Proud To Be Counted Among the Worst Americans [North American Diptych -- Southern Panel]
Conservatives, as a general matter, take the position that you should not punish your friends and reward your enemies, and Canada has become trouble recently. It's always, I might add, the worst Americans who end up going there: the Tories after the revolutionary war; the Vietnam draft-dodgers after Vietnam; and now, after this election, we have the blue-state people moving up there...When you're allowed to exist on the same continent as the United State of America, protecting you, with a nuclear shield around you, you're polite, and you support us when we've been attacked on our own soil. They've violated that protocol...They need us, they better hope that the United States doesn't roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent.
Not one German in our great fatherland would wish to be a member of another people or a citizen of another state. That for which all good Germans have always longed and hoped has now become reality under the blessed hand of the Fuhrer: a single people in a great, free and strong Reich.
No matter what defeatist tack liberals take, real Americans are behind our troops 100 percent, behind John Ashcroft 100 percent, behind locking up suspected terrorists 100 percent, behind surveillance of Arabs 100 percent. Liberals become indignant when you question their patriotism, but simultaneously work overtime to give terrorists a cushion for the next attack and laugh at dumb Americans who love their country and hate the enemy.
The Fuhrer's Youth
The boys who are true Germans
To Hitler's Youth belong.
They want to live for their Fuhrer,
Their eyes are fixed on the future.
Bigger and stronger they have become.
The German Heritage is theirs.
The great and sacred Fatherland
Stands today as it ever stood.
From this picture may be seen,
Hitler Youth in splendid mien,
From smallest to the biggest boy.
All are husky, tough and strong.
They love their German Fuhrer,
And God in Heaven they fear.
But the Jews they must despise!
They're not like these boys,
So Jews must just give way!
—America — love it or leave it.
—OK, I'm leaving.
—How dare you! Traitor!
What luck for rulers that men do not think.
Q: How would you feel if Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Propaganda Minister, called you one of the worst Germans? a bad Nazi? a traitor to your country?
What does such a question even mean?
Take the concept "anti-Americanism." It is a rather curious one. Such concepts are typically used only in totalitarian states or military dictatorships. Thus "anti-Sovietism" was a grave crime in the halls of the Kremlin in the old days, and I suppose the Brazilian generals and their supporters charged their internal enemies with being "anti-Brazilian."
In countries that have some respect for their freedom, the concept would be dismissed with ridicule. Imagine the reaction in the streets of Milan or Rome to a book called "anti-Italianism." And then observe the actual reaction in the US and Britain to a book by a respected author called "anti-Americanism" — a scholar who specializes in the Soviet Union, incidentally, and therefore understands very well the model he is following. No one should be surprised to discover that the book is a deceitful rant against those who fail to worship the Holy State with sufficient ardor, and that it is for that reason that it is highly praised in sober reviews in the New York Times and elsewhere.
Those who criticized the crimes of the Kremlin or the Brazilian generals were not "anti-Russian" or "anti-Brazilian," surely. And by the same token, those who oppose crimes of the most powerful state in the world are not anti-American; in fact, the crimes are often strenuously opposed by a considerable majority of the population. The term should be abandoned, as in the case of its ugly models.
The entire concept of "anti-Americanism" or being a "worst American" is a pathetic rebuke made by authoritarians to shame citizens to shut up, fold their hands on their lap, and get them to behave like good little boys and girls.
I think you can only have anti-Americanism if you first have Americanism, which is certainly not the same thing as simple love of country. Americanism is a cult centered on a belief in national exceptionalism. In modern times, there has been no better representative of the cult than George W. Bush, its current Imperial Wizard. Everywhere he goes, he projects the self-satisfied image of an America happy to dump its untreated effluent into the world's supply of drinking water so long as Americans themselves feel they are doing the right thing.
I've never considered myself an American. It was only an accident of birth that made me one. I consider myself a citizen of the world, and thus my allegiance is to all of humanity. My ethics are such that I seek ways to prevent or minimize all needless injustice, misery and suffering, of all living creatures — human or otherwise. That I was an accidental citizen of a country that is inarguably one of the greatest causes of human suffering in modern times was a constant source of dissonance and pain to me; that my tax dollars were being directly used to inflict torture, to subjugate populations, to collude in mass murders and criminal wars, to overturn democracies and install autocratic puppet regimes, to line the pockets of infamous crooks, etc etc, was deeply abhorrent to me, and made me ashamed.
We human creatures are all, fundamentally, corporeal creatures first and foremost. As such we all know what it is like to feel pain, to feel cold, to feel hunger, to cry, to laugh. ("I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?" Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act 3 Scene 1) We all share a common language, the language of our physical existence, the language of our body. We all know how to read pain on someone's face, we all know what the sobs of misery and fear sound like, we all know what shouts of despair feel like. If we have known pain and privation — and we have all known it in one way or another, it is part and parcel of our experience as organic, biological entities — then we can relate to the pain and privation of others. Empathy is part of our makeup as sentient, feeling creatures.
Until, that is, we have allowed a culture's ideological poison to seep into our system, a poison that blunts our empathy and teaches us to ignore the universal language of the body — specifically, the grammar of its pain. Such cognitive blunting of our ability to empathize with the pain of The Other is a poison that allows one arbitrary group of people to place themselves above another for specious, self-deluding reasons; and, like Phalaris putting his victims inside the brazen bull, such blunting transmutes the screams of anguish of The Other into background entertainment — rendered, in modern times, as TV war coverage we watch while snacking, or images on a page next to ads for toothpaste or SUVs. Such blunting serves to heighten the victimizers sense of superiority by creating a cycle that blames the victim for their own continuing victimhood. It is sociopathy on a cultural scale.
America is a land built on misery and suffering, founded by religious kooks, genocidalists, and rapacious, corrupt, amoral mercenaries seeking fortune for their wealthy benefactors, decimating entire populations in its pursuit. It is a land that encourages competition to pit citizen against citizen, wherein the most ignorant, neurotic and selfish are consistently rewarded with ever more power and riches. Such a system is a plutocratic kakistocracy, an insider's club whose members are wealthy philistines devising rules to reward themselves for their clever, corrupt cronyism by stealing the spoils of their proudly stupid constituents.
Of course this isn't just peculiar to America. This is a common feature of most nation-states and their political institutions. But the American incarnation of it is particularly virulent since it is founded upon a most peculiar sort of anti-intellectualism and anti-humanism. Subjugated people are generally cognizant, to some degree, of their subjugation by a ruling oligarchy. But Americans' pride in their stupidity and ignorance creates a unique situation in which those who are most oppressed are so arrogantly proud of their stupidity that they embrace their subjugation all the more without even knowing they are doing it. They are kicked and beaten dogs who help their master tighten their own leash about their neck — then master and dog both go on a hunt for the scapegoat of the month on which to blame their social ills.
I am ashamed of America, and I apologize to the world for whatever way I contributed to any misery and suffering I helped support, wittingly or not. There were several factors behind my move to Canada, and the need to be able to live with a clear conscience was a major one. I needed to know that I was no longer aiding and abetting a criminal government responsible for causing so much heinous, needless, and ultimately futile misery and suffering, and all to make the undeserving ever wealthier. I needed to know that I was no longer benefitting from the evils my country committed in my name, nor to serve as an accomplice to its crimes: even though I abhorred the actions of "my" country, I nevertheless felt complicit in them by the mere fact of my citizenship. To be an American meant to be part of the support staff for a group of sociopathic, mean-spirited, rapacious, small-minded sadists bent on subjugating vast populations for demonstrably false and truculent ideological reasons. I could no longer live with myself as an American — my conscience forbade it.
(Note: I would like to make it crystal clear that I am speaking for myself, and not for anybody else. I am speaking about my conscience. My statements are not meant — in any way — to be construed as an indictment against fellow citizens with open eyes who choose to stay in America. If anything I encourage and applaud those who continue to try to effect change facing such insurmountable odds — it is a testament to the human spirit, and I wish them Zeusspeed!)
All Americans have heard the expression "America — Love it or Leave it!" I left. And if this makes me one of the Worst Americans, then I wear it proudly, just as a German leaving Nazi Germany might proudly wear the label of Worst German. The world needs more Americans who are defined as the "Worst" Americans by those who dare define what constitutes a "Good" or "Real" American. ("It seems that American patriotism measures itself against an outcast group. The right Americans are the right Americans because they're not like the wrong Americans, who are not really Americans." —Eric Hobsbawm) Unfortunately a Good American is a Bad World Citizen. My allegiance — as a human being first — is to my fellow (wo)man, not to the criminal tribal group that I was accidentally born into.
Balm for Myopia
Richard Hofstadter. Anti-intellectualism in American life
To those who suspect that intellect is a subversive force in society, it will not do to reply that intellect is really a safe, bland, and emollient thing. In a certain sense the suspicious Tories and militant philistines are right: intellect is dangerous. Left free, there is nothing it will not reconsider, analyze, throw into question. "Let us admit the case of the conservative," John Dewey once wrote. "If we once start thinking no one can guarantee what will be the outcome, except that many objects, ends and institutions will be surely doomed. Every thinker puts some portion of an apparently stable world in peril, and no one can wholly predict what will emerge in its place." Further, there is no way of guaranteeing that an intellectual class will be discreet and restrained in the use of its influence; the only assurance that can be given to any community is that it will be far worse off if it denies the free uses of the power of intellect than if it permits them. To be sure, intellectuals, contrary to the fantasies of cultural vigilantes, are hardly ever subversive of a society as a whole. But intellect is always on the move against something: some oppression, fraud, illusion, dogma, or interest is constantly falling under the scrutiny of the intellectual class and becoming the object of exposure, indignation, or ridicule.
In the course of generations, those who have suffered from the operation of intellect, or who have feared or resented it, have developed a kind of counter-mythology about what it is and the role it plays in society. Those who have made their case against intellect in our time have not found it necessary to originate a single new argumnt, since this mythology is deeply rooted in our historical experience...
The case against intellect is founded upon a set of fictional and wholly abstract antagonisms. Intellect is pitted against feeling, on the ground that it is somehow inconsistent with warm emotion. It is pitted against character, because it is widely believed that intellect stands for mere cleverness, which transmutes easily into the sly or the diabolical. It is pitted against practicality, since theory is held to be opposed to practice, and the "purely" theoretical mind is so much disesteemed. It is pitted against democracy, since intellect is felt to be a form of distinction that defies egalitarianism. Once the validity of these antagonisms is accepted, then the case for intellect, and by extension for the intellectual, is lost. Who cares to risk sacrificing warmth of emotion, solidity of character, practical capacity, or democratic sentiment in order to pay deference to a type of man who at best is deemed to be merely clever and at worst may even be dangerous?
I'm one of those pathetic losers in America that never had representation in America's putative democracy. Never. That's because I'm the kind of person who values intelligence, truth, justice, beauty. The kind who questions authority, materialism, business, consumerism. The kind who tries to live, to the best of his ability, according to the adages "live and let live" and "do unto others as you would have others do unto you." The kind who is mystified by the zealous embrace of superstitious beliefs, and is distrustful of those who put faith before reason. The kind who repudiates "tradition" as an excuse to perpetuate any injustice, oppression, or foolishness. The kind who puts people before social institutions, before profit, before property, before any "principle." The kind who believes a citizen's most patriotic duty is to question the criminal acts of his country. The kind who believes we should strive to make the world a better place for all peoples, not just those who have money, or share our belief systems. The kind of person who believes education is a never-ending vocation that involves learning how to think, not what to think. The kind of person who believes in the scientific method, both hard and soft, and believes that if studies prove there is such a thing as global warming, or that opportunity rather than punishment prevents crimes, then policies should be implemented based on these studies. The kind who believes the best way to create a world of justice is to seek to understand The Other with both respect and an open ear, and not to foist our attitudes on them by fiat at the point of a gun. The kind who believes that surplus food and medical aid should be freely distributed, and not destroyed to keep prices high to make the greedy wealthier. The kind who believes that gross inequalities in wealth will lead to increasingly greater and intractable social problems. The kind who believes "From each according to his ablity; to each according to his need." The kind who believes that our food supply should not be toyed with until rigorous tests prove beyond a doubt that genetic engineering is completely harmless. The kind who believes that anyone should be allowed to do absolutely anything they wish with their own body. The kind who believes there is no such thing as a victimless crime. The kind who believes that whatever consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is nobody's fucking business but their own. The kind who believes that one's right to do whatever they wish ends at harming others — including animals and mother nature. The kind who believes in true equality — including economic. The kind who wishes to see a world in which every person is allowed the opportunity to live as fully and authentically as they are able to in their attempts to actualize themselves. The kind who believes in the fundamental dignity of all life. The kind who believes that there is no meaning in life other than what we ourselves choose to believe in; and that since we all suffer and die, each in our own way, we should have a fundamental respect, sympathy, and empathy for others. The kind who believes people do the best they can, and generally mean well, and would, in the right circumstances, live peacefully together — for what human beings desire most of all is to feel connected to each other. The kind who doesn't seek to mock or punish those who are different, or those who make honest mistakes. The kind who believes that putting a dad in prison for smoking a joint is not good for a family. The kind who believes that white collar criminals cause far more harm to society that some poor black kid stealing a bike — and that putting the kid away in prison for the rest of his life for it is evil. The kind who believes that love takes many beautiful forms. The kind who believes that there are some things more important than profit and property, such as love and beauty and respect and justice; and that our primary role as human beings should be to employ what reason and talent we have to seek ways to prevent misery and suffering, and to aid in our mutual actualization.
There is no place in America for those like me — never has been, and never will be. I have never had any "representation" in my supposed democratic society, and the possibility that a candidate could be elected who shares my views are nil. What point is there to live in a society in which the chances of my having any kind of voice are negligible? My society has abandoned me — thus I find I must abandon my society.
Only a fool or a blind optimist continues to fight an unwinnable fight. Since I lack the desire to deceive myself with sufficient vigor to believe that there is any hope of change in the culture in which I was born I have decided to pursue the path of self-actualization as the best thing I can do for my worldly compatriots.
Good Learnin' in Murka
Two fairly random excerpts from United States History in Christian Perspective: Heritage of Freedom, A Beka Book Publication ("Excellence in Education from a Christian Perspective"), a high-school history textbook:
The key reason for a turn to prosperity in Virginia was a change in the basic economic system. In the early years, Virginia used a common-store system. Under this system, what each man produced went into a public storehouse, and he received food from the storehouse as he had need. Since each colonist was assured of being able to live off the labors of his fellow man, few of them had much incentive to work. Their sinful Adamic nature told them to spend their time in leisure or looking for gold. Since most colonists followed this same reasoning, there was soon little food in the common store for anyone.
Shortly, the administrators of the colony saw the wisdom of giving each man his own parcel of ground where he could produce his own food crops. If he did not produce, he would go hungry. Obviously, this sytem quickly gave the settlers the incentive they needed to plant and cultivate abundant crops.
In essence, the old common-store system was a communistic economic system, in which the fruits of one's labors were to be shared with all. The new system was a private enterprise (capitalistic) system, in which each provides his own needs. Americans had a lesson very early in their history in the benefits of free enterprise, in which each man is allowed to reap the benefits of his own labor.
Just in case anyone thinks this is some weird, pedagogical anomaly, let me state that this textbook I'm quoting from is dogeared from use, with many underlinings and hilightings, generally at those very places in the textbook where some proper noun or concept is already hilighted. (Seems like the pedagogy of "what" to think is working well in this case.)
Here's a excerpt from a sidebar entitled Rock Music — an Insidious Weapon
Any objective study of rock music and the culture that accompanies it will expose the satanic and ungodly philosophy behind the words in the song and usually behind the performer as well. Any objective observance of the behavior exhibited at a rock concert or at a party featuring rock music will reveal the powerful and immoral effect rock music has on its subjects. At the very least, the thought patterns have been infested and the hearts have turned cold toward the things of God.
Granted, this isn't a standard, mainstream history book — this is a textbook used by homeschoolers and private schools. But if the wingnuts have their way this kind of indoctrinating poison would be required reading for all high school students in America. Just recently a public school board in Pennsylvania — a blue state — passed a resolution that "intelligent design" must be taught alongside evolution in its science curriculum. BushCo's entire educational plan, No Child Left Behind, is based upon the premise of standardized testing, an excellent way to compel conformity of thought, teach what to think instead of how to think, and prevent the development of critical thinking. This kind of education is nothing less than indoctrination that rewards the rote recitation of bland facts. ("And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps." —H. L. Mencken) And schools that fail to live up to snuff in properly indoctrinating their kids will lose funding — which is all part of the plan to defund public schools and turn them into for-profit charters and religious schools.
The battle for the minds of children in America is fiercely waged. Judging from recent polls America is getting just the kind of thinking-disabled citizens it wishes. 55% believe every word of the Bible is literally accurate and 62% say they favor teaching creation science in addition to evolution in public schools [12/04]; 47% of Bush's supporters believe Iraq had WMDs; and 70% believe in compulsory student drug testing. After all, critical thinkers do not make good consumers, do not make good canon fodder, do not make pliable flatworms that are trained to move toward light.
This kind of education has long been standard in America, particularly in those red states that voted for Bush. There has always been a very large subculture in America raised on this kind of stuff. And they have just recently come out of the woodworks and assumed control. It's payback time for the Scopes trial, for the Hippie's cultural revolution, for Roosevelt's New Deal, for Reconstruction, for any measure, in fact, that increased a citizen's freedom, a freedom painfully wrenched from backwards puritans afflicted with the "100% Mentality." ("There is only one honest impulse at the bottom of Puritanism, and that is the impulse to punish the man with a superior capacity for happiness." —H. L. Mencken) Those who reside in metropolitan areas or in blue states really do live in oases of relative education and culture; they had little idea just how anti-intellectual their more homebred citizens were — that is, until the most recent "election" finally revealed to them just how deeply backwards and deluded their fellow countrymen are. And it shocked them to their core.
Murka's Centripetal Recidivism
Richard Hofstadter. Anti-intellectualism in American life
...the McCarthyist era brought to a head several forces engaged in a long-standing revolt against modernity. The older America, until the 1890's and in some respects until 1914, was wrapped in the security of continental isolation, village society, the Protestant denominations, and a flourishing industrial capitalism. But relunctantly, year by year, over several decades, it has been drawn into the twentieth century and forced to cope with its unpleasant realities: first the incursions of cosmopolitanism and skepticism, then the disappearance of American isolation and easy military security, the collapse of traditional capitalism and its supplementation by a centralized welfare state, finally the unrelenting costs and stringencies of the Second World War, the Korean War, and the cold war. As a consequence, the heartland of America, filled with people who are often fundamentalist in religion, nativist in prejudice, isolationist in foreign policy, and conservative in economics, has constantly rumbled with an underground revolt against all these tormenting manifestations of our modern predicament.
America has never been a "reality-based community." It has always prided itself on its ability to delude itself about its moral superiority while decimating populations both native and foreign. Andrew Jackson, his wildhaired visage adorning the $20 bill, has long been considered one of America's greatest presidents. Andrew Jackson, the great backwoods Indian killer, responsible for untold carnage, death, and misery. The Spanish-American War, devised as a great way to sell papers while grabbing more territory, wherein a quarter-million Filipinos were exterminated in the process. BushCo's war in Iraq is nothing new or unique in America's history — almost all of America's wars have been started for outright falsehoods. Time and time again the most stupid and outlandish lies have served to hoodwink a gullible, willfully ignorant and pliable citizenry (the desired end of American education, remember) to enter one war after another. There is not one year in America's history in which its military muscle isn't used in one way or another, whether through declared wars or not. And what have all these wars been for? As Marine General Smedley Butler says: "I was a high class muscleman for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism." (He also said 'War is a racket...A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.')
Al Capone, Jesse James, and Cornelius Vanderbilt are different incarnations of the same fundamentally vulgar, mean-spirited, rapacious, selfish, ruthless, stupid, arrogant, sociopathic, base, clever, monomaniacal mindset that the American culture consistently rewards and reveres. Ken Lay, Ted Bundy, and Dick Cheney are the contemporary avatars of such infamous personalities. The image of the gangster, the outlaw, the robber baron, are sources of pride to Americans. America's greatest heroes are often men of base and mean morals with small, crabbed minds that crave shiny things, excelling at hoodwinking their public by telling them lies they want to believe about themselves. Americans have always been suspicious of the intellectual, the cultured, the educated; they generally detest those who don't adequately reflect back to them their narcissistic sense of perfection, and are deeply fearful and resentful of those who see behind America's fragile ego, threatened by those who make them feel in any way at fault or inferior. Like its current leader, America refuses to acknowledge that it has ever made a mistake, and does not have the shame or dignity to apologize for anything. It is this hubris that is bringing America crashing down.
America is a country that is responsible for inflicting untold horror and misery on the world, and all in the name of profit for the few. It is a mean-spirited grade-school bully that gets mad if anyone defies it, and will lie and cheat and do anything to get its way — overtly if it can, sneaking around proscriptions if it can't. It will sing hosannahs to democracy and freedom while overturning democracies they don't approve of, replacing them with criminal autocracies that torture and pillage their own citizens. It is narcissistic and seemingly incapable of introspection; it is arrogant and drunk on its own display of power; it can dish it out, but it can not take it; it cries and whines when it doesn't get its own way; it must always blame somebody — anybody — else for the messes it creates for itself.
Blame America first? Damn right! Why was this phrase even created? For the same reason "compassionate conservatism" was created — to mask and deflect obvious truths. America has given itself and the world cause to look to it first when assessing blame. America should be considered guilty until proven innocent. Chile, Nicaragua, the Philippines, East Timor, Iraq, Iran, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuala, Cuba, Zaire, Indonesia, Greece, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Laos, Cambodia, Angola, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Kosovo; Agent Orange, MK-Ultra, the Phoenix program; Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Trail of Tears, the Long Walk, Kaibai Creek Massacre, Marias Massacre, Washita Massacre, Wounded Knee Massacre, Sand Creek Massacre, Mai Lai, the Highway of Death, No Gun Ri, Abu Ghraib; Kent State, Haymarket Riot, COINTELPRO, Iran/Contra, WMD, Watergate, "He Kept Us Out Of War!", "Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!", the Gulf of Tonkin; slavery, smallpox blankets, Dred Scott, Jim Crow, Plessy v Ferguson; blacklisting, Manzanar, Drug Wars, Siege at Waco, Ruby Ridge; Tamany Hall, Teapot Dome, GM transit contracts, Enron and California, S&L; JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcom X, Judi Bari, Paul Wellstone — this tip-of-the-iceberg list of gross injustice, death, and misery that America — in its arrogant sanctimony — is directly responsible for is a long and shameful list. And that the American public has no knowledge of the crimes committed in the names of its citizenry is criminal as well.
But what can one expect of a citizenry in which one in seven can not locate their own country on a blank map of the world, a citizenry that believes in the literal reality of angels and talking burning bushes, a citizenry that does't know how long the earth takes to revolve around the sun, a citizenry that admires a man who's lies are responsible for the death of their own offspring? The American public, as is proven beyond a doubt by its most recent presidential "election", willfully chooses to remain in a state of blissful ignorance about the evils committed in their name. I, for one, do not wish to join the party on The Ship of Fools as it heads over the waterfall.
Ignorance and Innocence
Ward Churchill. On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality
Much has been made, rightly enough, of how U.S. governmental agencies, corporate media and academic elites collude to provide only such information as is convenient to the status quo. It is thus true that there is much of which the public is unaware. No such excuse can be advanced with respect to the fate of Iraq's children, however. Not only was the toll publicly predicted before U.S. sanctions were imposed, but two high UN officials...have resigned in protest of what Halliday described as "the policy of deliberate genocide" they reflected. Asked by an interviewer on 60 Minutes in 1996 whether the UN's estimate of child fatalities in Iraq was accurate, U.S. Ambassador to the UN cum Secretary of State Madeleine Albright confirmed it before a national television audience.
"We've decided," Albright went on in a remark prominently displayed in the New York Times and most other major newspapers, "that it's worth the cost" in lives extracted from brown-skinned toddlers to "set an example" so terrifying in its implications that it would compel planetary obedience to America's dictates in the years ahead. Such were the official terms defining the "New World Order" George Bush the elder had announced in 1991.
One wonders how information about what was happening in Iraq could have been made much clearer or more readily accessible to the general public. Claims that average Americans "didn't know" what was being done in their name are thus rather less than credible. In reality, Americans by-and-large greeted Albright's haughty revelation of genocide with yawns and blank stares, returning their attention almost immediately to what they considered far weightier matters: the Dow Jones and American League batting averages, for instance, or pursuit of the perfect cappuccino. Braying like donkeys into their eternal cellphones, they went right on arranging their stock transfers and real estate deals and dinner dates, conducting business as usual, never exhibiting so much as a collective flicker of concern.
In effect, the U.S. citizenry as a whole was endowed with exactly the degree of ignorance it embraced. To put it another way, being ignorant is in this sense — that of willful and deliberate ignoration — not synonymous with being uninformed. It is instead to be informed and then ignore the information. There is a vast difference between not knowing and not caring and if Good Americans have difficulty appreciating the distinction, it must be borne in mind that there are others in the world who are quite unburdened by such intellectual impairments. They, beginning with those most directly targeted at any given moment for subjugation or eradication at the hands of American "peacekeepers," know above all else that professions of ignorance inherently preclude claims of innocence in such circumstances.
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That the Germans did not rise to the occassion [of riding themselves of the Nazis], saving themselves and others untold misery, was the result neither of apathy nor of cowardice. Rather, their collective failure to meet even the most rudimentary of their obligations to humanity accrued from the fact that they, afflicted with their own Teutonic version of America's triumphant exceptionalism, overwhelmingly applauded nazism's imposition of a "new order" both at home and abroad, turning at best a blind eye to its "flaws" until Germany began to incur its first significant defeats during the winter of 1941-42 (for most Germans, the "turning point in morale") did not really set in until the disaster at Stalingrad a year afterwards, and for many later still). Thereafter, they were reduced first to fighting with increasing desperation to stave off a collective punishment they knew full well the lethal arrogance of their own behavior had earned them, then by-and-large — in a striking parallel to Americans' perpetually sweeping assertions of a "national innocence" — to denying that the punishment was warranted.
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If "Good Americans" will not finally undertake the steps necessary to euthanize the genocidal instrumentalities of U.S. power projection, those on the receiving end will henceforth increasingly assign themselves the job, using any and all means available to accomplish it. That they wield a right to do so is a fact made incontrovertible by the magnitude and duration of the suffering inflicted upon them, not just by U.S. governmental/military/corporate elites but by the unending ranks of average Iowa farm boys who have so willingly pulled the triggers, launched the missiles and dropped the cluster bombs (or performed the technical functions necessary to converting the systematic starvation of brown-skinned children into the finance capital and lush stock dividends of the U.S. economy). Should it prove necessary that the right of the victims be translated into a program best framed as "two, three, many 9-1-1s," Good Americans, all whining pretenses to wounded innocence notwithstanding, will be entitled to no more complaint than were their Good German counterparts before them.
Fortunately for me I'm one of the "Worst Americans" and thus suffer no such delusions about "wounded innocence." As one of the "Worst Americans" I have refused to drink the kool-aid that would allow me to share in the mass psychosis of my fellow countrymen, a drink that magically transforms America from homicidal gangster into victim of motiveless evil, attacked out of the blue by heathens who "hate our freedoms." America got a tiny symbolic taste of what it dishes out — generally at far worse orders of magnitude. And as one of the "Worst Americans" I don't harbor any illusions that there is any hope for change in present-day America, since ignorance, arrogance, megalomania, and sanctimonious self-righteousness are woven into the very fabric of its cultural identity — and which are now in full, rapturous blossom thanks to self-destructive sociological defense mechanisms that kick in when a culture's cherished world-views cannot cope with ineluctable challenges from reality. ("Men insist most vehemently upon their certainties when their hold upon them has been shaken." —Reinhold Nieburh). And, because I am one of the "Worst Americans," I can leave my homeland with nary a look back.
Yes, I am ashamed to have come from a country such as this. I will not miss it. Not one bit. I am proud to be amongst the worst Americans, and America deserves the fall that is coming to it. Unfortunately it will take down countless innocents with it, both home and abroad, during its long, painful, yet well deserved fall.
Do I hate America? Yes and no — "Condemn the Sin, not the Sinner." But for an interesting thought experiment apply this concept to the Nazis. Dissonant, isn't it? It raises a vitally important point. Cultural and political groups are comprised of individuals. The psychological motivations of any individual can be sympathized and empthatized with, and, as such, this concept of condemning the sin and not the sinner becomes tenable: we can understand how Jim or Tom or Susan can think the way they do, and thus can come to understand how circumstances can lead them to become a willing cog in a genocidal machine. In coming to this understanding we can then learn to forgive them their sins. But on a sociological level, no matter how understandable the reasons may be for a culture's reprehensible deeds, condemning not just the sin but the sinner becomes not only warranted — our humanity demands it, if, in fact, it ever truly hopes to evolve to a place where the ideal of peace can be made a reality. ("I have ever hated all nations, professions and communites, and all my love is towards individuals...But principally I hate and detest that animal called man; although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth." —Jonathan Swift) A drop of water is not the same thing as a cataclysmic tsunami.
The son of an abusive alcoholic may revile the damage and pain his dad inflicts during his drunken rampages and may understandably wish to leave his dad's clutches — especially if his dad refuses to even acknowledge his aberrant behavior. He may understand the reasons for his dad's behavior, and with understanding comes empathy and compassion; any hatred felt towards his dad would necessarily be qualified. But understanding doesn't prevent his dad's abusive behavior. The son has a choice, and choosing to leave his family is, thus, a positive, self-affirming act. The son may hate his dad's behavior, and may even hate his dad as he watches him beat his sister or mother, but leaving may have been necessary for his self-preservation — particularly given his dad's unpredictable nature. The son is pained by leaving his sister and mother, and may seek to help them in any way he can from afar — possibly by encouraging them to leave as well, perhaps using himself as an example...hopefully before something really bad happens to them.
Is there nothing good about America? Is it unremittingly evil? Of course not. There are many great and wonderful things about America. I spent two years of my life driving throughout the country, and have gotten to know its vast grandeurs as well as its intimate beauties. I've met and chatted with people from all walks of life in truck stops and local bars, in the city and in the country. I have a great and abiding affection for those Americans I have met, and who have accepted me into their confidence. Some of the best times in my life were spent in local watering holes of some of the reddest states. But since there's an overwhelming profusion of jingoistic boosterism easily and readily available about how wonderful America is I figured I'd concentrate on the negative for now — after all, I'm discussing my reasons for leaving. Besides, on the balance sheet between the pro and con my final tally shows a great deficit in the accounting.
It is said that a country deserves its leaders. I think this applies even moreso when those leaders are chosen by its citizenry. Since America has willfully chosen to be a non-reality based community, they will know firsthand the trauma that occurs when reality intrudes on their fantasy world. It will not be pleasant.
The essence of America is deeply and fundamentally conservative, arrogant, and ignorant — and it is proud of these attributes, though they are called by other names such a rugged-individualism, a christian nation, the world's policeman, etc. When they claim that there is no room in America for folks such as myself — "America, love it or leave it!" — they speak a truth they are little aware of.
When I crossed the border into Canada to begin a new life in a new country I felt a tremendous weight lift from me. I felt free in a way I had never felt before. And I never looked back. I have not felt a single pang of regret, nor do I ever expect to. When I visit America now, I feel like a visitor in some alien land, and it's a great feeling.
America, in its present form, has entered its final act: as in a classical tragedy the hero will soon fall victim to his tragic flaw, his hubris blinding him to the scenario he himself has set in motion and which now unfolds to his inevitable downfall. And I, for one, do not want to be around when the curtain comes crashing down.
Reflections from America's Leaders
[The government] ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The Senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and, to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability.
—James Madison (4th President, "Father of the Constitution")
They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.
—Andrew Jackson (7th President, discussing the need to remove aboriginal peoples from their native lands)
Ignorance and vice bred poverty which was as immutable as the seasons.
—Martin Van Buren (8th President)
What, sir! Prevent the American people from crossing the Rocky Mountains? You might as well command Niagara not to flow. We must fulfill our destiny.
—James Buchanan (15th President)
We shall never know why slavery dies so hard in this Republic...till we know why Sin is long-lived and Satan is immortal.
—James Abram Garfield (20th President)
There was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could do for them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also dies.
—William McKinley (25th President)
Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.
—William Howard Taft (27th President)
Business underlies everything in our national life, including our spiritual life. Witness the fact that in the Lord's Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach.
—Woodrow Wilson (28th President)
American business is not a monster, but an extension of a God-given impulse to create, and the savior of our happiness.
—Warren Harding (29th President)
It is only when men begin to worship that they begin to grow.
—Calvin Coolidge (30th President)
The sole function of Government is to bring about a condition of affairs favorable to the beneficial development of private enterprise.
—Herbert Hoover (31st President)
The atomic bomb was no "great decision."...It was merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness.
—Harry Truman (33rd President)
Then listen to me, Mr. Ambassador. Fuck your Parliament and your Constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If those two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked by the elephant's trunk, whacked good.
—Lyndon Johnson (36th President)
What are our schools for if not indoctrination against communism?
—Richard Nixon (37th President)
A tree is a tree — how many more do you need to look at?
—Ronald Reagan (40th President)
I will never apologize for the United States of America - I don't care what the facts are.
—George H W Bush (41st President, commenting on the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by the U.S. warship Vincennes, killing 290 passengers)
America does not need a religious war. It needs reaffirmation of the values that for most of us are rooted in our religious faith.
—William Clinton (42nd President)
A submarine could take this place out.
—George W Bush (43rd President, while looking at a river next to the Clinton library)
Any departure is also an arrival. I didn't just emmigrate from America — I immigrated to Canada. This will be the subject of the diptych's Northern Panel.