I Love My Country — And I’m Not Leaving
Ask any gardener what a weed is, and you will get a simple explanation. It’s anything growing where it isn’t wanted. The finest Kentucky bluegrass is a weed if it sprouts in a Zen rock garden. If it doesn’t fit your needs at the moment, you destroy it.
Ask people what a terrorist is, and depending on who you ask, you will find that a lot of people think of them like weeds • but instead of existing where don’t want them, they are doing things we don’t like. Osama bin Laden and his Islamic buddies are currently the largest weeds in the world, according to most. Back in 1979, however, they were roses, since they were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Remember Saddam Hussein? He was our rose of the week as long as he kept Iran busy and we got our oil. Once that situation eased and he marched into Kuwait, he was suddenly the most evil man since Hitler. Ah, how things change.
The events of September 11th were a sobering dash of ice water in the face of America. For the first time in our nation’s history, we were attacked at home, in the continental United States. Our shock and grief quickly turned to rage, and in a matter of hours, all eyes turned to the Middle East, and demanded justice. That fundamentalists in the Middle East were responsible for the attacks, there is no doubt. Was bin Laden in charge? We may never know. Terrorist cells operate independently, and they don’t keep a lot of notes. (Read the excellent Bin Laden, The Man Who Declared War On America by Yossef Bodansky to learn how such groups operate, and more importantly, why they do what they do.) Suddenly, we had a war on terrorism. America’s rage and grief could be focused, harnessed, and aimed at a foe. Our president made it easy to define who we were fighting. “Either you are with us, or against us.”
Well, George, count me on the other side. I love my country, but I just as deeply and intelligently hate my government. Its actions have my family and I at risk, have robbed my money at the point of a gun to pay for policies that no sane man would agree with, and have repeatedly lied to me • or not told me at all, better yet • about its actions. I did not react as many did to the images of the towers in flames. I did not ask “why?”. My thought was “What took so long?” Is this treasonous? No. Does it mean I think the attacks were justified? No. Does it mean I back Islamic fundamentalists? No. I feel they are among the most backward, regressive groups of people to walk the planet. Their treatment of women alone negates what little respect I have for their religious beliefs.
But I was not surprised at the attacks. Unlike many in this country • and you can most likely find an example of such a person if you knock on the window of any American flag bedecked minivan • I have actually read about the world outside of America, and haven’t depended on Peter Jennings or USA Today for my information. I was enraged about the Taliban before September 11th • they got my goat when they destroyed the Buddhist shrines and statues months ago. I knew, for example, that the continuing presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia • which, make no doubt, was our primary reason for the “Gulf War” • is one of the two major bones of contention that the people of the Middle East hold against us. The other is our backing of Israel. I personally don’t have opinions about the validity of either Israel or Palestine, other than the knowledge that Israel, by anyone’s definition, is a terrorist country. I don’t feel my money should go to backing such a country, but hey, we don’t get to vote on such things. To those of you who still ask “why?” or have written off the fundamentalists as stupid, Allah-crazed fanatics, and feel that the attacks were random and unprovoked acts of violence, then my thought for you this Thanksgiving season is this: Your coffee is ready. Get up and smell it.
America’s wars are generally fought with the slogan “Protecting our way of life” firmly attached to them. Are the following accurate examples of “the American way of life”?
• Thousands of people who “within minutes” of the attacks made congratulatory phone calls are detained. Just how did the FBI know what was said on a telephone moments after the first plane hit? By intercepting the calls, one would guess. Of course, if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then what do you have to fear?
• By cutting off one of the few existing pathways of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, we are by many experts opinions starving up to a million or more people. That, for you loyal Americans playing at home, is genocide. It’s not the first time we’ve done it, either.
•The justice department’s “Anti-Terrorism” act allows the expansion of the software program Carnivore. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a program that scans e-mail looking for certain words or phrases -• such as, I imagine, “jihad” or “bin Laden.” The Justice Department now wants to track people’s Web surfing habits. Again, if you aren’t doing anything wrong • and if you don’t write anything in an e-mail that you wouldn’t mind having read aloud in a public place, or having your visits to “penthousemag.com” tracked in a file somewhere • then you have nothing to worry about.
In this time of war and national hysteria, what is there to be thankful for? I’m thankful for the few freedoms I seemingly have left, such as the ability to write and publish a piece like this. I’m thankful that for the time being, I can still point my Web browser at such places as www.znet.com, and find a bit more information about my world than is spoon-fed to me by a government that seemingly wants to harness my access to information. I am thankful for people such as Noam Chomsky who speak with elocution and facts about the world today, for brave people such as Representative Barbara Lee from California, the only Congressperson to vote against the use of force in Afghanistan. I am thankful that there is only one John Ashcroft, George W. Bush, or Tony Blair, although I realize that they are merely shadow figures, controlled by the puppet masters behind the scenes. I am thankful that at least for now we don’t have a draft, so I don’t have to visit my son in jail. I am thankful for the heroic actions of New York’s police and firemen, who responded to the attack as you were sure inhabitants of the greatest city on Earth would.
Finally, I am thankful to have a country such as this to love. I love our music, our small towns, our freedom of • and from • religion. I am thankful of the sacrifices that others have made, so that I can live free, people such as Thomas Jefferson and Rosa Parks. I love my country, and exercising my freedom to think and say what I wish doesn’t make me a traitor. It makes me an American. And anyone who doesn’t believe that, and doesn’t support my right to do so, I have one statement for you. You’ve heard it a lot recently.
You don’t like my freedoms? Then get the hell out of my country.