Weekend Words: Amnesia

“I can only wait for the final amnesia, the one that can erase an entire life.”

Jan van Kessel I, “Study of Insects, Butterflies and a Snail with a Sprig of Forget-Me-Nots” (1659), oil on copper, 12 x 18 cm, private collection (image from Web Gallery of Art)

This week, Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today show conducted an interview with former President George W. Bush, who is promoting his new book, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, paintings he made of wounded veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In a stunning case of historical amnesia, Lauer spent the interview attempting to egg the 43rd president to comment on the 45th, instead of reminding Bush that if it weren’t for his mismanagement of the Afghan War and his lies about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to justify his unprovoked invasion of Iraq, the lives of these veterans could have been very different.

Driving is a spectacular form of amnesia. Everything is to be discovered, everything to be obliterated.

—Jean Baudrillard

We live in a world where amnesia is the most wished-for state. When did history become a bad word?

—John Guare

I can only wait for the final amnesia, the one that can erase an entire life.

—Luis Buñuel

Right now I’m having amnesia and deja vu at the same time.

—Steven Wright

When it comes to terrorism, governments seem to suffer from a collective amnesia. All of our historical experience tells us that there can be no purely military solution to a political problem, and yet every time we confront a new terrorist group, we begin by insisting we will never talk to them.

—Jonathan Powell

Memory is corrupted and ruined by a crowd of memories. If I am going to have a true memory, there are a thousand things that must first be forgotten. Memory is not fully itself when it reaches only into the past. A memory that is not alive to the present does not remember the here and now, does not remember its true identity, is not memory at all. He who remembers nothing but facts and past events, and is never brought back into the present, is a victim of amnesia.

—Thomas Merton

A person with amnesia is looked upon as ill. What of a person who can remember only this life? Is this then not a case of amnesia on a grand scale?

—L.Ron Hubbard

A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia.

—David McCullough

Warm fog swirled in the canyon as we gradually descended. A hundred feet in front of us everything was lost in the fog and a hundred feet behind us everything was lost in the fog. We were walking in a capsule between amnesias.

—Richard Brautigan

who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy
psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood…

—Allen Ginsberg, “Howl”

We are the United States of Amnesia, which is encouraged by a media that has no desire to tell us the truth about anything, serving their corporate masters who have other plans to dominate us.

—Gore Vidal

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