Once the (tarnished) beacon of peace and democracy, now just another global flamethrower, that is the nation to the south of us. America, land of the free indeed!
I have never been in a grand melee. I have never been in a violent clash or in an angry mob scene or part of an anti-war protest that got completely out of hand and the police had to come in and throw tear gas and swing batons and drag screaming dreadlocked dudes away by their hair.
But I do remember my time on the childhood playground, the fights between boys (and even the scarier girls), where two or more of the single-digiters would, for reasons most likely having to do with the opposite sex or turf or licorice whips, decide to throw down and take to kicking and punching and squealing, and suddenly everyone would rush over and gather round for the mad entertainment, everyone cheering and stomping and some of the bystanders even starting fights themselves, and you could see their blood rise and their demons come out as their own innate sense of violence and rage steamed out their ears like fetid smoke.
It is, verily, the common analogy for our USA-ravaged times. Violence, as we seem to forget in some sort of collective denial, begets violence. Intolerance breeds intolerance. And war begets war. It self-perpetuates, feeds on itself, sucking and teething on the blood and exploded limbs and the punctured hearts of the dead, growing in the soil of hate and ignorance and my-God-can-beat-up-your-God.
Go ahead, try it yourself. Launch a major war. Watch how the flies of death and rage and religious sanctimony swarm to your bloody hate pile in abject glee. Watch how every other war hawk/terrorist/dictator with a major bone to pick looks over at your nasty war and giggles like an American in a gun shop and jumps right in, how your enemies quickly join together in mutual recoil and take up arms in retaliation, how they all instigate or enflame their own battles in eager reflection of/deference to yours, as they feel that side of them that so desperately wants to find something, someone to hate, to beat down, to feel sanctimonious and righteous over, emerge like a pair of engorged horns from their head.
And then the real fun begins. Because then this latent hate turns back on them, right in their own "God-fearing" US of A. Then this dank feeling spreads like a disease, the culture shifts and coagulates and turns black to accommodate the new cancer, the taint seeps into the water supply, the collective flesh, the national mind-set. The national temper flares more easily, depression rates rise, self-medication becomes the national pastime. Laws become thick with paranoia and dread (the Patriot Act et al.), and everyone with any sense of history or spiritual love or pacifist leanings walks around looking like their dog just died.
Sound familiar? At this moment in American history, they are surrounded, infiltrated, soaked to the bone with warmongers and fear dealers and hate poppers. The GOP has been positively masterful in cultivating a culture of intolerance and disgust and Taliban-like fanaticism, instilling a brilliant kind of poisonous fear into middle 'Merka that equates pacisfists with terrorists and terrorists with the Middle East and the Middle East with the Devil and the Devil with liberals and liberals with, well, pacifists. Isn't that clever?
As it goes with America, so it goes with the world. You want to know why there were vicious riots and people dying across the world , from Iran to Pakistan, Libya to Nigeria, all in the name of a mediocre cartoon featuring Allah and a cute turban bomb? Why otherwise rational Muslims are protesting by the thousands from London to Cairo? Here's a hint: It had nothing to do with the cartoon. It had nothing to do with Muslims loathing Christianity, or even with the Islamic fundamentalists who teach their children to hate pretty much everyone (but especially America) from birth.
But it had a great deal to do with the world's foremost peace-keeping superpower becoming the world's foremost thug, turning into a self-righteous torture-happy God-monger and a grand perpetuator of war. It has much to do with the U.S.-led stoking of an already white-hot Middle East tinderbox via launching two brutal, unwinnable wars and fueling the fires of division and separation and rage. Once they were the great beacon of peace and diplomacy. But now the beacon has become bloody and malicious and hollow. It has become a brutal joke.
Are they to blame for all the eternal tension and raging religious hatreds in the Middle East? Of course not. Are they largely responsible for making them far, far worse than they were by deciding, under Bush's pampered thumb, to become the planet's sanctimonious hell-bent Jesus-crazed dick-slapper? Hell yes.
The USA, right now, is the biggest brute in the sandbox, taunting everyone to a fight and drawing the world more and more into theirr bilious screw-you, kill-'em-all attitude, even as they suffer cultural asthma and their national infrastructure crumbles and their hospitals fail and school systems collapse and American coffers are bled dry by the most corrupt and irresponsible corporations who care more for profits than people.
In short, the USA make it more OK for the rest of the world to rage, despoil, hate. They set the tone. They're not merely tormenting unfriendly nations, they're actively messing with them, rigging their political systems and steamrolling their beliefs. They are, by way of toxic foreign policy and a mad rush to war making the world a nastier place in which to live.
It's a far cry from even years ago, when America was flush and the economy was healthy and the general feeling was buzzingly positive and every channel and radio station and news headline didn't feature frothing religious bonk-jobs screaming about exposed nipples and evil homosexuals and the need for more media censorship.
Oh sure, the they demonized Jimmy Carter like no president in history. Funny thing was, their bank accounts were flush, too. The economic boom was on. The nation was at peace. There seemed to be far fewer dangerous, oppressive socioeconomic woes, militant media crackdowns, deflections, scandals, redirections, misprisions, outright lies. They enjoyed something resembling, dare I say, balance.
No more. Now, a complete reversal. Now, the USA is the world's unstable, drooling pit bull, lying and torturing and wiretapping their way to "victory." And no, their downturn is not the fault of Sept. 11. It is not the fault of terrorism. But it is almost directly a result of their reaction to terrorism, BushCo's leveraging of the most heartbreaking event in their recent history and turning it into a vile excuse to burn all bridges and turn our playground into a hostile war-thick free-for-all. And never mind that the attack itself was perpetuated by the actions of the Americans previous to that sad event!
It is far from over. They have, by many accounts, helped set the stage for a perfect storm of perpetual war and even more explosive hate. But until this dark cloud begins to lift, much of the world will only look to the USA the way a battered wife looks at her violently alcoholic husband. And haven't we had just about enough of that?