December 11-13, 2004
Thank God for the weekend, one moment of respite, an island amid the turbulent chaos of the "real" world.
Between late October and early December I had the great fortune/odd fate of traveling through New England, to Uganda, China, Canada, and Florida before returning to the northeast USmegalopolis. The journey produced a randomized phantasmagoria of impressions, and created a unique perspective.
The period included that unique historical cleavage point -- Election Day, a shot that has not yet died away, the effect of which is yet to be seen. As horrendous as the last four years have been for the condition of America, I fear much worse is to come. This recent event was not just another election, if it can be called an election at all. It ushers in a new period in history, a change of even greater magnitude than the arrested election of 2000 and the undefended attack on New York in 2001. These are hard realities to assimilate, but better to be forewarned than standing dumbfounded as the new world unfolds.
In all that swirl of seemingly unrelated events, certain themes came through consistently and resonantly. The US is now hurtling downward at a dizzying rate. The regime has pushed this country to the brink of catastrophe, and the people of the US stand now in the deceptive calm before a great storm. I hate to predict catastrophe, hate to contemplate it. But I can't help but fear it. The course of events is not likely to jump completely off its present course in the immediate future. It will require a huge impact to do that.
It's even possible that this nightmare might soon be over and Americans will see the white picket fences of good old America return, but it doesn't seem likely at the moment. Americans could probably have white picket fences again if it wanted to, but the world of even four years ago is gone forever. As the world marches boldly into the 21st century, the US is falling backwards toward the feudal world. Lost in its own little bubble of distorted and manipulated consciousness, the US is ever more isolated, and is being outpaced, left behind by the rest of the world.
It's nice to think the US' position as a world leader is assured, but it is not at all. At the moment it seems perilously fragile. Countless great empires and civilization have fallen before. The United States is not likely to be the first eternal one. Actions have consequences. In the 20th century, many democratic countries were taken over by dictatorships. America is not immune.
Corrupt autocratic regimes, of which we have seen so many in the 20th century, ravage their countries, disrupt human progress. This is happening in the US at an alarming rate. And Americans sit dumbly watching it happen. The Bushcorp regime is undermining the country economically, politically, morally. During the festival of robbery by the in crowd, the country is the economic and political foundations of the nation's strength are being undermined with alarming speed.
There are many examples of liberal democratic societies falling under the control of autocratic regimes, many of those with the help of the American business elite. But average Americans know little of this. They are the last to know even about what is happening in their own country.
I watch in amazement at the effectiveness with which the US corporate media propaganda system keeps the American people clueless. If its consequences weren't so horrifying, it would be funny.
Without malice, I can't help but see the US now as a decadent society, fattened and made lazy over generations, untempered by war within its own borders, unaware of the rest of the world. And unfortunately heading for a big fall.
This message was telegraphed to me through many disparate events in highly contrasted settings during my recent travels.
A man from the Phillipines whom I met in China mused to me, "You know, Marcos ruined our country. I was educated by the Jesuits at a catholic school and one of the priests once told me it would take generations to undo the damage Marcos was creating. At the time I thought it was exaggerated. But now I think he was right."
An American expatriate who lives in Costa Rica told me that while Americans still constitute the largest segment of the tourism market in Costa Rica, the European segment is growing much faster. "There are now direct flights from Europe. They don't have to stop in the US any more."
Cutting the US out of the itinerary was like cutting blockage out of a plumbing line; it opened the flow for Europeans who streamed to Central Americans in increasing numbers. "They don't want to go the the United States," the expatriate told me. I asked if they didn't want to go because it just took more time. She replied, "They don't want to go there. They don't like us, my friend."
A Polish man to my left said that trying to get into the United States you were treated like a criminal, having to be fingerprinted and questioned. There are so many other countries to visit, why submit to that?
As we spoke we were waiting for a performance by a guitar trio from Croatia, but it was announced that the trio had become a duo because one of the musicians was turned back in Frankfurt because he didn't meet the requirements for a US visa. The corporate clique has us all blockaded so that they can conduct their heists in Iraq and elsewhere while Americans remain unaware of what is going on. While the American people are kept ignorant, they provide the energy, the resources, the money and even the human capital that runs the corrupt enterprise.
A man whose job it is to promote tourism to Hawaii in Southeast Asia told me the number of tourists has dropped to about 20% of what it was before 9/11. It is so difficult to get a visa now, he said, people have to travel to the American embassy in Taipei for a face to face interview even if they live in another city. It's so difficult, most just go somewhere else.
While Halliburton, the oil industry and other war contractors are benefitting from the savage US foreign policy, the economic well-being of the country at large is suffering. The mismanagement of the economy is about as bad as it's ever gotten, though the effects are still trickling down as the robust economy of the Clinton era continues to unravel. Of course Fox News always says the economy is doing better than ever, and many Americans get all their information from Fox.
I recently saw market research that showed that significant portions of the populations of other developed countries will not buy American goods, will not go to America, will not fly on American planes because of American foreign policy. We are becoming more and more isolated. Meanwhile Americans represented by the red state majorities, sit in their TV-addled Fox News fantasies of enemies coming through the gates to ravage their country, while their leaders make the fears in to self-fulfilling prophecies.
At the same time, while I know there are many Americans who still support the Bush administration, I have my doubts as to whether it's really a majority. Certainly even if the vote talleys, which are so obviously flawed, were true, there would still be a huge number of people who stand apart from the current movement of America. I meet few who support the administration, but I know there are still many to whom the truth of this calamity has not yet trickled down.