August 22, 2002
By Diane E. Dees
never intended to be a citizen of Amurika. I didn't even know
where it was the first five or six times I heard the president
talk about it. Then I heard Chris Matthews droning about Amurika,
soon the other talking heads followed suit, and - finally
- I got it.
Amurika is where I live. So why does it feels like a foreign
Amurika is a place where the leader talks about Evildoers,
and I'm supposed to understand who he means. The September
11 terrorists, yes, but who else? Saddam Hussein? Okay. Saudi
Arabia? Oops. They're our friends, although they consistently
do things that are remarkably evil, and most of the September
11 terrorists came from there. So what about Enron? They stole
their employees' life savings and wrecked the entire state
of California. But wait - they're friends with the President
and the Vice President.
It's confusing, living in Amurika.
Here, in this 21st Century Wonderland, the airline industry
was so lax in security that the September 11 terrorists all
boarded the death planes using their own names, even though
many of them were on watch lists. But these airlines have
never been made to account for their role in the killings
and destruction in New York and at the Pentagon. They have
never even been criticized for it. There is a program, however,
to protect them from lawsuits filed by the vicitims' families.
In Amurika, we leave no child behind. But the President says
it is undignified and unproductive for welfare mothers to
get a college education.
According to a recent poll, in this new and strange country,
almost half of the citizenry thinks that the First Amendment
"goes too far." Who then, will decide who gets to have freedom
of expression and who doesn't? And why do I think I'm going
to be classified in the "who doesn't" category?
The country I remembered was based on the separation of church
and state, but in Amurika, if you try to separate them, you
may end up identified as one of the Evildoers. Under this
new system, it is okay for me to pay for someone's child to
go to a school that teaches religious doctrine that I consider
offensive, or even dangerous. But it is not okay to remove
from the Pledge of Allegiance the paranoid phraseology of
the McCarthy era.
In Amurika, this is what you do: You talk about God a lot,
and you put flags all over your car. You view with suspicion
anyone you think might be an intellectual, and you blame Hollywood
for what you believe is a collapse in morals. You search for
a leader who is both a yahoo and a wink-nudge friend of the
corporate rich. Not an easy person to find, you may think,
but there he is, in the White House, skillfully balancing
both sides of this embarrassing equation.
A good Amurikan hates the ACLU as much as he hates Osama
Bin Laden. A good Amurikan thinks - no, wait! - thinking is
now viewed with suspicion. A good Amurikan believes it's time
for all of the blacks, gays, feminists, and environmentalists
to shut up because enough is enough, we've given you a lot,
and anyway, things change during WarTime.
Amurika is thriving. The White House tells us that the economy
is on the upswing, and the Evildoers will be vanquished. We
are assured that the same government that refuses to test
genetically engineered food, cut back on carbon dioxide emissions
and sign the Kyoto treaty is the government that will save
us from harm. Give up some civil rights here and there, they
say, and trust the same Attorney General who consistently
blocked civil liberties reforms when he was a governor, and
voted against them when he was in the Senate. And finally,
we are told, we need to put corporate reform in the hands
of two men whose own corporate records reflect a gaping lack
of respect for honesty, openness and accountability.
It has been only a year and half, but the boundaries of my
country have shifted and warped in ways that may soon require
a new map. To borrow a phrase from David Bowie: I'm afraid
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