I am an ex-patriot living and working in Belgium. I have traveled widely over the last 30 years and have lived in three countries besides my native America. I am presently the Director of an International Residence House. One of my students asked me the other day whether I consider myself “proud” to be an American.
I responded by saying that I love my country’s founding values, its natural beauty and so, so many people in it, but that I can no longer say that I am proud to be an American. Here are ten reasons why.
1. The War in Iraq was Illegal, unjust, and unnecessary.
I am not proud of the doctrine of “pre-emption” because I don’t think America should start wars needlessly, especially if they are based upon lies.
Our “leaders” chose to take our country into an illegal, unjust, and unnecessary war by hyping intelligence and scaring people into fearful submission. This war has now killed tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis and wounded tens of thousands more, while costing us nearly $300 billion dollars and making us far less safe and far more hated than we were before this debacle. The American people may not know the “real” reason for this radical policy, but here are some of the stated reasons:
“Saddam Hussein has WMD”; “Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator;” “Saddam Hussein had a role in 9/11;” “Saddam Hussein has ties to al-Qaeda;” “We want to bring democracy to the Middle East;” “We are going to fight the terrorists abroad so we don’t have to fight them at home;” “Iraq is the front-line of the War on Terror;” (and my personal favorite) “He tried to kill my daddy;”
And of course, there was the unstated reason, widely supposed, but rarely acknowledged: “They’ve got a lot of oil and gas in that region and we use a lot of it in America.”
2. America has acted as a rogue nation, even a pariah state, over the past five years, and I am not proud of our “my way or the highway” unilateralism.
If this were elementary school, this Administration would receive an “Unsatisfactory” grade for “Gets along well with others.”
Our current Administration has thumbed its collective nose at all forms of multilateralism and international cooperation, withdrawing from the land mine treaty, the Kyoto protocol, the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (so the warmongers will be free to design “mini-nukes”, “bunker busters” and the desire to control outer space), the World Court, many of the Geneva conventions against torture and prisoner abuse, and are one of two countries which have not signed the Rights of the Child document (the other being Somalia)! The U.S. has now committed many of the same acts for which the “war criminals” at Nuremburg were tried and convicted.
3. The country I love practices respect for human rights, and I am not proud of the fact that we have become a nation of torturers.
Our present rulers seem to find it perfectly acceptable to torture other human beings, hold people without charge or legal representation indefinitely, and is now accused of using chemical weapons (white phosphorus and a new form of napalm) against a country that was alleged to have WMD, but, in fact, did not. How ironic is it that the CIA uses abandoned Soviet Gulags and that we used the same chemical weapon on Iraqi civilians in Fallujah that Saddam used on the Kurds in 1991!
4. I am not proud of the reverse Robin Hood syndrome that has recently gripped our economy.
Our cyrrebt rulers have been recklessly looting our countries wealth and resources, stealing from the poor and giving the spoils to the rich. No “welfare queen” ever had it as good as these “pigs at the trough” who never met a tax cut for the rich or a pork project in their district that they didn’t love. The result has been the largest income redistribution in our history, revealing shameful poverty in the world’s richest nation, and budget deficits as far as the eye can see.
5. I am not proud of the movement toward plutocracy, and I’m even less proud of kleptocracy, as Paul Krugman and Jim Hightower have dubbed the present form of government.
America has become a country of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation, opening up the environment to the polluters, while cynically calling such initiatives “clear skies” and the like. It would seem that the country as a whole is (in the words of a famous bumper sticker) “spending our children’s inheritance!”
6. I am not proud of the way our Constitution and, in general, the rule of law have been undermined by the cabal in charge of America.
Our rulers place themselves above the law and above the Constitution, from which our other laws are derived. They also disregard international laws and pursue their private interests at the expense of both public goods and fundamental values, Examples range from the illegal war in Iraq, to the deceptively-named “USA Patriot Act” that assaults civil liberties, to the many scandals currently embroiling the likes of Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Michael Scanlon, Jack Abramoff, Kenneth Tomlinson, and so on. Oh, and how is former Enron CEO Ken Lay doing these days?
7. I am not proud of what has happened to America’s standing in the world.
Even our closest allies must keep at arm’s length from us, lest they be infected with the contagion of corruption. America has recently thumbed its collective nose at the rest of the world, acting as a global hegemon that tolerates no rivals, while carelessly disregarding the lessons to be learned from past Empires. Other countries and their peoples now regard the U.S. as a greater threat to world security, peace, and justice than either terrorism or the most brutal dictators on the planet.
8. I am not proud of the way our democracy has been undermined or hijacked.
From the role of money in the election process, to the voting scandals of 2000, 20004, and 2005, to the emergence of a one-party country, the corporate party comprised of two branches: Republican and Republican-lite. The U.S. is in real danger of losing its democracy, when we cannot even verify election results. We are fast becoming a democracy in name only. There is little left at present of the founders’ robust notion of democracy.
9. I am not proud of the way the separation between church and state has been eroded.
The separation of church and state is a fundamental principle of our Constitution and it is being eroded. Those in power use religion shamelessly to “turn out the base” over issues such as gay-marriage, abortion rights, physician-assisted suicide, Terri Schaivo, stem-cell research, and so on, but these same rulers display no moral principles in their own conduct and policies. They use religion and talk a lot about morality and/or values, but they exemplify none of it, as far as I can tell. “Ye shall know me by my works.”
10. I am not proud of the job the media have done in functioning as the fourth estate.
Do not forget that Thomas Jefferson famously said that if he had to choose between a free press without a government or a government without a free press, he would choose the former.
America no longer can boast of a high-quality, independent media, now that four corporations control all media, for whom profit is a greater concern than the truth or an informed electorate, and instead of being skeptical (or even critical) has come to act as the public address system for the Administration.
Please, somebody, call or write me when you find my America.