"Why do you
hate America?" This is a remarkably easy question to provoke. One might,
for instance, expose elements of this nation's brutal foreign policy.
Ask a single
probing question about, say, U.S. complicity in the overthrow of governments in
Guatemala, Iran, or Chile and thin-skinned patriots [sic] will come out of the
woodwork to defend their country's honor by accusing you of being
"anti-American." Of course, this allegation might lead me to ponder
how totalitarian a culture this must be to even entertain such a concept, but
I'd rather employ the vaunted Arundhati defense. The incomparable Ms. Roy says:
"What does the term 'anti-American' mean? Does it mean you are anti-jazz
or that you're opposed to freedom of speech? That you don't delight in Toni
Morrison or John Updike? That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias?"
(I'm a tree hugger remember? I don't argue with sequoias.)
When pressed, I
sometimes reply: "I don't hate America. In fact, think it's one of the
best countries anyone ever stole." But, after the laughter dies down, I
have a confession to make: If by "America" they mean the
elected/appointed officials and the corporations that own them, well, I guess I
do hate that America-with justification.
Among many reasons,
I hate America for the near-extermination and subsequent oppression of its
indigenous population. I hate it for its role in the African slave trade and
for dropping atomic bombs on civilians. I hate its control of institutions like
the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade
Organization. I hate it for propping up brutal dictators like Suharto,
Pinochet, Duvalier, Hussein, Marcos, and the Shah of Iran. I hate America for
its unconditional support for Israel. I hate its bogus two-party system, its
one-size-fits-all culture, and its income gap. I could go on for pages but I'll
sum up with this: I hate America for being a hypocritical, white supremacist,
After a paragraph
like that, you know what comes next: If you hate America so much, why don't you
leave? Leave America? That would potentially put me on the other end of U.S.
foreign policy. No thanks.
I like how Paul
Robeson answered that question before the House Un-American Activities
Committee in 1956: "My father was a slave and my people died to build this
country, and I'm going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you.
And no fascist-minded people like you will drive me from it. Is that
Since none of my
people died to build anything, I rely instead on William Blum, who declares,
"I'm committed to fighting U.S. foreign policy, the greatest threat to
peace and happiness in the world, and being in the United States, the best
place for carrying out the battle. This is the belly of the beast, and I try to
be an ulcer inside of it."
Needless to say,
none of the above does a damn thing to placate the yellow ribbon crowd. It
seems what offends flag-wavers most is when someone like me makes use of the
freedom they claim to adore. According to their twisted logic, I am ungrateful
for my liberty if I have the audacity to exercise it. If I make the choice to
not salute the flag during the seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium, somehow
I'm not worthy of having the freedom to make the choice to not salute the flag
during the seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium. These so-called patriots
not only claim to celebrate freedom while refusing my right to exploit it, they
also ignore the social movements that fought for and won such freedoms.
There's plenty of
tolerated public outcry against the Bush administration and the occupation of
Iraq, but it's neither fashionable nor acceptable to go as far as saying, no, I
do not support the troops and yes, I hate what America does. Fear of
recrimination allows the status quo to control the terms of debate. Until we
voice what is in our hearts and have the nerve to admit what we hate . . . we
will never create something that can be loved.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.