I’ve always felt nothing but unqualified anguish when thinking about the genocide that utterly destroyed the Native American people. They lost their country and their lives to some of the most heinous acts ever committed. We were once a people that didn’t recognize them to be anything more than savages with no right to the lives they were living. From the Trail of Tears in 1838 to Wounded Knee… it is not something that can or should ever be forgiven or forgotten. But it was history… something that happened a long time ago… and so I somehow found a way forward… proud of a country I loved.
I’ve always despised the fact that my country once condoned slavery. But it was something that happened a long time ago. I certainly wasn’t around back then. So, I guess I somehow learned to live with it being part of our past while remaining proud to be an American citizen in the present. Likewise, I will never be at peace with the horror that was segregation. But again, I wasn’t there… I would never have looked the other way, I’ve always told myself. And besides… what else could I do but move past it? And so somehow I did. And I remained proud the country I loved.
I hated learning that between the end of the Spanish American War (which by the way the people of Mexico call, “The U.S. Invasion of Mexico”), and the beginning of the Great Depression, the U.S. sent troops into Latin America 32 times. What must they think of us, I wondered as I read the history books. But it was a long time ago, before I was born. And soon the present took hold and I somehow went forward with it, proud of the country I loved.
I’ve always felt great shame at the thought of Japanese Americans being hauled away by my government and placed in “internment camps,” in the middle of nowhere Utah. I’m pretty sure they would have been called “concentration camps,” were they not found in Utah, but again… I wasn’t around to stop it, so what else could I do but move ahead, and somehow I remained proud of the country I loved.
I detested the lies that led us to war in Southeast Asia and the treatment our veterans received when they returned from fighting the Vietnam War. I was sort of around back then, but I certainly wasn’t nearly old enough to do anything about it. But, I still never tolerated the thought it, never accepted it… and it definitely had a lasting negative impact on my feelings about this country. But, somehow… I found a way to go forward, and to remain proud of the country I loved.
I’ve always been offended by the way our nation has behaved in South America… Chile, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Panama… El Salvador… each one a deplorable nightmare of diplomacy in its day. We’ve stuck our nose in places it hasn’t belonged and wasn’t welcomed far too many times, but somehow I still managed to find hope that we’d learn from our mistakes. And I remained proud of the country I loved.
When I discovered what the world had allowed to go on in South Africa for all those years, I thought it unspeakable. But it wasn’t our corner of the world, and it was soon ending, so I somehow found a way to set it aside, remaining proud of the country I loved.
I don’t like to think about how my government destroyed a democracy in Iran, and then backed the Shah of Iran, and later backed Saddam in his war against Iran. And I’ve never been able to justify how we did so much for Israel and so little to help the Palestinian people. But I prayed for peace, taught my children the virtues and crucial nature of tolerance, and closed my eyes at night proud of the country I loved.
When I was 19 I went off to serve my country as a member of the United States Air Force. As a squad leader in Basic Training my troops and I drilled past dark, we learned to shine our shoes until you could shave staring into them, and we made up our bunks so tight that you could bounce quarters off of them. When an officer walked by our heels snapped together as we saluted with both pride and respect. Seeing a full bird colonel or a general officer even from a distance literally took our breath away.
We’d march to form a parade and stand at attention for what seemed like forever in the blistering heat of San Antonia in late summer, but when those fighters streaked across the sky, or as we saluted our nation’s flag as it was raised or lowered each day, the tears streamed down my cheeks, for I was damn proud of the country that I loved and was proud to serve.
Some might say that we’re all destined to lose some of the magic that fuels the unbridled passion of youth as we age, but I don’t think that’s what has happened to me. I’ve lost something much more tangible than that, and I feel more and more of it being eaten away, each day… these days.
For more than a decade, I’ve been troubled that my country has become so ideologically polarized. I’ve watched our country be driven apart by for profit media, masquerading as “news,” and programming to reaffirm one particular view of the word in order to maximize monetary returns, and the result is that we increasingly define ourselves and our lives as rooting for a certain team. Our political process is now locked into being anything but the cognitive process our forefathers intended it to be.
And just like the jersey wearing loyal fans of one hometown team seeing its archrival, we may never be able to come together again.
The clear impact of this deteriorating force has been difficult for me to accept… it is, after all, every bit as stupid as it’s wrong. But, I always hoped new generations would ultimately destroy the counterproductive idiocy we left them.
But, this time is different…
Beginning in 2008, the way our government and so many of our citizens continue to exhibit such total disregard… such a complete lack of empathy… for the untold millions of Americans whose lives have been destroyed by today’s financial and foreclosure crises… to have watched the unbounded incompetence with which two administrations have disingenuously claimed an attempt at mitigating damage to this country’s working middle classes… and to see the trillions of dollars that we’ve provided to those at the top, while looking the other way so as not to see the price being paid by victims of circumstance or those nearer the bottom… its all combined to become a game-changer for me.
I’m fast falling out of love with my country. I look upon its national countenance with disgust. And if I didn’t have a daughter, it’s likely that I’m nearing a point beyond which I wouldn’t give a damn about its future. And that is a very dangerous way for us to feel, because we used to care very deeply about the future of the United States of America. And when we cease to feel as if we’re the owners of our own country, then we become citizen renters… squatters… opportunists… uncaring and unfeeling about the plight of others, consumed by the thoughts of getting only for our own.
We’re becoming a nation of transients, people willing to litter highways, disregard rules, turn the other way to avoid looking at our own destruction, and willing to take advantage of any opportunity and believe things about others who we see as not like us. Everyone on disability or food stamps is really just “getting over.” Why don’t those minorities in their ghettos just get jobs?
Before we know it, it’s all about guns and gold… but the truth of that game is that there’s never enough ammo, never enough fuel, never enough food… because as I’d thought we’d learned by the 16th Century, no man is an island.
No Man Is An Island
John Donne, 1572 – 1631
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
We’re becoming what we are over time, not because of losing homes to foreclosure, but from how such losses are handled and viewed by our society. The loss of a physical structure is relatively meaningless compared to the loss of one’s self esteem.
What’s happened to us? We used to be a nation that waged war on poverty… now we’re a country waging war on poor people, willing to trample our neighbors to death if it puts enough security into our individual lives. We’ve forgotten… that road leads nowhere.
Want to know a secret? It doesn’t matter if you’ve got yours, because no man is an island… because in the world that I’m describing there’s always someone that can take whatever it is that you think you’ve got. Life events happen to all of us. In fact, the only sure thing about our lives on this planet is that they all end badly.
I talk to people every day whose lives went quite suddenly from blessed to cursed. They didn’t do it, life did it to them… and when life decides that it’s your time, there’s no negotiating to be had. Any feelings of security are only inexperience in disguise.
But our society has treated the millions of unfortunate victims as if they were all a part of the small fraction of borrowers who knowingly took on excessive amounts of risk playing the real estate market as one might play the market for stocks or bonds. And that alone would be a bad thing for a society, but to compound the problem, our government mishandled the situation beyond anything it has ever been my displeasure to see up close.
And that’s when trust dissolved…
The nature of the acts perpetrated by my government, often upon the weakest and most defenseless of its citizens were so egregious that I can only compare them with the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, or perhaps the Dred Scott decision of 1857, which found that African Americans brought here as slaves were in essence “property,” as would be considered a mule.
My government abandoned its people right in front of my eyes. I never thought I would see it happen, and when I did… over and over and over again… it made me physically sick. It was like watching hordes of American citizens turned away as they clamored to be let into the gates of a U.S. Embassy on foreign soil.
What our government has done is unforgivable.
Why were we told to focus our attention on $700 billion in TARP funds, while we pumped $16 trillion into our largest financial institutions.
Then our Treasury Department, as the administrator of our President’s Making Home Affordable housing rescue plan, stood idly by while millions of our nation’s homeowners were lied to, threatened, maligned and abused by a handful of mortgage servicers. And nobody lifted a finger to help the people, no matter how they screamed or cried. This country chose to turn its back and tell itself lies about how those in trouble had been irresponsible and therefore deserved their punishment.
And I will likely never view the U.S.A. as being a great nation again. For me, that is over. For I have seen our pettiness, our insensitivity, our callous disregard to the plight of our neighbors right up close… and it’s an ugly, foul and menacing aspect of humanity to come face to face with, and I don’t think one ever fully recovers once exposed.
So, don’t defend Barack Obama to me, he should be more than ashamed. He has blood on his hands that cannot be cleaned. And don’t defend Mitt Romney or the GOP; they are certainly no better and very likely much worse. And don’t defend those in Congress, or those elected officials at the state level either… don’t defend the people that have stood by and let this happen. I have lost respect for all of them. I am appalled at when they have already done, and horrified that they continue in their apparent willingness to do it.
I’ve spent a lifetime loving a mean and nasty whore, undeserving of my trust and who is capable of denying human suffering and justifying almost any sort of oppressive behavior. I am shocked at what my country has become and is becoming.
I’m not proud of this country, or its people. Because don’t you see… we are our bankers, they are just an over-sized and exaggerated version of the rest of us. That’s why we’ve lost and that’s what we’ve lost.
The houses are pocket change.