September 12, 2003
What Have You Done With My Country?
I feel like a stranger now. I cannot seem to find my America. She was here just a few years ago. When the towers fell at Ground Zero you dug a great hole in the ground. I know; I was there and saw it. Who decided to bury the United States of America in that pit?
My America stood for something. She was the champion of freedom and the foe of repression; she cherished her friends and treated them with respect. She had grown beyond imperialism and tried to make amends for her misspent youth. She groped toward true emancipation. She stumbled toward equal status for women, and for gays. She let Native-Americans build casinos (but only on the reservation of course). She apologized to the Japanese-Americans for the shameful war hysteria that had interned them. She widened some doorways so the disabled might come in. The promise was not yet fulfilled, but we moved in that direction.
Now, but a few years later, we move away. The fanatics and extremists who brought the towers down have not done this to us. We have done to ourselves what they could never do. We have started to remake America in their image.
A German Navy ship encountered one of our own on the high seas just after 9-11. As tradition requires, the naval warships of sovereign states exchanged honors. I have the picture that an old friend of mine sent me. On the German ship, above their national ensign where no other flag should fly, we see the Stars & Stripes. The crew mans the rails in further tribute, and holds a sign that reads "We Stand by You." Suffice it to say for those of you who have never sailed into harms way with our flag unfurled above, that photo brought a lump to my throat. Less than two years later that same friendly nation cannot bear to stand beside us in Iraq.
George Orwell would nod knowingly. We now have "The USA Patriot Act" which contains myriad new powers enabling one American Patriot to spy on another American Patriot. If this be not Newspeak, than I know not what is. We round up foreigners and citizens alike and hold them indefinitely, uncharged, like the totalitarian states do. Where did the presumption of innocence go? Anti-Semitic and Anti-Muslim incidents are on the rise both here and abroad. The President appears on National TV to crow about the successful assassination of two sons of a foreign head of a state that we invaded when that state had not drawn sword against us. Have I fallen through some hidden portal into a parallel universe where my country is the aggressor and those of our choosing are but victims? Can we find our way home again?
One lesson we should have learned from the previous century. We must speak out against these evils at the first sign of them. If we wait until they are issuing black high-top boots and arm bands with strange symbols on them to the recruits at the FBI Academy, it may be too late. Wipe that smug smile off your face, WASP, the knock will eventually come on your door in the middle of the night. I (Juden) will be long gone.
I am lost, or is it my country that is lost? How profits a great nation if it should conquer the world, and in the process lose its soul?
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