Presumed Innocence

Friday, October 05, 2007

Writers Ian Buruma, Richard Halpern and Annette Gordon-Reed discuss the idea of loss of innocence in American culture and history. All of them will be participants at an event on Saturday, October 5th at NYU's Cantor Film Center.


Ian Buruma, Annette Gordon-Reed and Richard Halpern

Comments [9]

Eric from B'klyn

I agree that Americans are not alone in assuming the pose of innocence, is seems to be a trait common to all humans. But it is hypocritical for the 'US' to be indignant that the Japanese omit references to their actions in China and Korea during WWII in school textbooks. We have some big skeletons in our closet: slavery and a persistent refusal to engage the question of reparations for African Americans (and what form that might take); or to the State Dept calling attention to the human rights abuses in Burma or China when the Bush Adm. sanctions and practices torture, abuse of prisoners, and kidnapping; or the ongoing media black out on the Iraqi refuge issue. It appears that maintaining a 'state of innocence' allows us (as a nation and as individuals) to avoid and deny responsibility or accountability.

Oct. 05 2007 11:19 AM
Justine from NYC

Elizabeth, VERY well put, wish I could write that way.....

Oct. 05 2007 11:04 AM
JB from Manhattan

I've thought about this a lot over the past few years, and I think our 'shock value' in America is excessive (a lack of artistic taste, as in Europe, perhaps), however I don't think it has really accelerated much at all since our founding.

For example, as Brian said today, Thomas Jefferson and his slave mistress! Imagine THEN how shocking that was to society. That is hot and gossip! Way more shocking than Brittney Spears on drugs and all this phony advertising that passes as news for mainstream America.

Oct. 05 2007 10:58 AM
elizabeth from Monmouth County NJ

As a nation, we have a psychology that prohibits us from being wrong. So slavery wasn't a horror, it was a benevolent way of life done in by evil industrialists who wanted to destroy the southern agrarian society; 9/11 had nothing to do with our Middle East Policies (or lack thereof) Global Warming isn't our fault and isn't our problem to fix because hey we're the good guys and when some event puts into shock the way a diagnosis of illness rocks someone's world -- we're so very good, so very rightous and so very special, it's impossible that something bad should happen to us, and if it does, it's never our fault!

Oct. 05 2007 10:58 AM
eCAHNomics from nyc

Oh yes. The U.S., and Israel, and South Africa, are settler countries. That is a strong reason to develop amnesia. Settler countries basically have poisoned their souls and can live with the results only thru denial.

Oct. 05 2007 10:58 AM
Paulo from New Jersey

I think that these ages of innocence and the loss of such innocence is more academic than any reality. I think people polled at any point would mostly say that they lived in an immoral society (for different reasons obviously). But we love trends. An author wants to frame a particular event as THE turning point in most aspects of life.

Oct. 05 2007 10:55 AM
Justine from NYC

The Fairfield caller has a great point - we have never really broken free from our Puritan background. In so many aspects we're still uptight pilgrims who let our children watch violent films with shootings and murders but can't abide the thought of them seeing nudity or sexual scenes. We've lost our innocence several times but we still like to think of our country as a virgin (hee hee hee).

Oct. 05 2007 10:54 AM

Haha... Brian's Captain Renault reference perfectly encapsulates the American societal notion of lost "innocence."

"I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find that gambling is going on in here!"
"Your winnings, sir."
"Oh, thank you very much. Everybody out at once!"

It's the mock lips of innocence with some fingers firmly crossed.

Oct. 05 2007 10:54 AM
eCAHNomics from nyc

Hypocrisy is not unique to democracies & religion, it's just heavily concentrated there.

Oct. 05 2007 10:44 AM

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