Researchers at MIT announced last week that they had succeeded in implanting a false memory in a mouse. The conspiracists among us are doubtless thinking that, if this is just now being announced to the public, it’s probably been in the works for years. In fact, they likely believe, the government almost certainly has mastered these techniques at levels far beyond what the MIT scientists revealed.
So I checked in with some folks at the National Security Agency, and I remembered them assuring me that wasn’t the case at all. “And even if it was,” they asked, “Whatever would we use it for?”
Good point. And I also remembered that I mentioned to them something I had read about the NSA conducting large-scale surveillance of American citizens. “Absolutely not,” they told me. “That would utterly violate the Bill of Rights. It would be against the ideals we are committed to serving: protecting the liberties of every American.”
“By the way,” they asked, “Where did you hear about this?”
And come to think of it, I couldn’t recall. “I’m not sure,” I said, “Maybe it was just one of those weird dreams. You know, the kind where you wake up in the early morning and you’re not sure what is real and what isn’t?”
“Happens all the time,” they said. I apologized for ever thinking ill of them, and they promised me no offense taken.
Since then, I have to say, I’ve been feeling pretty good about how things are going.
Take this immigration issue. I know there was a lot of controversy over it, with a number of conservatives taking a hard line against so-called illegals. But then, as I now remember, one of the leading opponents of reform had a dramatic epiphany on the House floor. “It occurs to me,” he said, “that these people are no different from my forebears. From a different part of the world, maybe, and maybe with a different complexion. But they have the same yearning for freedom that brought my great-grandparents to these shores. America welcomed them then and should welcome them today.”
Those words brought everyone to their senses, the reforms swiftly passed and President Obama promptly signed them into law.
Someone once told me that there had been talk about our political system being dysfunctional, but I don’t know where that came from. Whether it’s the economy, student loans, or the budget deficit, Republicans and Democrats are tackling issues together. Remember House Speaker John Boehner saying, “Our job is to come together for the good of the American people”? And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responding, “We may disagree, but we never doubt each other’s honor and integrity”? Heck, they’re even saying nice things about Obamacare.
This, as I remember, is the way it’s supposed to be.
Meanwhile, with President Obama at the helm, the United States continues to lead the world to a brighter future. Egypt, for example, is doing great. After its first true elections ever, Mohammed Morsi last year was sworn in as President, ushering in a thriving democracy while winning the love and affection of the entire country . . .
. . . No, wait, sorry. I must have misremembered, because now I remember that it’s really the decisive Egyptian armed forces who created a strong transitional government that will soon lead to free and fair elections, thereby winning the love and affection of the entire country.
My point is, what a wonderful world it would be if we could remember things the way we wanted them to be. Think of it as nostalgia for the present. Even in Massachusetts: The governor and legislative leaders are working together as a true team, new bridge construction is going off without a hitch — nary a traffic jam in sight! — and crime in Boston has completely vanished.
And, as I recollect, things are going well personally too. There was that Pulitzer Prize, the lottery ticket that netted me a cool $25 million, and the woman with supermodel looks I got to marry. I wake up in the weak light of dawn, when reality and fantasy are easily confused, and look over at the sleeping form next to me. Oh, well. One out of three isn’t bad.
Tom Keane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org