My people are the American people. I am a prime candidate to be a citizen of the world and I certainly feel a kinship with all people. But there is no sense denying that I was raised in the Midwest and the West, Ohio and Arizona. I have travelled little except through books. What attracts me to the idea of being a citizen of the world is the knowledge that the problems confronting humanity and the flora and fauna of our planet cannot be resolved through a stupid, blind nationalism.
Despite that, I wallow in the culture of my country, or rather cultures, for I have been blessed to be raised a working-class White kid and then to have married into a working-class African-American family. Learning that culture was one of the nicest albeit on-going achievements in my constant search for new understanding and insight. I love my country’s languages, its cultures, its musics, its foods. In fact, I cannot comprehend the narrow-minded dolts who think a Mexican-American family which has lived on the border for five generations, has always been bilingual, and feels little sense of belonging to Mexico is somehow supposed to be alien to the nation.
Nor can I grasp the hostility toward recent immigrants, legal or illegal. Cheap populist rhetoric is unworthy of the hard-working, undemanding people who cross our borders every day, whether by plane from Ireland or by perilous desert on foot, or those who came to study and to work and overstayed their visa. A compassionate understanding of people who want so much to partake of our country must take into account that surely many came out of economic need but stay because they learn to love the freedom and innovation so common here and so rare elsewhere.
So it is with a heavy heart that I contemplate the masses of Americans, my fellow Americans, truly fellow and not a politician’s sordid attempt to cozy up to us, the masses of Americans who continue to throw our most precious gift to the future, our young people, into the maw of Iraq. They not only go when ordered, they sign up for it, they volunteer for it. Just as many immigrants come here out of economic necessity, so many of our volunteers may not have a lot of choice but to join the service. But they do their duty and learn to love the challenges of protecting our country.
And that is why we owe it to them to never, ever, ever send them to fight, to kill, and to suffer and even die without the most careful consideration and sense of purpose. What we have done in Iraq can be sickeningly contrasted with Afghanistan: the latter an operation to break up the terrorists’ bases, the former a calculated effort to carry out sad dreams of empire. At some other time, soon, I will write about this administration, but suffice it to say that I do not believe some of the journalists like Jane Mayer who tell us that Bush and company believed they were protecting America. There is too much evidence to the contrary viz the screening of government employees for religious and political conformity to this administration’s tiny, twisted notion of what constitutes an American. There is too much evidence of the administration’s collusion with major corporations to make billions off the war. There is too much evidence of the privatization and out-sourcing of the way where even our diplomats are no longer guarded by U.S. Marines but by mercenaries. Does that call up any images for anyone?
My countrymen not only voted for Bush twice, many beyond count continue to applaud him for the very psychotic detachment from reality that allows him to make utterly stupid statements like Mission Accomplished as the portentous looting of Iraq went unabated.
At first the administration hid the sight of our dead and wounded from them, but the public eventually saw the mangling, the psychic tears, the coffins. Americans, Iraqis, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sunnis and Shias have all been casting shame onto the basis and the conduct of this war. Yet even as public figures like Obama call for hard police and military action against Al Qaeda, they are villified as traitors and cowards for not accepting uncritically the self-serving manipulations of Bush toward the shredding of our Constitution. Star chamber, the Inquisition – all have been approached in this administration’s drive to power. Next to our children, our Constitution is our bulwark and our gift to the future. What has Bush left us with? Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo.
Obama may or may not be able to turn the tide. Things have gone a long ways. The strangulation of watch-dog agencies, the ditching of programs long considered essential to the running of the country, essential to all but the very rich, the quiet dismemberment of regulations designed to allow the average citizen to confidently in vest and buy and borrow……… oh, I’m just so tired, Bush doesn’t bother me anymore.
What hurts me is my fellow Americans. Where are they?