By Mike Whitney
America is a country badly in need of therapy. We don’t know who we are anymore; everything is topsy-turvy. It’s like we’re suffering a national identity crisis and need a turn on the couch. There’s just been too much change too fast and no one really knows what’s going on. Even stanch conservatives are in a daze from the daily overload of bad news. Former basketball superstar Charles Barkley summed it up best when he was asked what political party he belonged to. He answered, “Well, I used to be a Republican, until they lost their minds.” That’s America in a nutshell; we’ve lost our minds.
The torture thing was the last straw. That’s where good old American values really took a shellacking. Of course, it never mattered to Bohemian Grove dandies like Bush and Cheney. Why would they care? They just saw it as a way to increase their power and stick it to their enemies at the same time. It was a game, really. They’d just gouge out a few eyes and rip off a few fingernails no one would be the wiser. Besides, they thought, let the media soften up public attitudes; that’s why they get paid for, right? Wrong. Attitudes really haven’t changed that much about torture. Most people still think its wrong and think it should be illegal. More importantly, knowing that your country deliberately inflicts pain on people really matters; it’s a game-changer. It’s not possible to respect a country that uses torture. What people feel is disgust not respect. And, it’s disturbing, too. It proves that something is rotten in America. We’ve become a nation of creeps.
Who ever dreamed that we’d see the day when pundits and politicians would be debating whether torture really “works” or not. How low can we go? That kind of hairsplitting just proves that the country is already in the toilet. Its a pretty straightforward proposition if you think about it; countries that torture people are the enemies of human rights, democratic values and conventional standards of acceptable behavior. That’s the long-winded way of saying that they’re sickos. Just take a look at the photos from Abu Ghraib again; men dressed up in women’s panties or stacked up naked in human pyramids. Some fun, eh? It’s sick! The pyramid picture tells you everything you need to know about modern-day America. It’s like taking a look in the mirror and seeing Dick Cheney’s wizened face staring back. That’s what the world sees now, and that’s why they’re scared, real scared. America is on a rampage and our moral compass is on the Fritz. That’s a frightening prospect for everyone.
Our national symbols have also taken a pasting since Bush took office; the American flag in particular. Old Glory used to embody our collective aspirations whether that meant “traditional values” or “liberty and justice”. But no more. Now the flag has become proprietary; the property of a small gaggle of neo-fascists and right-wing loonies who display their shiny brass lapel-pin on their chest to identify themselves to other like-minded wackos. They might as well put lightening rods on their collars for all the difference it makes.
The American flag flies over every school, government office and major business across the country. It has been carried into every battle in every war the US has ever fought. Now it is draped lifelessly over the new century’s most dreaded gulags; Abu Ghraib, Bagram Airforce Base, and the uber-symbol of American barbarism, Guantanamo Bay. Am I the only one who’s pissed off about it? What does the rest of the world think when they see the Stars and Stripes unfurled over an icon to human cruelty like Gitmo? Do they see a symbol of “freedom and the opportunity” or do they see the Butcher’s Apron spreading war and fear across the planet?
America needs to spend a little time on the couch reassembling its shattered psyche and reconnecting with its inner-self. That means, sorting through the rubble of the Bush years and getting back to basics; a strong commitment to justice, human rights and personal liberty.
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