Thinking Out Loud
By Sara Bokker
Two and a half years ago, as I sat in my international relations class at the local university, it hit me. It was as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I couldn't breathe. The room was spinning. "I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all." It echoed strangely, as if from another life, as everything I was learning in my new journey taught me of a country built upon greed, racism, hate, corruption, and a "God in the eyes of the beholder" kind of God. I took a crispy green dollar out of my pocket and stared sadly at "One Nation Under God," an empty claim of a society that preaches market economy and material prosperity as the only "God."
Everything I had been taught in elementary, high school, and even college, was merely some craftily created propaganda plan of those in power who want the people of this country to see things their way. And I have to give them credit - they have been and continue to be enormously successful at deceiving the masses with their calculated strategy of nicely-packaged, finely-marketed "patriotism."
What was it, exactly, that had triggered my "awakening?" Our professor had instructed us to read "Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy" by Michael Hunt. An analysis of the words of our founding fathers and ideological bases for the rise of "America," Hunt's book presents the reality of the history of America. From the "horses' mouths," it describes "One Nation Under God" as professed by the "founding fathers." The quotes I read from presidents I had admired sounded so "thuggish," a dialogue from a virtual KKK screenplay. A country built on the ideology of racism? Not my country. Right? Could it be possible?
As a researcher, it was my obligation to investigate rather than blindly accepting what I had read, so I did. And after some digging, I did, indeed, verify the quotes of those "great men." I was grief-stricken to learn this country - my country - rose to power through greed, racism, oppression, arrogance and egocentricity - none of which are admirable traits in the eyes of any compassionate human being. How could such monsters found anything but racism, bigotry and hatred, let alone a country?
How did this happen? How could I have been so deceived? By no means had I been some ultra-patriotic citizen. I had no interest in politics and had never voted. I did, however, have some sort of admiration for our "founding fathers" and the "home of the brave," as do most good, average citizens of this country.
But what had caused my apathy and what had caused our apathy as American citizens as a whole?
After some serious soul-searching and an analysis of my past experiences and behavior, it became clear to me that I had been dumbed down and taken in by the glitter and glitz of Hollywood and the mind-numbing intoxicant called television. I had been raised and nurtured apathetic by society, and I could logically assume that this may be true for others in our country.
But whose fault was it? My parents' for not exposing me to other cultures? Society's for perpetrating such a vicious crime? Or mine for lazily expecting the truth to knock on my door?
As I delved deeper into the history of American Foreign Policy, I became even more horrified, as I am sure every good American would if he or she were to know the truth. I abhor the fact that we, as a nation, imposed and continue to impose its imperialistic rule on other nations in blind pursuit of power and profit, and in the process rape the lands and culture of others (all in the name of liberty and freedom??) What a paradox: "We will make you free." Free of what? Free of tradition, culture, independence, and even life? That does not sound like liberty to me. Our leaders want everyone to be good "America Puppets." The "help" is only another excuse to dominate.
And who is America to bring "democracy" to others? Let's be honest. People in this country are not equal. Our votes don't count. And with the electronic voting system rigged, they won't count no matter what. Freedom? Liberty? Justice? If you've got enough money. America is a tyranny cleverly disguised as a democracy, which keeps us distracted with shiny objects, plastic surgery and 30-year mortgages. And now we have our daily dose of "terrorism," generated by our "trusted leaders," and delivered by their servants, the media.
And what about those who die every day as a result of our foreign policy? My heart breaks for the atrocities my country has and is committing. What about the children who die of Malaria because the American drug companies are concerned about the "bottom line"? What about the hundreds of thousands of Japanese who died when we "nuked" them? What about the people who die every day of starvation while we pay Jenny Craig to help us lose weight? What about the people who are brutally murdered with the weapons we supply to those who are oppressing them? I'm sure that if my son were blown to pieces by an American-made missile one night while he was sleeping soundly in his bed, I, too, would hate America. I'm sure that if my house were bulldozed by an American-made bulldozer paid for with American tax dollars, I, too, would hate America. You'd better believe that we are responsible for it all and we will be held responsible.
Yes, I am bitter. The ideology of American foreign policy goes against the values that I and every compassionate human being believe in: justice, equality, peace. Yet many "patriotic Americans," without questioning what it really means, fill every available inch of space on their SUVs with "God Bless America," and "Proud to be American" stickers, red, white and blue tattered squares of fabric clinging proudly to every window. Proud? The shame is overwhelming.
That being said, things must change. We, as conscious human beings must work toward a new ideology. As we have seen in the past, powerful nations who continue to conquer and colonialize in pursuit of greater material gains and in the exploitation of "others," burn themselves to destruction. If America continues on this path of material pursuits and egocentricity, there is only one potential end result: self-destruction - and it will happen if we don't change our evil ways.
Yes, I will have to admit that at this point things appear to be nearly hopeless. Hundreds of thousands of us protested against the war in Iraq and it didn't change anything. Thousands continue to protest against U.S. Global Colonialization, so-called "globalization, or "free trade" to blind eyes and deaf ears. There is evidence that the Bush Administration lied about WMDs, about the link between Iraq and 9-11, and the list goes on and on. I cry at the deception and the blind faith the good people have, but I am sure if they knew what I know, they would speak out too.
I just know in my heart that if the people of this country knew the truth about the crimes our leaders, past and present, have committed and are committing they, too, would stand up, and join together to demand a change. Right? Any conscious individual with a knack for simple logical analysis, otherwise known as common sense, can see that Bush's claim of others "hating our freedom" is a lie. What they hate is the brutal oppression and destruction our leaders carry out and support all across the globe. And this administration has quickly escalated hatred for our country to a level never-yet experienced throughout history, a hatred for which we shall see the fruits of if we don't act soon.
I'll admit that it's not a good feeling to find out everything you've believed in your entire life is a lie. I remember how disappointed and betrayed I felt when I found out, at the age of four, there wasn't really a Santa Clause. Only four years of my life with a lie, and disappointment was overwhelming, but I knew, somehow, it was OK, because it was something I had to go through in order to become a "grown up." I was not a child anymore, limited to childhood fantasies, but on my way to becoming an adult. Holding onto the belief in Santa Clause would render me a child forever, one refusing to grow up and take responsibility.
It's time Americans grow up. It's much easier to continue in the comfortable land of fantasy, pretending everything is OK and not allowing any new information to burst that bubble, but as human beings, we have an obligation to our brothers and sisters of the world to search for the truth, no matter how painful, and when we find it, point out that which is wrong and make it right.
Turn off the television. Read. Learn. Talk. We must continue to awaken others, before it's too late.
This article was written in Summer, 2003. Sara Rae Bokker is a published columnist, U.S. Foreign Policy Fellow Researcher at the "Center for Strategic Thinking," Southeast U.S. regional anti-war/human rights coordinator, and publishing editor of the "Shock and Awe Photo Gallery" First edition of the "Shock and Awe Photo Gallery Show" is now available on CD and online.
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