powell an upstanding general, like all of these people I respect say he is? Or was he a war criminal? Joy Reid said, “He had some tough moments around our wars.” Stacey Abrams said, “He led with…admitted fallability.” Dan Rather said, “Like all of us, he was not perfect.” President Obama simply said, “he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right.”
Look, I have no interest in demonizing the dead nor in dancing on someone’s grave. The man died of two terrible diseases, neither of which I would wish on anyone. Before he sat at the United Nations on that fateful day in 2003, he had served his country in far braver capacities than I. But it is irresponsible — even despicable, frankly — to not acknowledge the obvious. Yesterday, I wish for him and his family that he rest in peace. Today, he must be remembered for how most Americans knew him: as the man who lied to the United Nations about “weapons of mass destruction” and cemented America’s case to…