8, 2004 ... I have now changed my opinion on this matter and
will update this essay in the near future.]
The Difference Between America and Americans
By Lawrence Hagerty, October 18, 2001
Although this seems almost too obvious
to point out, there are significant differences between the
government of the United States, informally called “America,”
and the people it purports to represent, “Americans.”
As individuals, Americans are generally
well-liked, at least that is what most of them report aftertravelling
to other countries. With the occasional exception of an obnoxious
tourist or businessman, Americans do a good job of representing
the values we hold dear. Yet it often seems that the leaders
of our republic go to great lengths to contradict our most
cherished beliefs, for example:
- Americans believe in democracy and the value of majority
rule. Yet America props up tyrants the world over in its
quest for cheap oil.
- Americans disdain violence and support the rule of law.
Yet America refuses to accede to orders of the World Court
or to follow U.N. resolutions it doesn’t support.
- Americans believe in helping the weak and less advantaged.
Yet America is now striking out like a terrified, blind
giant against the hapless people of Afghanistan who have
taken no part in attacking our shores.
- Americans want no holy war against Islam. Yet America
has surely set its sights, intentionally or not, on provoking
such a war. The leader of America is calling it “the first
war of the 21st century.” Most thoughtful Americans
hold that there should be no wars whatsoever in this century.
This list of differences between America
and Americans grows longer with each passing day. Some say
this is the reality of life, it has always been this way.
Perhaps that is so, but if September 11th taught us anything
at all, it has taught us that we must change the way we think
if we are to survive as a nation. In particular, we must change
the way we think about the state-sponsored violence that is
called war. In recent weeks, the American soul has been hijacked
by America’s leaders into believing that launching million
dollar missiles at ten dollar tents is an intelligent move.
Before the murderous criminal attacks of September 11th, America
boasted of its elite Special Forces and highly trained Seal
teams. Why were they not sent to capture the criminals who
massacred thousands of innocents on September 11th? Why instead
does America insist on sacrificing thousands, perhaps even
millions, of innocent lives through full-scale war and the
mass starvation that is surely to follow? What is wrong with
America, and why are Americans going along with the misguided
policies of its rulers?
Even school children realize that for
every bin Laden we kill a hundred more will spring up in his
place. Terrorism will never be eliminated by more terror.
Children in the United States are now living with the terror
of possibly contracting a deadly disease, and children in
Afghanistan live with the terror brought about when the ground
shakes as a stray bomb falls on a nearby Red Cross food warehouse.
If our species has any hope at all of surviving, we must bring
an end to these ongoing cycles of violence. And we must do
so very soon!
There are solutions to the complex problems
we have created, but these solutions will require both hard
work and personal sacrifice on the part of all Americans.
Some of these sacrifices must come in changing the way we
live our lives at the expense of the less fortunate. Undoubtedly,
Americans enjoy lives enhanced by inexpensive gasoline, shoes,
and clothing. But these items are inexpensive only because
we are paying significantly less for them than their true
cost. What is not being added to the prices we pay is a fair
wage for a worker’s labor and the cost of repairing the environmental
damage caused by unsustainable production methods. Who cannot
understand the anger of a Muslim in Indonesia who labors for
only one dollar a day, sometimes being forced to work a 36
hour shift, making shoes and clothing for well-to-do Americans?
You would be resentful yourself if placed in that situation.
If we are to live up to the standards of fairness and justice
in which we believe, we must find better ways to distribute
the wealth that is now concentrated in the hands of so few.
America, thus far, has not been willing to work on this problem.
Only time will tell whether or not Americans have the courage
to make the changes in their life-styles that must obviously
be made if we are to build a better world.
The most important task for Americans
at this moment, however, is to regain control of America before
it completely engulfs the world in war. Although Americans
firmly believe in the theory of democracy, the majority of
us no longer care enough about our country to even cast a
vote. In the last U.S. presidential elections, less than one-half
of the eligible voters participated. And of those who did
vote, less than half of them voted in favor of the men who
are in power today. Yet the fact of the situation is that
the main characters who are leading us into an open-ended,
world-wide war are the same ones who organized the Gulf War.
The Bush family, of course, is now represented by a son, but
Cheney and Powell are still there. It has been ten years since
America began its war on the Middle East, and today the same
men are still calling the shots.
The work all Americans must now undertake
is to quickly restore democracy to America, for a moment of
truth is bearing down upon this nation like an out of control
freight train. I am speaking of the national elections in
2002 and 2004. Out of the entire U.S. Congress there was only
a single dissenting vote cast against our unilateral attack
on Afghanistan. Only one person in over five hundred, Representative
Barbara Lee of California, had the courage to call for an
end to the cycles of violence that threaten to destroy much
of civilization. She is the only person we should vote to
return to the next Congress.
If Americans are to have any hope of
regaining control of America, we must begin with a clean slate
in Washington. The time to organize is now. All of the incumbents
but one should be voted out of office, for they have surrendered
their responsibilities to a ruling clique that does not faithfully
represent the majority of Americans. We should send a loud
and clear message to the world that this warlike persona of
America is not our true nature. And we can do this by seeing
to it that the men and women now holding positions of power
in Washington are removed from office by an overwhelming majority
of the popular vote. There is no doubt that such a move would
cause a momentous realigning of the policies of America with
the will of the American people. Let us begin our work today,
for there is no time left to waste.
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