First, to PatsPub, our Man on the Ground in Helvetia ...
Say, are there any plans to set up giant iron statues or oversized banners of Dubyah in major US cities yet ? No introducrion of a 5-year plan yet or to abandon all parties but the republicans? Turning the First Ammendement to Freedom To Say What We Think Is Right ? New World Order American Style ?
Europeans are watching current events and tendenciesin in the US with disbelief and astonishment. Just what the bleep is going on over there ? Our politicians are not that dumb, are they ?
We know what people like Jello Biafra or Chomsky (and you, of course) think about these events.
but what about the bloke on the street ? Are John Doe, Norman Normalrealizi ng what's going on ??
I mean, you don't have to be a genius to see that your country (not mine, thank god !) is slowly turning into one of Philip K Dick's worst nightmares...
--Posted by pat's pub to Virtual Toon Teen Pixel Porn, News, Weather, Sports & Opera from Vleeptron at 7/27/2005 05:05:33 PM
It's miserable and it's simple. Americans are scared. Authentically frightened.
That's a very different issue from What, properly, they should be frightened of. And a very different issue from How, properly, they should respond to the things they fear.
Almost everything that's happened since the attacks of 11 September 2001 is debatable -- "Who struck John?" is an American term for trying to make sense of very confusing matters that took place very quickly in the dark after we had lost our eyeglasses.
The only thing that's not debatable is that four passenger airliners were hijacked; two were crashed into high stories of both the World Trade Center towers; and a few hours later, both skyscrapers collapsed, and about 3000 people -- just about all of them civilians (that counts police and firefighters) -- were killed.
Another airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. Arguably the Pentagon is a military target -- but the victims there were essentially office workers, even if some of them were wearing military uniforms.
And unarguably, these three airliner attacks were, like Pearl Harbor, sneak attacks. The attacks themselves were the enemy's Declaration of War; Americans did not at that moment know or acknowledge that a state of war against anyone resembling the terrorists existed.
In other words, we were defenseless and unprepared because we didn't know our cities and civilians were about to be attacked.
Like Switzerland's very effective ring of Alps, the United States has always historically taken a sense of geographical security and safety from its two great oceans. For centuries at a stretch, American politics has encouraged itself to ignore all events in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, because they could not possibly ever effect, threaten or harm us. Perhaps the Alps and political neutrality have historically served the same purpose for the Swiss. (How did you pursuade Napoleon to just skip Switzerland?)
Mexico is a militarily powerless Third World neighbor; the USA has made war on it twice, and both times has effectively demonstrated that in any conventional war between the USA and Mexico, the USA will win pretty easily.
Canada to the north has, wonderfully and blessedly, evolved as America's historical ally, trading partner and friend. Our extremely long border has, until very recently, been essentially "porous" -- hardly guarded at all, more a bi-directional Welcome Mat than any kind of effective barrier between sovereign nations.
That now the USA media and political dialogue increasingly describes Canada as a source and harbor of anti-American terrorists, that now the USA is beefing up and plugging up and militarizing the holes in the long-friendly border, reflects just how frightened Americans have become since 9/11/01. Looking at Canada and seeing danger and fear is like an infant looking at its mother and seeing danger and fear.
We're very frightened, many of us are clinically paranoid. In America, sales of pharmaceutical anti-depressants have shot through the roof. We are in the grip of a wave of fear on the personal, individual level. (Similarly, during The Great Depression -- there was widespread and profound financial depression, and widespread and profound psychiatric depression.)
Now, today, when we fly on a plane or ride on a train or bus or ferry and see a swarthy Asian-looking stranger, we think of bombs and box-cutters. Yesterday an airliner in flight was diverted and made an emergency landing in Boston because passengers expressed such fears; the Pakistanis they suspected were, of course, simply fellow passengers.
That's the background of what's going on in America right now. To be blunt, and to admittedly veer away from the Absolutely Factual, and into the Debatable and Arguable ...
Political America, the federal Executive Branch (White House and all the federal agencies it constitutionally leads) is in the control of a historically rare bunch of right-wing militaristic ideological scoundrels and fanatics. They compare very closely to the militaristic ultranationalists who seized control of the Japanese government in the 1920s. They compare closely to the militaristic ultranationalists who seized control of the German democracy in the 1920s.
If the comparisons are at all valid, one thing is common to the political success of all three groups: They have made their political gains and successes against and manipulating a background of widespread and profound popular fear and terror.
I will not be the first Thinker to note that when everyone is frightened out of his and her wits, political decisions, choices and votes become very bad, poor, and often quite dangerous and foot-shooting choices. ("Fahrenheit 9/11" made this point in a remarkable interview with the only member of the U.S. Congress who is a professional psychiatrist.)
We are a democracy (more technically, a republic), and as an electorate, we are not voting well. Because we are very frightened, and this is always a background in which scoundrels and psychopaths thrive.
Those overseas and overtrees who authentically admire American democracy and freedom, and the society that blossomed here, and the European and Asian and African people who immigrated to the USA and evolved to become Americans -- perrhaps the best thing our overseas admirers can do to help America in this era is to understand our fear, sympathize with it, and encourage us to come to our senses -- just as I pray the Netherlands which I so admire will quickly come to its political senses and return to its ancient traditions of racial, religious and intellectual tolerance and progressive policies.
I don't wish to suggest anything terrible, but imagine tomorrow a series of huge car bomb explosions or poison gas attacks in downtown Geneva, Zurich and Berne -- the kind we have become used to reading about in Baghdad and Beirut, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Israel/Palestine, Tokyo, and now London. Then imagine the political consequences in Switzerland in the years to follow.
If you wish to try to persuade me that Switzerland would never make democratic choices as badly as America's choices, or Austria's, or Italy's, or France's, or even the Netherlands' recent political slides to the right, the xenophobic and nationalistic, and the fearful, if you truly believe Switzerland will always, under all threats, remain politically rational and wise, then please, by all means, make your case, and I will listen very well. I would like to believe such things are possible; I would like to believe in wise, cautious, measured, responsible national leadership during times of crisis and panic.
But I suspect all terrified people are capable of being misled by and manipulated by fanatics, psychopaths and scoundrels. Fear of sudden death, fear of bomb attacks in subways and marketplaces and skyscrapers -- this is universal, and transcends any authentic social or cultural differences between nations.
Best I can say is: This will not be a very Proud Moment or High Mark in American history. The rest of the world will not look at this era and admire it -- the way the world admired America's walk on the Moon, or its war which ended slavery, or the war which won us our freedom, or the passage of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, or the part Americans and Canadians played in ending the fascist death grip on most of Europe in 1945.
America has had Regret Eras before -- the Vietnam War a recent one. This will be another. Most Americans will just want to forget it.
I hope most Americans will do just the opposite: Remember these times very clearly, and resolve never to repeat them.