Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 19, 2007

From/To the 'AMERICA IS LOST' Department

by Rick

R'giap quoting Martin Buber:

"you can only gain power over the nightmare by calling it by its real name"

I agree with this religious scholar and admire his works and writings. Rgiap has quoted him before and I thank him for introducing him to me. And in an attempt to describe this nightmare, it is exactly those words of his above that I am attempting to heed. To many who live here in the US, the name of this nightmare is not ‘America’. Nor is its name ‘Amerika’.

I have often been a stickler for language when it comes to discussing a subject. Over the last couple of years, I have asked readers of Moon of Alabama to consider everything from the meaning of “conservative” to a more basic mathematical question of “What exactly is a ‘billion’ dollars anyway?” I now wish to not only ponder a definition of 'America', but more importantly, place some questions of humanism before us. Again, though least in importance, is this from Wikipedia:

While many in the United States of America generally refer to the country as America and themselves as Americans many people elsewhere in the Americas resent what they perceive as appropriation of the term in this context and, thus, this usage is frequently avoided. In Canada, their southern neighbour is seldom referred to as "America" with "the United States", "the U.S.", or (informally) "the States" used instead. English dictionaries and compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.

Of course, all readers understand that when writers here at Moon of Alabama use the word ‘America’, they are referring to the people and their government of the United States of America, or the geographical land thereof.

But more importantly, this simple definition, no matter how narrowly or broadly defined, becomes a term possibly worthy of more study. Most Americans do not consider the current US government as representing what America was, is, or should be. To further complicte things, the word America for many has evolved further and further into an idealized concept that never existed. I am one of those who believe in such an idealized concept and realize that such an ideal may never exist. But believe I do, almost religiously; and rightly or wrongly, I try in small ways to move things toward that ideal.

Some may say I am using the nuances of language as an emotional shield or as an attempt to defend an America that doesn’t exist. Many children are not happy to learn there is no Santa Claus, just as grown up children use language to sheild against an emotional shock, or as an evasion of guilt or embarissment.  In the words of a US President, “it all depends on what your meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” But I argue here to quite the contrary.

When I read a posts like Bea’s where she concludes “America is lost.” it saddens me deeply. I may be wrong about Bea, but it appears obvious to me from this simple post that the word 'America' means more to her than what any simple definition can describe. It may represent to her an ideal that is, or at least was, something to be cherished and defended. I believe it is important to save this ideal.  And I believe this ideal is not a threat to any nation or individual.

But for one small moment, let us disregard any worry or discussion upon the meaning of the word “America”. Let us disregard for this moment whether or not an idealized America is even worthy of defense or discussion at all. That is, perhaps the very foundations of America or its Constitution is so fatally flawed, either intrinsically or extrinsically, that it is beyond hope. And let us further disregard for this moment any discussion of collective guilt upon its citizens by actions of the U.S government or state actors.

With that, I now ask this question: “Exactly what good is accomplished by insulting Americans by a derogatory uses of the word America? Millions and millions of Americans hold some idealized concept of America, and hold this ideal as dear to their hearts as their souls. One of the founding fathers of America, Benjamin Franklin, became isolated from his son because of Benjamin Franklin's nurturing of such an ideal and their arguing over philosophical loyalties.

Yet, even the slandering of this ideal is not sufficient for some here. ‘Debs is dead’ writes:

Amerika is the entity which is intended to be the prime beneficiary of the actions of the US govt. By that I mean Amerika the entity, not all amerikans within that entity.

Of course after reading the above, one is still left wondering exactly who or exactly what is this “entity”?  To be fair, later in this same post, 'Debs is dead' describes the members of this ‘entity’ called Amerika:

While all US citizens are amerikans (willingly for most, extremely unwillingly for a goodly chunk) not all amerikans are US citizens.

'Debs is dead' continues:

Amerika is the name of the set and amerikans are all the human elements of that set.

Well that certainly clears it all up, eh?

I ask Debs is Dead again: “Is it really worthwhile to slander an entire nation’s population in any attempt to end this nightmare?” There are, without a doubt, millions and millions of people here in your “Amerika” who share your disgust. We share the disgust of an empire that has gone beyond decency, we share your digust in an empire that now justifies torture as a means to an end, and we share your disgust in an empire that has caused the deaths of over a million people in just a few short years. We most likely share in your disgust with a majority if not all of your complaints against this un-American government.

But to insult all americans so completely accomplishes exactly what? Are we so stained in sin that we are of no benefit in bringing change? Would violence against such government along with the certain suicide of the perpetrator be the better part of valor? Perhaps emmigration and denouncing citizenship would bring absolution. If so, please send a list of accepted countries worthy of citizenship. I would gather the list to be quite short.

What some are doing here is little different than what 'Mr. Truth Gets Viscious' did when he proclaimed a hatred towards all people religious. 'Mr Truth gets Viscious' proclaimed a hatred for billions and billions of human beings who had done nothing more wrong than believing different than himself. But perhaps what some posters are doing in disparaging America is far worse. For one thing, America is not a “club”, an “organization” or a “political party” that one can choose or not choose to belong.

According to the basic rights of the UN Charter, no individual should be forced to join any affiliation against their will. Yet some posters here at Moon of Alabama have forced me into this Amerikan prison, this monolith of evil, and truly against my will. But worse yet, as mentioned earlier, these posters are burying an ideal that is as different from what they believe as to what many Americans believed about Iraq. Of course, destroying peoples hopes and dreams by bombs is obvious, while destroying an ideal by words is not.

One must remember, America is a construct of one’s mind, maybe more so than many other nations as it has more connotations, both good or bad. America is a nation, like so many others, born in blood and it how it will end I do not know. And like all nations, it exists only in the eyes of man.

To be more precise, it is little different than the territory marked by a dog lifting his leg. A dog marks his territory to rule as he chooses even if such boundaries are unknown to man. But instead of piss on grass and trees, we humans go one better; we have written paper with ‘defined rules’ by intellectual elites. Almost reminds me of some intellectuals here, but the “Amerikans” that exist in these intellectual minds do better still. We, the enablers of this “Amerikan” evil, have willfully and preemptively killed those who have made no attempt whatsoever to invade our space.

I doubt that few Americans are actually a part of this 'entity'. Nearly all Americans have been raped by this nightmare in more ways than even the crudest of porn could portray. And this rape of Americans has been happening for many years, with or without 'Shock and Awe'. Naomi Klein’s new book “The Shock Doctrine’ describes just a few of the many sex toys in a large bag of tricks.

Many of us have been raped without shock or fear at all; indeed most of us have been raped in our sleep. While Americans are busy watching sporting events on television, corporate sponsors are busy behind the scenes with their lobbyist pimps. No electric shock is needed for most of our brains; they are already filled with apathy. I must say, the pimps keep us entertained quite well.

Yet my discussion here is not directed at Americans, why bother anyway, as many have left reading or posting here for the very reasons I put forth. Worse yet, there almost appears to be a subtle point that we “Amerikans” deserve this rape and abuse. We have been born with an “Original Sin” and marked with a “666” on our souls, and with hardened hearts that only a foreign intellectual can judge.

I propose that only a stagnant mind could assume that Americans would be intentionally so self abusive logic does little to ease my worries about any debate regarding America. In fact, I personally feel that thinking in binary terms of Logic and Set Theory in describing “Amerika” is below that of the living, yes below that of my dog. All hail the mighty “Nand Gate” philosophy where all of reason can be construed by merely the use of two distinct operations of logic! Of course ‘Mr. Truth Gets Vicious’ has informed us that only in recent history have humans been able to grasp Boolean Logic. I would have argued that such principles of “and”, “or” and “not” are kindergarten level but dead Debs has unfortunately proved me wrong.

Perhaps it is beyond my understanding; but I for one, would put my money on a living dog instead of a stagnant mind and sheer logic. If I misunderstand posters through my religious prejudices, my egotism, my nationalism, my lack of ability to perceive the world, or even my ignorance in logic/set theory, be assured that there are millions of idiots like myself that are insulted also.

But enough of this collective guilt, and of this moment of divisiveness posing as debate. I have no guilt in working to achieve an ideal America, an America that closely resembles the ideals that my founding fathers had envisioned. Such is the America that exists in my heart and mind and it is not a fool’s dream. There is a range from similar to wholly different ideals held in many minds throughout the world. In doing so, I find no need to insult anyone merely by their national association, or approach those who are powerless and silent with hate or insults. Again, what I sometimes percieve here at Moon of Alabama is an attempt to blame the victims along with the deviants while burying an ideal. If one does not agree with that ideal that is fine. But in some real way, America as a nation did progress where things were once better than they were today. 

Surely not all shared in the wealth, but progress was being made. This is not ‘kool aid’ talk either, for I remember my younger days when the US Middle Class was large and growing. Marginalized minorities were gaining discretionary income. That is not the case today. How and why the citizens became so asleep I don’t know for sure. Clearly entertainment and materialsim has become a disease of epic proportions, while interest in arts and education are very lacking. And the situation appears to become worse with each new generation. This has been the greatest detriment to improving the political situation.

”The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.” – Martin Buber

Finally, for anyone to suggest that millions of people in your “Amerika” have little or no regard for others lives, especially those of other nationalities, is more than insulting. Through my culture and religious beliefs, I recognize clearly the genocide that is taking place in Iraq. I regret now that I have not finished my writing concerning religion. Just as I was insulted by the actions of US leaders and US soldiers who had no regard for the personal beliefs of “their” Muslim prisoners, I am equally insulted for not only myself, but for the countless Americans who have played no part in the Iraqi conflict, but yet are deemed willful benefactors in an Iraqi genocide. 

Though others will disagree, I assure everyone, there never was, and never will be any benefit to America or to a single true American in this Iraq War. The greatest costs have yet to be felt for everyone, although considering what the Iraqi people have already endured, it is beyond my imagination how the metaphysical universe can still hold in reserve so much anquish. I pray that the Iraq nightmare can be halted. Even now my disgust grows without limits - from the actions of Blackwater and other private mercenaries, to the actions of US prison guards who had so little respect for those of Muslim belief, alas, these US soldiers actually used the prisoner’s religious beliefs as weapons against them. All this at the behest of those located in Washington DC.

America's political leaders are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing. They have soiled the very same International agreements that they helped write and have spit upon the US Constitution they swore to protect. I freely choose not to call these US citizens 'Americans' for what they do is truly un-American in a very real sense of the word. Americans are against this war, they are against their US government and many of us “Americans” are fighting a non-violent war against this current government that most would say we are incapable of fighting. We long for America, but right now, it can’t be found.

Man is no longer able to master the world which he himself brought about: it is becoming stronger than he is, it is winning free of him, it confronts him in an almost elemental independence, and he no longer knows the word which could subdue and render harmless the golem he has created ... Man faced the terrible fact that he was the father of demons whose master he could not become. - Martin Buber

I post this lenghty discussion not to insult but because I care. Like the beauty of our physical world which is so mathematically irrational and impossible to quantify, I see so much beauty here at Moon of Alabama. On this very thread, the beauty of rgiaps humanism shines through like a rainbow after a storm.

almost my entire argument against my friend slothrup was based on his refusal to understand that the empire that is controlling & destroying this world has its capital in Washington the other aspect of my argument against him was essentially - the people were always missing, absent, had disappeared … it seemed only americans appeared

I agree 100% with rgiap’s post above, even more than he may realize. The US government has turned into a cancer that has inflicted the whole world. I would only add that, like a disease, removing the most obvious mass of cancer or removing the cancer from where it originated does not always lead to cure. Although only an acedemic point, one could argue that the seeds of this cancer were already forming long before the US existed. 

The East India Trade Company of England was merchandising slaves and dope on a worldwide scale; perhaps this was already the first ominous sign of this world cancer. Of course the most deadly puppet strings are certainly being pulled from Washington DC. But I repeat, this cancer is pervasive.

The second part of rgiap’s post reveals not only great intellect, but more important, his heart.  Regarding my work (still a draft) on religion, I use rgiap’s same point from an earlier post as almost a central theme. Below is a quick cut and paste from this work in process.

Attitude and intolerance are difficult qualities to describe by simple writing, so I have struggled with some examples of attitudes perceived from past posts.  Most importantly though, I think various societies have been great because of their culture, and religion has been a basic, and very positive, ingredient of any great culture.  The history of China is maybe a good example but probably more complicated and the least familiar…
Iraq is maybe the clearest example for most of us, so I will reference that, especially emphasizing the heroic efforts of the Iraqi Resistance to the current occupation.  Iraq, the cradle of civilization, is now turning to rubble and the once proud Iraqi people are witnessing death and destruction on an unprecedented scale.  They are seeing their great culture destroyed even as I write.  I cringe every time I hear about a mosque being destroyed. Not just for the beauty of the architecture, so much more beautiful than the modern, ugly, square buildings of the West.  Each mosque is more than just a religious place of worship; each is (or ‘was’) a part of Iraqi art and culture.  Iraqis have died, their private and public property has been destroyed (or stolen) and all for what?  The “Social Darwinists” in the West contrast so sharply to the Iraqi people.  To believe that spirituality does not play a role in the Iraqi Resistance is to intimidate logic itself.

One does not need to read Chomsky, read Moon of Alabama, or any other media “expert” to understand or critique what is happening in Iraq. In this respect, again I wish to commend and quote remembering rgiap where he replied in a heated debate with Slothrup regarding the situation in Iraq:

but again & again what is the most worrying for me - is that in the style of a murdochian mendiant - the iraqi people & their loss & suffering - are nowhere to be seen - in the so-called 'facts' that he [Slothrup] brings

It is rgiap’s concern for humanity that wins the argument in my book. Logic alone will never suffice when discussing such subjects. On that note, Bea is also one where her concern for humanity is a power that reaches far beyond her words. It is evident in every one of Bea’s posts.

Most people of the world are looking for change. They are not seeking tyranny from dictatorships, corporatism, or the tyranny from a democracy where rights and freedoms are not protected. Respect towards each individual in society will always be an important part of this quest. To disrespect the individuals of an entire nation because they have done nothing more wrong but to live under an ‘out of control’ government is more than sad. 

I have no doubt that many who arrive here at Moon of Alabama are quickly put off after reading some posts.  ‘Mr. Truth Gets Viscous’ openly proclaims his hatred for all religious people. On another thread, Parvis and Cat Lady have a discussion stating that all religious people living with today’s technology are as dangerous as “psychopaths with chainsaws”. In that thread, readers were treated to such profound questions as: “Is it religion that causes Psychopaths or is it that Psychopaths are drawn to religion?”

Perhaps dead Debs can use some Binary Logic and Set Theory to sort out their questions. Even more stunning is to find Parvis conclude that all organized religion should be outlawed because religious people are as dangerous as nuclear bombs. And then logic easily enables Bernhard and others to conclude that the only way to stop the Iraq War quickly is to have higher body counts of American soldiers. After all, a million dead Iraqis don’t seem to bother most Americans. So with the simple tools of mathematics, a delight with every American’s death is proclaimed. The effects of Agent Orange from so many years ago are still claiming both American and Vietnamese lives every day. Where and with what co-efficient do we place such statistics into our calculations?

Most likely none of Moon of Alabama posters intend to offend anyone (myself excluded of course), yet what is the mathematical set of people offended from these numerous subsets of insults? Quite frankly, I don’t know. But I do know that each of us can be more effective by a little more care in our common strive for change. 

Ironically, we may often offend and turn away the very people who can help us the most. Unfortunately for readers at Moon of Alabama, you loose with me on both counts: I am still here and I don’t know how best to bring change. And I am a common offender when it comes to insults.

However, if knowledge is to be gained, I will take an insult any day of the week rather than silence. I welcome and learn from all the posters here, those who I have just insulted and those who insult me. I even miss reading Slothrup's posts lately. But cooperation and success is easier achieved with praise than with insults. If praise is too difficult, than let us move forward with tolerance. If tolerance is too difficult, insults will do little. And religion and logic should be everyone’s friend, and never be used simply as tools to dominate or divide.

Posted by b on September 19, 2007 at 15:16 UTC | Permalink

next page »

beautiful rick. i value your contribution here so much. in so much of your post (most!) you speak for me. those instances in which i have confusion or conflict, i aim to articulate later in the thread.

thank you, it is an honor to know you my friend

Posted by: annie | Sep 19 2007 17:01 utc | 1

Thanks Rick. I appreciate your thoughts and intentions. I have a number of disagreements, though. A few:

Your critique of anti-religeous sentiment becomes a bias against many of us having well-founded cynicism of the actions of state and religeous entities. Idealism, secular and religeous, has its limits.

How Americans (US) see themselves is best revealed by how they see the world. Most couldn't care less. They read the war news like they read the sports news. You'd never know there were wars going on by the looks of things locally. Compassion was outlawed in the Eighties.

I agree that some comments (mine included) can be too strident and turn off some people, but that's part of having an open forum. Sometimes you just have to say it like you think and feel it. It's an offensive world and self-censorship is the way it persists.

Posted by: biklett | Sep 19 2007 18:18 utc | 2

David Brin posts at DKos that the Bush Administration's key achievement has been to emasculate the national military and make room for mercenary and other privatized profits. I realize this seems a rather conservative critique, but the history of what happens when massive private militaries arise suggests that we may need to understand our own humanist reasons for resisting this mercenary revolution.

It will be impossible for liberals to deal with the devastation of the Bush Era, if they nurse even a scintilla of simplistic hostility toward our men and women in uniform. That silly reflex is not only inaccurate and unjust -- picking on the wrong target -- but also self-defeating. We need these people. They are the Bushites’ worst victims.

Moreover, they are a large part of our hope, for the restoration of a lawful, constitutional and confident American Republic.

[It must be added that Brin's "worst victims" is only accurate if one limits vision to the U.S.. Clearly the Iraqis are the worst victims.]

Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns, and Money likewise amplifies on Rick's foray into defining how "America" is actually a rhetorical resource for humanists, one that is under assault by robber and chaos barons.

J. Edgar Hoover justified his actions in terms of a defense of "America," but it remains unclear precisely what that meant to him. Defending "America" doesn’t really mean anything; America is, after all, simply a collection of people, territory, and values. We can agree that some of these things are worth protecting, and others not, and these choices inform how we make value trade-offs; civil liberties in exchange for security from terrorists, for example. For Hoover, liberal Jewish "Harvard" lawyers like Felix Frankfurter represented a threat to "America" that required FBI surveillance, while the Ku Klux Klan and associated Southern lynch mobs were merely a local problem. Failing to specify what it is about America that you propose to protect can be strategic, as it allows you to do pretty much anything you like,...

How, we need to ask, can we actually take the perspective of everyday people, so that we do not take up the perspective of the pirates? Those pirate perspectives are offered to us in myriad treacly sweet venues, and it is so easy to agree that profiting from hate and destruction is merely inevitable. "So get with the Satanic program cuz we're going to win." One rather imagines that the average U.S. citizen of today is feeling very Vichy, very Quisling. Better yet, very national society-ist.

I think it is simple. Hate the "Amerikans" as a people, and you are already learning to hate the people, including yourself and everyone you love. It is the learning of servility, of obedience to the tales of the billionaires.

Will we be slaves, even in our minds?

Posted by: 'citizen' | Sep 19 2007 18:20 utc | 3

Good job, well written and gentle. Not persuaded about religion beng anyone's friend, certainly not coequal with logic. But I accept that folks are guided by myth, as Joseph Campbell explained. Let the myth of America by historic. What we have today is a failed state.


Posted by: Wolf DeVoon | Sep 19 2007 18:22 utc | 4

this is a thoughtful post rick & needs to be considered with care & i will try to do so

the 'spiritual' question is clear for me. it is a private question. our cosmologies are so complex yet their base is so simple - i have always thought poetry is the only way of communicating that question because i think you can be a dialectical & historical materialist as i am & see within phenomenology our untouchable richesse

it is in reading hegel or spinoza perhaps even kierkegaard but especially at hegel - i am in wonder at the phenemena of man. at the achievement of a single human being attempting to understand the forces of existence. & in hegel the 'idea of the idea' is in & of itself a metaphysical notion - a perplexing admission to the forces outside of ourselves

i see all those forces though - as history. consciousness as a constituant of that history, but history still. not more than that. but even that is sufficiently mystifying & mysterious & has within its rational kernel an extreme beauty of the connection between things

i can only offer a filmic example here that might not please everyone but words are difficult these days & i think the film encapsulates what i mean by these connections. it is a film by theo angelopolous called voyage to cythera in this film we watch an old greek communist return to greece after a lifetime in exile in the soviet union & finally no one wants him perhaps not even his land, his earth - but the film is full if grids & lines of whiteness of space of epenthesis - of the spaces between sounds & of the spaces between silence(s)

i would even extend my diea of that to use another example in film - that of the only real film emir kusturica has made that is beyond belief, the time of the gypsiest - where force that exist cannot be dsecribed by a human toungue yes exist as a continuation of the culture lent to us by human tounges

fundamentalism, of any kind should be offensive to us all because it is reductive & it reduces our incomprehensible complexity. it is finally our search for that that constitutes the passage of living. on that level we should not demand or require the answers

fundamentalism of any kind provides the answer - even before the question - & fundamentalism uses what is sacred - that is the concatenation of culture that creates the koran, the torah, the bible, the gnostic texts, etc etc & grinds it into simplistic maxims that rob the essential masculinity of the texts

that is that we are obliged to take responsibility - even before our shadows or our memories

u s imperialism & the people within the empire is far more complex for me because there is a personal history than i cannot unentangle from an "objective" analysis. i was invited to america in 1970 to read my work & was forbidden entry - i am now 50 & i have been refused three times because i am considered a menace. perhaps that is as it should be but it is to say that i have not been without interest to see how inside the belly of the beast - humans organise & are also capable of transformations where profit does not have a place

practically i have witnessed u s imperialism too closely to give it the benefit of the doubt. where i was born - british imperialism had had its day & was & remains a mockery of itself - while still quite capable of causing harm whether that was in malaysia or kenya or wherever else - its bloody hands lingered - given that we have just passed sept 11 - it is important to note that nearly all the weaponry pinochet used was supplied by the british - hawker hunters & chieftan tanks. france where i have lived nearly a good half of my life - is at once a beautiful & pathetic (perhaps melancholic would be more exact) - its imperialist days are long over & it is quite pretentious about its power - though unfortunately it has sufficient muscle & mania (given the buffoon bernard kouchners sense of self importance) to create trouble. but essentially - slowly & surely these countries will have to emerge from the darkness & construct a real self within the commonwealth of europe - both less able to do harm & less willing

u s imperialism frightens me, & it does frighten - simply because its actual polices on the ground are quite quite mad & seem to be a conscious embrace of chaos where only the elite will survive & prosper. i genuinely think they could attack either syria or iran without a moments hesitation. the toupeed psychopath john bolton expresses openly what exists for the 'america' he keeps under his belt like loose change & what a part of that loose change is war constant war

& it is that the actual menace u s imperialism constitutes in the world. i am frightened for the latin americans who have been offered a brief respite from an almost continual carnage of dictatorship & murder that have their heart at either washington, georgetown or the school of america. that is why i have mentioned the film about the coup against venuezalea - because it illustrates something very basic but very new in its way - ii am like one of hugo's ministers boohooing when he was taken but not organising or organising too slowly - but in the film we see the people make history. it is they who take charge. it is they who change the history & it is very clear hugo chavez is conscious of that debt as a leader & as a human being

rich how many beautiful men & women have had their destinies destroyed by some master of warwithin the state dept. i think here of the beautiful fred hampton who had so much to offer america, or malcolm x, or leonard peltier who have been murdered or destroyed. there is something sick with a country that does this to its best a brightest, its most compassionate citizen. it would seem from history that once a compassionate citizen turns their generosity into act - they are isolated, they are demolished & then they are destroyed

that is the dialectic that america has elaborated in this epoch & only heroic acts or self sacrifice by the citizens of america will change that

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 19 2007 18:22 utc | 5

Your critique of anti-religeous sentiment becomes a bias against many of us having well-founded cynicism of the actions of state and religeous entities. Idealism, secular and religeous, has its limits.

I think Rick never strayed even close to censuring cynicism. Instead, he polemicized rather mildly against advocating that one hate the religious or U.S. nationals. And I mean hate in the mere sense of intentionally abandoning charity and love.

Yes, idealism has its limits. Idealism can be used dangerously. Despite that, a person does have to choose sides if one wishes to exist authentically, and either side fights (or simply fails to fight) the other. The advantage of the humanist side is that we are fighting even for the humanity of those who would destroy us. So, we choose to love even our enemies, as humans (not as roles and powers). In fact, if we cannot do that, we cannot serve our side very well.

The ability to serve our selves relies on ideals of a sort. Just not abstract ones. Rather, we rely on allegiance to the everyday as we understand it through reasoning and its necessary ideals: necessary ideals such as "truth is better."

Posted by: 'citizen' | Sep 19 2007 18:39 utc | 6

There are many other appellations to refer to the US, its Gvmt, its citizens; such as Amriki (arab), Amerloques (french), long list. The deformation is prescribed by the language, the transformation is appropriation, and it has, most often, but not always, a derogatory feel.

The root Am - generally refers to the the US, outside of academic texts which mention North America, South America, the Americas, the United States, Canada, etc. No, “America” is not a weird mental construct, almost always the expression refers to what the US Gvmt. and US citizens decide and do. Enough..

Americans are US citizens who drive Suvs and vote for Bush or condone rigged elections. Those who invade, kill, sell their TV shows and movies worldwide, suck tax from non citizens, etc etc. They have power, the upper hand.

An anarchist bag lady counts for zilch; Sebastian the leftist who champions Obama can look good; the hesitant peacenik mom is marginalised, etc. US citizens are various, but invading Iraq went over a treat. Those who disagreed did not oppose effectively.

Germans bear huge guilt, and are today manipulated, because they condoned, ignored, or championed Hitler, etc. No reason for it to be different for others. None at all. It might be nice for the US to take a turn at shame faced culpability. Bush as monster and atonement for the millions of dead, why not? Cluster bombs, DU, random shooting, destruction of hospitals, power stations, water works, and most important relentless bombing from the air, these are all real, documented, and have killed, yes, millions. Really, those facts cannot be challenged. In Iraq and elsewhere.

The post also challenges or discusses the spread of responsibility, accountability, participation, etc. Rambles...

Is Joe six pack responsible for 25 000 Iraqi internees, their arbitrary arrest, torture for some, and ongoing indoctrination? Was Fritz responsible when the jack boots marched up and removed his Jewish neighbors?

Is Marcia, who voted for Bush to keep her and her children safe, responsible for a little girl whose brains are spread on the pavement in Iraq? Is the politically correct college prof, wringing his or her hands and weeping, complicit with Bush?

Difficult questions. Moral philosophers tend to take a long, high, lofty, general view, to define categories, none easily transposed to action on the ground....

But common sense, well... maybe it is not too kind or friendly to blow up and bomb others and steal their resources?

Am I way off the beam here, missing some crucial point? What is all this about really?

Posted by: Tangerine | Sep 19 2007 18:49 utc | 7

Thank you for your kind words, and for your heartfelt post, and for your humanism in general.

I am mulling over how to respond to this post, which is a very dense and thought-provoking one that takes some time to process. Meanwhile I just wanted to register a response to this passage:

I may be wrong about Bea, but it appears obvious to me from this simple post that the word 'America' means more to her than what any simple definition can describe. It may represent to her an ideal that is, or at least was, something to be cherished and defended. I believe it is important to save this ideal. And I believe this ideal is not a threat to any nation or individual.

You are correct in the spirit in which I meant that sentence, and the pain that it caused me to write it, and the fact that I also believe that the United States stands for -- or used to stand for -- ideas that have deep merit. I would also add that I believe that not only millions of Americans but also millions abroad have cherished those ideals and looked to them as a model, and for that, the abominations of those ideals that we have witnessed throughout history, and ever more so in the past several decades, are all the more painful -- even to many who do not carry American passports. Let me hasten to add that I do NOT mean by this that the U.S. (my country) is better or superior to any other, or that it should "bring its enlightening values" anywhere beyond its own borders; indeed, such attitude is a fundamental violation of these very same values, because it imposes one value set on people who have freely chosen to espouse another. All I am saying is that I do feel that the core values of respect for freedom of speech, religion/spirituality, and protection of life, liberty, and property are something that, when properly followed, have enabled humans to live more reasonably and respectfully together in dignity and to fulfill their potential to develop healthy and flourishing communities than when they are cast aside.

These are such complex issues -- I do not mean to imply by this that these are the only values by which a society should organize itself, or that in a society that values freedom, there cannot also be protection of the "common good" through some mechanisms that may impinge on those freedoms. I just mean that the very essence of respecting the dignity and humanity of all other beings, as enshrined in some of the ideals upon which this country was ostensibly founded (and we all know that it has failed in many respects to live up to those ideals in actuality), is something that I deeply believe in -- not to mention something that many of my direct ancestors fought for. And it was this essence that was so painfully lacking in that video, which was humiliating and de-personalizing in the extreme. As r'giap and bernhard have beautifully expressed, there were other much more dignified and respectful ways of handling that situation.

I will stop here and respond to the rest of your post later, once I've had a chance to reflect more upon it.

Thanks again.

Posted by: Bea | Sep 19 2007 19:01 utc | 8

rgiap said: "fundamentalism of any kind provides the answer - even before the question - & fundamentalism uses what is sacred - that is the concatenation of culture that creates the koran, the torah, the bible, the gnostic texts, etc etc & grinds it into simplistic maxims that rob the essential masculinity of the texts."

The same is true of the defining texts of America, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Until America abandons its pre-Copernican view of geo-politics, history and culture, in which all the nations of the world orbit the US like moths blundering around a candle, it will continue to make itself unknowable and indeed hated by those whose countries are to them no more than conveniences of geography, family and language. As a Briton I count myself as one of the latter, by the way. Loving your country as the place where your friends live, where you were born, where the food you understand is cooked, your songs sung etc etc is not the same as love-it-or-leave-it jingoism. I'm not saying that rick is a jingoist, but he does seem to be saying that jingoists shouldn't have their feelings hurt, as that isn't nice. Too bad.

citizen and rick are right in that it is pointless and dangerous to hate Americans - dangerous in that by doing so we lose our humanity by denying that of others. But isn't it also worth saying that by clinging with quasi-religious faith to the tenets of 'being American,' whatever that really means, Americans do themselves no favours? America isn't the Shining City Upon a Hill, it's just one country among many, with a lot of strengths and a lot of problems, most of them not very unique.

So I'll reserve the right to criticize America, and those Americans who aren't seeking change - and my own country and compatriots as well - in the hopes that it might change something. Nothing was ever changed by acquiescence. Nothing every will be.

Posted by: Tantalus | Sep 19 2007 19:09 utc | 9

Damn! Should have written "Nothing ever WILL be."

Posted by: Tantalus | Sep 19 2007 19:11 utc | 10

From the WaPo, US working to re-shape Iraqi detainees: Sept. 19, 2007.


" Stone said he wants to identify "irreconcilables" -- those detainees whose views cannot be moderated -- and "put them away" in permanent detention facilities. Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and interrogators help distinguish the extremists from others, he said.

After reassessments and interrogations, Stone said, some detainees are recommended for release. "If a detainee is an imperative security risk . . . then I'm going to reduce that risk and I'm going to replace that destructive ideology," he said. "And then when he's assessed to no longer be a threat, I'm going to release the detainee being less likely to be a recidivist."

Since May, Stone said, he has released about 2,000 detainees "and we've not had any coming back." He said his goal is to keep those who are released from harming U.S. troops or anyone else. "They're not going out of here unless I can feel comfortable about that," Stone added. "I'm not doing mass releases."> WaPo

This is the humane face of US occupation. After the legions of dead, some may be arrested arbitrarily (note the article doesn't even pretend these Iraqis have committed any crimes), be interned, possibly for ever, or have the chance to shape up if they lie and go yasssSir to the masters. Hitler had an easy time of it facing in-country stigmatized groups, generally agreed upon. And he wasn't an occupier of his own country...or was he?

Posted by: Tangerine | Sep 19 2007 19:16 utc | 11

Thank you for articulating so well the problem of idealism in its guise as fundamentalism. Yes, a thousand times yes. To live as ourselves, we need to acknowldge that real understanding is historical, and that this understanding comes by taking responsibility.

As I understand it, that is the call being made to U.S. citizens on this site. How do we plan to take responsibility? How are we working to understand?

As I write this, I listen to a caller on my local radio station asking the interviewer and interviewee to explain what they think of the UF tasering. "Will NPR play it?" She asks. The Political Junkie replies that we don't do video on the radio. Caller graciously ignores the insult and says, yes dear, I mean will you play the audio? TPJ replies that he'll look into it. ...Well, she tried to bring NPR on as a witness to our history now.

How does someone who lives at the individual level of history make things happen at the social level? Of course, great wealth makes it easy to move social levers. For the everyday person, such as this caller, that was her attempt. Likewise Andrew Meyer 2 days ago. Likewise our dialog here in hope that we can educate each other, and that this little public sphere will influence other such discourses.

Me, I am working to empower teachers, the ones who teach in elementary schools, the actual level that raises nations and cities as a whole. I teach them how to realize the full scale of their excellent work as teachers, and by their understanding better I enable them to teach their students even better, to spread their good work to other teachers, and to organize their communities to act like human communities by supporting their children's growing understanding. These teachers are ambitious that their students be able to understand how the world really works. And the history teachers have my heart perhaps for the reasons rememberinggiap articulates, that history is the way we best understand.

Yet, yesterday I was training my boy to learn how to go to sleep himself, and my wife and i returned him to bed over 30 times till he decided to hum himself to sleep. I did not discuss it with him, because the point was not for him to be social by interacting, but simply by going to sleep. Though this was a fine parental moment, it also struck me ironically that from the billionaire perspective, I am the child who is not to be reasoned with, but only to be shown a single way forward till I accept it and get with the program.

Will I? Clearly I need to lose the delusion that the billionaires want to hear from me. Yet, my expertises and services are valued by others, and it matters that I am solid with the people I teach, by which I mean that I credit them with the work of learning, which is all theirs. That is, I am opposing the billionaire program of telling us when and where to fall asleep. I am staying awake by helping them wake up to their own strengths. So I am a bad child for them. Good, I am not a child.

I'm not sure what else I can do besides continue to wake up more, to wake up others more to their power, and to honor and exalt all power that is not subservient to the center, but rather to truth, understanding, and wakefulness.

There is no party to support. Institutionally, this country is spiralling down. But we are still humans, we can still refuse to bow our heads to the national society-ists. But instead honor each other. Instead honor fellow human beings, both everyday, and as Reverend Yearwood did when he sloganed: "I love the pople of Iraq".

Remember that this cost him a broken leg. We are not playing here.

Posted by: 'citizen' | Sep 19 2007 19:23 utc | 12

Reverend Yearwood assaulted and battered

Posted by: 'citizen' | Sep 19 2007 19:31 utc | 13

[the 'spiritual' question is clear for me. it is a private question. our cosmologies are so complex yet their base is so simple - i have always thought poetry is the only way of communicating that question because i think you can be a dialectical & historical materialist as i am & see within phenomenology our untouchable richesse]

R'giap, you are very clear on this, as it underlies, informs, and animates your argument beyond polimics and into things of beauty (art). Its is also, as critics of Husserl might emphasize, is in itself, an idealism. An idealism that is at once both fluid in its reach and static in its witness, or in other words, it's either dialectical(ism) or fundamental(ism). The latter being a bastardized version of the former. Which I would assume is Ricks primary lament, be it the attacks on religion or the truncated notion of "America". I would also imagine that somewhere in the mind of neo-marxist slothrop the "idealism" also lurks albeit disguised in reactionary wool. And why you, Rick, and myself would prefer to have her/him still around.

Our problem in america is that the notion of transcendent freedom has been iconified, reified, and stratified into a fundamentalist notion of freedom.

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 19 2007 19:57 utc | 14

Proud to know you Rick.

Posted by: beq | Sep 19 2007 21:12 utc | 15

anna missed

i want to be clear on this point - the dialogue with slothrop has always been out in the open & the base of it - clear; i admit i have been as unrelenting in my position as slothrop was in attacking notions of empire, for example

but as rick makes clear in his post - the biggest rift - was about absence. an absence that i sometimes alleged was rooted in white skin privilege & was intrinsically rascist ( the inevitability & endlesness of ethnic hatred amongst arabs, for example). slothrops construct of a post marxist marxism included both the dissapearance of perpetrator & victim. it inherently became a theory at war with itself

i also miss the presence of slothrop - i imagined we were tough enough to handle each others language. i wasn't insulted even when the intention was to insult. the questions being discussed are & remain to be more important than the people we are

anna missed - the essential question - is after all an existential question - a lived question - how we carry our ideas in our day to day life which includes posting at moon. an artist is morally obliged to take his/her proper position to its logical ends & to also within the work - attack it fundamentally - to turn it upside down - for its veracity to be verified not by idealism but by - in creation, a structural collapsing - which is a dialectical approach - neither fundamentalist or absolute. on the contrary - the creation must always rest fragile even frail

that being said - my anti imperialism is directed against the united states because whatever way you want to wing it - at the very minimum it is the armed force of capital. that as tangerine notes - cannot be seriouslly disputed - as an imperialism it has been particularly homicidal & ingenious in its pyschopathology.

witnessing that in the midst of life - that psychopathology exacerbate in the way that it has - that is its unhindered & public brutality is sometimes too much for me as a human. i'm sure i am like a lot of people here - in that some days - what is happening - is too ovewhelming. the disgust i feel too strong. & the sense of complicity (that is that i am not there in tal afar) creates its own immobility

& for me moon is & ought to be a way of reinvigorating energies & a place to learn, above all a place to learn. so for me ricks post opens up spaces & does not close them

it is an interrogation that we can all participate & that too is dialectical

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 19 2007 21:43 utc | 16

Didn't mean to imply idealism as a "system of values", but rather in the philosophical sense - both Hegel and Husserl are "transcendental idealists", no?

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 19 2007 22:29 utc | 17

in any case it was not a question ever - nor is it now - a question of my method is better than yours & i don't think seriouslly over all the time here despite the most fiery of arguments has anyone ever presented that posture - i imagine we are all so instinctly conscious of absolutes - that anyone with that baton - would be soon enough warned off

in its way & in this terrible time being here is like being at a feast - where everyone is bringing 'things' to the table . the kind of 'rencontre' - meeting taking place here althusser began to speak of in his very last work. & practically, through our meeting i am beginniong to understand more & more what that implies

we come here in different states, too - & i think fury must have a place here - that as a community in confrontation with our history we must be allowed to restore both our fury & our passion in the face of complicity & silence

i do not find it so strange either that sometimes we can be close to fanaticism. i am not ashamed of that term or of the meditative quality that constitutes it. these times demand a fanatic's heart

i think the english speaking world because it has been totally demeaned by u s imperialism also has bred a certain type of hatred. i have never returned to my country in fifteen years because i watched that country demean itself before the empire, i lived through its 'chile without blood' - i watched as dissent was rendered diabolical & as dr alfred mccoy has been at pains to point out - how drugs were used to silence generations of people. that is not a conspiracy. that is a fact. in its whole history it had 3 years of being 'independant' of u s imperialism & it paid dearly for that & has now fallen into a sorrowful servitude. i will not be surprised if bush's sherrif will be elected again. in new zealand you had a proud leader broken in half - david lange - until the people understood - just how resistance or dissent would be treated in the new century

& what happened is worse

the crimes are cruder & there is a larger complicity. no one can say as the good germans did ' we didn't know' - we have never known more & it seems to be moonofalabama is one of the tools for knowing more

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 19 2007 23:24 utc | 18

Though others will disagree, I assure everyone, there never was, and never will be any benefit to America or to a single true American in this Iraq War.

Every USian person who is driving a car, flying a plane, using up plastic packaging, eating factory fodder, is "benefitting" from the US bid to maintain control of the dwindling global oil supply. The cheap air travel, the shiny cars, air conditioners, big screen tvs, cheap corporate food -- those are the bribes offered by the masters to keep the people quiet and complicit. If those evil red/green peacenik/treehugging commies had their way, gas would be $10+ per gallon, you might have to ride a bike or take a bus or grow some veg in the garden, "the economy" might have to contract, and that would be unthinkable.

It appears that if "true" Americans are defined only as those who do not benefit in any way from the occupation, the only true Americans are the unfortunate cannon fodder (working class, immigrants, PoC) being used up by it. Everyone else is receiving a payoff, enjoying a lifestyle that is only made possible by looting the periphery to aggrandise the core.

While it is true that in the long run the family of the Mafia Don is likely to experience negative consequences from Daddy's criminality, in the short run they get shiny toys and a nice house, lotta spending money and parties. In the long run the whole world is hurt by the machinations and crimes of the industrialist elite, even "their own people," even themselves in the last analysis. But in the short run it remains true that Americans benefit from the criminal invasion of Iraq: Americans who work in the munitions industry, whose pensions plans or personal investments hold stock in the war industry, who maintain the "American way of life" in car-based suburbs thanks to subsidised imported crude, who eat the fruit of all the world's gardens and orchards, and the fish of all the world's seas, hauled to N Am by big ships running on artificially cheap bunker oil... we cannot live at the heart of Empire and not benefit, even from the leavings of its mighty table. Whether we bite the hand or not, it feeds us.

As Linebaugh memorably wrote in his scathing review of the selfcongratulatory whiteboy flick 'Amazing Grace,'

What passes for 'the civilization of the west', to use the traditional but absurd phrase, is the direct result of the unpaid labors of millions of African proletarians, a fact so fundamental that it is the beginning of all modern history as Franz Fanon taught us long ago, and hence of our understanding of the world. The movie reduces this fact to the sugar cube. However, this historical premise of modernity applied to all European wealth and treasure because wealth in one form quickly turned to other forms by the alchemy of trade and money. Thus that sugar and rum, that tobacco and coffee, the staple products of the slave's labor on plantations, was transmuted into the infrastructure - the bricks and mortar, the bridges and roads, the ports and factories of the industrial revolution, and these in turn were represented by stocks and bonds, by paper and debentures, and the chits of the gambling table.
The illusion of the entire social system shatters at this point as the Afro-British coachman enters to be traded at the gaming table of White's (one of the exclusive clubs of Pall Mall). Wilberforce in shocked naiveté concedes his hand and withdraws in a huff. Where did he think money came from? The trees?

Where do Americans think the ultra-cheap American gasoline and jet fuel come from? The trees? Gasoline is, as has been pointed out repeatedly, the cheapest fluid commercially purchasable in the US: people pay more per gallon for milk or for branded bottled water; a cup of Starbucks corporate coffee costs more than a cup of gasoline. Can anyone still pretend that the invasion of Mesopotamia -- and the rest of US Mideast policy for the last 60+ years -- has nothing to do with this skewed pricing structure and the American Way of Life based on it?

On the day that a majority of Americans cry out for true cost energy pricing, boycott car and airplane travel, stop buying SUVs and monster trucks, refuse to buy 4000 sf trophy homes, insist on relocalising their food supply, etc. then perhaps they may be said to eschew the benefits of invading Iraq. Until then, they are living daily on those benefits, unexamined, unacknowledged -- just as a majority has lived on land stolen from the aboriginal inhabitants, unexamined, unacknowledged. Just as "good Germans" took over the businesses and the houses of expropriated Jews, while managing not to think too deeply about what happened to the original owners.

The invasion of Iraq is not an anomaly in US history. It follows the invasion and annexation of many other territories containing desirable raw materials for the industrialists to exploit. It follows an uninterrupted series of cabinet wars (cf the fairly good recent doco 'War Made Easy'). It is not without precedent; it is part of a consistent and continuous line of economic and foreign policy which permitted a wealth accumulation so vast that the elite could afford, at little loss to themselves, to permit that flowering of lesser, middle class affluence of which our main story author writes so sentimentally. American affluence has always been based on armed might and expropriation, from the unification of the colonial possessions into one supernation, to annexation of the Philippines and Hawai'i, "pacification" and installation of corporate puppets in Haiti, Panama, Cuba and so on up to the present day.

It is entirely unreasonable to expect the rest of the world -- living with the externalised costs of this affluence in every way -- not to blame the clueless rich trustifarian kid almost as much as his corporate criminal Daddy.

It is possible to be complicit in a crime w/o volition; we can be -- we are -- born into a Mafia family. It is possible to be complicit in a crime in ignorance: we can do business with someone who uses slave labour and hides the fact from us (though their low, low prices ought to give any thinking person a clue). It is possible to be complicit sullenly, disgusted by the system in which we are enmeshed but afraid of the consequences of speaking out. We can speak out and yet be ignored, and still remain enmeshed and therefore complicit. We can acknowledge our own complicity and struggle with it. But one thing I think we have no right to do is pretend that we are not complicit and do not benefit, in the short term, from the crimes of our masters. I can go to my local supermarket this very evening after work and buy at ridiculously low prices, foods from half the world that would not be there were it not for "cheap" oil and the force of imperial arms that keeps the tankers arriving at our ports. I may choose not to take advantage of that opportunity but I can't make that opportunity, and the privilege it confers on me, go away. Not without leaving the mafia family entirely.

So if we find ourselves (as imho most denizens of the industrialised North do, especially Americans) in the position of Mama Corleone -- even if Don Vito's activities are not in our best interest in the long run, even if we are afraid of the Don ourselves -- we cannot expect others, seeing our jewels and expensive clothes and fine house and knowing how many deaths have paid for them, not to find us complicit and to judge us accordingly. Only by throwing those gifts back in the Don's face and breaking with him can we escape our complicity, and this is difficult and scary to do.

Now, it may be that some who spit when they say the word "American" are themselves the children of other Mafia families :-) But that's a whole other issue.

Posted by: DeAnander | Sep 20 2007 0:54 utc | 19

"Every USian person who is driving a car, flying a plane, using up plastic packaging, eating factory fodder, is "benefitting" from the US bid to maintain control of the dwindling global oil supply. The cheap air travel, the shiny cars, air conditioners, big screen tvs, cheap corporate food -- those are the bribes offered by the masters to keep the people quiet and complicit."

Maybe this Iraq War was a failed bid. Driving a car, flying a plane, using plastic packaging, eating factory fodder was all cheaper before the Iraq invasion. Big Oil is making more money than ever.

Posted by: Rick | Sep 20 2007 1:56 utc | 20


wasn't it diogenes who sd the first thing you should do in a rich man's house is to spit in his face

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 20 2007 2:21 utc | 21

"Diogenes is the first person known to have said, "I am a citizen of the whole world" (cosmopolites). This was a radical claim in a world where a man's identity was intimately tied to his citizenship in a particular city state. An exile and an outcast, a man with no social identity, " wikapedia

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 20 2007 2:24 utc | 22

Thanks, DeAnander. We're numbed by reality tv, high fructose corn syrup, gonzo porn, Humvees and lies, lies, lies about reality itself. This is a culture that distorts reality in absolutely every way possible, and exports - as almost its only export - those distortions with percieved value added: the US brand. I don't know if it's worse elsewhere - our friends from beyond the borders can tell us - but to the thinking person, nothing makes sense here. The overload of untruth, half-truth and fabrication is almost psychedelic. Or is it just me? Sometimes I almost wish it was.

Posted by: Tantalus | Sep 20 2007 2:27 utc | 23

"In the rich man's house there is nowhere to spit but in his face" diogenes

a subtle but real difference

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 20 2007 2:30 utc | 24

WOW!!! Spectacular thread. Thanks, everyone...for destroying half my workday. :)

Wish I had something to contribute, but not a great thinker. As mentioned in a previous thread, true insight comes to few.

@Tantalus #23:

You're not alone. This scene is dreadfully banal! It didn't used to be this bad (but I guess it was headed there for a while now). It's very difficult to un-'educate' oneself from a lifetime barrage of marketing schlock. Add to that the crushing effects of (engineered?) economic circumstances, and one seldom has energy for stuff like activism.

While I'm veering off on this tangent, here's an interesting angle I haven't seen much discussed here or on the other sites I visit. I've noticed that, here in Disneylandica, competition in all things is the 800lb gorilla. As wagering is to Britons, competing is to Americans. We waste inordinate amounts of energy in direct and indirect competition. Who can make the best (most addictive?) soda? Who can drive home from work the fastest? Who has the fanciest handbag? "My child is an honor student at Elm St. Elementary!" On and on and on... Anyone care to incorporate this thought into the discussion? (IIRC, this thread is partly about 'what is American' and competition is a strong American characteristic.)

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Sep 20 2007 3:19 utc | 25


American affluence has always been based on armed might and expropriation

I wonder if Benjamin Franklin would agree with you.

I would not spit in Mr. Franklin’s face, but perhaps you are a better man than I. Sometimes politics is no more fulfilling than the art of the possible. Ideals are another matter. Again, I am happy that Franklin was able to work some magic. But perhaps England was so pure and spotless that we deserve to spit on Franklin’s face. Can you please let me know why England was so pure in your mind?

This was the beginning of America:

Franklin himself, just before sailing for France, had gathered together all the cash he could command for the moment, beyond what was needed for immediate necessities, and amounting to nearly £4,000, and put it into the United States treasury as a loan.

Doesn’t sound all that mighty to me.

Posted by: Rick | Sep 20 2007 3:47 utc | 26

America isn't lost, America is stuck in a 'do-loop'.
Crashing the Net would be an incredible renaissance.
Ex. Try googling "news" in Google News. Understand?
That's what America is caught in. Searching for its
special salvation which is always, and always will be,
in its own hands. Imagine if every MoA typed "news"
into Google News. Wow, talk about DOS!! All the way
back to 1978! Flowers blooming, birds chirping, people
wandering outside. Imagine, outside our e-caves!

Posted by: Terry Dactyl | Sep 20 2007 4:27 utc | 27

i That is, perhaps the very foundations of America or its Constitution is so fatally flawed, either intrinsically or extrinsically, that it is beyond hope. And let us further disregard for this moment any discussion of collective guilt upon its citizens by actions of the U.S government or state actors.

Then what shall we regard?

I'm almost 70 years old... my paternal and maternal ancestors came to this land from Europe before it was a nation-state ... my family is root-bound in South Carolina for over 300 years. Before the invasion of Iraq I saw this country in a very idealistic light, despite my knowledge of its dark history - from the near extinction of native americans who had roamed this land for at least 12 thousand years (recent discoveries are suggesting longer) to the exploitation and slavery of Africans (the first boat into S.C. carried a Black couple and their child) --- and the wars! There's not enough space in this comment section to list all the military actions the USA has been involved in... It's late at night and I'm tired but iirc our government expends more than most of the others combined, we have some 171 military bases scattered across the world... we are manipulating and fostering unrest in an unknown number...

When I was a teenager I discovered that some of my ancestors were German (I have been doing genealogy for decades)... I was depressed for months... totally could not understand how the German people allowed Hitler to do the things he did... Now I do understand. They just went about their daily lives and as long as they weren't hungry and their children were being educated, and...

As so many here at Moon and across cyberspace, I have watched the veils falling from our 'democracy' --- I wonder now if we ever were one... I 'see' much more than I want to see... it is painful...

But I'm no longer idealistic about this country...

Today I had lunch in a Chinese restaurant here in my small hometown in the South. A group of construction workers were seated nearby - discussing the situation in the ME with Iran... one fella regaled about how we should bomb 'em - every Friday when they go to prayer, we should bomb the f@#$ out of them, tell them Allah is raining bombs down on them... the group laughed... reminded me of the way White men used to talk about Blacks when I was growing up...

Of course these men do not represent all of the South (but they do represent a large portion of it) and of course the rest of the country is not like the South (the jury's out on that one)...

I appreciate the effort you took to write your post... your love shows all through your words...

Perhaps my love doesn't show, but it's there... I love the USA... just don't like its behavior.

As for a change - I don't see one coming.

Posted by: crone | Sep 20 2007 4:40 utc | 28

Hmm late to this discussion because of more local concerns but I will try and articulate my reaction to this. Obligations in the real world, time difference along with personal preference means that this cannot be a ping pong debate- so I shall post a lengthy chunk outlining my position. Easier to avoid that way as well. It will also be pretty stream of.

Firstly, for me and that is all we can ever speak for ultimately, I don't see amerika the term nearly as pejoratively as Rick appears to.

In fact I don't understand the problem at all. I am not asking anyone else to use the term, people express themselves how they see fit, yet it is precisely this insistence that we all do things the same way that gets my goat about exceptionalists and many religious types. As for the insistence we all call the place america just because most amerikans do, the inherent arrogance of that leaves me dumbfounded That said I will attempt to explain why I refer to the otherwise nameless entity as amerika.

I began using it because there is no other way to accurately describe the entity or the population within it. We tend to concentrate the posts here on the worst aspects of the behaviour that amerika's ruling elite act out, so perhaps that is what Rick is taking exception to. If it is that he is shooting the messenger.

The term is by no means original, I first came across it in the 1960's when amerika was the preferred appellation of amerikan leftists.

I know how strident I come across in MoA. I don't come in here to make friends, although I have done so, when I post in here it is usually an attempt to penetrate the blase, self-assured yet frequently founded in ignorance carapace, that a lifetime of immersion in the lies of amerikan exceptionalism have encrusted around most amerikans. As I say that I know that many will get hot under the collar, insulted if you will, yet I mean no insult by it. The carapace forms around any human immersed in that culture. It requires no overt action by the recipient, many of the people who have become so coated are fine human beings. Many work hard to chip away at the crust but since they are continually being re dipped with a substance that is as ever changing the means used to coat them, completely sloughing the thing off is an impossibility. And yes other societies have similar indoctrines, but at present it is the amerikan one that is the most tenacious, the most ubiquitous, and the most dangerous for us all. I won't bore you with the kiwi one except to say that coming from a much smaller society means that it is far less well constructed.

The most difficult bit for amerikans to get off is, to push the metaphor too far, the undercoat. I don't hold amerikans responsible for that, in fact it is exactly my point that the false aura which Rick eloquently summoned with his references to Ben Franklin et al is at heart of amerikans' refusal to come to terms with the horrors of the machine that most amerikans are but a tiny cog in.

Many societies were begun with a volley of good intentions. I have no idea how much of that stuff the 'founding fathers' actually believed and how much was the usual soft soap. Even if some of the blokes hadn't been rich land holders and slave owners who couldn't possibly have got where they did following by their ideals, the stuff would still be irrelevant now. Those ideals were suborned almost as soon as the ink on the documents had dried. Same as everywhere else. Not only does every society contain the greedy and selfish despite the best intentions of that society, every human has elements of selfishness and/or greed about them. Without that we would have been extinct before our cousins Homo erectus. Which isn't to say all of the ideals died out in every amerikans mind, but that doesn't change the fact that imagining that amerika is somehow different than everywhere else, is the mindset that the mainchancers abuse to exploit all of us.

I live in a so called 'new world' state too. It was founded on a plethora of good intentions yet even though it was once much harder to get to than virtually anywhere on the continent of America was for most immigrants, exactly the same forces of greed and complacency have occured to make the society closer to that which the original migrants had sought to escape. Many people came here because they saw it as a place that was too small and too distant to become as corrupted as the amerikan New World had become by the mid to late 19th century, yet it is happening/has happened here anyway. Maybe it isn't as far advanced in some aspects of the corruption and maybe it didn't set out with a set of ideals quite as hyperbolic as the US, but none of that has had nearly as much effect on the state we are in here than one other difference has. Our size.

Nothing to do with anything that can be judged to be better or worse in terms of the population's ethics. Smaller societies may seem easier to control but with that they are far harder to deceive. Word gets out.

The amerikan machine routinely inflicts horrors upon fellow amerikans, and most importantly from my point of view, citizens of virtually every other country on this planet. Not all citizens of all other nations but some citizens of most other nations. I feel obliged to add that in a vain attempt to slow down the 'revenge of the pedants'.

Nothing else ever gets through. I don't know how much of what I post ever causes anyone to consider other points of view, but I do know that when people respond to something, they are more likely to carry memories of the issue away and some will consider the points away from the heat of offense. That is what I have concluded from self study and observations of my fellow humans. Incidentally by respond I don't mean post a reply, I mean react.

There is plenty of 'nice' stuff out there, the honeyed words of criticism from the english media which frequently border on hypocrisy that are likely to arouse more contempt than reflection. Read that if my words don't suit.

I don't expect to 'win' any arguments, or 'score the points in any debates' in MoA, primarily because that is a worthless occupation, but secondarily because that isn't how points of view alter, that just isn't the way people decide to consider something differently.

There is an infinite amount of stuff contradictory from what I write. The planet is awash with it.

Many MoA-ites have a healthy dis-regard for popular entertainments particularly TV.

I consider that unfortunate and seriously doubt that it is possible to comprehend the extent of the thrall many amerikans are held in without being au fait with the primary conditioning mechanism. That said I also understand how difficult it would be to watch the stuff and retain sufficient objectivity to prevent further indoctrination, if one were living in amerika and also copping all of the other forms with little or no respite from outside media.

I don't know how to say this any other way I am trying to be unemotive, but not patronising.

One of the last episodes of the Sopranos, in many ways that show was an excellently crafted commentary of how humans relate, features a part where the boss's son is becoming disturbed by amerikan involvement in the ME. When he tries to articulate this to his sister she dismisses him with "C'mon how can you believe that stuff, you're watching Al Jazeera". This wasn't written to comment on the sister who is frequently portrayed as a paragon. At that point the script was reaching past the characters and attempting to explain a basic truth to the audience. "Don't believe anything on Al Jazeera, it is an act verging on treason to even watch it." Maybe HBO was just shoring up it's market share but there was more than that to it. And yes I understand that the Sopranos can be considered an exemplar of stereotypical ethnic grouping. From the outside where the Italian-amerikan stuff is more like amerikan stuff that bias is much less apparent.

I spend time watching amerikan TV drama, not for entertainment nor to get a grip on what amerika is really like. I do it to untangle the continuous stream of code full of distortions about the world the audience lives in that is being sent out to the viewers.

In fact the kids have banished me to another room to watch TV for the last couple of years because not only do I watch crap, the constant criticism of what is happening is annoying to say the least.

Observation of popular media helps to understand the beast. As we know one can watch too much and end up in that netherworld of impermanent relationships and continuous crisis which TV creates to hold it's audience. That's not what I'm talking of.

I don't bother to confront amerikans on their insistence on religious beliefs particularly xtianity, because just one evening spent in front of a vid screen watching amerikan popular culture reveals how pervasive and insidious the brainwashing about religion is. There is simply no chance of shifting that point of view as long as the constant 're-upping' of information with a religious sub-text continues. That is far too much for a few posts to effect.

Nevertheless some of the most interesting plot gymnastics occur when whatever the mysterious advisory panel which appears to oversee amerikan mainstream TV plots, tries to wrestle two conflicting aims. The reinforcement of the supernatural by way of religion is having an effect on respect for science in in the amerikan community. Too many kids are being turned off science - hence the reliance on 'foreign' scientists. To address this many shows have an allegedly scientific basis, not just CSI simple ones either, some are much more competently written than that shit, however now and again, the censors who don't exist, try to come to terms with the illogicality of rational science being performed by people who believe that the world was created in seven days.

There is one show that features a scientist who claims to be agnostic - a considerable amount of time is spent portraying her as misguided at best, at worst neurotic and badly in need of 'saving'. That is something I am sure will happen in a later season.

Heheh the best, most ridiculous plot was when she sought to prove that her belief was a reasonable point of view. This science based drama show diverged from it's rational basis and introduced a ghost specifically to demonstrate that the woman was wrong. What more need be said?

Yet somehow it is we who don't believe and who rarely if ever seek to persuade others of our beliefs who insult the religious. The assumption is so outrageous it is laughable. If xtians don't want to be treated with contempt they need to refrain from proselytizing their superstitions at all much less in the outrageous ways currently used.

Another favourite is that Law & Order show. Once it was a little haven of simple truths about humanity amongst a plethora of crime shows designed to reinforce amerikan prejudices like poverty is evil, don't trust unwhite people, euro-trash or anything 'different'. And yes yes life is never really like mainstream drama however that doesn't stop dramas from being able to reflect aspects of human behaviour. Anyway I digress

At some stage the makers of Law and Order fucked up. It may have been the show where the lawyers (NY state prosecutors) sprung several hundred Arab/Islamic amerikans who had been rounded up by the feds in late 2001 and held for over a year. The story seemed to be a bit over the top as in reality most of those poor fuckers had been released by mid 2002 from what I can understand. Very little is ever discussed about this even now. Still it wasn't until the 1960's much was said about Japanese amerikan internment.

Anyway whatever sin the show had committed, from the next season onwards every pro-Israel anti-Arab half truth it could muckrake was trotted out. But the most obvious distorting has been in the most recent season when it became apparent that an actor in one of the smallest regular parts had presidential ambitions - rethug prez ambitions at that.

The first thing to happen was to get rid of one of the other actors who had formerly appeared in most scenes with this Reagan wannabe. Let's give our boy some stage time - some space! So all of a sudden she is retrenched and not uncontroversially either. The ambitious actor's part is as the boss of the unit The D.A. When he sacks the competition (a blond A.D.A.,) she asks "Is it because I'm a lesbian?" Now I don't know if that was a part of an earlier episode, it may have been, but anyhoo Fred (the DA) says "of course not" meanwhile signaling to the audience that this indeed is the case; by having no other substantive reason for the dismissal. Are we seeing how art and life get intermingled here?

Has the producer been forced to repay his disloyalty to the machine which feeds him by turning his show into a continuous campaign commercial? If one goes to and checks the Law and Order pages you'll see old Fred's bit part has morphed into a headline act with his pic made the icon at the top of the page

To think that some may have chortled at the credulity of Indian peasants who fell for the Nehru dynasty after Indira married a nonentity schoolteacher with the surname of Ghandi.

Some of the other issues raised by amerikan TV are more manageable. For example the continual harping on about the swathes of vicious felons walking the streets because liberal lawyers and lazy judges 'give them a free pass' is a more much manageable issue to confront and even suggest alternative points of view to consider. For a start in a system where some defendants struggle to keep their legal representation sober, awake and attentive, is it really likely that Public Defenders are going to be researching ancient legal tomes hunting down loopholes? Too many amerikans have been too close to the justice machine to be easily swayed by that bullshit.

What business of mine is what happens in amerikan courts? Well I live in a small society - one that is presently under unrelenting pressure by amerika and a couple of other large entities, to become just like they are in matters legal. 'Harmonising' the legal system as I believe it is called. I must know the enemy if I am to resist it here at home. So while I may rarely if ever post on the horror that 'justice' amerikan style represents to me an outsider, those of us who want to prevent completely catching that disease here, must understand it and especially understand the propagandising being used to spread it.

Some insidious and subtly injected (yeah probably redundant) stuff comes to light in the way that amerikans are shown how humans from non-amerikan cultures behave, believe, are.

Just setting aside the issue that that since 911 I'm unaware of any Arabs causing major problems in amerika, virtually every amerikan TV drama has at least one episode a season showing an Arab or an Islamic person in a less than favourable light. The way it is done reveals that an intense amount of calculation has gone into the denigration. One protagonist will suspect an Arab or Muslim or Whatever (AOMOW) of being a terrorist, but other cast regulars call the accuser to account for expressing 'prejudice'. The plot progresses and reveals the outsider isn't the evil first suspected, that in fact he/she or a member of his/her family is guilty of something much worse.

That is a common device and I have reduced it to it's unsubtleties but in fact some are astoundingly complex and subtle machinations before the viewer is left with 'proof' that no foreigner, much less any Muslim is worthy of their trust or respect.

I don't remember rednecks copping more than a handful of helpings of this after Oklahoma City. This stuff isn't slowly dying out either. It may have seemed so for a while, but it has been becoming more prevalent again since about the beginning of 06.

Now I watch and read mainstream media from a wide variety of cultures and societies and while some of these distortions occasionally appear in other culture's fictions, amerika has the only media forms where this stuff is pretty much obligatory.

Can people comprehend the frustration of trying to make a point over the top of all that noise? It may be more subtle in 'more intellectual' amerikan media forms but the noise is still there. It is always there. How much space is spent at MoA exposing the 'quality press' for their distortions.

As said above I don't bother to try and argue religion at MoA for all the usual reasons but that is never enough, we are apparently expected to demonstrate respect for proven fallacies even if we don't share them. Really! Who cares what an individual's belief is, the only problems arise when those who control organised religions, manipulate their followers to deliver the flock up to a political leader or to become a political leader them self. It is those leaders who invented terms like blasphemy and heresy to make their job easier. That way any opposition can be oppressed merely because it is illegal. Counter argument is unnecessary.
Demanding that the rest of us observe the same reverence around the superstitions as followers do, is the preparatory work for preventing criticism of religion.

I have voided my spleen from time to time writing accounts of the rorts, injustices, evils, abuse and deliberate family breaking that have been inflicted by organised religions upon people I meet in the real world, but I never post them because there is no point. Every now and again some misguided xtian has their epiphany and realises they have been following a charlatan, but even then they usually just move up the road to the next exploitative holy roller. Chances are he is even worse than the first. There is no way I want to be associated with another's decision to jump from the frying pan into the fire.

We get a lot of amerikan and english culture where I live, but as long as there are still some other inputs especially homegrown ones the worst of the neo-lib, anti-humanist excesses can most often be avoided. That won't last for ever.

Even here we have had our share of 'Quiet Americans' coming here and causing murder and mayhem to advance the empire. Nothing as horrific as Chile or as unsubtle as Australia but it has happened before, and will happen again. I have no intention of changing my writing to soften the blow or save insult for those who live in the zone of the perpetrators, but refuse to open their eyes.

Softening the blow won't make the truth more palatable, but it will distort the truth.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 20 2007 5:07 utc | 29

My writing is not always clear - I struggle very hard to write anything. As far as not considering the very foundations of our (and other) Governments, I would welcome that discussion. In this case, I was just asking to disregard governemnt for a tiny, tiny moment while I asked a specific question in one section of the post.

I live in the south too and hear similar things. It gets me so upset that many have been so brainwashed and have drank so much of the kool aid. Would these same people, if exposed to a fair media, still talk like that? I don't know, it is hard to know the true hearts of men or women. But I don't think they would. Obviously our corporate media doesn’t think they would either. How else can we explain the media’s obvious conscious effort to remove discussion and pictures of the dead and suffering that our nation is causing?
If Americans are so happy to have innocents killed, the media could boost their ratings very quickly. But they don’t.

To quote rgiap again:
the people were always missing, absent, had disappeared … it seemed only americans appeared

Posted by: Rick | Sep 20 2007 5:17 utc | 30


I think it is wrong to disrespect an atheist or any non-religious person on the basis that they are non religious. And likewise, and this has been a complaint of mine, I feel it is wrong to disrespect those who hold a religious belief solely for that reason. I agree with rgiap, religion is essentially a private matter. And I also agree with rgiap and others that religious fundamentalism is a real obstacle to rational thinking and to people’s freedom.

I have no idea who believes what here –and don’t really care – I don’t believe that is the purpose of Moon of Alabama and in a way, I feel it is disrespectful to Bernhard, and all posters here, to dwell on this.

In fact, I did not post this essay directly; I sent it to Bernhard for his review out of respect to him precisely because of the religious overtones and because of possible over abundance of insults on my part. I am happy he posted it though. I felt something needed to be said.

The atheist staring from his attic window is nearer to God than the believer caught up in his own false image of God. -Martin Buber

Posted by: Rick | Sep 20 2007 5:53 utc | 31


It is late here 2 am. I just want to say that I welcome your posts. I felt something had to be said for those who do feel offended. Also, I think as many people as possible to help change the world is a good thing. No need to close the door on them who could possibly stick around and learn from you and all of us.

Posted by: Rick | Sep 20 2007 5:59 utc | 32

face it, they're bigger and stronger than you will ever be.

the neanderthals win ... so simple even a caveman could do it.

Posted by: Tante Aime | Sep 20 2007 6:08 utc | 33

Can't help posting this from>Layla Anwar's blogSept 17th 2007. And you think you feel bad now:

Is there anything in Iraq that the Americans have not destroyed ?
Anything at all ?
And you dare wonder why I detest you so much...And you have the audacity to come to my blog to question me about my origins, my location, my ideas, my roots, my sense of belonging...
What kind of a race are you ? What kind of a people are you ?
Yes, I said people not government. I am not politically correct. Your government is part of you and you are part of it. Like it or not.
And don't come and tell me in your sheepish ways that I know all too well : " Oh, but I did not vote for this one. "
I don't give a fuck whom you voted for or did not vote for. It is not my problem.
My problem is you. Your culture, your behavior, your mentality, your character, your haughtiness, your arrogance, your false pride, your denial, your collective stupidity and ignorance, your way of life which I find boring, empty and distasteful, your accent which is an affront to my ears...and to my senses.
I do not like you. Full stop.

I know, I know, some of you are good people...
I know, I know, America is not a homogenous group... I know all that shit.
It does not make one iota of difference in my life and that of other Iraqis.
I no longer give a damn about your nuances, your political leanings, how good or how bad you are...It is meaningless to me and to countless others.
Our lives have been ruined, totally ruined...We do not give a fuck about your nuances.
And all I know if that you have destroyed my country. Beyond repair.

Just a sample. There's a lot more.

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 20 2007 6:17 utc | 34

I have no intention of changing my writing to soften the blow or save insult for those who live in the zone of the perpetrators, but refuse to open their eyes.

i don't expect you to soften your blow debs, but don't live w/the illusion your insults reach only those w/eyes shut. it's a small sting compared to the constant slaughter of my idealism and the death of my country.

Americans are US citizens who drive Suvs and vote for Bush or condone rigged elections. Those who invade, kill, sell their TV shows and movies worldwide, suck tax from non citizens, etc etc. They have power, the upper hand.

tunnel vision

Posted by: annie | Sep 20 2007 6:45 utc | 35

anna missed, layla anwar is essential resistance. i miss TAI, he turned me on to her..

Posted by: annie | Sep 20 2007 6:50 utc | 36

A very substantial post, Rick, and some very substantial responses. Let's see if I am able to bringing anything of value to the discussion.

As I see it, we are discussing some very big topics: naming and belief, America in all its guises and manifestations, belief and mythology, quantifying of guilt and complicity, dystopia, bringing about change, just to name a few that most jump out at me.

Let's start with naming. I, too, have read my Orwell, and have also been influenced by Amy Goodman in her better days, when she was the first newsperson to insist on the terms “invasion” and “occupation,” and I, too, try to be very careful how I name things. After all, how one names a thing reveals how one conceives of, and thinks about, that thing. (I generally use the construct “so-called” to distinguish what the ruling elite call a thing, or what the latest media spin is, from how I see things to be.)

America. Americans. The Americas.

There is some etymological question as to whether the name originally derives from the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who supposedly was the first to recognize that he was not in East Asia, or Richard Amerike, who helped finance John Cabot's 1497 voyage. In any event, some things are clear: For one, it is a settler's name, not a name used by the native denizens of the place. The poet Gary Snyder popularized the more accurate term, “Turtle Island,” from a Native American transliteration, in his 1975 book of poetry bearing the same name -- and perhaps that still remains a better term when talking about the land, the ecology, and the people of that place.

So, settlers named the place, and laid claim, in the broadest possible sense: It meant Hispaniola, where Columbus first landed, but it also meant the northern capes and bays, and the central and southern landmasses as well. In other words, it was a generic term for everything “over there” that we can get our hands on. (This theme is recapitulated in Golda Meir's notorious formulation about Palestine, “A land without a people, for a people without a land,” as well as in the Nazi concept of Lebensraum.) And so it was, as the new settlers set about furiously slaughtering off all the natives as fast as possible (completely depopulating Hispaniola of over 1M in little more than forty years) and replacing the natives with those who bore a closer ethnic similarity to themselves, or were hardier slave stock.

America. Drenched in blood from the get-go. The natives were not consulted on the name, that's for sure.

Fast forward 250 years, we still have one America, although the native people who still live there, or had once lived there but were killed off, are not known as Americans; now they are known by their tribal affiliations: Arawak, Cree, Incan, Maya. A group of thirteen colonies, led by the wealthy land-owning elite of their time, then decides to calve off from the motherland, and in the 1770's comes up with the name “The United States of America.” Again, the natives were not consulted on nomenclature. But this was a very useful construct, because no sooner had this new nation-state achieved independence from Great Britain, then it declares the “Monroe Doctrine” and becomes an imperial power in its own right, killing off more natives, settling more of its own, and waging war, serially, on France, Canada, Mexico, etc., and creating more States, and admitting them into the Union. Hypothetically, under that construct, all of America could have eventually become a State within the Union.

But that ideological expansiveness did have a drawback: the country did not have a proper name. It was not named after a geographic feature, like Mississippi, or Montana; nor was it named after a concept, or a symbol, like Fredonia, or Democracia, or Columbia. And so, the flexibility to expand indefinitely, unfortunately had the drawback of confusing synecdoche, that is, naming the part for the whole: America. And the confusion was only further enhanced by the fact that both the land mass and the political entity, having all but ignored the local ethnonyms of the natives, also shared demonyms: America, Americans.

Fast forward another 200 years. The natives, having been herded onto reservations, have all but lost their original way of life. Their rulers, no longer threatened by the “savages,” bow to scientific evidence, and concede that they cannot be “Indians,” as they do not come from India. So they are now called “Native Americans” -- not that a single one of them ever pledged any allegiance whatsoever to either of the two men named something like America.

The more one opens oneself up to the actual bloody history, the less one ever wants to refer to “America” in any way except as the name of the political state. That the name Americas is insisted upon by other states on the two continents is more a matter of pride that these states insist upon being recognized in their own right, and not wholly dominated by the USA. If I was a South American, I would be campaigning to change the name of my continent. The Bolivarian revolution certainly promises as much to the inhabitants of South and Central America as the American Revolution ever did to the average inhabitants of the original 13 states.

America: If it is all in the name, then America is surely not a land for linguists of etymologists. Nor for those who seek social justice. It is a name for Empire, for co-optation, for annihilation, for Darwinism, for conquest, most assuredly -- but for sustainability, and respect for the land, and social justice, well, let's just say that it shows nothing but promise, and keep it at that.

So, America, or Amerika, as the political entity is derogatorily known, is surely lost. (Even Allen Ginsburg felt so, in his poem of the same name.) Whether other nation-states, led by their own elite, are equally as lost, and a good case can be made that some are, is not the question, and will not be addressed. But when the possessor of 75% or more of the world's nuclear weapons, and the only power to ever use one, as well as the only power currently threatening to use one, and the only power actively developing more weapons, decries little, surrounded, Iran for seeking, against all evidence, to develop one single nuke as a danger to the so-called “civilized world” (hat tip to Gandhi on his formulation), we can be sure that we have fallen through Orwell's rabbit-hole, and are spiraling down at an ever faster rate.

Are we lost? No less an authority than Chomsky devotes his last book to just this question, and his answer, which I concur with, is that the three gravest concerns facing mankind as a whole are the primary responsibility of the USA: The potential of a nuclear “excursion” or accident leading to full scale nuclear war and global annihilation, the threat to use nuclear weapons and endless militarism which only makes the first scenario all the more likely, and the threat of ecological collapse brought on by the leadership of the country which consumes 25% of the earth's resources with only 5% of its population. So yes, we are lost -- in ways, which in the long-term could make Abu Graib, Guantanamo, and the loss of Habeus Corpus seem small potatoes in comparison.

But, to better understand what “lost” means, and how to change things, we ought to define its opposite, “found.” Found to me implies three things: living in peace with our fellow human beings, living in harmony with our fellow life-forms on this planet, and doing so in a way in which each human feels respected, empowered to make decisions over their life, and allowed to grow in ways which allow us to use our creativity.

Citizen asks, “How does someone who lives at the individual level of history make things happen at the social level? Of course, great wealth makes it easy to move social levers. ...
Me, I am working to empower teachers, the ones who teach in elementary schools, the actual level that raises nations and cities as a whole.”

I'm sure that citizen is making positive changes, but having read Summerhill, and John Taylor Gatto's “Underground History of American Education,” and spoken to teachers and principals about what “No Child Left Behind” actually means, I am more convinced than ever that our education system is more part of the problem, than the solution. It is meant to keep us dumb, ignorant, and compliant, and it works very well, sadly. The general skills we learn in twelve years of boredom -- reading, writing, and 'rithmetic -- can be learned by the average person in two or three, once they are ready and see some point to it. Instead, we are taught to learn some little skill, and even skills which society values very highly -- skills the twenty percent of society who manage the other eighty percent consigned to absolute dead-end, brain-dead jobs get to do -- like managing hedge funds or brain surgery or four-star general, are only little skills, which once learned, we do over and over again. We are not taught to think critically, but to be obedient to authority. We are not taught to understand the systems upon which our complex society depends, but to leave those things to the experts – who, we are told, can make better decisions about war and peace, about nuclear power, about GMO crops, about cancer, about the sheparding of our resources, etc., than we can.

Of course, great wealth has great influence. How could it not? And we have spent a good deal of time here at MoA detailing the way that wealth buys influence, and manufactures consent.

But, a technocracy, where self-interested experts make decisions which affect all the rest of us, is just as big a problem. A technocracy, where, for instance, nuclear experts are the only ones capable of making decisions on the safety of nuclear power, is not only dangerous – it is part of the way that America has gotten lost, because it is always anti-democratic. The fox is always guarding the hen-house. We can see the effects of this type of thinking, not only in America, but even in”>Cuba, where a sympathetic James Petras paints a bleak picture of the power the ordinary campesino has, despite the benefits of the social welfare state.

Yes, we do live by myth, by belief, by story and anecdote, and by our own personal theory of how the world works, which for most people is so misguided and reductionist, as to be absurd. Until people understand how the world really works, how power works, a true perspective on history, how ecological systems work, economics from a people's point of view, not businesses – until then, we are doomed to hoping that the sheep stampede in the right direction when the cataclysm comes.

And how do they learn? Two ways: By real education, and by participative democracy, where people awake from their media-induced dream-state and form committees, and begin to have some power to make real changes which affect the quality of their lives. This is why Venezuela's Bolivarian circles are so exciting – people are being given, and even better, taking, responsibility for their own lives.

Martin Buber was speaking of this systemic cancer, as quoted above: Man is no longer able to master the world which he himself brought about: it is becoming stronger than he is, it is winning free of him, it confronts him in an almost elemental independence, and he no longer knows the word which could subdue and render harmless the golem he has created ... Man faced the terrible fact that he was the father of demons whose master he could not become.

It is the system that is the real problem. If Bush, and even Cheney, were gone, the system would go on, as swiftly and effortlessly as river water running around a few rocks. The system can be changed, and even overthrown, but only by educating and empowering people in their own lives to demand more, and to be the change. But, the system wisely protects itself by keeping the majority of us trying ever harder to just pay the bills and put food on the table, with no energy left at the end of a hard day for studying or changing the system.

The more people are told that everything is OK when it obviously isn't, the more they are surrounded by lies, by “war-is-peace” thinking, the greater cognitive dissonance they are forced to bear, the more alienated they become. And alienation leads to disassociation, which then leads to the individual searching for a way to deal with these feelings. Idealization, and its evil stepchild, fundamentalism, are ways of dealing with our feelings of having no control, of alienation. In other words, we are seeing idealization as rationalization to prevent further disassociation.

The myth of America -- the one we are brought up on, and told by our media 24/7, images fed into our subconscious at the rate of about 5-10,000 times a day for the average person – that consumption makes us happy, and that America is benign, and only seeks to selflessly help others, but sometimes makes mistakes; this myth is so powerful, and is held onto so strongly, not despite all the countervailing evidence, but because of it. Again, it is an example of idealization as a way to rationalize the disassociation caused by continual cognitive dissonance. And nationalism and religion -- not necessarily problems on their own – turn into a Frankenstein version of themselves when they come along for the ride. This is r'giap's idealism in the guise of fundamentalism

So, America is lost, and the more it turns into a fascist police state, the more rights we lose and the more the middle-class is squeezed and the lower class is crushed, the greater the desire to idealize America becomes, because we all need something to hold onto. Here we call that something the American Dream. The myth goes something like this, “Life might be hard for me, but I will work hard and be honest, and I will succeed, and create a better life for my children.” But, alas, this dream is a myth: for the first time in the history of this country, everyone but the ultra-rich are regressing, losing the progress attained by previous generations, and experiencing worse outcomes: Worse health, shorter lifespans, more insecurity, and less wealth. But, even beyond that, the American Dream is a cruel myth, and has always been so, because the Dream presupposes a steady stream of poverty, of poor people to be fed into the system, generation after generation, to create the myth of success. In other words, the American Dream posits continual poverty, want, and need to create the wealth for others. It is based upon continual inequality to work, and no matter how long it exists, it cannot “grow” its way out of poverty and into full employment and security for all, because it is designed to use that poverty to create wealth for others. In other words, the American Dream is a cruel twist to the story of an endless level of suffering and want. It is a nightmare told as a fairy tale, and we are too scared and brainwashed to do anything but believe it.

Rick is right that much progress has been made, historically, in this country. Even Martin Luther King said that, in the long run, the scales of history bend towards greater justice, and I certainly hope that he is right. But, in the short run, which may be one or more generations, enough for great amounts of suffering, we are clearly losing ground fast. Rick can join Paul Krugman and sit there dismayed by the sidelines of history. He can worry, as he does here:

'With that, I now ask this question: “Exactly what good is accomplished by insulting Americans by a derogatory uses of the word America? Millions and millions of Americans hold some idealized concept of America, and hold this ideal as dear to their hearts as their souls. One of the founding fathers of America, Benjamin Franklin, became isolated from his son because of Benjamin Franklin's nurturing of such an ideal and their arguing over philosophical loyalties.

I have no guilt in working to achieve an ideal America, an America that closely resembles the ideals that my founding fathers had envisioned. Such is the America that exists in my heart and mind and it is not a fool’s dream. There is a range from similar to wholly different ideals held in many minds throughout the world. In doing so, I find no need to insult anyone merely by their national association, or approach those who are powerless and silent with hate or insults. Again, what I sometimes perceive here at Moon of Alabama is an attempt to blame the victims along with the deviants while burying an ideal. If one does not agree with that ideal that is fine. But in some real way, America as a nation did progress where things were once better than they were today.'

I think history is pretty clear that the founding fathers intended to keep as many powers for their selves as possible. Shay's Rebellion -- poor farmers rebelling against the rich -- was commonplace, and even the individual states held out for the Bill of Rights, which was not part of the original “democratic” offer made by those at the Constitutional Convention.

But, more to the point, are we to worry about insulting Americans, or hurting their feelings, as we seek to wake them up from the dream, the cultural deceit, the unsustainable lie, which we call America? I say, read your Old Testaments, atheists and anarchists alike! We live in challenging times, most are lost, and times like these call out for prophetic leadership. Do the prophets worry that they shouldn't prophesy because they may hurt the feelings of the people? Of course not! This is not the time to sugar-coat the message; this is the time to shake people and wake them up. This is the time for radicals: Prune all beliefs back to the roots, the original meaning of the word, and grow new healthy beliefs on clean rootstock. It is too late to simply try to redirect how a few branches grow. It is too late, if we want to save the planet.

Rick says, “I pray that the Iraq nightmare can be halted.

America's political leaders are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing. They have soiled the very same International agreements that they helped write and have spit upon the US Constitution they swore to protect. ”

It is not about Iraq, though surely Iraq is part of the damage we are doing. But to frame the debate around Iraq these days is even more misguided then when the last generation framed their anti-war activism around Vietnam, and then largely went to sleep when Central America was bled and enslaved. The Ledeens and Cheneys of the world have given us ample notice that what we are to face is perpetual war. Iraq is but one battle for these psychopaths. It is not enough to halt the Iraq nightmare, we must jam the spokes of the wheels of the entire killing machine.

As far as International agreements: Buy Ward Churchill's “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.” He has eighty pages of such agreements which have been ignored since WWII, alone. Surely, as Tangerine/Noir/sette implies, we are already facing crimes on the level of the Nazis, beyond thought control and torture, with more and worse still to come.

So what can we do?

First, we must be very careful how we analyze the problem, before we seek solutions.

Deanander states:

“Every USian person who is driving a car, flying a plane, using up plastic packaging, eating factory fodder, is "benefitting" from the US bid to maintain control of the dwindling global oil supply. The cheap air travel, the shiny cars, air conditioners, big screen tvs, cheap corporate food -- those are the bribes offered by the masters to keep the people quiet and complicit. If those evil red/green peacenik/treehugging commies had their way, gas would be $10+ per gallon, you might have to ride a bike or take a bus or grow some veg in the garden, "the economy" might have to contract, and that would be unthinkable....

On the day that a majority of Americans cry out for true cost energy pricing, boycott car and airplane travel, stop buying SUVs and monster trucks, refuse to buy 4000 sf trophy homes, insist on relocalising their food supply, etc. then perhaps they may be said to eschew the benefits of invading Iraq. Until then, they are living daily on those benefits, unexamined, unacknowledged -- just as a majority has lived on land stolen from the aboriginal inhabitants, unexamined, unacknowledged. Just as "good Germans" took over the businesses and the houses of expropriated Jews, while managing not to think too deeply about what happened to the original owners.”

If we really want $10/gal gasoline, then we want to starve 1/3 of our population to death. And those people are not guilty of not having gotten a proper education, any more than I am. In any event, polls clearly show that those people are far less indoctrinated than the wealthiest 20% -- who are able to live with far higher levels of sublimated violence and greed in their lives -- and far less supportive of the war. The poor did not ask for plastic bags over glass containers, in fact no one did: industry, and its corrupt handmaiden, our government insisted upon this. Neither did the poor ask for the rail system to be dismantled in favor of endless highways and 40 mile commutes: This was elite-driven policy during the Eisenhower years. Same with GMO crops, energy and water privatization raising rates, endless brainwashing advertisements over our public airwaves, and many other ways in which society is structured.

In short, the poor did not create the mess we are in, and I for one, will not expect to impose a solution upon their already over-burdened backs. That is fascism of the most pernicious type in my book. Industry, and the wealthy must pay. They must begin paying their share of the taxes again, and they must make the sacrifices required in saving energy. Our military uses over 10% of the energy this country consumes. Let's start there. Then let's limit how much energy any single person can use – start at the top, and gradually work our way down. I'm sure that industry, and the top 20% of our population could almost cut our energy consumption in half, without causing pain for the poor. To expect some poor working-class lub, without a pension or health insurance, who is barely keeping his three kids clothed and in school, to make sacrifices, is absurd. That person is already living at, or near, the bottom of the American scale.

Again, national policies are, and have, largely been set by the elite, the technocrats, and the business interests, and it is they who must bear the brunt of change, not the sad lout driving the 15 year old car.

I see this problem all the time in my community, where comfortable middle-class “greens,” who think they are radicals, except that they have nothing to do with the poor, unless it is to sit on some Board which ministers to them, seek to impose solutions on the backs of the poor, while ignoring the rich. The entire industrial base of this county is as wasteful, unsustainable, and useless as can be: Coast Guard Academy, Naval Sub Base, every nuclear sub in the country manufactured here, and the two largest casinos outside of Vegas, but the solutions are always about raising the cost of gas for the poor. They wouldn't dream of speaking out against the military in this county: they'd be lynched! That is why I do not support the Green party here. We can do better than that; we can think deeper and more creatively.

So, what can we do? Rick is correct: we cannot fall into righteousness and sanctimony; it will not help. Neither will guilt and blame. We must retain our humanity and love for others. This is not always easy, but we we find ourselves losing it, that is when we need to step away from anti-war work and minister to the needy a bit.

Beyond that, witnessing of history is important, as is education, and working to create a more sustainable, locally based, economy. Buy local, instead of a vacation.

But everyone must make their own choices on what to do, how much to sacrifice. Tangerine is right that we can look to moral philosophers for questions of guilt and innocence, and on how to parcel out culpability. Dialectics are tools we can employ, not new religions. The cinema has the power (and some might say the responsibility) to engage us, instead of distracting us. (See”>John Steppling's interviews WSWS's John Walsh and Phillip Rockstroh in Swans for a more in depth discussion about the power and responsibility of art. Also, James Petras in the article I linked to earlier on current trends in Cuba.)

I found Theo Angelopolous' “The Traveling Players” to be one of the most powerful films I have seen about incipient fascism in a semi-peripheral battleground state. Four hours, and I had to watch it twice, and do several hours of research on the web, to really get it. But, by then, you are living within the film itself.

Sometimes, I feel that we are all facing what I call “John Browns dilemma.” How long do we keep worrying about our next vacation, our house, our mortgage, the job, a fancy meal, what others may say about us – and when do we decide that we have been blessed enough in this life, and we need to take some sort of more extreme action, make some sort of personal sacrifice beyond simply aesthetic or lifestyle changes? At what point do we stop worrying about continuity because it is already gone, and worry about the future of the next generation? At what point do we stop worrying that others may think us crazy? At what point do we listen to Bob Marley and “Get Up, Stand Up, Stand Up for your rights!” Each of us has to answer questions like these for ourselves, but we can know that we are not alone in asking them.

Posted by: Malooga | Sep 20 2007 8:18 utc | 37

Excellent summation Malooga.

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 20 2007 8:59 utc | 38

Let us not linger too long on question of usage: "America" has just come to be an accepted abbreviation for the "United States of America". Rather unfair to the Canadians, Mexican and Central Americans, but it happens all the time: we talk about "Holland" although it is only one province of the Netherlands, my Scottish wife has stopped taking offense at being called "English", and when we use "Teutonic" to refer to Germans, we are also referring to one tribe, just as the French are referring to only one German tribe when they call the country "Allemagne".

And think about the term "Yankees" or "Yanks" to refer to Americans: totally unfair to any Southerner, Midwesterner or anyone else not from New England!

Posted by: ralphieboy | Sep 20 2007 9:52 utc | 39

Wow Malooga. That was some post you just churned out. Beautifully written, brilliantly argued, systematic and integrative, and very moving. A great contribution. Thank you.

And everyone else on here as well -- an amazing thread.

I would only add that I for one welcome the diversity of opinions on here, whether they appear to insult or not, because they all contribute to helping us think in new ways and consider things from new perspectives that we hadn't before. Just imagine if Debs had not chosen to use the moniker "Amerika," Rick might not have been motivated to write his post, and then we would not have opened for collective consideration all these many incredible questions:

- What is "America?"
- What does "America" mean to the different people here?
- What are its ideals?
- What is idealism? When does it become fundamentalism?
- Were they ever really implemented, or were they always an illusion?
- Even if they were ever real, are they still, hundreds of years later, remotely relevant?
- What, if anything, has been "lost?"
- How and when was it "lost?"
- What does it mean to be "lost?"
- What does it mean to be "found?"
- What might reverse the "loss" -- would the departure of one or two leaders suffice, or is this a much larger system in play?
- What is the culpability of the average American in the greater crimes of the country?
- What personal benefit do Americans derive from the war in Iraq and other wars?
- How does TV help hold a mirror to society to reflect its ailments? What brainwashing messages is TV sending to Americans about their country?
- What, in fact, is the nature of the nightmare we are facing? Is it just about the loss of ideals? About one country? Or about the actions of that country in another country abroad? Or is it even larger, about the actions of that country which are risking the existence of the entire planet?
- When do we decide that nothing matters more than this loss, and decide to commit our existence to fighting against its perpetuation?

And many more.

Surely these questions will occupy us for some time to come, and will in turn lead us to ask others, and so on. So thank you Debs, and Rick, for setting in motion the chain of events that opened them all up for discussion. Such is the beauty and the value of respectful dialogue, which as Paul Woodward comments this morning in an editorial, is "the foundation for human relations." I would really add that I feel this tradition of respectful dialogue, which America used to cherish and adhere to, at least in our domestic politics, is another thing that has been lost under this odious government. It has replaced dialogue with the mantra, "You're either for us or against us" (we are right and you either agree or you are a traitor), and then topped it off by breaking any and all previous boundaries with regard to willingness to sling disrespect and slander at others during dialogue in order to besmirch and discredit them. So this all-important tradition, too, has been lost in our public discourse, and I mourn it. It is therefore all the more precious to find respectful dialogue going on all the time here at MOA.

Posted by: Bea | Sep 20 2007 13:50 utc | 40

Yes, Great post Malooga. You add some very good points that I would like to comment on. Right now time is pressing, hopefully I can come back to all of this later.

Posted by: Rick | Sep 20 2007 14:10 utc | 41

i have tried quite often to speak of the cultural malignancy that lies at the heart of the empire - & as you may have noted i have great difficulty in refining that notion

yet it is a crucial question because without the cultural malignancy then it would be impossible fro the empire to carry out the crimes it does in the way it does

i borrow very much from wilhelm reich in this department - there is much that he saw in the 30's that remains pertinant, today

a q may say they love death but culturally america is far more in love with death than these exegetes from the madrassas

some history. when the family dissapeared because of the exigencies of the second world war (women working, absent fathers, tyrannical governments) the cultural tools told another story - that father knows best - that the family was the institution that held iut all together hand in hand with the state. mccarthyism arrived both to enforce that principle while at the same time to destabilise it

i am sufficiently an old bolshevik to understand the mechanism of external threat(which is always nonexistant) held out by tyrants - it is used to mask what is happening now & even further to culpabilise anyone who examines too closely what is happening now

the great resistance movements of america post war were driven by what is happening 'now' - civil rights, women & anti war were constituted of person who were concerned with now

& in every instance - when that questioning first took place - it was met by brutal force whether it was in alabama or in new york. real effective dissent was never tolerated in america. no more john browns

& yet when we see what happened then with all the evil machinations of hoover, of coiintelpro etc - all the measures were as nothing compared to the repressive state apparatus today. the absence of law is total. or as the anarchists would say - the law everywhere but justice nowhere - it has been no accident that the ramping up of the attack on civil liberties has been contingent with the most criminal & murderous acts of the empire

when watching docos ore reading books about bremer & the cpa for example - you cannot believe any sentient being could live with that, could allow that to happen - because in the basest sense they are being taken for fools

& what is worse it forces the inclusion of the mass of people into a murderous psychopathology . the existence of a culture that desensitises people to central questions (24hrs is an obvious example) is one where the heart & sould of a person is defiled

& i agree with malloga on that - that there is sufficient defiling of wonder within what passes for education - i am sufficiently republican (in the jacobin sense) to find the idea of home schooling even worse

& this defiling of the human spirit has allowed the craziness odf post war american politics to suffer from the somnambulism of truman, the psychosexual kennedy, the truly psychotic nixon; a reagan who was off his rocker while governor of california (whatever his apologists like luttwak want to suggest) & with bush we have come to the end of the end

iç see no qualitative difference between bush & martin bormann

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 20 2007 14:40 utc | 42

i would not normally cite brian de palma but he has sd here aprops to his film - redacted -

"unfortunately, the reality of the war in iraq is hidden by the mass media. i amde this film because a country that is prepared to create such carnage & disorder in the world ought to be able to be confronted by the horrible scenes which are the result"

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 20 2007 15:32 utc | 43

bea, your very basic questions.. i have been wrestling w/ these. stopped and started so many times since yesterday.

i too would like to thanks everyone. trying to extract the myths of who we really are isn't as simple as separating wheat from shaft. this is my home. mythamerica, magical thread weaving the fabric that has cradled me since my birth. now i feel razor cords have invaded my life thru those same channels threatening not only me but life itself. parts this place was created with dreams/ideals of many fine people. we've been had.

Posted by: annie | Sep 20 2007 16:07 utc | 44

well, that was a little choppy. its raining here and i am having myself some tears for breakfast.

Posted by: annie | Sep 20 2007 16:10 utc | 45

I've been thinking a lot about this thread and it's made me think about love of country in general. I was surprised to find that over the past few years of living away from it, I have come to find, or to admit, that I love my country deeply and very passionately. But it's the country itself that I love. I don't feel anything for the whey-faced officials who greet me at Heathrow, for the racist cabbies, for the Sun, union-jack boxer shorts, thuggish England supporters and the rest of it. I was casting around for a quick way of expressing, even fleetingly, what I mean, and I came up with:

by Edward Thomas

Yes. I remember Adlestrop -
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The stea hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop - only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and around him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Thomas was Welsh, and a good friend of Robert Frost, oddly enough. He was killed in action at Arras in 1917.

I love the physical country - smell of the earth, young leaves on oak trees, cuckoos in May. Medieval churches. Edwardian railway stations. Victorian factories. Not so happy about big box stores, motorway junctions, crumbling housing estates, but I'll accept that those have as much reality as the romantic aspects. I also, because of this, love the metaphysical country in, I suppose, a Blakeian way. Writers like Peter Ackroyd who embrace psychogeography make a lot of sense to me.

I'm ambivalent about Britain as a political entity. I think that the Parliamentary system, though flawed, is at least a workable tool for democratic expression. We tend to respect common sense. I loathed Thatcher and despise her legacy. I only lived in Blair's Britain for a few months, but I share the unresigned resentment of my friends and family over the government's highly dubious achievements. I'm part of the Empire in a way, as my father was born in Delhi and my grandparents lived in India after WW I. My Greek grandfather came to London after escaping from the ruins of Smyrna. My Greek granny never liked England. During the Blitz my mother caught her looking out of the attic window at the glow in the east as the City burned. She was muttering "burn, you bloody English, burn." I can understand what she meant. The English character is not especially welcome to its Mediterranean counterpart. I have a bit of both. A Britain in which Britishness was politicized - and it hasn't really been since WW I - would be unbearable to me. The NF and the BNP keep trying to achieve it, but so far, no takers. We're not the nicest people in the world. Now we're a tiny country again, we look ridiculous when we try to throw our weight around. I really don't believe there's much of a national will to be big on the world stage any more, though.

So I've found that I have a love of country, a quasi-religious one at that. Does that put me in any position to revile America? Not really. The problem is that for outsiders, it is all too easy to pour scorn on a country that flies the POW/MIA flag at its border posts even though it does not recognize POW status. On a country that is responsible for the lion's share of the world's pollution, but which still churns out huge, toy-like vehicles that get 12 MPH on the highway. The list goes on to the horizon. If there is one thing that I believe absolutely, though, it is that the vast majority of people here inhabit a separate reality.

I don't know if I've added anything to the debate or not. As a poet, RGiap will no doubt scoff at my quoting Edward Thomas, and he'd probably be right to at that. I'm evidently pretty conflicted about the UK, as I haven't lived there for 10 years, though that's about to change. Sadly, I'm not at all conflicted about the US anymore, and that in itself I find incredibly sad.

Posted by: Tantalus | Sep 20 2007 16:46 utc | 46

From a post I did a while back...


The Portuguese word "saudade", loosely translated,denotes "longing", "melancholy", or "nostalgia." In the context of Portuguese, however, the term connotes a meaning that is irrevocably lost in translation. In his book In Portugal of 1912, A.F.G Bell makes a few disquisitional remarks on the meaning of "saudade" given its intended context:

"The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness."

Whereas a decontextualized reading of the "saudade" insinuates a rather dreary and destitute nostalgia for an impossible object, Bell's recontextualization posits saudade's meaning as a nostalgic yearning for an impossible object, only slightly tinged with the hues of melancholia.

Finally, Saudade is something you feel about somebody or a special place. Maybe it is some kind ill erotographomania I get on bourbon filled lonely nights, that pains me to watch as my ideals of this country becomes what I fear. It is sad when we lose our illusions. The bottom drops out and leaves us disenchanted. When German movie director Wim Wenders wrote of America, in that, "America" always means two things: a country, geographically, the USA, and an idea of that country which goes with it. [The] "American Dream", then, is a dream of a country in a different country that is located where the dream takes place... "I want to be in America", the Jets sing, in that famous song from West Side Story. They are in America already and yet still wanting to get there. (Wim Wenders 1989, quoted in Morley 96, p. 94)., it make me want to weep. The dark night of the soul or chapel perilous, as it's sometimes know as, shouldn't be something one gets stuck in. The great W.H. Auden said "The so-called traumatic experience is not an accident, but the opportunity for which we all have been patiently waiting - had it not occurred, it would have found another- in order that life come a serious matter." "My American" now reads a death certificate. It presents itself now as a cautionary tale, as a list of ingredients in a witches' brew, it reads as a coroner's report, or a message on a sandwich-board worn by a wild-eyed man who states, "The end of the world is at hand." It is a hoarse voice in the dark that croaks, "Beware . . . beware . . . beware."

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Sep 20 2007 16:53 utc | 47

Malooga’s post was good.

Yet :: The nitty gritty is that the US with its powerful arms and military, its nukulear threat, now very explicit, is still - just - controlling world energy. The US uses 25% of world oil, and produces 25% or world garbage, with 5% of world pop. And so on, all those numbers are well known. (EU and rest of the West participates or is complicit or even worse..)

That state of affairs is what the US powers try to maintain, keeping that position is what the tax payer funds, that is what the US soldiers go fight for (beyond personal reasons such as getting one’s life together, that is recovering a sense of community and attaining some kind of role or social recognition), that status quo is what soccer Moms confusedly champion (bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran; kill AlQ; support Israel), and the think tanks craft lame rationales for bombing, genocide, etc. (Radical Islam, war of civilizations, etc.), opportunistic propaganda shifts, whatever will fly.

The US has Big Gvmt. in a Big way - because the ppl want it or cannot oppose it. It is wink wink...bleeding heart libs are given the oppo to look good, but they are irrelevant, tolerated only for self-image (free speech and all that jazz.) Morality or 60’s, 70’s idealistic principles, many of them international ‘law’ mean nothing, are thrash, as compared to having a warm/cool home, enough junk food or prime beef to eat, three cars and lawn mowers, speed boats, TV’s, the possibility of hiring and controlling slave labor with impunity, etc.

It is all very simple. The Great Game, its modern version; Kosovo, Afgh, Iraq, and interventions elsewhere, were/are resource wars, actually invasions because no opposing forces could effectively fight back (and boy do many Americans snicker about that.) The US means to win, nothing can get in the way of that. It probably will win..

All the hand wringing and internet chat and opposition serves to let off steam, provide an outlet, which is one of the reasons it will never be cut off. Talk of blame, guilt, responsibility...these are intellectual distractions that are not totally irrelevant but are orthogonal to the situations on the ground. A million Iraqis killed (towel heads, not counted) and an oil law that the Mafia bosses anointed by the US Gvmt. cannot agree on is also in the long run irrelevant. Genocide, burnt earth, will eventually do the trick, it just takes some time.

Posted by: Tangerine | Sep 20 2007 18:14 utc | 48

I gather Rick started this all off to try and alert many of us to the need to make allies of each other, rather than carelessly drive potential allies apart, and I value that part of the dialog here.

However, the discussions that have meant the most to me, so far, are those about how to understand America (or any term that inspires joint action - for better or worse) in order to act in the world. Malooga@37 spoke in a voice that I confess I have been trying to abandon for myself, the voice of thinking like a society. I don't trust myself to think casually what should be done, because it seems too easy to imagine that a good answer might win acceptance merely via its own instrinsic merits. Presumably, Malooga is more evolved in his cynicism than I, and such thoughts do not endanger his good grip on reality.

Be that as it may, I am simply trying to guide my own conduct. I cannot sneer at the religious, because in my hometown it is a band of churchgoers that are leading the fight to get back popular ownership of drinking water; because MLK, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoffer, and Martin Buber used religious discourse as an already-raised platform from which to further help people think for themselves. For some, religion is an element in which to form human community. I have one guideline to conduct that does seem to work, and that is to support whatever spreads power and resources around, and to oppose that which centralizes either.

"America", the rhetorical term, can be used to demand submission to the center. It can also be used to affirm defiance of the center when justice demands it. I am not at all surprised that Layla Anwar does not give a damn about this, why should she hope for anything from me, whose nephew considered going to Iraq, whose friends' and students' children are Occupying Iraq. She sees no reason to hope for anything from me. But I believe we are a community here, at MOA, that does hope for something from each other. That sort of hope binds me to a society that founded my delusions and insights, and with a people who hope using ideas and social symbols they attach to the referent America.

I feel a bit self-serving for having posted before about teaching teachers - perhaps it is partly an attempt to reassure myself that I fight a good fight. But I invite everyone to discuss how it is that one might actually build a better life for "the meek", for the people. In the face of the vile "America" that Anwar sees, in the face of that same threat, 'citizens' living in the U.S. cannot simply hate, for that approach ends in mere suicide or homicide. But what do we do about the vile crushing of the spirit of the people all around us, the spiritual destruction that prepares people here to go out and serve empire?

Back to that guideline: always seek to spread knowledge and resources, always seek to spread power. I teach teachers because it seems the most effective mode I have of spreading power. The teachers I work with are excellent because they already follow the guideline - they spread power by giving their children all the credit for learning. I simpy make the teachers more self aware - and so more nimble and effective - by teaching them how to take credit (both reflectively and publically) for helping the students. The result is they get social credit as teaching experts and they take back that credit from the central administrators and other elite policy makers. I simply help teachers credit themselves consciously, and then receive the credit publically. I teach them how to write effectively.

To me, this is spreading power. I know, sounds small, but it is transformative for their students, and for the communities that see businesses and administrators get organized by teachers, rather than seeing their communities as passive and uncreative, as consumers. Many of these teachers come from the communities.

How is it that people think we can actually pull on the levers of social action, of history? I want to hear practical stories. I do not believe there is anywhere on this planet beyond the reach of the centralizers - everyone on this board is inside the Matrix. Despite that, how do you act like a human being, for human being?

Posted by: 'citizen' | Sep 20 2007 18:37 utc | 49

Thank you for this thread.

Twenty years ago we accepted a position in Europe, and moved the family. It was to be for three years, just for the experience, and turned out to be a personally tumultuous time. We came from an upper middle class American town and had been active politically, environmentally, as well as in the community. Rick's post touched me, as I read into it much of the turmoil and defensiveness that we felt as we confronted the ideals, myths, and hypocrisy of our home country. There is also a sense of American as victim, our goodness, misunderstood--this is a feeling known to us.
And we had many breakfasts with tears (annie) as we went through our shift in worldview. We were not unaware of our history, but the perspective changed and it was painful.
Short story, after a return to the States, when the opportunity arose, we returned to Europe, but retained our citizenship. With retirement nearing, and grandchildren in the US, we are facing a return in the next few years.
This discussion, as others here at MOA, help us to formulate arguments and discussions to raise awareness and confront factual misrepresentations encountered on our frequent trips to family and friends. Thanks to Bernhard and all here who put heart experience into each post.
I don't think Americans realize the deep shock people outside felt when Bush was re-elected. Total jaw-dropping shock. The argument of the election being stolen was seen as invalid as it was believed that a country that so proclaimed it's greatness would have protection against that or at least mechanisms and interest to challenge it.

Posted by: | Sep 20 2007 18:45 utc | 50

(forgot to tie up the loose thread)

when the students of these teachers conceive of "America," most of them have built up the resources to see the people first, to see that community always grows from personal commitments. They know about love, and so they know to sneeze allergically at fascist social eros.

Posted by: 'citizen' | Sep 20 2007 18:49 utc | 51

Sorry, me @50

Posted by: ww | Sep 20 2007 18:49 utc | 52


my loving father & mother in the most difficult circumstances gave me a love of wisdom & knowledge thet rest with me today. i have no prejudice against mr thomas & also love the welsh toungue. dylan thomas's poems were a loving toungue full of wonder that offers me wonder still

but i feel like diogenes really - exile was a natural state for me & nationalism not only the haven for cowards but often for the morally corrupt

the rupert murdoch manages the public discourse is a perfect example of that corruption

it is the opposite of wonder

if we do not fight it will transform us as i have noted often - into ghost off the civil dead

it isn't accidental that some great thinking has come through pedagogy - whether it is illich, freire or howard gintis

if there was ever a need for a counter culture it is now - to move away from this instinct for death

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 20 2007 18:59 utc | 53

it was believed that a country that so proclaimed it's greatness would have protection against that or at least mechanisms and interest to challenge it.

it has the opposite. a great movement in place to hoodwink the people. just asking why is reason to be tasered. the sad fact is that americans inability to reel in our elections is the worlds problem as much as it is ours, more so actually. i wish someone would invade and impose regime change, impose sanctions of something.

Posted by: annie | Sep 20 2007 19:24 utc | 54

"i wish someone would invade and impose regime change, impose sanctions of something. You don't really Annie. It may feel like you do but even I, Did, the amerika hater or whatever doesn't wish that on the people who live in the lands bounded by the border of the US.

In fact one of the prime motives for trying to turn the place around must be in order to avoid that eventuality. If/when it happens the assholes will gave gotten out - withdrawn to their redoubts all over the planet, including just up the road from me, the pricks, and those left to face the wrath of people who have suffered under the heel of the amerikan empire abroad will be those who suffered most under the empire at home.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 20 2007 19:47 utc | 55

Very Scary

Bush would have declared to Chirac that Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and that the Biblical prophecies were in the process of being fulfilled. That was several weeks before the intervention in Iraq. The French president, to whom the names of Gog and Magog meant nothing, was stupefied.

Posted by: ww | Sep 20 2007 19:48 utc | 56

Sorry, wrong thread, meant to be on open thread. Not handling it very well tonight.

Posted by: ww | Sep 20 2007 19:49 utc | 57

The great Achilles Heel of the neocon theory is "American Exceptionalism", the thought - held by every other dominant nation on the world stage - that they are somehow different and not subject to the same rules of play that brought about the fall of every other empire that held America's current spot of leading military, economic, technical and cultural (you can make a case against it dominating art & literature, but certainly at least in popular culture).

And now we are about to lose one of the greatest rights that America has made America great & unique - the right to petition for the redress of grievances.

When we allow secret, warrantless searches and imprisonment, those who are aggrieved are often unaware of what has happened to them, much less to they have a chance to petition against it. That is our greatest loss.

And it stems from this very exceptionalism: the though that the war on America's enemies is such a noble and divine cause that hose who pursue it are free excepted from error and excess, as it is all in the name of a Higher Cause.

The British held this point of view in the XIX century, the French in the XVIII, Spain in the XVI, Rome for several centuries.

And what is left of their empires now?

Posted by: ralphieboy | Sep 20 2007 20:11 utc | 58

Giap, Uncle $,

In the face of my impending return home I've worried that I too am one of life's exiles, or at least a wanderer. It's sad to read of so many here who feel like exiles in their own America. At least I have my psychogeographical maps inside my head. If you cannot tread the paths of your country - wherever and whatever that means to you - in the physical sense, it pays to have the ghost roads memorized. Uncle, it's where my own whisky-drowsed nights take me. Perhaps the best we can hope for is to wander in hope, like Yeats' Aengus. It seems to me that in America the past and present are equally and infinitely malleable, and so the paths we're searching for are blurred or swept away as soon as they are formed. I take the notion that 'America is lost' literally. I'm sick of pushing my way through the sleepwalkers, the baffled tourists adrift on their own Main Street.

Posted by: Tantalus | Sep 20 2007 20:16 utc | 59

I dunno if one can ever 'return'. I have been back in my country of birth for a decade, yet I still feel like a stranger here. The average kiwi seems to be striving harder and harder to become just like the swiss. Nothing against the peaceable nature of Switzerland I'm all for that but there are some unattractive qualities as well.

Meanwhile Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines now appear equally foreign, in a way they never did when I lived there.

Old 'new' Australians mainly from Mediterranean Europe used to tell me how they had stopped 'going home' to Greece, Italy or Spain because the changes which had occurred in their absence made them feel strangers in their homeland and that notion of having a homeland was what kept them going in Australia. Consequently 'going home' increased their feelings of dislocation.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 20 2007 20:34 utc | 60


What Debs said. Self-hate - and I'm using the metaphor that seems to be emerging here, of 'America' as self for Americans - is utterly useless. The only way the country/state of mind/ideal or whatever can be saved is with love. That's the Abbie Hoffman brand of love, not the Lee Greenwood kind. The brainless but omnipotent imposers of the present culture do not deserve to be anything more than frail ghosts twittering impotently at the distant margins of life. It would be nice to think that love, passion and hubris might put them there.

Posted by: Tantalus | Sep 20 2007 20:36 utc | 61

Oh god, not HUBRIS! I meant HUMILITY. Bloody fever...

Posted by: Tantalus | Sep 20 2007 20:42 utc | 62

debs, i know. can't some coalition of good nations land on top of the white house, drag them out..round up the thinktank masters and celebrate one our american traditions.. strange fruit.

just fantasizing...


Posted by: annie | Sep 20 2007 20:49 utc | 63

not very christian of me

Posted by: annie | Sep 20 2007 20:50 utc | 64

i should have read your comment before posting tantalus. yes, of course.. love. sorry for shitting on this valuable thread. i should leave it for the grown ups. just feeling a little exhausted mentally lately. what are the chances we can get it together before the next world war or the annihilation of the species.

Posted by: annie | Sep 20 2007 20:54 utc | 65

also, i don't think of myself as a self hater.. i'm very much in an 'us against them' frame of mind. however as others are pointing out, as long as i'm part of the machine....

Posted by: annie | Sep 20 2007 20:57 utc | 66

Thanks to all, once again. On of the best threads ever.

For myself, I am now an ex-US citizen, leaving behind a large immediate family who range across the political (and economic) spectrum. Like WW I am still shocked and saddened, and angry, about how little I knew of the US's role in the world, including the less savory aspects of its internal history, before I left. I am still unclear on whether the dream of America I lived within ever existed, or was always a convenient prop for PTB to keep people motivated and in line. In reality, like most cultures probably a bit of each. I am also wondering how much more time to spend obsessively following US internal news and politics. The US seems to me to be on its way down, and all I can say is "hasten the day". As with the to-be-hoped withdrawal from Iraq, I think if the US were to withdraw, or be forced to withdraw, from its self-assumed role as world-wide Mafia Don the world would be less predictable but better off. If that withdrawal accompanied, as it probably must, a lessening in US standards of consumption (I won't call it living) then, that too, is probably a good thing.

A little bitter and twisted today...

A good Chernus essay on Tom Dispatch brought me back to this thread.

The great debate about Iraq is not, and never really was, about what we should do in Iraq. No matter how many Iraqis have died or become refugees thanks to the Bush intervention, they remain largely ignored bit players in our central drama, which is, and always was, about what we will make of America.

"Supporting our troops" is not about helping individual soldiers to live better lives or, for that matter, making their lives safer. It's about supporting a morality play in which the lead actor, "our troops," represents all the virtues that so many believe -- or wish they could believe -- America possesses, giving us the privilege (and obligation) of directing all that happens on the world stage.

All theater, all storytelling, rests on the power of illusion and the willing suspension of disbelief. Bush and the Republicans have repeatedly given millions of doubters a chance to suspend their post-Vietnam disbelief in traditional tales of American character; the Democrats have given millions of doubters a chance to suspend their disbelief that the will of the people can make any difference whatsoever. The two parties join together to give the whole nation a chance to believe that a fierce debate still rages about whether or not to end the war.

And we can expect both parties, and the media who keep the show going, to abide by an unspoken agreement that one kind of question will never be asked, because the tension it raises might be unbearable: Is it moral for our troops to occupy another country for years, bomb its cities and villages, and kill untold numbers of people halfway across the planet?

Posted by: PeeDee | Sep 20 2007 22:42 utc | 67


i am obliged in my heart to always go back to paul robeson

when i think of cultural malignancy - i ask simply why did this very powerful society destroy an extremely beautiful & exceptional thing & destroyed it in great detail

when his rhetroic no longer threatened them - the simple existance of this man still required great attention by the fbi

when they had driven beautiful paul robeson mad - they did not let up - they were with him to the grave

the image & voice of this man is always there as a constant reproach not only to empire but to power itself

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 20 2007 22:56 utc | 68

To me what this thread is about as much as anything else is that although all english speaking people may use the same words, they don't speak the same language.

Does that sound like another bullshit paradox? Maybe, but I'll try and illustrate with an anecdote and try and read this post eh, I know yesterday's was very verbose, but I did have some relevant things to say.

When I first came back to NZ I moved into the area/suburb where I had been brought up. This is what we humans tend to do. I had a couple of young children with me (2 1/2 and 4 y.o.) and as I had a pretty good childhood there I thought they would too. Which they did despite the fact that the suburb had become an 'in demand' part of town economically beyond the grasp of most of my compatriots and full to the gunnels with what I considered 'Thatcher evangalists' english ex-pats using the neo-lib tricks learned during that nation's privatization to grab NZ family silver.

SO I didn't have many friends in the neighbourhood, the few stay behinds were lawyers who had been selfish assholes at school and nothing had changed. Anyway a family moved next door - migrants from Roanoke, trying to find somewhere peaceful after Dad had been brutally attacked in his restaurant/bar by a meth crazed redneck.

We had kids the same age and quickly melded into one unit which was pretty hard on L the mother of the Roanoke family as even that early on I had begun my monastic existence which will continue until the children have left the nest. So L had to do the female parts, the mothering, when my lack of skills in that area was too much. On the other hand although we felt like strangers in a strange land, at least I had a phrasebook and the first couple of years were spent on navigating the myriad of differences between the two cultures.

We all had a ball - but hanging overhead those first years was the doubt whether B the Roanoke Dad would be allowed to stay in NZ.

He had the same sort of bugger-the-consequences adolescence as I and had been convicted and imprisoned for bomb-making in California. Then not long after he was freed he was found wandering around (by that time ex) President Nixon's San Clemente compound. Still these were the vagaries of youth and immigratzie seemed prepared to accept that but one thing was really causing them concern.

B had let slip that he may have attended a klan picnic or two in Roanoke in the years just before they migrated.

Now I knew that if B had been there it would have been because that was the place that day where the beer was coldest and the pot was strongest. I mean to me on the outside of amerika looking in nothing would have seemed more indicative of a racist asshole than someone who partied with the Klan.

But I knew the bloke and had seen him around my unwhite friends interacting with them and knew that he wasn't a white supremacist and neither did he support any of the other horrors the ku klux klan advocate, but he was also party central and from what I could understand the community he had been living in regarded klan picnics as an essential party place.

B just couldn't understand how any nation could keep him out because they were concerned he was an advocate of political violence for picnicking with the klan but not for making bombs or wandering round san clemente. On the other hand I rarely go along with kiwi bureaucrat policy but I agreed that holding a klan viewpoint in middle age should be more of a red flag than being a pinko hoon in adolescence. That said I also knew the man and knew that their fears were unjustified.

Are we seeing here how wide the cultural gulf can be? It goes without saying all this occurred prior to 911. The changes since then mean that B would prolly never have gotten on the plane to get to NZ where his teenage hassles would have prevented an entry visa.

It was sorted. A bloke who had helped me years before when my significant other was a German woman who had run out of time on tourist visas in Oz and NZ, came to the rescue. He had once been minister of Immigration in some pre neo-lib govt. He met B had a long and boozy lunch with him then flew to the city which handled immigration issues for people from the city we were living in (they do it internally 'offshore' in NZ to prevent bribery and stuff). He played a round of golf with the section supervisor of the person handling B's application and vouched for B.

Yes there are many things wrong with this process because it isn't available to all. But it should be. Small societies should play to their strengths.

I can tell this story because B developed some sort of galloping cancer where he had been stabbed by the meth head and died in early 01.

We spent a mob of time together despite the fact that we both had to rephrase so many statements that meant something completely different to the listener than the speaker. There were all sorts of other differences he drank and smoked pot but wouldn't talk of such things 'in front of the children' , I did neither but always told my kids what was happening.

In fact that was about the only point of tension. B seemed determined to indoctrinate his children despite escaping that indoctrination himself. The kids even went to church sometimes although B was no xtian.

It is simplistic to call that hypocrisy he was just doing what I had done when I moved us to the neighbourhood I had grown up in. He was parenting as he had been parented, and what parent hasn't made that mistake from time to time.

These are the layers of the onion-like carapace. So thickly coated when the person has been raised in an all enveloping culture such as amerika's. Too thickly coated for us to see that the same words don't always mean the same thing.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 21 2007 0:18 utc | 69

& it is that cultural malignancy that forces us to witness history - as someone sd here the other day - almost psychadelically - that the thrust of events & their representation(s) - are experienced - in our bodies

i have read too many posts here from many people who also speak of the physical pain of 'witnessing' that i do not for a moment think it is an individual response though we feel it as individuals

& in this moment of history it has the appearance of being relentless - of an unending catastrophe - when egypt, lebanon or pakistan go - it will really become the inferno that dante or milton knew in their hearts humans were capable of

it is the complete & utter lack of restraint of capital in all its ventures - that tells me, historically - that that will be its downfall & naomi klein in naming this moment disaster capitalism is appropriate

the mass of people in the world do not want these wars - that much was & remains clear. in 2003 they were historic protests of a kind that not even the liveaid malignancy could create & i have to believe within thos protests was a real & practical desire to come to terms with the elites & their disastrous practices

that is why i mention latin america so often - i think john pilger is being overly optimistic - but it potential to change everything exists. & what is it after all. it is the cry of a people - who have sd enough is enough

the privileges of 'western civilsation' have turned into a rotting fruit - those privileges are tainted & bloodied & in the end are not worth having

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 21 2007 0:25 utc | 70

@ Annie


The Layers

by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

"Live in the layers,

not on the litter."

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.


Posted by: Argh | Sep 21 2007 0:59 utc | 71

Thanks DiD, 69 was beautiful.

Posted by: 'citizen' | Sep 21 2007 1:50 utc | 72

For your edification, amusement or both...

Dialectic as Transformative interchange

"Take some more tea," the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

"I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more."

"You mean you can't take less," said the Hatter: "it's very easy to take more than nothing."

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Sep 21 2007 5:37 utc | 73

I have been living outside America since 1988. One advantage that American expats have is that our culture is so all-pervading that you can still keep up with it almost anywhere in the world.

In fact, I am even glad to have had a buffer zone between myself and most of the media frenzies that have occured over the past 20 years or so: The OJ Simpson trial, Gulf War I, the Clinton impeachment, the Michael Jackson trial, the Palm Beach voting debacle, Gulf War II, etc...

I get homesick around holidays, when the Arizona desert is in bloom or when the aspens are changing color up in the White Mountains, but then a quick dose of CNN news helps me feel better.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Sep 21 2007 6:01 utc | 74

Wow! This is the kind of post/thread that keeps me coming back -- and this one I'll have to print out, there is just too much meat to digest from a laptop screen.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Sep 21 2007 7:26 utc | 75

I wonder if Ricks original questions about "America" have been answered. Certainly the differences between America and the U.S.A. as geographic entities have been covered, as well as the implied racial/national issues of Americans living in other states, that may consider themselves Americans, like some Mexicans who consider themselves to be Americans and those from the U.S. to be gringos - or Brazilians who consider themselves Americano. Or the peculiar problem of what to identify citizens of The United States of America as - of in not being Canadians, Brazilians, etc. Okay, so it wasn't ever really about that, as Rick himself said we all seem to know who we are referring to without making "category mistakes". Although DiD's use of the Kafka/60's"Amerika" moniker does distinguish an unambiguious exclusive association between an American and the U.S.A., in that a Mexican would never consider himself an "Amerikan", nor would anyone else outside the U.S.A. So by this token, Rick is objecting to whatever particular meaning this term is suppose to conjure up, as in being a quasi ethno/nationalist slur, or guilt by association to the reprehensible government now in place, or the history of like governments preceding it. In which case, as the many examples in the above posts would suggest, culminating in the Layla Anwar link, that the reputation of the American ideal in the eyes of the rest of the world is way, way beyond semantic parsing. And is well on its way to being universally despised. Which in all probability is exactly what our current government wants, the creation of enemies. Enemies that call into question the ideal of American exceptionalism and (its evil twin) pragmatism, and thus reinforcing them in distinction. And universalizes the enemy as all "hating our freedom"?

They're playing for keeps this time and putting it all on the line and pushing all you're buttons at the same time - while making it appear that its the "other" doing it.

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 21 2007 9:16 utc | 76

ww at 50 posted about the jaw dropping shock when Bush was re-elected.

In tiny CH, now in the global world, there were only two other occasions when ppl reacted with such open grief, dismay, incredulity, rage. 1) 1992, when the Swiss voted not to join the now EU - with a 50/50 vote, the numbers after the point closing the issue. 2) 1998, The Swissair flight 111 disaster which went down in Peggy’s Cove, though that is particular to Geneva, as many Genevese were on that flight.

To the rootless. Not having a home is very hard. Being a wanderer, buffeted by various legislations is even harder. Always fitting in. Or not. Or going back. To nothing. Or something. And leaving again. And going forward, somewhere else, something else. It is wearisome. Official stamps, papers, money going awry, friends lost, families divided. Being alone. But always there are people in the same situation, though they do not offer solutions or hope, only comradeship, warmth, cynicism, a hand held. Shifting, drifting. Life divided in chunks: I was there, I did that, then I had to go. I went to another place.

The present day treatment of refugees (eg Iraqis) is beyond disgusting. To mention only that little detail.

Posted by: Tangerine | Sep 21 2007 14:31 utc | 77


i notice in all the exiles from iraq & thos i witness in documentaries - the pull of the city of baghdad - that they are always in tears when thinking of her. i know an otherwise quite har journalist from iraq who wen speaking of the baghdad he lost transforms into the softest man

it beauty as a city is legendary & as a city you can almost feel the wires that connect it to its people

& there are millions of baghdadis who must be feeling the sorrow, concretely & from that soorow the seeds of resistance have grown

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 21 2007 14:39 utc | 78

that is to say in simple terms that every iraqi seems to be absolutely aware of not only their onw loss - but that of history & 'civilisation' itself

alabama once used a beautiful word, perhaps perjoratively in my case, but it is a beautiful word all the same - anathemata. as tragoidia is born in the song of the goat - in the nescessarily truthful & terrible thoughts of slaves in ancient greece - so the anathemata is a cursing out in the most sacred sense of the terrible moments we are living through

& this thread has that Job like quality

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 21 2007 14:51 utc | 79


The Arabs in general have a much much more intense attachment to their homelands, lands, history, culture, civilization, and society than we in the West can remotely fathom, since we do not have that kind of attachment. This is what makes possible the incredible resistance in Palestine and Iraq, despite the overwhelming odds. It is something that clearly the planners of this ill-fated war have no concept of. The same holds true, by the way, of the Persians.

The destruction that we are wreaking there will only cultivate generations of hatred. Nothing "positive" will come of it. The greatest tragedy is that our moronic leaders speak of "the birth of a new Middle East" and they just have no possible iota of an idea of what they have destroyed in their wanton brutality. Hundreds, thousands of years of humanity cherishing and caring and tending for its heritage in the oldest part of the world. And we consider ourselves entitled to march in, bomb everything back to the dark ages, and then have the hubris to smugly announce "the birth of a new Middle East?" As if we are doing the world a favor?

No, this will not soon be forgotten and never ever forgiven.

Posted by: Bea | Sep 21 2007 15:15 utc | 80

Krugman wants to join this conversation so much he started a blog.

Posted by: 'citizen' | Sep 21 2007 17:38 utc | 81

Chuck Cliff: … there is just too much meat to digest from a laptop screen.

Yes there is a lot here to digest – every post is so good that it could be expounded on a thread of its own. Annie’s few words “We’ve been had.” is as significant as the most wordy here. Perhaps anna missed is expounding on this same theme, using a more serious, a more ominous, a more deadly tone; and where such a message needs to be placed into the minds and hearts in people everywhere: “They are playing for keeps this time…”
But personally, I am drawn to this post of remembering giap:

when i think of cultural malignancy - i ask simply why did this very powerful society destroy an extremely beautiful & exceptional thing & destroyed it in great detail
when his rhetoric no longer threatened them - the simple existence of this man still required great attention by the fbi
when they had driven beautiful paul robeson mad - they did not let up - they were with him to the grave
the image & voice of this man is always there as a constant reproach not only to empire but to power itself

Upon reflection now, I feel honored that rgiap addressed this post to me. Regarding the cultural malignancy of America, rgiap introduces to me another new soul. A man I never heard of. Perhaps rgiap has mentioned this man before, but maybe like many of us, I never took the smallest moment to think, to research, to dwell. As usual, these were just more words, identifying an all too many people that we are bombarded with every day. But I made an exception to my usual routine, especially since this was a response to my writing, and I checked for “Paul Robeson” in Wikipedia to learn a little more. After reading just a few paragraphs, it was obvious that this man captures a major theme intended.
First let me state that I am embarrassed to even think about how disgusting culture is in America. And I embarrassed to say that ‘America’ in this sentence includes all but the metaphysical ideal. I will not even try to describe my disgust. In my writing above, I hope I did not come across as ‘excusing’, ‘sidestepping’, or ‘mothering’ this malignant culture. I too, in my thinking and actions, am affected in negative ways by a multitude of factors in this culture.
Here I am, living in North Carolina, the same place where Paul Roverson was born, and I did not know of this man. And I would gather that if you asked every school child in this state, or even of this nation, hardly anyone would know of his name or anything about him, with maybe the exception of those persons who were direct descendents of “Roberson” or affiliated with his descendents in some manner.
Yet ‘remembering giap’ knew of him.
Here this man was, standing in front of a Federal Government Inquisition, being denied his dignity, his freedom of thought, his freedom of association, and his freedom of speech. U.S. Government bureaucrats had already placed him in a mental prison of their constructs. Most likely because of his race, he had felt to be in a prison since the time he was born. This from Wikipedia:

Ten years later, in 1956, Robeson was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) after he refused to sign an affidavit affirming that he was not a Communist. In response to questions concerning his alleged Communist Party membership, Robeson reminded the Committee that the Communist Party was a legal party and invited its members to join him in the voting booth before he invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to respond. Robeson lambasted Committee members on civil rights issues concerning African-Americans. When one senator asked him why he hadn't remained in the Soviet Union, he replied, "My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I'm going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you. And no fascist-minded people like you will drive me from it. Is that clear?" (Testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, June 12, 1956) At one point he remarked, "you are the nonpatriots, and you are the un-Americans, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves."

One’s political philosophy shouldn’t rob a person of his dignity and freedoms. One’s race shouldn’t matter either. Nor should one’s religion matter. I may or may not agree with this man’s politics. But even through a life of torture, it appears that Paul Roberson knew in his mind what this country should or could be, and most importantly, he knew who were the real “un-Americans.

I hope I did not distort rgiap’s meaning in his post too much with these thoughts. I am sure my political philosophies do not match his or anyone’s precisely. And to this question, Why did this very powerful society destroy an extremely beautiful & exceptional thing & destroyed it in great detail?
I don’t know why for sure – it is almost too sad to think about. I have some thoughts on it that I will save for another post. Let me just say now, ”This time they are playing for keeps.”

Posted by: Rick | Sep 21 2007 18:17 utc | 82

Oops - missing the End Italics after rgiaps quote -Maybe b can fix. Put this through without preview. Sorry

Posted by: Rick | Sep 21 2007 18:20 utc | 83

rick, our generation was not educated wrt great black people, that part of our history was included in schools only a decade or so after martin and the civil rights era. robeson is a well known famous american, as far as i know. i went to high school in the 60's and didn't hear a peep about either robeson or the mcCarthy era at that time.

Posted by: annie | Sep 21 2007 18:32 utc | 84

Rick, if you've never heard Paul Robeson get some records/cd's. Speaking as an atheist, he has the voice of god. So Magnificent & unique.

Posted by: jj | Sep 21 2007 18:38 utc | 85


That is good to hear. That is a type of correction I like to have. I wonder though how well it is being taught.


Posted by: Rick | Sep 21 2007 18:45 utc | 86

annie & jj,

I am volunteering at the clinc at this moment - I just asked the youngest therapist here - she is 21, just hired and born in NC.

Posted by: Rick | Sep 21 2007 19:04 utc | 87

Rick, he's a leftist & xAm. public schools were turned in McSchools. They teach nothing except conformity & obedience.

Posted by: jj | Sep 21 2007 19:21 utc | 88

Apologize also for yelling in all CAPS above, but just when I had a glimmer of hope that things were getting better in education, I have to face reality again. BURNS ME UP THROUGH & THROUGH !!! (not you annie - just our education system.) Apologize for misspelling also - should be ROBESON, not ROBERSON.

Posted by: Rick | Sep 21 2007 19:45 utc | 89

Just like every American knows all about a certain 12 years of German history that the Germans hardly learn anything about, every Soviet-era schoolkid knew all about Paul Robeson, whom most American scholchildren learned nothing about.

Probably the reason that so many of them don't know the difference in the spelling of "expatriate" and "ex-patriot", because to them, the two are identical.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Sep 21 2007 21:09 utc | 90

It would be easy to come crashing in shouting see I told you so, how is that a great man whose name was common in our household growing up still isn't widely known in his homeland. Some of us have made similar remarks about other great amerikans who were forgotten if they had ever been celebrated at all in their native country. But the dialogue on Robeson has the same effect on all of us, a sort of regret, a longing for beautiful things lost.

Giap's loving remembrance now now, or my mother's use of him as a shining example of humanity nearly 50 years ago, in part stem from the complexities of inter nation rivalry and 'cover yer ass' political mis-direction, as much as the motive shared by by my mother and r'giap, that here was an incredibly talented human being who despite being tortured beyond most humans' limits, never let the smaller meaner people within his society vanquish him.

The more that the greedy, the mean-spirited racists, the coldly calculating careerists, and the ego-centric 'puppet masters' directing Robeson's inquisition from shadowy corners, tried to destroy this man the more determinedly Robeson refuted and resisted. Meanwhile other nations, other cultures grabbed ahold of this horror tragedy, the people within those cultures were appalled at the callous destruction of something so pristine so right - however some of those driving the rest of the world's access to the drama were motivated by a need to say "You think it is bad here , it's not bad here, we're doing the best we can, you wanna see bad lookit amerika"

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 21 2007 21:16 utc | 91

Rick, annie, jj -

Paul Robeson:

It will be a long age before schools teach Paul Robeson. He is all that is best and all that we hide about this USA.

I can remember some of the civil rights struggles (would they keep the schools open so I could start 1st grade?). That was the struggle that gave many hope. But I learned about Paul Robeson from my parents, just as I learned about McCarthy hearings from them. Maybe it was "Old Man River" that I heard, when I was very young. I wanted to know who could sing like that. They told me Robeson had been persecuted for his skin and his beliefs. I found the rest in books.

r'giap, could there be a single icon that more than this man lived and signifies the tragic talents that could and could not have been the US?

Slavery is the bitter poison that was always at the heart of the US experiment. The founders themselves knew it.

Perhaps the music that emerged out of this deeply compromised adventure, the music that became "american" to all of the US, is the heart of it all. The soul of America is blue, and black, and it gave us jazz.

Thanks, all, for this luminous, thoughtful thread. I haven't words or the coherence of thought that shines through this and many others. I return like a thirsty wanderer, for help chipping through that carapace, as Did says.

Posted by: small coke | Sep 21 2007 21:19 utc | 92

there are some fine icons but yes most of them are black or are connected like john brown in a struggle against the hideousness that lies at the hearts of some men

w e dubois as a scholar is a lot like walter benjamin - in style - that there is an incredible softness in their touch - a softness that is all too easy to underestimate - but behind their words are constructions of steel

i love melville & also as i have sd often enough - the wonder in the work of james agee - i think i must have had my first copy of 'let us now praise famous men given to me by an older comrade when i was 14 or something & of how i marvelled at it & coming across an l p with james agee reading some of the text. & again this softness, which is not romanticism which works into out hearts like steel

how many fred hamptons have been lost. how many generations of men & women of a 'better america' have been eliminated by murder & the much murdoch caricatures as a culture

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 21 2007 21:50 utc | 93

For those who have itunes, you can go into the music store and run a search as I've just done -- there are many recordings of Paul Robeson available. I was happy to see them after reading on Wikipedia (thanks to Rick and r'giap) that all his recordings had been confiscated or destroyed... I was relieved that somehow they had found their way back to a place where anyone could revel in them.

Yes, he is an icon, and a very great one. And no, I was also not taught about him in school. But the terrible tragedy is that in these dark days, the same horrors are being repeated with the way we are treating Muslim and Arab Americans, such as Sami al-Arian. It seems we cannot wash out of our systems this terrible dark need to despise other human beings for their beliefs and values -- the very same plague that this country was supposedly founded to escape from.

Rick, you might want to consider trying to find a way to bring Paul Robeson's story to the awareness of more young people in NC, his birth place, since you feel so passionately about it. There are many ways you could work on achieving that if you were so inclined. Just a thought.

Posted by: Bea | Sep 21 2007 21:54 utc | 94

i want to note just for the record that the 'communism' of a robeson or of a nazim hikmet were never the primary thing for me

a tubercular father who was a writer taught me how fragility hides strength

there is a largeness to these type of people - people who went outside of themselves - which was very much the history of communists in the west - where they were obliged by history to live out tragicomic lives - but that phrase - that there were giants who walked the earth & their like shall never come again. the best of those people & there were many of them spent their whole lives in defence of the other

the generations i was able to witness went from new zealand to fight in spain - lived out the betrayals of the english empire in singapore or new guinea - were the first to act against the fascists in indonesia vietnam & greece - who tho very often being monolingual were able to share, really share their lives with the other

those people always went out on a limb- i remember so many of them, a doctor a venerealogist with the unfortunate name of dr finger who gave his life to the poor, the aboriginal & the emigree - there was so much love in their hearts - yet they were very very tough people. history again had obliged them to be so

they were exemplary - & they taught me their exemplariness not with a baton but with tenderness. because the roots in the ground they watered for me - i do not find it so strange that my 'politics' do not differ very much from those of my adolesence because essentially its the same world, only worse

rick, thank you for your thinking here - it is an offering

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 21 2007 22:27 utc | 95

It will be a long age before schools teach Paul Robeson.

many schools have programs during black history month which began in 1976 and is also when martin luther king holiday is celebrated. my sons school had a rosa parks day, that was in arizona which doesn't have a large black population. a typical assignment was for kids to pick one famous black person and do a report for the class. i can't imagine NC not including BHM in the curriculum and robeson was a famous american of the era in which he lived regardless of his color. it was big news when he went to russia. i was introduced to him primarily because of his activism.">">activism. although he was a famous performer, his activism was a defining feature of who he was, much as certain celebrities today are inseparable from their activism.

HERE I Stand

Robeson's international achievements as a singer and actor in starring roles on stage and screen made him the most celebrated black American of his day, but his outspoken criticism of racism in the United States, his strong support of African independence, and his fascination with the Soviet Union placed him under the debilitating scrutiny of McCarthyism. Blacklisted, his famed voice silenced, he wrote Here I Stand as a bold answer to his accusers. It remains today a defiant challenge to the prevailing fear and racism that continues to characterize American society.

NC events, black history month. NC has a paul robeson theater @ATT university, along w/ny and london.

Posted by: annie | Sep 21 2007 22:57 utc | 96

On the run, a few testy retorts and odd thoughts...

In Euroland petrol is, what, $7 or $8 US/gal? are they losing 1/3 of their population to starvation? There's no inevitable connection between starvation and gas prices, other than that we're starving and murdering people worldwide in order to maintain them at an artificial low.

Obviously the list of demands that USians would have to make in order to renounce their Mama Corleone part in life could not stop at true costing of energy; my post was already too long w/o going into the long long list of measures and reforms needed for a renunciation of our appointed role as receivers of stolen goods.

Land reform -- the breakup of corporate ag and the healing of the landscapes it has devastated -- and the relocalisation of food networks would have to be high on that list. True food security means local food security, which is why enclosers and overlords always want to destroy it...

BTW, whoever accused me of thinking that England or the UK was in some way clean-handed or pure, must have me confused with someone else :-) I've never said or implied such a silly thing. The intellectual and moral disorders which condition US empire were learnt when it was a colony of the British Empire, much as the Britons learned from the Romans. The virus of empire is self-perpetuating and highly contagious; only remember how the neothugs looked back sentimentally to call the US a New Rome :-) -- presumably with its own scenic Via Appia lined with crucified dissenters?

My sympathy to all those who are stateless in their hearts, and especially to Tantalus... w/whom I share a deep visceral love for the biota and the peasant traditions of my native land, no matter how shameful the history of its rulers, no matter that I may never see it again.

Posted by: DeAnander | Sep 21 2007 23:54 utc | 97

Speaking of Black History Week -- and what a snide marginalisation that is, as if there were Real History and then Black History.. when will we have Whitefella History Week, eh? -- it is instructive to recall that when white Amurka ritually adores MLK (pbuh) once a year, it is his uplifting, noncontroversial I Have a Dream speech that gets recycled ad infinitum. Not the later more radical speech for which -- many believe -- he was assassinated:>Beyond Viet Nam: a Time to Break the Silence::

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: "Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?" "Why are you joining the voices of dissent?" "Peace and civil rights don't mix," they say. "Aren't you hurting the cause of your people," they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.


As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

MLK pinpoints the essence of the Error of Empires. By definition, those citizens who live at the core of empire do not know the world in which they live, any more than an aristo of the Bourbon dynasty knew the world in which he/she lived. The necessities of Empire include the enclosure and control of information -- the Chinese Emperors went so far as to build a wall around a large chunk of their country to prevent outside information and experiences from getting in and diluting the official narrative. In the US, media consolidation and central coordination are the Great Wall that keeps USians from seeing out -- well that, and various travel and visa restrictions :-) An educational system that teaches the official narrative is essential to all authoritarian states -- whether it be the old USSR, the old British Empah, contemporary US or wherever.

None of this is exceptional, it is all well in pattern and recognisable. But of course from inside the bell jar (or the Truman Show) the pattern is not recognisable because the official narrative -- complete with endearing eccentric Norman Rockwell characters like ingenious old Ben Franklin -- is totalising. Like a person standing in the middle of one of the huge terrestrial drawings at Nazca, the observer inside the system gets very little sense of the pattern of the system...

What makes the US unique perhaps is its inheritance of a mythology of innocence, an insistence that the "pristine" (actually permacultured) "wilderness" was the garden of eden to which the colonists were permitted by a loving Deity to return due to the amazing purity and excellence of their souls. Previous empires did recite mantras about bringing culture, enlightenment and good roads as they stole, enslaved, and raped their way through other people's homelands; but they didn't claim to be innocent while they did all this. It is perhaps this persistent (even strident) claim to perpetual innocence and benignity -- through war after war, assassination after assassination -- that makes the USian official story so very sour and sickening to a foreign palate...?

It is bad enough to be beaten by a bully. It is worse when the bully reads you a sermon meanwhile, tells you it is all for your own good, and -- after stealing your watch and wallet while you lie bleeding -- expects you to thank him afterwards for his good intentions and noble aims -- or declares that he himself has somehow been victimised by the beating and that you must stop talking about it because it's just too mean and hurtful. This is the peculiarly mad quality of US imperialism that I think triggers instant fury around the globe... though again, the USians did not invent it, they just refined it to a new level. MLK called them on their BS.

Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi," and the Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."
A year later -- to the day -- he was shot and killed.>footnote

Posted by: DeAnander | Sep 22 2007 0:28 utc | 98

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak.

deanander - mlk could not have been more prescient

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Sep 22 2007 1:13 utc | 99

annie @96 -

You could be right about Black History month. Much may depend on the teacher. Or the students.

In places with which I am familiar, BH month is observed much as DeAnander describes it - safely. Paul Robeson was an activist. If he is noted during BH lessons, would it emphasize his singing and acting career? Paul Robeson isn't dangerous for his skin color, any more. He is dangerous because he was talented, educated, and he stood up and stood up and stood up, and because US institutions and people have a sorry history of fear and injustice in the way they reacted to this one individual.

Lots of black folks do know Paul Robeson. There is still much de facto segregation of higher education in southern US, of which people outside the south are probably unaware. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University is described on its website as an "1891 land-grant university. One of America’s leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)." These colleges, once all black, are still mostly black. In fact, white students sometimes get "diversity scholarships" to study at them.

Google locates a "suburban New Jersey high school" that studied Robeson as a case study, in a curriculum on "peacebuilding citizenship education." A curriculum more schools might consider.

Evidence from student work products, reflective examination of Robeson's social activism, and his commitment to core principles of social justice reveal that study of complex historical figures can enhance student understanding of the challenges citizens face when advocating policies that clash with powerful societal interests. The perseverance and idealism exhibited by Robeson set an example students can emulate when seeking to advance ideals of peace and social justice in their own communities.

Posted by: small coke | Sep 22 2007 2:22 utc | 100

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