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Welcome to Amurika
August 22, 2002
By Diane E. Dees

I 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 land?

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 of Amurikans.

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