When Fannie Lou Hamer of the Mississippi Freedom Democrats asked that question in 1964, she was a Black woman courageously trying to create justice in the "Whites Only" political world of the Democratic South. The rest of the world took one look at the racists running our country back then and knew the answer was no. "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave"? Cheese whiz. That was just some huckster's slogan used to sell canned apple pie. Always was, always will be. Or so some say (as if it justifies their apathy.)
But still the question comes: Is This America?
As they've killed America, they've hoped we wouldn't notice. They juggled bread and circuses to dazzle us. They told us every year we were getting better and shinier; and, vain fools that we are, we believed them. We fell for it time after time.
They've been killing it before our eyes all along. They sold us an ever diminishing fractionalized slice of the pre-reamed American Pie and an adjustable rate monthly lease on a gas hog Chevrolet with three recall notices, claiming our military, thick as locusts on a carcass, was merely scattered about the world as a global force for Freedom and Justice, as we either razed whole societies or rebuilt them in the image of our whores. Then we trained their dictators at our School of the Americas.
The media told us it was the Blacks and the Browns that were responsible for their crack epidemic and so we were right to hate and marginalize them. But they failed to mention it was the CIA who brought the stuff in, in the first place, to fund their covert war in Nicaragua, so they could also secretly sell weapons to our enemy Iran. They told us to fear the "gangsta" more than the bankster. Then sold us billions of dollars worth of bling and blather and wrapped it up in saggy pants. Then told us we were right to hate the Blacks because they didn't even know how to dress. They still wag the finger at the Blacks and Browns at all the drugs they supposedly use. Meanwhile the government openly does business with the world's number one opium producing family, Hamid and Ahmed Karzai, meanwhile both parties refuse to address the real source of Mexican drug violence - American demand for Mexican drugs and secret American sales of Mexican drug violence weaponry, also smuggled, but in the other direction.
To keep us from noticing how they bought and sold us, they told us we didn't have enough stuff so they would loan us bonus money to buy more of their bogus stuff. Then they sold off our jobs and told us we were the bad guys for wanting to have more stuff than we could afford. They told us watching Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton, Tara Reid, O. J. Simpson, Liz Taylor, Errol Flynn, etc. self-immolate was more important than joining a cause to stop the rich from raping the workers in Wisconsin, in Idaho, in Indiana, in India, in Indonesia, in search of profit. They told us only they knew how to make us happy and we would only be happy if we let them do as they please with our meaning their economy, without our interfering "legal protections"-- that then they could get so much more accomplished for us, and then we could focus on our true happiness: ourselves. Of course, that kind of happiness could only be purchased if we could just consume more, indulge ourselves more, insist on our inadequacies, obsess on them without actually fixing them. And those kind of comforts could only be purchased at cut-rate prices with someone's sweatshop labor; but we told ourselves we didn't know, as if that justified the fact we didn't care and thus inflicted our own self conflicted wound, again and again and again.
AND, in the due course of human events, they have killed America and we've all helped. Like the dreaded "silent but deadly" cloud of noxious fumes that wordlessly wafts its way through the pews at the Easter Sunday service, we all knew the stink of the rotting of America was rising, but tried not to speak of it. Ignore it and it may go away. But the only way this particular stench is going, is towards getting worse.
You know that famous chart of the hallmarks of fascism by Lawrence Britt? It's this 14 point list of societal traits to determine if your country is headed the way of an Orwellian dystopia except with better TVs and more flavors of Victory Gin. Britt's chart has been around since 2003, been widely republished. It scared Naomi Wolf so much she went and wrote a full length book and even did a cross country series of speeches about it with the End of America Tour in 2007.
The list is Britt's compendium of uniformly defining traits of dictatorships and fascism regimes around the world. If you've ever seen it, you should give it another look. If you've never seen it, you should read it now. Here you go:
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism, 2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights, 3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause, 4. Supremacy of the Military, 5. Rampant Sexism, 6. Controlled Mass Media, 7. Obsession with National Security, 8. Religion and Government are Intertwined, 9. Corporate Power is Protected, 10. Labor Power is Suppressed, 11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts, 12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment, 13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption, 14. Fraudulent Elections.
I hope he's wrong. I sure would like that, but that list looks a lot like the America i see. Even if your vista's not that dark, we all know America is not what it used to be, or what it's supposed to be. I, for one, am afraid of what we are about to become. One thing i know is, this is not America anymore. They've sold it off piece by piece and lie by lie.
AND, in the last ten years, as we've become more brainless thanks to their "Improved De-Education Program"; and weaker, thanks to their "Medical Freedom" efforts; and poorer, thanks to their "Bail-Out for America!" program, as they've persuaded Americans to give up their homes, their children's education and their own opportunities to earn a reasonable wage so the rich could keep more of their capital gains. In the midst of all these crises around the world, CNN recently took the time to do a life style piece about the bumper crop of millionaires America has been growing, now nearly three percent of the population, over eight million people, among the three hundred and eleven million of us are millionaires. And as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the pace of the lies picks up speed. Our will to fight back is eroding. Once upon a time they sold us a losing president and dared us not to call them on it. And no, history students, i am not referring to Jefferson, JQ Adams, Hayes, Truman or Kennedy. You know this story: "sold us the losing president and dared us not to call them on it." Come on, it's Bush.
In 2000, millions of Americans actually did exactly that: called Bush on his election fraud and got told to stuff it by the Supreme Court's five/four split, meanwhile Republicans saw it as a mandate to foul the country up the way they've always wanted; and, as usual, the Dems rolled over and pretended not to notice. At times a majority of Americans believed that George W. Bush was not the legitimate. On Network TV Jeff Toobin himself declared recounts showed he wasn't. The government didn't act on their citizens complaints. They had some money to make and went about their business.
For awhile those millions protested. And Bush slid in the polls. Then, presto-change-o, 9/11 blew up and we turned the other way. Perhaps that was the moment. Instead of asking about Enron, pressing for recounts or wondering where the two point three trillion dollars disappeared to at the DOD on the eve of 9/11, we worried that the Patriot Act was not strong enough to take away enough of the terrorists' rights for the rest of us to sleep safe at night. Ten years gone on by; America's no safer, and whom, pray tell, qualifies as terrorist in America these days? The same old same old, Brown people and Black people, the same old poor, the same old immigrants still yearning to breathe free of the stench of the crap that gets spewed about them, while the boardrooms of America screw millions.
The next big theft came in '03 when a decorated U.S. Marine and the entire United Nations stood on international TV to tell a bellicose Bushco there were no weapons of mass destruction. Over twenty-five million people protested in cities around world on the same day at the same time, to send a message that everyone on the planet heard, but we Americans. Bush said there were WMDs ... 945 times, in fact, in media statements in that 2 year period that included the run-up and first year of the Iraq War, according to FAIR. They lied, the press gobbled it up, we followed like good little soldiers and, even though we had clearly been told it was unnecessary, even though we insisted we just were there to be a friend to Iraq and just after the one man, Hussein in that case, we murdered millions anyway, squirreled billions away, decimated nations in a matter of days, and desecrated whole cultures several ways, without so much as an "Oops sorry," we ran roughshod over others' economies and civil rights world round, then wondered why they hate us for our freedom.
And so, we let another lie go by, and it brought us further down. And the momentum started to grow.
In 2006 the Dems took a break from their otherwise consistent ineptitude and somehow successfully campaigned that they would save the world from the evil Bush, and, upon election, immediately took impeachment off the table. Then they continued to cooperate with his agenda, and wonder why Americans don't trust them. Then once again when he was out of office and totally prosecutable there was no accounting for the mayhem Bush's mischief created, neither by his fellow GOP, if there had happened to be any of them left with any sort of principle, nor by the Dems, who never claimed to burden themselves with such things anyway. So, we let them get away with it again. But in 2008, when Obama claimed to be "Change in a Bucket," we leapt after that pie in the sky and he spit in our eye and he turned out to continue to be more of the same status quo.
Stop me if you've heard this one: Republican president with questionable re-election prospects. No, i don't mean McKinley, though good guess. Not Bush I or Bush II. Come on, Republican president. You know it's Obama. Think Obama's not a Republican? Tax cuts for the rich, cuts social services, leaves public to be evicted, won't prosecute Bush. Sounds Republican to me. Oh wait, that isn't that funny is it?
And the lies just kept coming. When Bush first said, "We have to give banks trillions," America screamed no. It was amazing. It seems like we still cared enough to care. But the next day the banksters and their Congressmen friends went on with their business anyway, and passed their own law for their own selves, took our trillions, and again we let them get away with it. And then in 2009 they ramped up the fraudulent eviction machine, using our taxpayer money to do and to award themselves more bonuses because of all the business they were doing. We could have still complained about it then. But by that point we didn't know how. By this point Americans were a little sickened and a little weakened from fighting the machine. They say, and on pretty good authority, that crime continues to go down. Not wanting to be one who champions criminality, but i'd say that trend correlates with our crumbling will to live.
What sparks of life that may be left in us, they are already working on crushing or controlling. In Missouri they're eliminating child labor laws. In Minnesota, they're making it illegal for poor people to have cash. In Nebraska, they're making it legal to kill a doctor if you suspect he might do an abortion on a member of your family. And in New York, known IRA collaborator Peter King is trying to declare a certain religion an un-American activity. Some schools are proposing cutting history, the GOP is cutting PBS & NPR because they call them on their BS BS. The public does not need their health or education, the public doesn't need art or intelligence nearly as much as the rich need their tax cuts. Meanwhile, Democrats are now such surrender-monkeys the French make jokes about them.
Like Andrei Cherny, here in AZ, at a time when Dems need to be as cunning and united as ever, turns out he's conspiring to destroy his own party from within by cutting the funding and central office support for county offices, the offices that most need party support because they're fighting the longest odds. Cherny may be running on a Democrat name, but his GOP style top down organization and slashing of budgets makes one wonder. Sucking dry funding for the 15-county plan he campaigned on to fill the coffers of the "Kingdom of Maricopa," Cherny's plan to hold back this year's funds for next year's election cycle will probably atrophy the party to the point there won't be a county level apparatus left to spend the money later.
Is this America? Is this what we're left with?
Do understand, i'm not saying that long ago and far away, there actually was once some bright shining believe-in-able America. Actually i expect that all along the term has simply served as a red meat label slapped on a can of churning worms. I don't know what actually was, or if that kind of America ever was, but if it once was, it's not now. We do not live in that America anymore.
So, if we are no longer "America," which emblem are we now?
Not Japan. Yes, the world is shifting under our feet with a force we've never known, and the blowback of our domestic and foreign disasters are washing us away. America's facing grave disasters (even Time Magazine has a cover story on our coming collapse), but we are no Japan, even though their radiation is now lighting up our west coast in this latest incident of private industrial pollution imperiling the lives of billions and endangering whole oceans of ecosystems. Massey Coalmine disaster, BP, now this; we're like a junkie getting messy with his drugs. As we brace ourselves for our own impending disasters, we only wish we were as well off a society as Japan was. They had a government that has built its infrastructure, and a belief that society exists to be respectful to each other - to act civilly, respectfully in times of crisis. But they were also somewhat like America, their society and its marketing machine gleamed with the latest consumer trifle, repeatedly their top political officials went down in scandal and, as an economy, they're engaged in capitalist questing has led to some imperiling behaviors. Also, you can't trust the corporate directed media or the corporate owned politicians who refuse to deliver facts, without airbrushing or mislaying them first.
Perhaps we are about to become Yugoslavia - hyper-inflated, balkanized, with the prospect of ethnic cleansing as the Tea Party platform of the GOP returns our republic to a Confederacy of Dunces. Remember that right up there with the whole "no taxes" thing, another top Tea Party slogan goes, "Buy your bullets now." Are we to be Burma, Nigeria, Congo, Russia? Oh wait, we are already run by gangsters. In that same Time article we learned once more as a nation we have dropped from 1st in 2006 to 10th in 2010 and that's just on the prosperity chart. On life expectancy, education and medical care we are farther down the scale devolving into a futile set of states as feudal as they get, where 400 families control more than one hundred and fifty eight million of the rest of us combined. We've had a trade deficit for over a decade and our number one export is weapons and number three is our garbage. No matter what our leaders say about exporting democracy, if the rights to it can't be purchased away by multinationals, America's not buying it. Perhaps Yugoslavia, perhaps Weimar Republic.
Are we more like Egypt where the kleptocrats abscond with billions as the state run media mischaracterize the situation to the point of laugh-ability? Where they blame Muslim extremists and outside agitators for the fact that the government's own corruption is bringing it down. Where rightwing thugs beat protestors. But where in the end, the dictator falls. Bush and Obama aren't the same dictator, but they work for the same people, the billionaires who make it by taking pennies a piece for the miseries they make. Are we to resist? Is there still room for that? If hundreds of thousands of us gathered in protest, if we swelled like a sea around our leaders, would we have our "Arab Spring," or body bags.
Are we Libya yet? Does the dictator kill us all to further itself, to destroy our village to save its territory? Does the media lie to us endlessly. Does our Nobel Prize winning president have the audacity to explain the justness of his actions as he sends new soldiers to destroy the children of new nations.
Is this America?
Are we Libya, yet?
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.