America Is Embarrassing Itself

By Michael Goodspeed
"The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It's over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam..."
--J.G. Ballard, British Author
"No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots."
--Barbara Ehrenreich
My date of birth is July 4, 1975. I once told this fact to an Army recruiter, and he replied that this was a sign from God that I was meant to serve in the U.S. military. I think that if God were to speak for Himself, he would differ with that assessment.
I feel no shame in admitting that I am not a "patriot." It makes no difference to me what country I was born and raised in, because my humanity is not defined by my nationality. My American "heritage" is as meaningless to me as the color of my skin. Why should I take "pride" in my place of birth and residence? Doing so implies that there is something undesirable about the rest of the world's citizens. And I have never looked at a "foreigner" and said to myself, "Thank God I am not like him or her."
I can't help but think that my attitude is currently frowned upon by a majority of U. S. citizens. For the last three years, nationalism has been relentlessly fomented by the U.S. news media, festering and metastasizing like the blackest cancer in our very souls. And no matter what one thinks of the validity of the '04 election results, the fact remains that a President whose defining characteristic is his stupidity is going to serve a second term in office. And if the election was stolen (which it almost certainly was), where is the outrage over the result? Unlike the Ukraine, where hordes of citizens have marched the freezing streets in protest of a fraudulent election, Americans seem as indifferent to their fate as placid cows awaiting slaughter.
With all of that stated, I repudiate the notion that I am "anti-American." I don't hate the United States or her citizens, and I would never deny the enormous benefits and privileges entailed by the American lifestyle. I am grateful that I have ever experienced hunger, abject poverty, disease, or torture. But my dispassionate view of my nationality enables me to honestly recognize the numerous and devastating problems endemic to my home country.
I don't the hate the U.S., but increasingly, I feel embarrassed by and for her. She has become the drunken friend at a party dancing naked on a table, and you want desperately to cover her nakedness and restore her dignity. You pity her, yet at the same time, she is pissing you off, and you're tempted to walk out the door and pretend not to know her.
I am embarrassed by the image America presents to the rest of the world. Thanks to 21st century media, nothing that happens here can be kept secret from the global community. Other nations catch a glimpse of our culture and our way of life, and God knows they must turn up their noses in disgust.
Over the past 3 years, anti-Americanism has ignited like a global conflagration. Many people blame this on the constant warfare waged by the Bush administration, but remember that Bush is not the first President to outrage the international community with his foreign policies and use of military might. The difference between America in 2004 and, say, the Vietnam era is that corruption in the Whitehouse is now both expected and TOLERATED. The world community knows that Americans are indifferent to the criminality of Bush Co., and hence, any last vestige of respect they felt towards our culture has been irretrievably lost.
We accept a criminal in the White House, because our values and priorities have been twisted beyond all repair. If there can be one defining word to describe the attitude of 21st century Americans, it would be "egocentric." Every cultural plague destroying this country stems from our neurotic and near-total involvement in ourselves. This should surprise no one, since the guiding principles of our economy are, "Every man for himself," and "Screw everyone but me," and "Win at all costs." These "values" are in display at the highest levels of corporate power, where CEOs happily pillage the life-savings of "worker bees" while simultaneously cheating on their taxes, so they can meet a repugnantly decadent and totally illusory "standard of living."
This neurotic self-involvement is reflected in our lifestyle choices, which generally range from gluttonous to hedonistic. The U.S. has by far the highest rate of obesity, with 55% of the population classified as overweight or obese. Paradoxically, we also have by far the highest incidence of the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia. Of course, this is to be expected in a country where media perpetuate the illusion that physical appearance defines a person's value.
An extreme result of egocentrism is sociopathy, so it is not surprising that America overwhelmingly leads the world in the production of sociopathic pathologies. Although the U.S. sports only 3% of the world's population, it has given birth to 76% of the world's serial killers. We also have the highest rate of childhood murder and suicide among the world's 26 wealthiest nations. You will never hear these facts on the Fox News channel or any other government mouthpiece designed to procure mindless nationalism.
These sociopathic "values" are presented in every form of American "entertainment," which has spread across the globe like the most virulent pandemic. Hollywood films, TV shows, music, and video games portray murder and mayhem as fun and even admirable behaviors. American "good guys" no longer need to be GOOD. Quentin Tarantino and the makers of Grand Theft Auto have made sure of that.
Let's not forget, the Americans most admired by the global community tend to be professional athletes. More children in third-world countries have heard of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods than George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And what does the world think when they see the Indiana Pacers' Ron Artest, a man whose salary exceeds many countries' national budgets, charging into the stands and swinging his fists at everyone who looks at him cockeyed?
This is a country where the people entrusted with protecting our safety, including our non-elected officials in the Food and Drug Administration, have sold us out for a fistful of coins and a pat on the head. It's a country where our government has deliberately dumbed our children down to make them more pliable and useful for God-knows what evil purpose. But again, where is the OUTRAGE? U.S. citizens are too busy going to the movies, watching sports, and planning their next Wal-Mart shopping spree to give a shit what their government is doing.
Of course, none of these facts are supposed to matter, because we live in THE FREEEST NATION IN THE WORLD, where the democratic process guarantees us personal choice. But when that process is subverted and irrevocably destroyed by our most trusted and powerful leaders, what real choice have we been left with?
And this is the "way of life" that we seek to impose on the rest of the world?
Do not underestimate the intelligence of the global community. They watch and learn and may even know more about us than we do of ourselves.
I am aware of the microscope my nation is under, and I am embarrassed. Aren't you?



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