A Night in 1947 vs. Cabalism of the 2000s

First, the 1940s
Photo by Matt
pho­to from Matt M.

Tonight we had a fun and inter­est­ing evening; My friend Matt want­ed to take us out to din­ner as thanks for our tak­ing care of his cat Ivan while he was away. In addi­tion, there was an event at the Port Moody Sta­tion Muse­um, where his girl­friend Oana worked: a Mur­der Mys­tery din­ner. The Port Moody Sta­tion Muse­um is inter­est­ing in and of itself — this was the end­point of the Trans Cana­da Rail­road and there are tons of inter­est­ing and evoca­tive arti­facts from the sta­tion, rail­way and area itself on display.
You may have attend­ed a Mur­der Mys­tery Din­ner Par­ty or some­thing like that. They were very much the rage for sev­er­al years in the 80s; I remem­ber attend­ing one at my friends Rob and Lau­ra where I turned out to be the mur­der­er. This one was a lot more fun, because the din­ner and ‘mur­der’ all took place aboard a restored 1920s rail­car, the Venos­ta, which is now per­ma­nent­ly parked in front of the Station/Museum. Dur­ing our din­ner and ‘train jour­ney’, vol­un­teer actors, play­ing the part of sol­diers return­ing from the war, wait­ress­es, oth­er pas­sen­gers and con­duc­tor, all enact­ed a who­dunit, and we all tried to guess who the mur­der­er was and filled out some papers at the end. My guess was near­ly cor­rect (it was the vic­tim’s wife, pre­sumed dead, who had come back to kill him part­ly for revenge and also because he was now a rich man, hav­ing made his for­tune in war bonds, and she was still named in the will. Ah yes, the usu­al.) My only mis­take was in who was the per­son his wife was mas­querad­ing as (not the wait­ress, although she was clear­ly wear­ing a plat­inum blonde wig!) The actors stayed in char­ac­ter for most of the evening, sit­ting amongst us, as the vic­tim showed up at the begin­ning, ine­bri­at­ed, and then prompt­ly dis­ap­peared, much to the mock hor­ror of all those in atten­dance. Love let­ters, telegraphs and oth­er clues were found on the train­car floor and the vic­tim’s jack­et (which he left behind when he was pushed out of the train). It made me think of the pow­er one could have to expe­ri­ence his­to­ry as if one was actu­al­ly there, some­what the way the US’s Colo­nial Williams­burg, or Plimoth Plan­ta­tion or Canada’s Upper Cana­da Vil­lage cre­ate the illu­sion of trans­port­ing you to that era. In those cas­es, it’s the 1700s or 1800s. To trans­port some­one to the 1940s would be both eas­i­er and hard­er — it’s clos­er to present day, but the dif­fer­ences between 1947 and 2005 are sub­tler. Also, there are plen­ty of peo­ple around who were liv­ing then, who could eas­i­ly see when some­thing was inac­cu­rate or even just slight­ly off. Still, I won­der what it would be like for the Sta­tion Muse­um to one week a year pre­tend it was back in oper­a­tion, cir­ca 1947, com­plete with the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Rail­way (CPR) employ­ees and passengers…

Back in the US Today
Here’s some­thing real­ly amaz­ing, and more than a lit­tle chilling:

Sec­re­tary of State Col­in Pow­ell’s for­mer chief of staff has offered a remark­ably blunt crit­i­cism of the admin­is­tra­tion he served, say­ing that for­eign pol­i­cy had been usurped by a “Cheney-Rums­feld cabal,” and that Pres­i­dent Bush has made the coun­try more vul­ner­a­ble, not less, to future crises.The com­ments came in a speech Wednes­day by Lawrence Wilk­er­son, who worked for Mr. Pow­ell at the State Depart­ment from 2001 to ear­ly 2005. Speak­ing to the New Amer­i­ca Foun­da­tion, an inde­pen­dent pub­lic-pol­i­cy insti­tute in Wash­ing­ton, Mr. Wilk­er­son sug­gest­ed that secre­cy, arro­gance and inter­nal feud­ing had tak­en a heavy toll in the Bush admin­is­tra­tion, skew­ing its poli­cies and under­cut­ting its abil­i­ty to han­dle crises.

“I would say that we have court­ed dis­as­ter, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, gen­er­al­ly with regard to domes­tic crises like Kat­ri­na, Rita — and I could go on back,” he said. “We haven’t done very well on any­thing like that in a long time.”

Mr. Wilk­er­son sug­gest­ed that the dys­func­tion with­in the admin­is­tra­tion was so grave that “if some­thing comes along that is tru­ly seri­ous, tru­ly seri­ous, some­thing like a nuclear weapon going off in a major Amer­i­can city, or some­thing like a major pan­dem­ic, you are going to see the inep­ti­tude of this gov­ern­ment in a way that will take you back to the Dec­la­ra­tion of Independence.”

For a while at least, you can read the whole arti­cle, before the New York Times puts it on it’s pay-per-view ‘Times­S­e­lect’ (which I hate). This lat­est rev­e­la­tion is noth­ing I had­n’t sus­pect­ed all along, but now that peo­ple feel they can speak the truth with­out being vil­i­fied (like Richard Clarke) or worse (like Joseph Wil­son, the hus­band of for­mer CIA agent Valerie Plame), the words final­ly com­ing across the wires are sug­gest­ing to me that the ‘begin­ning of the end of the US as we knew it’ did in fact take place as Pam and I made our hasty exit. I hope it does not play out as Mr. Wilk­er­son, who was a retired Army colonel and for­mer direc­tor of the Marine Corps War Col­lege fore­sees. Oh, and as for George W. Bush, Wilk­er­son said he was “not versed in inter­na­tion­al rela­tions, and not too much inter­est­ed in them, either.” Again, no sur­pris­es. I almost wish I could have stayed back in the 1940s.